We’re trudging along through the worst month of the off-season with roughly a month until pitchers and catchers report to spring training. The soap opera known as the Houston Astros can’t keep entertaining us for the next month, I don’t think, so, can we expect any more exciting transactions between now and mid-February?
Let us know, Ross.
“We’re extremely open to something of significant impact,” Atkins said as the organization introduced free agent Shun Yamaguchi on Wednesday. “But that’s more than likely only going to occur via trade, but the likelihood of that occurring is still very hard to say. Executing trades of significant impact is very difficult to do.
“That opening could be anywhere, but centre field is where everyone’s pointing for understandable reasons.
“We feel very good about where we are as an organization. This off-season’s just a snapshot in our progression towards becoming a championship team. We’ve accomplished our goals for the off-season, but it’s just never-ending.”
This is pretty standard Atkins-speak and it should be what we’ve come to expect from him by now. He gives a pretty honest and straight-forward picture of what the front office is up to, though he’s incredibly vague about it. What I take from this is that the team is happy with what they’ve accomplished this off-season, they aren’t involved in any of the big remaining names in free agency, they’ll be open to talking trades if something transpires, and that we shouldn’t expect anything more than some minor roster tinkering.
Atkins does mention centre field outright as a place on the roster that might get an upgrade, which is a little interesting. That brings me to this note made by Scott Mitchell in the dissertation he wrote about the Blue Jays’ top-50 prospects (which is an absolutely fantastic read, though you likely won’t be able to work through all of it in one sitting)…
“At this point, there’s at least 10 names being considered for the Triple-A Buffalo rotation, and [Thomas] Hatch is one of them. Considering he’s made 53 starts at Double-A over the past two years, it’s time to take the next step. The Jays added [Hatch] to the 40-man roster in November so he’s a phone call away from his big-league debut.”
As I discussed the other day, the Jays have built up a considerable amount of pitching depth up and down their system. They also overhauled their starting rotation over the off-season so now there’s a massive log-jam of MLB-ready-ish arms who might not have anywhere to go.
Let’s say hypothetically that Toronto’s rotation out of spring training is Hyun-Jin Ryu, Tanner Roark, Chase Anderson, Matt Shoemaker, and Trent Thornton. Let’s also say that Shun Yamaguchi, Jacob Waguespack, and Thomas Pannone are in the bullpen. That would still leave *checks notes* Nate Pearson, Sean Reid-Foley, Anthony Kay, T.J. Zeuch, Hector Perez, Yennsy Diaz, Julian Merryweather, Patrick Murphy, Thomas Hatch, A.J. Cole, and Phillipe Aumont as names competing for roles in Triple-A Buffalo’s rotation.
Of course, some can be pushed into the bullpen and it isn’t the end of the world for others to spend another year at Double-A. But this is a pretty massive clusterfuck of names and, you’d think, something is going to have to budge. As I said, having pitching depth is a really, really good thing, but this also puts the Jays in a position to pull the trigger on a deal from a position of strength to fill a position of weakness.
There’s no quality free agent centre fielder on the market right now unless you want to do a Kevin Pillar Redemption Tour. So, if the Jays are going to improve on their throw-it-against-the-wall-and-see-what-sticks plan of rolling out maybe Teoscar Hernandez or maybe Derek Fisher or maybe Anthony Alford or maybe fuck who knows in centre field this year, that guy will need to come via trade.
I mean, the Jays could certainly go into the season with exactly what they have right now and be OK. There are enough internal options to fill the ‘pen, there are players to try in centre field, and there’s technically a backup shortstop. But still, I would expect some kind of tinkering, even if it’s just adding a bargain-bin veteran reliever and a utility guy.