LAKE BUENA VISTA, Florida - However you slice it, the Blue Jays need to add two starting pitchers before the season starts on March 31 in Tampa Bay.
Whether the return to health of Brandon Morrow and the emergence of one of the club's pitching prospects – Drew Hutchison, Kyle Drabek, Sean Nolin, Marcus Stroman – add up to two arms or whether acquisitions are made via trade or through free agency, the rotation must improve in order for Toronto to contend.
With the wrap up of this mass gathering of owners, executives, media and the odd player, general manager Alex Anthopoulos hopes now is the time he can truly get down to business.
“I actually get relieved when we leave the winter meetings,” said Anthopoulos. “I find we can get back to work a little bit when we get back home. There's too much going on here with every team. They've got agent meetings, clubs and I think people, including us, can just get paralyzed.”
Despite his feeling toward the three day event, Anthopoulos believes he's laid the foundation for possible moves.
“Similar, I would say,” said Anthopoulos when asked to compare his work to that of past winter meetings. “There are some things that we could do. We're trying to do more than one thing, especially on the trade market. We have so many assets so we're trying to figure out, okay, how can we divide up all these assets and make sure that we get these two or three things rather than just use too many assets to get one and then we're stuck.”
Despite a disappointing 2013 and the expectation of a bounce back next year, he doesn't feel rushed to make a move and won't be pressured.
“We're comfortable going into any time,” said Anthopoulos. “There's no timeline of December, January. Whenever it happens, it happens. We did the Vernon Wells deal in late January.”
One-time Blue Jay Tomo Ohka is back in the fold, signing a minor league contract.
Ohka, 37, is attempting to follow the path of R.A. Dickey and reestablish his career as a knuckleballer.
“The one thing is he's a good athlete,” said general manager Alex Anthopoulos. “He's got a repeatable delivery and he was a strike thrower, which is a pretty good combination. How much success he has, how it works, too hard to tell but he does have some of the ingredients and he has a will, he has a will to do it.”
Anthopoulos has approached R.A. Dickey about tutoring Ohka and Dickey has agreed to be of help where he can. Dickey successfully transitioned from being a conventional pitcher to a knuckleballer.
Expect Ohka to begin the 2014 season with Double-A New Hampshire.
Ohka made 10 starts for the Blue Jays in 2007, posting a record of 2-5 with a 5.79 ERA. He spent three-and-a-half seasons with the Montreal Expos, winning 27 games, before moving with the franchise to Washington for the 2005 season.
RULE 5 DRAFT
The Blue Jays selected left-hander Brian Moran from the Seattle Mariners but promptly traded him to the Los Angeles Angels for international cap space.
The deal affords the Jays a higher monetary ceiling in the pursuit of young, draft ineligible international free agents.
The push is on to ban collisions between base runners and catchers at home plate.
“I don't have a strong feeling one way or the other, I could go either way,” said Anthopoulos on whether home plate collisions should stay in, or be removed from, the game. “There's more money involved. Salaries are going up. It's tough when you lose these guys with collisions and things like that. I think that's a big factor, obviously. You just can't afford to have some of your star players going down.”
A draft document detailing the new rule will be ready in January, at which point it will require approval from the rules committee, owners and the Players' Association.
Fines and suspensions are expected to be among the penalties for offenders in home plate collisions.