While four teams remain with their eyes on World Series glory, the Toronto Blue Jays already have their sights set on next year.
Jays' general manager Alex Anthopoulos joined TSN Radio's Mike Richards this morning and admitted that the club is already planning for the off-season and that his sights are set clearly in one specific area of improvement.
“There's no doubt about it, the first domino to fall for us is to add to the starting rotation,” Anthopoulos told TSN.
“We have needs beyond that, but it starts there and if that does not get done we're not going to go anywhere. So that has to get done, one way or the other.”
The Jays finished with 73 wins in 2012, their lowest single-season total since 2004. The club used 12 different starting pitchers and of those, only Ricky Romero and Henderson Alvarez were able to stay healthy enough to log 30 starts. Brandon Morrow – who missed more than two months with a strained oblique – was the only Jays starter to earn 10 wins with the club.
“We've looked pretty hard at the free agents. We've done some comparisons, and so on. We've tried to see where we might line up with teams in terms of trades and who might be available,” Anthopoulos said.
However, with a free agent class lacking many true aces – with Zack Grienke and Ryan Dempster appearing as the top options right now - Anthopoulos is looking beyond the open market.
“There are a few names that are out there that are available that aren't out there in the mainstream media and obviously clubs want to keep that quiet. So, that's really the first thing we're going to try to get done fast. If we can be aggressive and get one starter in some capacity early that would be great.”
Last season, the Jays were unwilling to pay a premium on trade options such as San Diego's Mat Latos and Oakland lefty Gio Gonzalez.
This year, the team is looking to get the jump before market prices trend upward.
“We're definitely going to try to move fast,” he said.
Romero, Morrow and Alvarez started the 2012 campaign in the Jays' starting rotation.
Mid-season addition J.A. Happ had a strong August, going 3-1 in five starts. However, he would be shut down for the season on Sept. 7 with a fractured right foot.
Carlos Villanueva – who started 16 games for the club in 2012 – is expected to test the free agent market.