Despite having more than one-quarter of the season left to be played, Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos is already answering questions about what he intends to do to strengthen the club heading into next year. Speaking on TSN Drive Wednesday night, the fourth-year GM said the team is intent on acquiring a new second baseman and at least one additional starter.
Expected to be among the American League's contenders following a wave of off-season trades and signings, the Jays sit 12.5 games back in the wild card race and 16 back of the A.L. East-leading Boston Red Sox heading into action Thursday night.
“Primarily it comes down to the rotation,” Anthopoulos said of the team's failure to live up to expectations. “We're last in baseball in starters ERA and that's not what we expected. It was something that we felt was going to be a strength.”
With the additions of R.A. Dickey, Josh Johnson and Mark Buehrle coupled with incumbents Brandon Morrow, Ricky Romero and J.A. Happ, Toronto's rotation was thought to be a strength, but a combination of injuries and inconsistency have – at times – plagued every member of the starting staff.
“Whether it was Josh Johnson's performance or being out or Brandon Morrow being out for the bulk of the year or even relying on J.A. Happ or Romero to be our fifth starter and Happ has missed a lot of time -- so three-fifths of the rotation being out,” Anthopoulos said. “You add it all up and you're not going to have the rotation you expected to.”
Although the team is expected to have starters Drew Hutchison and Kyle Drabek back once rosters expand in September following serious arm issues, Anthopoulos isn't willing to rely on the starters to be the team's saviours in 2014.
“Don't know yet what to expect from those guys,” Anthopoulos said. “Long-term we believe in them, but I don't know that we're prepared to say that they're going to be mainstays in the rotation.”
Regarding, the team's former ace, Romero who has had an up-and-down season with Toronto's AAA affiliate in Buffalo, Anthopoulos sounded less enthusiastic, saying the team “can't make plans to have him in the rotation” at this point.
Instead, Anthoupolos said he will be looking to add arms from outside the organization to go along with a defense–first second baseman.
“I think absolutely, at a minimum, we'll have to add one starter,” he said. “At second base I think we're going to have to go out and get someone who is a defender.”
Besides the rotation struggles, the team's defense – which is third last in the A.L. with 83 errors – has also been a sore spot.
Still, the GM said he has been impressed with the play of outfielders Colby Rasmus and Jose Bautista and believes a full season out of Jose Reyes and Brett Lawrie will provide a boost to the left side of the infield.
In addition to finding a new double play partner for Reyes, Anthopoulos was non-committal to incumbent first baseman/DH Adam Lind, who has a club option for next season, saying the team has “some decisions to make” on the 30-year-old.
In regard to Tuesday's trade of Emilio Bonifacio, Anthopoulos said the 28-year-old, who was once thought of as a key component of the blockbuster trade with the Marlins, never got off on the right foot in Toronto.
“He really didn't get off to the start we hoped he would, never got going defensively or with the bat, lost quite a bit of playing time.”