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Blue Jays' young core encouraged by front office

Toronto eyeing exciting Spring Training after active winter
@KeeganMatheson
January 18, 2020

TORONTO -- With a foundation in place after a long year of transition, the Blue Jays’ young core is now getting their first taste of a full Major League offseason, as the club begins to build around them. They like what they’ve seen, too, and as a group, they’ve taken

TORONTO -- With a foundation in place after a long year of transition, the Blue Jays’ young core is now getting their first taste of a full Major League offseason, as the club begins to build around them.

They like what they’ve seen, too, and as a group, they’ve taken the front office’s recent moves as a vote of confidence in them and their abilities.

“It’s really cool to see the front office realize what we all thought we had,” shortstop Bo Bichette said at Saturday’s Winter Fest at Rogers Centre. “We all thought, in the clubhouse, that we had a chance to be good this year. We wanted to take a step forward and we wanted the front office to help us with that. For them to kind of agree with us, and show us that with the moves they made, is really exciting for us.”

The Blue Jays finished last season 67-95, but Bichette and his fellow 2019 rookies are focused on their competitive play near the end of the season. That momentum, they feel, has kept on rolling through the offseason with an overhaul to the starting rotation, most notably the four-year $80 million contract given to former Dodgers’ lefty Hyun-Jin Ryu, which gives the club a bonafide No. 1 starter.

Toronto has also added Tanner Roark on a two-year, $24 million deal, and traded for Chase Anderson on Nov. 4. After a season that saw the club roll out 21 starters, including some openers and bullpen games, the hope is that this veteran rotation will keep things steady while the young lineup takes another step together.

Expectations lean on vocabulary, whether it be a “rebuild” or “retool” or something in between, but Cavan Biggio is looking beyond those. Already mentioned throughout the organization as a core leader as he enters his second MLB season, Biggio believes that they control their own competitive timeline.

“The word ‘rebuilding’ kind of shows people to be patient,” Biggio said. “With some of the development of Minor Leaguers who have come up here like Vladdy [Vladimir Guerrero Jr.], Bo, Danny [Jansen] and Reese [McGuire], there’s a lot of them there. I think it kind of pushed the envelope with the front office. It’s encouraging to see that we’re going to try to win right now.”

The win-now attitude isn’t all about external additions, either. This young core made a strong first impression, but there’s still plenty of development ahead of they are to reach their potential ceilings. Guerrero Jr. arrived in Toronto for this weekend’s festivities feeling “lighter” and much more confident about his ability to hold up over a 162-game season, which will be another major factor as the Blue Jays look to make the jump from rebuilder to contender.

The veterans agree with the kids, with “encouraged” being their word of the day. Randal Grichuk, who is still just 28 but has experienced the business of baseball’s offseason for six seasons, wasn’t certain how aggressive the club would be entering the winter. He hears the expectations, but has also been encouraged by the push in free agency.

“The curve on when we’re supposed to be good, everybody says, isn’t necessarily now,” Grichuk said. “So we were kind of skeptical on, ‘Hey, are we going to sign guys or are we not,’ but it was good that we went out and got guys. We’re ready to go.”

Keegan Matheson is a reporter/editor for MLB.com based in Toronto. Follow him on Twitter @KeeganMatheson.