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Offseason checklist: Blue Jays’ needs, moves

@KeeganMatheson
November 7, 2019

TORONTO -- The Blue Jays finished the 2019 season with a record of 67-95, but their new wave of exciting young talent and increased payroll flexibility this offseason leave the club in a position to take a significant step forward. So what are the Blue Jays' biggest needs entering 2020,

TORONTO -- The Blue Jays finished the 2019 season with a record of 67-95, but their new wave of exciting young talent and increased payroll flexibility this offseason leave the club in a position to take a significant step forward.

So what are the Blue Jays' biggest needs entering 2020, and what moves have they made to address them? MLB.com is keeping track here. As the offseason continues, be sure to check back for updates.

BIGGEST NEEDS

Starting rotation
The rotation will be Toronto’s first and second priority this offseason after the club used 21 starters in 2019, which included a reliance on the opener strategy and bullpen games throughout. The Blue Jays have plenty of young options who could compete for back end or depth jobs, but they’ll likely target multiple arms for the middle of their rotation. No. 1 prospect Nate Pearson is expected to arrive in '20 and bring his ace potential with him, but the Blue Jays have a glaring need for good, consistent innings from multiple rotation spots.

Bullpen
Ken Giles is expected to receive trade interest this offseason, which will be the biggest variable in the club’s bullpen picture. Beyond that, expect the Blue Jays to follow their history from the past few offseasons of adding multiple veteran arms to compete for roles. The front office has done well to flip many of those relievers for prospect capital at the Trade Deadline, including Daniel Hudson in 2019, who went on to record the final out of the World Series for the Nationals.

Outfield
If the Blue Jays choose to address their outfield, keep an eye on center field. Seven different players saw time in center in 2019, the most since 2014 (7), which was the year before Kevin Pillar took over full time. Current outfield options like Randal Grichuk, Teoscar Hernández, Lourdes Gurriel Jr., Derek Fisher and Billy McKinney all bring tools to the table, but the Blue Jays can improve both the defensive value and the consistency of the offensive approach they get from their outfield group as a whole.

First base / designated hitter
Justin Smoak is a free agent and, while Rowdy Tellez impressed at points in 2019, his .293 on-base percentage and .742 OPS need to improve if he’s to be the full-time option at either first base or DH. The Blue Jays could simply choose to use the DH spot as a rotating position, particularly with their extra corner outfielders like Hernandez, but there’s value to be found on the 1B/DH market each offseason. If replacing the veteran presence of Smoak is something the club chooses to actively pursue, this could be an easy spot to do it.

MOVES MADE

Nov. 11: Ryan Tepera enters free agency
Right-hander Ryan Tepera cleared waivers and elected free agency. The 32-year-old reliever -- and the longest-tenured member of the Blue Jays heading into the offseason -- posted a 4.98 ERA over 23 appearances during a 2019 season marred by injury. Tepera, the Blue Jays’ 19th-round Draft pick in 2009, owned a 3.64 mark over 216 games and 215 1/3 innings in five seasons with Toronto

Nov. 7: Devon Travis elects free agency
Second baseman Devon Travis declined his outright assignment to Triple-A Buffalo and elected free agency. The 28-year-old missed all of 2019 after undergoing left knee surgery, another challenging recovery in a series of shoulder and knee injuries that have plagued the talented young player since his impressive 2015 and '16 seasons. Travis was one of the most respected players in the organization, and he should have opportunities on Minor League deals entering '20 if his body cooperates, but Toronto’s young infield depth would leave him another steep hill to climb with the Blue Jays.

Nov. 4: Blue Jays acquire veteran right-hander Chase Anderson
The Blue Jays made their first significant move of the offseason, acquiring right-hander Chase Anderson from the Brewers in exchange for 1B/RF prospect Chad Spanberger. Anderson, 31, owns a 3.94 ERA across six MLB seasons, and has pitched 150-plus innings in three of his last five seasons. The Brewers were at their deadline to decide on Anderson’s $8.5 million option for 2020 ($500,000 buyout). Anderson also has a $9.5 million option for 2021 but, for now, he’s expected to slot in to Toronto’s rotation, where the Blue Jays hope that he’ll act as a steadying force around their young, upcoming arms. Anderson’s best season came in 2017, when a sharp curveball helped him to a 2.74 ERA and 3.2 WAR (FanGraphs) over 141 1/3 innings.

Toronto also designated reliever Ryan Tepera for assignment and outrighted second baseman Devon Travis to Triple-A Buffalo. Ryan Borucki, Tim Mayza, Matt Shoemaker and Lourdes Gurriel Jr. were all activated from the 60-day injured list.

Oct. 30: Blue Jays outright three relievers
The club outrighted relievers Brock Stewart, Ryan Dull and Buddy Boshers to Triple-A Buffalo, which clears three additional roster spots. Boshers saw the most time with the Blue Jays in 2019, posting a 4.05 ERA over 28 appearances. Dull, who was claimed off waivers from the Yankees in late September, appeared in just one game for Toronto.

Oct. 29: Blue Jays claim reliever Anthony Bass
The Blue Jays claimed reliever Anthony Bass off waivers from the Mariners and, in a corresponding move, designated reliever Ryan Dull for assignment. Bass, 31, posted a 3.56 ERA over 48 innings of relief for the Mariners last season after signing with them on May 21. The majority of his appearances came in the eighth inning or later and included five saves. Given the openings in their bullpen and the potential of using the opener strategy again in 2020, expect the Blue Jays to continue adding relievers at multiple levels of the market throughout the winter.

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