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Back to business after quiet Meetings for Blue Jays

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- General manager Alex Anthopoulos cautioned before the Winter Meetings that he didn't expect the Blue Jays to make any major moves, and he turned out to be correct.

Toronto's only activity at the annual Meetings was the Minor League signing of right-hander Tomo Ohka and a trade involving Rule 5 Draft pick Brian Moran in exchange for international-signing cap space.

Those moves will do little to excite a fanbase that is waiting for the Blue Jays to address their needs in the starting rotation, but this annual event was always about laying the groundwork for future deals and not necessarily completing any at the Walt Disney World Swan & Dolphin Resort.

"I actually get relieved when we leave the Winter Meetings, because we can get back to work," Anthopoulos said. "There's too much going on here with every team. They have agent meetings, and I think people, including us, can get paralyzed. You get back, you take a breath, and I think you can get back on the phones and try to narrow your focus a little bit and get deals done."

Toronto continues to be in the market for an upgrade in the starting rotation, and that remains the club's top priority for the rest of the offseason. Second base also is an area where the Blue Jays could look to make some changes, and it's certainly not out of the realm of possibilities that Anthopoulos could have a surprise move or two up his sleeve.

Anthopoulos reiterated that there are three or four pitchers the Blue Jays have closely monitored. He obviously didn't mention specific names, but he said the first three appear to be at least somewhat realistic, while there could be a "domino effect" with the fourth that could increase that possibility as well.

By this time last year, Anthopoulos had already pulled the trigger on a massive trade with the Marlins while also reaching agreements with Maicer Izturis and Melky Cabrera. There also had been some serious progress in trade talks for R.A. Dickey, but it appears as though this offseason could see a lot of transactions drag into January.

"We're comfortable going into any time," Anthopoulos said. "There's no timeline of December, January. Whenever it happens, it happens. We did the Vernon Wells deal in late January, not that we were expecting to do that. I was talking to a GM, and he was telling me how a few years ago, he made a bunch of important moves and it was January when they all presented themselves."

Deals done: Toronto signed veteran right-hander Ohka to a Minor League contract with an invitation to Spring Training. Ohka, 37, is expected to start the year in Double-A New Hampshire, where he will continue his transition to become a knuckleballer.

Rule 5 Draft activity: The Blue Jays selected Moran with the ninth pick in the Draft but then traded him to the Angels in exchange for international cap space. Toronto received approximately $240,000, and the club is expected to use that money to pursue at least one free agent.

Goals accomplished: Anthopoulos came away from the Meetings empty-handed, but he did lay the groundwork for some future deals. Toronto's GM said there are several moves he can make now, but that he doesn't like the asking prices, which he hopes will change in the coming weeks.

"If we have to be forced on a free agent and someone has interest in one of our players and we have to clear a spot, we can do that, it's just that we might take 20 cents on the dollar to do it fast," Anthopoulos said. "But at the end of the day, we might say our total return, with [adding] the free agent, that we're a stronger club, and we'd be open to doing that."

Unfinished business: The Blue Jays still need at least one starting pitcher to round out a staff that currently includes Dickey, Mark Buehrle, Brandon Morrow and J.A. Happ. There are capable replacements in Drew Hutchison, Marcus Stroman, Kyle Drabek and Sean Nolin, but ideally those pitchers would start the year in the Minor Leagues and provide some much-needed depth.

Team's bottom line: "I think there are some things that we can 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, 'OK, how do we divide up these assets and make sure that we get these two or three things rather than use too many assets to get one and then we're stuck?' There's ways to do it, we just have to kind of clear the deck a little bit." -- Anthopoulos

Gregor Chisholm is a reporter for Read his blog, North of the Border, and follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB.

Toronto Blue Jays