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Anthopoulos: Move for starter becoming unlikely

Blue Jays GM not ruling out potential trade, but has faith in club's current makeup

DUNEDIN, Fla. -- General manager Alex Anthopoulos has all but ruled out a significant addition to his current roster, and the Blue Jays appear content to move forward with the status quo.

Anthopoulos held court with a group of reporters on Thursday morning, and while he left the door slightly open for a trade or signing, it appears as though the club won't be making any major moves before the start of the regular season.

There's always a possibility that could change with one phone call, but the way things currently stand, Anthopoulos is adamant that he's OK with his current options when it comes to the much talked about starting rotation.

"We'd like to do it, but we're not going to do it at all costs," Anthopoulos said of upgrading his pitching staff. "As we sit here today, I think it's unlikely at this point, we're getting so late into Spring Training. Unlikely, unless a trade emerges.

"As the offseason has progressed, we've felt better about the internal options, especially the young guys, whether it's a guy like Marcus Stroman, Drew Hutchison, Kyle Drabek. Brandon Morrow looks great. We felt good about him in November, but as he's progressed through the offseason, we feel even better about him."

When the Blue Jays began the offseason, it seemed as though it was almost a guarantee the club would add someone to the rotation. Anthopoulos openly discussed not only acquiring one starter, but possibly two. The narrative has since changed, and instead of talking about the holes that need to be filled, Anthopoulos is now focusing on the depth of his roster.

The preference was to add a pitcher through trade, but Anthopoulos was unable to find a suitable partner. There were plenty of rumors over the offseason involving the likes of Doug Fister, Brett Anderson and Jeff Samardzija, but for a variety of reasons none of those deals came to pass.

That left the Blue Jays scouring the free-agent market for help, but the asking prices of those pitchers never matched up with what the club was willing to pay. One by one, those players came off the board, with the likes of Masahiro Tanaka, A.J. Burnett, Matt Garza, and most recently, Ubaldo Jimenez signing with other teams.

The only significant free agent who is still available on the open market is right-hander Ervin Santana. Anthopoulos declined to get into specifics about Santana, but there doesn't appear to be common ground between the two sides and, in fact, the Blue Jays never came close with any free agents that were available this winter.

"As we sit here today, with what the current cost would be, we feel better with the guys we have internally," Anthopoulos said. "It's a comparison, how much better are they than what you have? We have to make that evaluation. Terms and dollars are important.

"You like every player, but at certain years and dollars they don't make sense for us. If it's just a Draft or something and you're just picking a player, then abilities are a separate thing, but there's obviously an acquisition cost to all of these guys."

The reason for the lack of moves is different in every case. When it comes to Tanaka, Anthopoulos admitted Toronto dropped out of the running because he wasn't prepared to offer seven years on a deal. The Blue Jays have a policy of not going beyond five years with any player, and that philosophy doesn't appear to be changing any time soon. In other cases, it was either too many years or too high of an annual salary.

So the big issue is whether the Blue Jays can improve on last year's results without any major changes. Toronto had one of the worst starting rotations in baseball during the 2013 season, but Anthopoulos feels as though that will change with a return to health for Morrow and the emergence of some young prospects.

"I think we can all agree there's a lot of talent on this team," Anthopoulos said. "The bullpen should be a strength. It's very deep. We still think the offense will be above average in the AL, and the rotation has a bunch of guys who are proven, plus a bunch that aren't proven but are very talented and certainly could emerge.

"We're going to go as far as our rotation can take us. I think the guys that we have are going to surprise. I feel better about it today than we did in October when we didn't know what Morrow's status was going to be, how Drew [Hutchison] was going to look in the Fall League, how Stroman was going to look in the fall league, how Drabek was going to emerge from the offseason and how he's throwing the ball now."

The Blue Jays have answers to some of those questions now, but whether it will carry over into the regular season is still up for debate. In the meantime, Anthopoulos has received his fair share of criticism regarding the lack of activity his club had this offseason.

With the exception of catcher Dioner Navarro, Toronto opted to stick for the status quo. Anthopoulos understands he has become somewhat of a lightning rod in recent months, but he's asking for patience because he thinks time will prove the right decisions have been made.

"We're going to find out soon enough, we're going to play the games and all that kind of stuff," Anthopoulos said. "We'll see. I wouldn't say I feel good about some of the young guys we have if I didn't believe it, because I understand I'll get asked about it two months from now.

"We believe in these guys, believe it's going to come, and these guys are going to be successful, especially some of the young guys we have. There's a reason they were drafted as high as they were, there's a reason they were as highly touted as they've been. The skepticism and all that? I totally understand, it comes with the territory, but I think these guys might really surprise."

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