TORONTO -- The Blue Jays' front office appears to be engaged in the delicate balancing act of trying to contend, while at the same time rebuilding and buying time for the next wave of young talent.When presented with an opportunity this offseason to go all in or all out, general
TORONTO -- The Blue Jays' front office appears to be engaged in the delicate balancing act of trying to contend, while at the same time rebuilding and buying time for the next wave of young talent.
When presented with an opportunity this offseason to go all in or all out, general manager Ross Atkins chose neither. Instead, Toronto added depth around the current core and maintained flexibility for the future.
The internal hope is that full seasons from Aaron Sanchez and Josh Donaldson, plus improved health from Devon Travis and Troy Tulowitzki, will be all this 76-win team needs to return to contention. If it's not, a number of expiring deals likely will be used to speed up the youth movement.
"We still feel as though we have resources to acquire additional talent," Atkins said after acquiring Randal Grichuk from the Cardinals in Toronto's most recent deal. "We feel as though we've been able to address some of our needs with players in our system. It has been encouraging we have been able to execute deals because of our system and still have very, very good talent at the top of it."
The Blue Jays' hopes are largely centered around the rotation. A healthy Sanchez, Marcus Stroman, J.A. Happ and a bounce-back season from Marco Estrada would give Toronto a top four that rivals any other in baseball. There's risk but also undeniable upside that is the envy of most teams.
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The lineup is a different story. Last season, Toronto ranked last in the American League with 693 runs, and while changes were made, most of the core is returning. To date the Blue Jays have opted against making a flashy big trade or free-agent signing and instead sprinkled their resources throughout the roster.
Curtis Granderson and Grichuk were added to the outfield. Yangervis Solarte and Aledmys Diaz joined the infield. The floor of this team has been undeniably raised, but the ceiling remains more or less the same from a season ago. Whether or not that's good enough likely will once again come down to health, and even with improved depth, there's not a lot of margin for error.
On paper, Toronto will open the season ranked below New York and Boston. The Yankees added slugger Giancarlo Stanton to a young team that was already on the rise. The Red Sox have yet to make a big move, but they are the defending AL East champs and reportedly remain interested in free-agent slugger J.D. Martinez. The uphill battle brings back memories of the late '90s and 2000s, but unlike those years, Toronto has the benefit of a second Wild Card.
While all of this is going on at the Major League level, Toronto's top prospects are getting closer. The Blue Jays arguably haven't produced a positional player star since Vernon Wells, but that might be about to change. Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Bo Bichette rank among the best prospects in all of baseball and they're rapidly rising through the ranks.
Guerrero and Bichette likely won't make their debut this season, but they might be ready a year from now. Others promising prospects such as Anthony Alford, T.J. Zeuch, Ryan Borucki, Dan Jansen and Sean Reid-Foley aren't far off, either. That provides hope for the future, but the focus remains on the present.
"If there's a way to improve our position player roster, we'll look to do that," Atkins said. "At this point, that would mean subtraction, or other players being optioned. We have a little bit of uncertainty surrounding playing time for some of our players, so we have to build as much depth as possible."
Gregor Chisholm has covered the Blue Jays for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB and Facebook, and listen to his podcast.