TORONTO -- The holiday season has come to an end, and now it's time for the Blue Jays to get back to work on rounding out their 25-man roster for the 2017 season.It's not that Toronto put everything on hold for the past couple of weeks, but there is an
TORONTO -- The holiday season has come to an end, and now it's time for the Blue Jays to get back to work on rounding out their 25-man roster for the 2017 season.
It's not that Toronto put everything on hold for the past couple of weeks, but there is an undeniable lull across Major League Baseball during the holiday break. That's about to change.
There's approximately six weeks remaining before pitchers and catchers report to Dunedin, Fla., for Spring Training. Toronto still has multiple holes to fill, and the club will likely be much more active in January than in years past.
• Hot Stove Tracker: Free agents and trades
With 2017 upon us, it's time to reset the scene and take a look at what the Blue Jays have to accomplish before packing their bags for Florida.
Toronto needs to add at least one outfielder to its roster. A recent report from MLB.com's Jon Paul Morosi indicated the club has been engaged in contract negotiations with Jose Bautista, but there's more to the story. A source recently told MLB.com that Bautista is one of several names the club is still considering, and a deal with the longtime franchise star does not appear to be imminent.
Bautista began the offseason looking for a multiyear contract, but his market value has not developed as he hoped it would. His potential suitors are not immediately clear, and recent reports have indicated that he is now open to the possibility of a one-year deal. That's something the Blue Jays would consider, but it would have to be on the club's terms. Bautista wants more than the $17.2 million qualifying offer he rejected at the start of the offseason, and Toronto is not expected to spend that much. But if his demands drop even further, then a reunion between these two sides is still possible.
Other candidates through free agency include Michael Saunders and Brandon Moss. Possible trade targets include Mets outfielders Curtis Granderson and Jay Bruce, along with White Sox outfielder Melky Cabrera. One trade candidate who doesn't seem like a very realistic option is Pirates outfielder Andrew McCutchen, because Pittsburgh will want better prospects than those with whom Toronto can afford to part.
Despite all of the uncertainty surrounding the bullpen, Toronto has yet to sign a reliever to a Major League deal this offseason. Roberto Osuna and Jason Grilli are the lone relievers with guaranteed jobs, and while Joe Biagini was once a candidate to be stretched out as a starter, he now seems destined to return to his 2016 role as a key setup man. Biagini might turn out to be a solid starter at some point, but right now, changing his job description is a luxury the Blue Jays cannot afford.
Dennis Tepera, Danny Barnes, Aaron Loup and Mike Bolsinger are among the internal candidates to consider, but the Blue Jays would be well served to add at least a couple more arms into the mix. There's a glaring need for a reliable left-hander to replace the departed Brett Cecil, and the top options through free agency are Boone Logan, Jerry Blevins and J.P. Howell. Viable candidates from the right side include Joe Blanton, Neftali Feliz, the rehabbing Greg Holland, Santiago Casilla and Sergio Romo.
The backup catcher
Toronto's desire to add a backup catcher is further down the list of priorities, but it's still something the club needs to address before the start of camp. Russell Martin appeared in 137 games last season, which was his highest total since 2009, and the club should look to ease his workload in 2017. Martin is about to enter his age-34 season, and after showing signs of wearing down late in '16, a competent backup is needed to make sure he gets proper rest.
Former prospect A.J. Jimenez is the current backup, but the 26-year-old has never appeared in a big league game and is coming off a season in which he hit just .241 with a .668 OPS at Triple-A Buffalo. Chris Iannetta, who shares an agent with Bautista, is one possibility, and the two sides did briefly talk at Winter Meetings in December. Re-signing Dioner Navarro also would make a lot of sense, while other names to consider include Geovany Soto, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Steve Clevenger and Chris Gimenez.
Gregor Chisholm has covered the Blue Jays for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB and Facebook, and listen to his podcast.