As the Blue Jays continue the quest to acquire starting pitching this offseason, the team is also actively on the hunt for opportunities to bolster its bullpen.
“We’re going to need to add there,” Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins said on Wednesday at the General Managers Meetings in Scottsdale, Ariz. “What we do feel good about is the depth of our 40-man roster -- the number of guys that we feel can help our Major League team who will potentially be in Triple-A. We feel like we have a number of guys who will stabilize our bullpen a bit.
“But we’ll be looking to increase that level of execution -- higher-leverage arms that have experience doing that -- and the starting pitching acquisitions that we, hopefully, make will have some impact on that at the same time.”
While changes are on the horizon for the use of teams’ relief corps -- facing a minimum of three batters per outing -- the Blue Jays don’t believe the alteration will factor into their bullpen search.
“We haven’t been big on situational left-handed relievers,” Atkins said. “We like guys who can get multiple outs -- and for the most part deployed our left-handed relievers that way. The industry really is using the more situational reliever less and less, so not something that we feel will impact us significantly.”
Options for first base
The Blue Jays also are continuing to search for ways to improve defensively around the diamond. Veteran first baseman Justin Smoak hit the free-agent market, and questions remain surrounding the future of 24-year-old rookie Rowdy Tellez at first base, Atkins stressed just how valuable defense can be on the right side of the diamond.
“We’re trying to get better at every position defensively,” Atkins said. “And something that is potentially undervalued in first-base defense is the range in the first baseman’s ability, whether it be short throws, wide throws, high throws, making infielders more confident to let the ball go is definitely a skill. Justin Smoak’s been great. Rowdy Tellez is getting better and better at it, and it is definitely something that we do value.”
While the Blue Jays maintained at the end of the season that they would continue to be in touch with Smoak, “There’s nothing new with Justin,” Atkins said. “I actually was in Charleston, South Carolina, for a family reunion and texted Smoaky a couple of times, but [there’s] nothing new from our update that we gave during the season.”
Atkins shared with the media on Wednesday that 21-year-old shortstop Bo Bichette was cleared at the end of the season after sustaining a concussion, and that versatile Lourdes Gurriel Jr.. “is back to 100 percent and already working out” after undergoing an appendectomy in the final days of the season.
Left-hander Anthony Kay has recovered from what was deemed a back issue before the end of the year but ended up as something the club has no continued concerns about.
“It was nothing concerning,” Atkins said of Kay. “It was a small strain in the rib-cage area that resolved itself and went away, and was nothing to have any long-term concern over.”