Blue Jays have progressed, but still work to do
Bullpen highlights Toronto's holes to fill before 2016 season
TORONTO -- Major League Baseball's Hot Stove season is still in full swing, but the Blue Jays appear to be have hit a bit of a lull in their preparations for 2016.
Perhaps that shouldn't be surprising following a busy first two weeks of the offseason combined with what appears to be limited resources to spend. A lot of the heavy lifting has been done, but some work remains before this project can be considered complete.
Here's a look at what Toronto has done so far this offseason and what holes still need to be filled:
The Blue Jays moved quickly to address a lot of their depth issues. First baseman Justin Smoak was re-signed to continue his platoon with Chris Colabello, Josh Thole stuck around to become R.A. Dickey's personal catcher and veteran Darwin Barney was re-signed to replace Cliff Pennington as the club's primary utility infielder.
Colabello and Smoak combined to hit 33 home runs with 113 RBIs in 2015, and even after a significant raise, the two will make approximately $4.5 million next year. Thole's presence will ease the mental and physical grind Russell Martin experienced with the knuckleball, while Barney provides Gold Glove-caliber defense. Lost in all of this was that the club also hung onto Michael Saunders, who will be looking for a bounce-back year and provides some much-needed power from the left side. The bench is the one area Toronto has really solidified this offseason.
The jury is out
The starting rotation
The Blue Jays entered the offseason with the scary possibility of losing four members from their starting staff. Since then, the club re-signed Marco Estrada, picked up the team option on Dickey's contract, signed free agent J.A. Happ to a three-year deal and traded for right-hander Jesse Chavez. That's a lot of moves, but only time will tell whether it was enough to put Toronto over the top.
The Blue Jays have arguably the best lineup, so the pitching doesn't need to be stacked with All-Stars, but the staff does need to eat some innings. Mark Buehrle and David Price combined to toss 419 innings in 2015, and that type of workload will be hard to replace. There was an expectation that one more proven starter would be added to the mix, but it appears as though the club will rely on Chavez or Drew Hutchison for the final spot.
Work left to be done
Toronto's bullpen has been an area of focus in recent weeks, but to date, the club has yet to make a significant addition. Roberto Osuna, Aaron Sanchez and Brett Cecil are expected to form the core, while Aaron Loup projects as the second lefty. But after that, there are a lot of question marks.
Since the end of the year, the Blue Jays have lost setup man Mark Lowe to free agency, LaTroy Hawkins to retirement and right-hander Liam Hendriks in a trade with the A's for Chavez. Steve Delabar, Ryan Tepera and Bo Schultz remain in the fold alongside Rule 5 Draft pick Joe Biagini and newcomer Pat Venditte, but there is a need for more depth. Toronto would be well served to add at least another reliable arm, and the club recently has been linked to free agents Joe Blanton and Craig Stammen.