Faith in core allowing Blue Jays to bide time

Atkins expects to 'make a couple of significant additions,' but return to health biggest key

December 13th, 2017

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Ross Atkins has a lot of "opportunities and alternatives" to improve his roster, but the Blue Jays' general manager does not appear to be in a rush to get something done during this slow-moving market.

Major League Baseball's Hot Stove has been relatively cool to date, and it remained that way on Day 2 of the annual Winter Meetings on Tuesday. Two big pieces recently came off the board in the form of and Shohei Ohtani, but it has yet to create a ripple effect.

Toronto has made one move so far -- a recent trade with St. Louis for infielder -- and while it might be posturing on Atkins' part, the second move does not appear to be on the immediate horizon.

"Fortunately we're in a position, because of our core, that we don't have to do anything to start the season," Atkins said. "I think very likely we'll make a couple of significant additions, but we're in a pretty good spot."

Toronto seems to be pinning most of its hopes on a return to health next year. The Blue Jays' roster was decimated by injuries last season, and the club keeps emphasizing that full seasons from , J.A. Happ and Josh Donaldson should bring significant improvement to a team that was limited to 76 wins.

All of that might make it sound like the Blue Jays don't intend on doing anything the rest of the way, but that's not the case. Toronto is expected to have a payroll in the range of $160-$170 million next season, which leaves approximately $20-$25 million to spend this winter. That money is expected to be divided up among several players, with Atkins specifically mentioning another infielder, outfielder and then either a starter or reliever.

Atkins said he spent part of Tuesday at the Winter Meetings going through 30 documented interactions the club had with agents and other general managers, which are "demonstrating progress." The Blue Jays aren't quite ready to finalize any of those discussions into an actual deal, and while a transaction or two might come together quickly, others might take much longer to develop.

"I think is a fine option for that," Atkins said when asked about the No. 5 starter. "We feel good about our options in Triple-A. I also feel as though there's a trade, or even a free-agent acquisition that could happen in Spring Training or even early into the season."

Outfield rumors

A lot of the Blue Jays talk on Day 2 of the Winter Meetings centered around free-agent outfielders. Multiple reports linked Toronto to and -- and when Atkins was specifically asked about those two players later in the day, he confirmed they would "fit," but the Blue Jays are looking at other options, too.

"Those guys fit well," Atkins said. "I think there are alternatives in that market as well. There are other guys we like. Those guys would complement our team well."

One free-agent outfielder who won't be coming to Toronto is J.D. Martinez. With the Blue Jays having somewhere in the range of $25 million to spend this offseason, Martinez's expected asking price would eat almost all of that up and leave no room for upgrades elsewhere. As for Bruce and Gonzalez, the Blue Jays likely will slow-play the market and see which free agents are still available later this offseason on deals that provide more value than the ones they are currently seeking.

Hot Stove Tracker

Worth mentioning

• The Blue Jays are continuing their search for a new head athletic trainer after George Poulis recently departed the organization to join former Toronto GM Alex Anthopoulos in Atlanta. Atkins and his front-office staff have been interviewing potential candidates and expect to make some progress in that area within the next couple of weeks.

• Are other teams asking about Toronto's top 10 prospects and would the Blue Jays consider moving some of them to acquire a significant piece? "Yes and yes. We get asked about our better players frequently, and we consider them frequently," Atkins said. "We have to."

• Sanchez played catch for the first time this offseason on Tuesday and will now begin his throwing routine in preparation for Spring Training. Prior to Tuesday, Sanchez had not thrown a baseball since his season came to an end with ligament damage in his right middle finger.