TORONTO -- The Blue Jays are approximately six weeks away from the start of Spring Training and yet there's still a lot of heavy lifting for the front office to do.Toronto is considered to be in the midst of a rebuild, but several holes on the 25-man roster have to
TORONTO -- The Blue Jays are approximately six weeks away from the start of Spring Training and yet there's still a lot of heavy lifting for the front office to do.
Toronto is considered to be in the midst of a rebuild, but several holes on the 25-man roster have to be plugged, even if it's with short-term replacements. There's more depth than in recent years, but it's also still pretty obvious there isn't enough.
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Here's a closer look at the top 5 things the Blue Jays need to accomplish before the start of Spring Training.
1. Add to the starting rotation
The Blue Jays need to acquire at least one starter, but the preferred course of action would be to add two. Toronto's rotation currently includes Marcus Stroman, Aaron Sanchez and Ryan Borucki, with a lot of uncertainty after that. There will be no shortage of candidates competing for a job -- Trent Thornton, Sean Reid-Foley, Thomas Pannone, Julian Merryweather and Sam Gaviglio -- but a proven veteran arm that has the ability to eat some innings is needed. If the Blue Jays trade either Stroman or Sanchez before the start of the season, the need becomes even more glaring. Expect the bulk of Toronto's work early in the New Year to focus almost entirely around the rotation.
2. Sigh of relief
Toronto hasn't been linked much to any relievers this offseason, but it's only a matter of time before that changes. Once the rotation is settled, general manager Ross Atkins' focus will shift to addressing the bullpen's need of a couple of arms. Last year, Atkins waited until the spring to sign John Axford, Seunghwan Oh and Tyler Clippard. Expect a similar approach this year because the Blue Jays will have jobs up for grabs this spring, and eventually there will be a game of musical chairs with relievers looking for work.
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3. Looking for insurance
The departure of Troy Tulowitzki has left the Blue Jays with a hole at shortstop. Lourdes Gurriel Jr. projects to be the starter on Opening Day and Richard Urena is the early favorite to win the backup utility role. After that, it gets a little bit murky, because the Blue Jays would like to give prospect Bo Bichette more time to develop in the Minors. That means Toronto would be well served to add a veteran infielder on a non-guaranteed deal to compete with Urena for the final spot on the bench, with the unlucky candidate providing the first line of defense for injuries.
4. Settling in
Outside of the front office, the biggest challenge facing this organization centers around the coaching staff. Only two members of last year's staff remain -- pitching coach Pete Walker and third-base coach Luis Rivera -- and the new group has a lot of work ahead to familiarize itself with the Blue Jays' personnel and developing a plan for Spring Training. Manager Charlie Montoyo has floated the idea of starting spring workouts a couple of hours later than normal to improve his players' sleep cycles. The new skipper has been vague on other changes because his coaching staff is still in the process of establishing its plan, and that will continue right up until the start of camp.
5. Bold move or stay the course?
Atkins won't be forced into dealing any of his veterans, but make no mistake about it, they are all available. Stroman, Sanchez, Justin Smoak, Russell Martin, Kendrys Morales, Kevin Pillar, Dennis Tepera and Ken Giles are just some of the names who will be frequently mentioned in the rumor mill. Most of these deals seem much more likely to happen midway through next season, but as the Blue Jays found out this year with Josh Donaldson, sometimes those plans never come to fruition. That's why Atkins has a couple more months to decide whether he needs to force the issue with a big move or be content with the veteran players opening the year in Toronto.
Gregor Chisholm has covered the Blue Jays for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB and Facebook, and listen to his podcast.