TORONTO -- The Blue Jays' top priority this offseason is bolstering a pitching staff that contains at least a couple of glaring holes in the starting rotation and the bullpen.
Toronto has Marcus Stroman, Aaron Sanchez and Ryan Borucki as projected members of its starting five. Sean Reid-Foley, Thomas Pannone and Jacob Waguespack are the other internal candidates, but the Blue Jays would be well served to add a couple of seasoned arms to provide stability and increase depth.
The current landscape likely means general manager Ross Atkins will take a two-pronged approach this offseason. On one hand, the Blue Jays will be looking for value plays in the secondary and third-tier free-agent markets, and on the other, Toronto will be trying to get creative in an attempt to acquire pitchers with multiple years of control.
"I think we have such a good young, exciting core, a lot of it is already in the Major Leagues and some of it hasn't arrived yet," Atkins told a group of reporters on Monday. "Looking to build around the young pitching that we do have and create more depth will be our focus.
"That could come in several ways. It could be free agency, it could be via trade, any way that can possibly get more depth for our pitching will really set us up to complement our [position players] really well."
Toronto's preferred route is the trade market, but with this many spots open, it seems inevitable the Blue Jays will have to dip their toes into free agency. They won't be in the market for Patrick Corbin, Dallas Keuchel, Nathan Eovaldi or even J.A. Happ, but here's a closer look at five candidates who are more realistic targets for a team that finished fourth in the American League East this season with a 73-89 record:
1. LHP Thomas Pomeranz
Pomeranz appeared to be closing in on a big payday when he finished the 2017 season with a 17-6 record and a 3.32 ERA. He was one year away from securing a lucrative contract, but his stock has since fallen after a disastrous season in Boston. The 29-year-old lost his starting job midway through the year and finished with a 6.08 ERA. Pomeranz has experienced some success in the AL East, and he'll be seeking a short-term deal in an attempt to re-establish his value.
2. LHP Yusei Kikuchi
Kikuchi is perhaps the most intriguing name on this list. The 27-year-old lefty is expected to be posted this offseason after spending the past eight years with the Seibu Lions in Japan. There are some shoulder issues to be concerned about, but according to most reports, Kikuchi projects to be a mid-rotation arm. Unlike the other names on this list, Kikuchi likely will sign a long-term deal, which could appeal to a Blue Jays team which has Stroman and Sanchez under control for just two more years.
3. RHP Garrett Richards
Richards has barely pitched each of the past three years because of injuries, and it will be more of the same in 2019. The 30-year-old underwent Tommy John surgery in July, and he's projected to miss almost all of the upcoming season. So why would teams be interested in a rehabbing pitcher who is months away from a return? Well, Richards owns a 3.54 career ERA over parts of eight seasons with the Angels, so while there's risk, there's also upside. Toronto has the ability to remain patient and could enter the mix here on a two-year deal.
4. RHP Trevor Cahill
Cahill was considered one of the best young pitchers in the game when he broke into the Majors as a 21-year-old in 2009. His promising career was derailed a few years later, thanks to a slew of injuries, but Cahill enjoyed a bit of a renaissance in '18. The native of California posted a 3.76 ERA over 110 innings for Oakland while striking out 8.2 batters per nine innings. The recent performance should put him in line for a two-year deal.
5. LHP Giovany Gonzalez
Gonzalez is a two-time All-Star and former 21-game winner for the Nationals, but at age 33, his skills are on the decline. The Florida native averaged 93-94 mph several years ago, but according to Statcast™, that number has since dropped to 90 in 2018, and command remained an issue with 4.2 walks per nine innings. The upside here is that Gonzalez has tossed at least 170 innings during each of the past four seasons, and the Blue Jays need that kind of certainty with so many questions elsewhere.