Bautista: Blue Jays primed for success
TORONTO -- The Blue Jays' offseason makeover isn't necessarily over, and even though some parts of the roster remain a work in progress, Jose Bautista is confident in the changes that already have been made.
Toronto made lots of headlines in November by signing free-agent catcher Russell Martin and acquiring All-Star third baseman Josh Donaldson from Oakland. Other early moves included sending J.A. Happ to Seattle for Michael Saunders and trading Adam Lind to Milwaukee for right-hander Marco Estrada.
Since then, things have been relatively quiet for Toronto, but Bautista believes there's already enough in place to take the next step.
"I think we've made additions that are going to be great, quality players and hopefully keep playing up to their capabilities of what they've shown they can do consistently in the past and help us win more games," said Bautista, who was in Toronto on Friday for the start of the club's annual Winter Tour.
"With Russell Martin and Josh Donaldson, we got great players. Those are, I guess, the biggest moves. We're going to miss Adam Lind and Brett Lawrie, but that's part of the bittersweet effect that some of the trades have on baseball. You lose friends and teammates, and you get new ones. Ideally, you start winning more games than before, and that makes it a little easier on everybody."
With a little more than a month remaining until Spring Training, the club still has a weakness in the bullpen. The Blue Jays are without a bona fide closer, and even though Aaron Loup and Brett Cecil provide a lot of value from the left side, there's a noticeable lack of right-handed options for late-inning relief.
That's one reason the Blue Jays often get linked to the remaining options available through free agency. That won't necessarily guarantee success, though, and Bautista is quick to point out the bullpen was supposed to be a weakness two years ago, but it turned into a strength. Last season, it was the exact opposite.
"Health has a lot to do with it, too," Bautista said. "In the bullpen, because of the volatility of results, you have a guy that can pitch 10 days in a row and have one bad outing, and his ERA is in the 4s. You have bullpen guys that are hurt, like we had last year, they're trying to come in and come back from injury and perform at the same time -- it's not easy to get the bullpen right. I wouldn't lose any sleep over the bullpen; we have great players for those roles as well."
Bautista is about to enter the final year of the contract he signed prior to 2011. There is a club option for '16, though, which is all but guaranteed to be picked up. Bautista has been with the organization since 2009, but he claims he's never been as excited about the Blue Jays' chances as he is right now.
"I wouldn't go into a season any other way," Bautista said when asked if he expects this team to make the postseason. "I'm really excited to get back into baseball, get back on my feet, put my cleats on. I can't wait for the season to start. This is by far the year that I feel like it's the most attainable of all the ones I've been here for."