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Blue Jays keep focus on roster, not AL East

Atkins arrives at Winter Meetings as Yankees swing big trade
MLB.com @gregorMLB

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- The American League East got a whole lot more competitive on Day 1 of the Winter Meetings, but the Blue Jays insist the rest of the division loading up on talent will not impact their plans for 2018.

On the same day that star slugger Giancarlo Stanton was officially acquired by the Yankees, Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins met with the media and said it was business as normal for his organization. Toronto doesn't plan to go all-in this offseason, but the club won't begin a full rebuild either. Instead, the reality lies somewhere in the middle.

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- The American League East got a whole lot more competitive on Day 1 of the Winter Meetings, but the Blue Jays insist the rest of the division loading up on talent will not impact their plans for 2018.

On the same day that star slugger Giancarlo Stanton was officially acquired by the Yankees, Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins met with the media and said it was business as normal for his organization. Toronto doesn't plan to go all-in this offseason, but the club won't begin a full rebuild either. Instead, the reality lies somewhere in the middle.

Josh Donaldson, Marco Estrada and J.A. Happ are among the Blue Jays' pending free agents at the end of 2018. Coming off a fourth-place finish in the division, some expected Toronto to at least consider a complete overhaul of the roster. That does not appear to be in the cards.

"We wake up every day trying to make the organization and our team better, and that's how we go to bed every day," Atkins said. "Fortunately we have, what we feel, are fair resources to do that financially and within our system. We'll continue to make the team, the best possible team, the best possible organization we can make it."

With needs in the outfield, infield and starting rotation, the Blue Jays clearly are facing a challenge. The Yankees had 15 more wins than the Blue Jays this year and just acquired the National League MVP without having to mortgage the future. The Red Sox, the reigning division champs, are feeling the pressure of that deal and likely will respond through free agency or one of Dave Dombrowski's well-known blockbuster deals.

In a lot of ways, it's starting to feel like the AL East of the 1990s and early 2000s -- New York and Boston are the clear powerhouses of the division, while the Blue Jays will need to use their resources wisely and hope that almost everything breaks in their favor. One player who unquestionably helps Toronto in the short term is Donaldson, and that's one reason the Blue Jays seem intent on keeping him off the trading block.

The Blue Jays don't have any untouchable players, and if other teams call about Donaldson, it's not like Atkins is going to hang up the phone. There will be discussions, but all signs point to sticking with the status quo this offseason, either going through the arbitration process or settling it beforehand, and then reassessing the situation at some point next year.

"If we're thinking about making this organization better every day, it's really hard to imagine making it better without Josh," Atkins said while declining to comment on whether the two sides have opened contract negotiations. "Certainly, the team as it stands, it would be extremely difficult to make the team better. He's one of the best players in the game."

Trade talk

If the Blue Jays pull off a trade this month, there's a good chance it will involve shipping out an outfielder or a reliever. Atkins pointed to those areas as where Toronto has the most depth, which could help facilitate a deal.

"I feel like we have some really good, young, controllable outfielders and some really good young, controllable relievers," Atkins said. "As far as our system is concerned, we're having a little bit more diversity of talent. But at the upper levels, relief pitching and outfield."

Gregor Chisholm has covered the Blue Jays for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB and Facebook, and listen to his podcast.

Toronto Blue Jays