Wednesday evening, the Toronto Blue Jays held their annual State of the Franchise at the Rogers Centre in front of season ticket holders and fans of the Blue Jays. Hosted by Buck Martinez, Paul Beeston, Alex Anthopoulos, and John Gibbons fielded questions selected from emails prior to the event.
President Paul Beeston started by letting fans know that they were committed to bring a winning team to Toronto.
“Our commitment is to bring you what you deserve, a sincere and genuine attempt to win” – Paul Beeston.
GM Alex Anthopoulos has been quiet this off-season, making a few minor acquisitions to the team but he’s hopeful to still be able to add with just about a month left before spring training. “We’re hopeful that we’ll be able to add before Spring Training” Anthopoulos said.
The big question that is on just about every fan’s mind is the need to add and improve the Jays starting rotation. “Some of the free agents that are out there, I think we all know the names—Arroyo, Burnett, Santana, Jimenez, those guys are all still out there, they all can help our ball club.” Anthopoulos said. “We are actively having dialogue, the rotation is definitely an area we’d like to add. We’ll see if it’s one of these free agents, we are talking to a club or two about some trades. And we’ll see where those discussions lead. We are very active and very involved to try and bring in at least one more starter.”
Alex also debunked the thought that the Jays’ 5 year contract policy was limiting them from acquiring free agents.
“Would we ever say no under no circumstances whatsoever? No, we would look at it case by case, but for the most part we do have that policy, we do adhere to it.” Anthopoulos said. “For the most part it has not prevented us for signing a player, as many times as we just don’t believe in what the salaries are.”
Adding, “For the most part when you look at some of these deals that are 10 years, 9 years, 8 years, not too often, they have worked out at times, but not too often do they work out.”
Also good news for the Jays is Marcus Stroman. He was recently named, along with two others to MLB.com’s Top 100 Prospect List and AA believes he is ready to pitch in the majors, “He’ll be given a chance (out of Spring Training)” Anthopoulos said. ” We’re very excited about him, he’s ready to come up here and pitch. To what extent we’ll see. We think he’s very similar to Sonny Gray.” — “I would expect him to factor into the ball club during the season at some point.”
When asked which currently player they thought could have an improved / bounce back this upcoming season, Manager John Gibbons pointed out left fielder, Melky Cabrera, who is also the biggest question in John Maudsley’s outfielders analysis. Citing that he had a great spring last season before ‘his body started deteriorating’, when they found a tumor in his spine a month into the season, but the doctors feel he could be back to the old guy. And if he returns to the old guy, he could be a vital contributor.
Also look for a bounce back from Brandon Morrow, who lost the second half of last season with a forearm injury. Gibbon says the Jays are looking at him to help bridge the gap between the front and the back of the starting rotation.
And finally, Gibbons named third baseman Brett Lawrie as a player that could make the jump to the next level. “It’s a natural progression, he had a really good 2nd half last year and he’s still a very young man. He’s only to get better. I thought he really settled in, you guys know what he can do on defense. Offensively I saw him just get better and better, I saw him slow down at the plate. The sky’s the limit. He’s grown up in a lot of ways.” Gibbons said of the 24 year old 3rd baseman.
One of the positions that could see improvement is the DH, with AA looking to add a platoon right-handed bat to go with their already established left-handed DH, Adam Lind. AA stated that Moises Sierra will get a shot out of spring training to fill that role, adding that Sierra has been fielding ground balls at 1st base for flexibility and gives him a better chance to make this team. Anthopoulos declined to name any free agent names as possible considerations for that position.
And of course, the question that is asked every year, ‘when will grass be put into the Rogers Centre’, once again came up. With the Toronto Argonauts expected to move out of the Rogers Centre after the 2017 season, ”We’re for grass. There’s absolutely no question about that.” Beeston said. “Regrettably if we do that, it would not work for the Argos”—”We know that we can put real grass at Rogers Centre. Our goal is for the 2018 season.”
Next up for the Toronto Blue Jays is Pitchers and Catchers report on February 16th in Dunedin to get ready for Spring Training.