The Toronto Blue Jays are just a few pieces away from taking that next step as an organization and competing with the likes of the New York Yankees in the tough AL East. To add those necessary pieces, they will need to be extremely aggressive this offseason.
With the young talent that the Blue Jays have within the organization, 2012 was supposed to be the year in which they made that jump, but a rash of injuries derailed that hope.
Those injuries aside, it is still apparent that there are a few key areas that need to be addressed via either free agency or trades for the Blue Jays to make a playoff push.
Here are three upgrades the Blue Jays must make this offseason.
Jose Bautista and Colby Rasums have the Blue Jays set in RF and CF.
With Jose Bautista and Colby Rasmus, two of the Blue Jays' outfield positions are set. It is that left field spot, which was up for competition throughout 2012, that remains a question mark heading into 2013.
Outside of Josh Hamilton, there is not a lot on the free-agent market at the position. And no, the Blue Jays would likely not enter the bidding for Hamilton.
The most interesting outfield possibility for the Blue Jays would come via trade, and one name that has been circulating is the Arizona Diamondbacks' Justin Upton. ESPN's Buster Olney names the Blue Jays as a possible suitor for Upton this offseason, and it does make sense.
Upton would add yet another bat to the core of the lineup, and the fact that he is under contract through 2015 would be attractive to Blue Jays' GM Alex Anthopoulos. The Blue Jays have the prospects to get that kind of deal done, but it is just a matter of seeing if they will actually do so.
Whether they do indeed target Upton or look for another available outfielder, addressing the left field position would do a lot for this Blue Jays lineup moving forward.
The Blue Jays could look to trade SS Yunel Escobar.
With a report from CBSSports' Jon Heyman that the Blue Jays are looking to trade Yunel Escobar, as well as the fact that second baseman Kelly Johnson is likely to depart through free agency, the middle infield becomes a huge need for this roster.
Already this offseason, the Blue Jays have signed former Angels SS Maicer Izturis. However, if there is a significant upgrade to be made, they likely would not stop there.
Ideally, the Blue Jays would add another middle infielder to the mix, making for a three-way competition for two starting spots between that addition, Izturis and top prospect Adeiny Hechavarria.
There are not many free-agent options at the position this offseason, so don't rule out a trade here. If a proven middle infielder that can be an effective leadoff hitter becomes available, expect the Blue Jays to be heavily interested.
The Blue Jays' pitching staff struggled in 2012.
By the end of the 2012 season, the Blue Jays' starting rotation ranked 25th in the MLB with an ERA of 4.82. To compete as soon as next season, this is the No. 1 area they need to address.
Injuries were a huge problem for this unit in 2012. Kyle Drabek and Drew Hutchison were both lost for the season, and Brandon Morrow was out for over two months.
With Drabek and Hutchison both expected to miss most, if not all, of 2013 after under going Tommy John surgery, addressing the rotation becomes even more of a priority.
If the Blue Jays can add one or two proven starting pitchers this offseason, their rotation could immediately become a strength. They already have an ace in the making in Brandon Morrow, and, despite a rough 2012 season, Ricky Romero can still be that kind of guy for this team.
While free agents like Zack Greinke could be out of the Blue Jays' price range, pitchers like Shaun Marcum, Edwin Jackson or Brandon McCarthy would be interesting options.
With the amount of prospects that the Blue Jays have, as well as Anthopoulos' apparent preference for the trade market over free agency, don't rule out some key trades to improve the starting rotation, either.
Whichever way the Blue Jays choose to do it, addressing the starting rotation will no doubt be the No. 1 priority during this offseason.