Offseason Moves the Toronto Blue Jays Should Have Made Going into 2014
The Toronto Blue Jays didn’t make a lot of offseason moves, opting to bring back nearly the same roster from last year. That decision has already started to hurt the team 45 games into the 2014 season.
While the Blue Jays are still very much in the race—their 23-22 record has them one game back of first place in the AL East—the team could’ve been in a much better position had general manager Alex Anthopoulos added more talent to the roster during the offseason.
As of right now, Toronto appears to be a team trying to compete with the players it already has and is unwilling to spend additional money or trade for veterans.
Let’s take a look at three moves that the Blue Jays should’ve made this past offseason that could’ve immediately brought them a lot close to being considered a contender.
*All stats are from baseball-reference.com.
Improve the Starting Rotation Through Free Agency or Trade
Going into the offseason following a disastrous 2013 season, it was obvious the Blue Jays needed to upgrade their starting rotation.
Toronto’s starting pitchers had posted a combined ERA of 4.81 in 2013, ranking them 14th in the American League.
Despite the pressing need to bolster the rotation heading into the 2014 season, the Blue Jays didn’t acquire a single major league starting pitcher in the offseason. Instead, the team opted to go with the pitchers that it already had on the roster.
Toronto’s Opening Day rotation consisted of R.A. Dickey, Mark Buehrle, Brandon Morrow, Drew Hutchison and Dustin McGowan.
While Buehrle, Hutchison and Dickey have been solid, the rest of the team’s pitching staff has constantly been in flux.
Morrow posted a 5.93 ERA in six starts before recently going on the 60-day disabled list with a torn ligament in his finger. While he’ll try to rehab the injury, it might end up requiring surgery and cause the right-hander to miss the rest of the season.
McGowan was recently shifted to the bullpen after posting a 5.08 ERA in his first eight starts of the season. The 32-year-old—who came out of the bullpen last year and hadn’t been a starting pitcher since 2008—also admitted that he was feeling soreness and fatigue between starts.
The injury to Morrow's and McGowan’s underperformance has really exposed the lack of depth in Toronto’s rotation. While J.A. Happ has taken over Morrow’s spot, the team still hasn’t decided on McGowan’s replacement.
Acquiring a starting pitcher this past offseason through free agency or a trade would’ve really solved one of the biggest issues with the Blue Jays’ roster this season.
Instead, Toronto passed on the likes of Ervin Santana, Ubaldo Jimenez, Matt Garza and Jeff Samardzija.
Acquire a Second Baseman
The Blue Jays have been a good offensive team this season, leading the AL in home runs and ranking fourth in runs scored.
But, the most amazing part about this is that they’ve done it despite getting little production from their second basemen.
Heading into the offseason, the biggest holes in Toronto’s lineup were considered to be at catcher and at second base.
While Anthopoulos addressed the problem at the catching position by releasing J.P. Arencibia and signing Dioner Navarro, he chose not to make any changes at second base.
Ryan Goins—who had hit .252/.264/.345 in 34 games with the team last year—was essentially handed the second-base job heading into 2014.
That turned out to be a mistake, as Goins hit just .150/.203/.217 in 24 games this season before being sent down to Triple-A Buffalo.
Since then, the Blue Jays have had a revolving door at second base. Maicer Izturis (who had a great start to the season but suffered a season-ending injury), Jonathan Diaz, Munenori Kawasaki, Chris Getz and Steve Tolleson have all seen time at the position. None of these players have emerged as a full-time candidate for the job.
Recently, the club has experimented with moving third baseman Brett Lawrie to second base and playing Juan Francisco at third base, but that’s not a long-term solution and only hurts the team’s defense going forward.
Toronto would have been much better off signing a player like shortstop Stephen Drew and shifting him to play second base.
Drew hit .253/.333/.443 in 124 games with the Boston Red Sox last year and would have been an immediate upgrade over any of the other players that the Blue Jays have played at second base this season.
Because Toronto had both of its first-round picks protected, signing Drew would’ve only cost the team a second-round pick in the upcoming MLB draft.
Trade Sergio Santos
The Blue Jays had a very effective bullpen last year, but that hasn’t been the case so far this season.
Toronto’s bullpen has a combined 5.26 ERA in 145.1 innings pitched this season and has already taken nine losses.
Sergio Santos—named the team’s interim closer following an injury to Casey Janssen—has arguably been the worst reliever in the group, posting a 9.00 ERA and blowing three saves in eight opportunities.
The 30-year-old has had an up-and-down tenure with the Blue Jays since being acquired in 2011. He has been injured numerous times and has only pitched 42 innings for the team during that span.
Santos was nearly traded this offseason following a 2013 season where he posted a 1.75 ERA in 25.2 innings pitched. But that trade fell through when one of the other players involved failed a physical.
The Blue Jays then couldn’t find another trade for Santos and ended up holding onto him. This move has backfired on the team as the right-hander’s value has completely dropped following his poor showing this season.
Taking advantage of Santos’ good season last year and moving him while his value was high could have netted Toronto a decent player in return who might have strengthened an area of weakness on the roster.