TORONTO -- The Blue Jays are continuing their search for an upgrade in the starting rotation, but general manager Alex Anthopoulos stopped short of predicting the offseason would be a failure if a move cannot be made.
Anthopoulos emphasized that the search for help in the rotation is far from over, but he added that nothing appeared imminent. Dialogue with other teams and free agents will continue in the coming days and weeks, but at least for now, there aren't any easy solutions.
Anthopoulos entered this offseason with the main goal of adding at least one significant piece to his starting group, and while that still remains the case, he also talked at length about depth the organization already has in its system.
"We're always looking to add," Anthopoulos said Wednesday. "Anyone wants to add a frontline starter each year. We just want to improve the rotation. Clearly the results were what they were last year. Part of that improvement will come internally.
"Any way we can improve the rotation, we would do that. A clean fit is adding one [starter] if we could, and if two become available, three become available and they're better than what we have, then we would look to do it."
Toronto finished last season ranked near the bottom in the American League of almost every major starting pitching category. The Blue Jays were second to last in innings pitched (899 1/3) and ERA (4.81) while also finishing with the third-highest WHIP (1.41) and opponents' batting average (.272).
The numbers were an extreme disappointment for a team that felt starting pitching was a major strength heading into the year. Anthopoulos believes there are positives to be taken from the way R.A. Dickey and Mark Buehrle performed after a slow start, while a return to health by Brandon Morrow could become a deciding factor.
Outside of those top three, though, Anthopoulos feels a big reason for optimism is the amount of internal options the club has heading into Spring Training. Left-hander J.A. Happ is a potential veteran presence at the back end of the staff, while the likes of promising youngsters Drew Hutchison, Kyle Drabek, Marcus Stroman and Sean Nolin provide promise alongside returnees Esmil Rogers and Todd Redmond.
There's still a glaring need for more stability, but the team does appear better equipped to handle injuries than it was a year ago. In 2013, the Blue Jays often had to give starts to journeymen like Chien-Ming Wang, Dave Bush and Ramon Ortiz, but the options in 2014 will be far superior.
"We knew we were thin in the depth department beyond our five or six, and I think now our starters six through 10 are so much stronger than they were last year," Anthopoulos said. "We had about 30 starts last year of guys that were 6.00 ERAs and above, the Chien-Ming Wangs and the Ortizs.
"I think that's what ends up killing you when you're giving that many starts to those guys. Now if it ends up being the Stromans, the Drews, the Nolins, guys like that, Todd Redmonds, those are the guys that get those starts, and that should improve us significantly."
Blue Jays content with second-base options
TORONTO -- The Blue Jays are still in the market for a second baseman, but if something doesn't materialize, they seem content with the options already in place.
Barring any changes, Toronto would open the year with rookie Ryan Goins and veteran Maicer Izturis working together in some sort of a platoon. The bulk of the load likely would fall to the solid defender Goins, but there's still time for that to change.
There have been various rumors this offseason that linked Toronto to the likes of the Angels' Howie Kendrick or the Reds' Brandon Phillips, but it seems like general manager Alex Anthopoulos would be content with adding someone who isn't quite as big of a name.
"I'd like to add some competition and some depth," Anthopoulos said. "You'd like to create the middle-infield depth that you can. If someone can come in on a Minor League [deal] or we trade for someone, it means Goins has to be optioned. It's a way to create more depth in the competition. Right now, we're not going to force anything. It would be that tandem of Goins and Izturis."
Even if the Blue Jays were planning on doing something bigger than that, it's unlikely Anthopoulos would tip his hand to the media. Still, there appears to be a level of confidence in Goins, especially considering the impact he had on the infield defense.
Toronto's infield defense was one of the worst in baseball last season. One of the main reasons for that was the prolonged absences of third baseman Brett Lawrie and shortstop Jose Reyes because of injuries, but the issues at second base were just as glaring.
Izturis struggled, especially in the first half, while Emilio Bonifacio proved incapable of handling ground balls on the fast AstroTurf at Rogers Centre. Goins provided some much-needed stability at the position, but there are still plenty of question marks about whether he will be able to consistently hit at the big league level.
Goins is trying to address some of those issues this offseason by working with new hitting coach Kevin Seitzer in Kansas City. That's one small step, and for now, the club will move forward with that at least as a backup plan while other scenarios continue to be explored.
"We've talked to some free agents, we've talked to some teams about trade," Anthopoulos said. "I'm not saying I expect to do something there. We may do something, but if I had to guess, it's something that we'd do in January if things break right -- just knowing the options out there in free agency and some of the other guys that are available in trade."
Sierra likely to platoon with Lind next season
TORONTO -- Moises Sierra appears to be the early favorite to win the job as a platoon partner for designated hitter/first baseman Adam Lind next season.
Lind will see the bulk of the work against right-handed pitching, but there's still a need for someone to start against lefties. That job once belonged to Mark DeRosa, but an opening was created when he recently decided to step away from the game to pursue a career in broadcasting.
Sierra has spent his entire career in the outfield, but he recently began preparing for a potential new role by taking ground balls at first base. Sierra is out of options on his contract and a platoon with Lind appears to be the only way he could stick with the organization.
"Sierra could be that guy," Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos said. "We've had him taking ground balls at first base, just because he's out of options and we're trying to think of ways he can make this team.
"Just to give the roster more versatility, if he can play some first base, just to have the ability to do it, he might be the platoon partner for Lind."
Sierra's days in Toronto's system appeared to be numbered following a disappointing year with Triple-A Buffalo. Sierra managed to hit .261 with a .731 OPS in 100 games, but his standing within the organization changed when he had a strong finish in Toronto.
The 25-year-old got another chance at big league experience when outfielders Melky Cabrera, Colby Rasmus and Jose Bautista all went down with injuries. That opened up playing time for Sierra, and he responded by hitting .290 with a .827 OPS while recording 15 extra-base hits in just 35 games.
Toronto is still searching the market for someone else to compete for the job as well, but if Sierra can prove capable of just some part-time work at first base, then it's certainly possible he'll find himself breaking camp with the team.
"We've definitely talked to clubs about getting a platoon-type guy," Anthopoulos conceded. "Sierra's definitely not a lock to make this team, but because he's out of options, we'd like to find every way we can to keep him, because he has made some strides.
"He looked really good in September. He made some changes to his swing in September, and he got to spend a lot of time with [Edwin] Encarnacion. But if you look at the numbers he had in the Minors last year and then what he did in September, it was surprising. A great surprise."