Trades could be way Blue Jays fill needs

Trades could be way Blue Jays fill needs

TORONTO -- Major League Baseball's Hot Stove will be in full swing when the Winter Meetings get under way at the Hilton Anatole in Dallas from Dec. 5-8.

Toronto will be looking to address at least a couple of the glaring holes on its roster as general manager Alex Anthopoulos attempts to build upon a season that saw his team finish 81-81.

The offseason has gotten off to a relatively slow start this year, but that is expected to change as the general managers convene in Texas to talk trades and initiate negotiations with free agents.

"I think every market is slowed up, whether it's free agents or trades, because there are a lot of options," Anthopoulos recently said. "Right now, you're gathering information, you're talking to 29 teams, you're talking to other free agents and you're trying to gather all the information and sit down with your staff and make a decision on what makes the most sense for us."

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The Blue Jays will head to Dallas with the goal of laying the groundwork for some of the organization's needs. The club is in the market for a starting second baseman and a power arm to close out games at the back end of the bullpen.

Anthopoulos jump-started last year's event in Florida by finalizing a deal that saw No. 1 starter Shaun Marcum traded away to Milwaukee for top prospect Brett Lawrie just hours before the Meetings officially got under way.

If Toronto's GM is going to make a similar splash this year it likely will once again come via the trade route as opposed to negotiating a lucrative multiyear contract with an elite free agent. Anthopoulos has long attempted to make big moves through trades and that appears to be the case again this offseason.

"That's my preferred route," Anthopoulos said. "I've definitely had a lot of good dialogue, we're not close to doing anything, but at the same time that can always change with one phone call. I think [right now] it's gathering a lot of information from GMs and clubs.

"They have other things that they're weighing, so are we. But there's no question, the more chance we get to talk, certainly the more groundwork is laid, but it takes a long time to make trades and they're hard to make."

Toronto has the financial flexibility to make a big acquisition if the right player becomes available. The club has no hesitation to add salary as long as the long-term risk seems manageable.

That should lead to plenty of rumors during the Winter Meetings, and it will only become more heightened by the club's deep and youthful roster. Toronto has some starting pitching depth to spare and likely could afford to deal either Travis Snider or Eric Thames from its crowded outfield.

The Blue Jays also possess one of the deepest farm systems, which could enable the team to make a big splash through trade if a front-line starting pitcher or impact bat becomes available.

Anthopoulos downplayed that notion, though, in the week leading up the Winter Meetings because he's doubtful clubs will be looking to part with Major League talent for relatively unproven prospects at this point in the year.

"I think there's no doubt about it," Anthopoulos said when asked if his Minor League system has the depth to make a big deal. "I think it's even more attractive, that asset base of prospects, is even more attractive come July because most teams that do sell at that time realize they're not going to get Major League players back at that time of year because any club that is adding can't take away from their big league team.

"Everyone realizes that their return is going to be young players that are in the Minor Leagues. It certainly helps now, but I think it's going to be even more valuable to us during the summer if there is a trade for us to to make."

Toronto would like to add a top starter to its mix but so would almost every other team. That will only up the price if such a player becomes available, but in the meantime there are plenty of other items to keep Anthopoulos busy.

The Blue Jays likely will need to find a replacement at second base for free agent Kelly Johnson and the potential departure of closer Frank Francisco. The club responded to the loss of backup catcher Jose Molina by dealing left-handed pitcher Brad Mills to the Angels for Jeff Mathis on Saturday.

There are obvious needs, but there's no better time to be a buyer than at the Winter Meetings, where a wide variety of scenarios are discussed among executives. It's just a matter of finding the right fit.

"It seems like the Winter Meetings are really the area when a lot of dominos start to fall," Anthopoulos said.

"At the same time, it comes down to value, price and things like that. You weigh it all."

Gregor Chisholm is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, North of the Border, and follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.