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Busy Blue Jays aren't finished rebuilding

Busy Blue Jays aren't finished rebuilding

Busy Blue Jays aren't finished rebuilding
TORONTO -- General manager Alex Anthopoulos already has made a couple of big moves this offseason, but that doesn't mean he's ready to close up shop for the winter.

Toronto is still actively looking for pitching depth, in both the rotation and bullpen. The needs aren't as big as they once were, but with a team that is on the verge of becoming a legitimate contender in the American League East, Anthopoulos isn't about to leave anything to chance.

Any future moves won't be on the same level as the recent 12-player blockbuster, but with a Minor League system that is still flush with talent, plenty of possibilities could begin to emerge at next week's Winter Meetings in Nashville.

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"We'll still try to be active," Anthopoulos told reporters on Wednesday afternoon. "We're trying to do things now. We feel better about our club today than we did at the end of the season, but there are still areas where we can improve.

"We still can add depth in our rotation, still get better in the bullpen. Offensively I feel pretty good about the team. I feel pretty good about the bench."

Anthopoulos already has fulfilled his previously stated offseason goal of acquiring a pair of starting pitchers. That was accomplished last week, when the Blue Jays put the finishing touches on a deal with the Marlins that will see Josh Johnson and Mark Buehrle head to Toronto alongside shortstop Jose Reyes, infielder/outfielder Emilio Bonifacio and catcher John Buck.

That deal, in combination with the signings of free agents Maicer Izturis and Melky Cabrera, means the Blue Jays' payroll in 2013 is expected to exceed $120 million.

Anthopoulos didn't rule out the possibility of signing a free-agent pitcher, but it's realistic to think that he won't be open to the idea of another long-term contract. The Blue Jays would be more likely to take a chance on a short deal or instead search for additions through trades rather than the open market.

Such top prospects as Adeiny Hechavarria and Jake Marisnick may no longer be with the organization, but there's still an awful lot of depth in the Minors to mine if a trade ultimately becomes the route of choice.

"I think we're in good shape. I still think we can make more trades involving prospects, and assuming we don't trade everybody, still have a pretty good group of players," Anthopoulos said.

"We're still going to be active in Latin America going forward, we're still going to have a top Draft pick again, there are still ways to replenish. We built up enough inventory that we could handle one more big trade if we needed to."

The Blue Jays and ownership group Rogers Communications may have allocated a franchise record in salary for next season, but that doesn't mean the club is tapped out financially. In many ways, Toronto finds itself in a similar situation to that of the past several years.

President Paul Beeston couldn't guarantee that more funds would be available, but he also said there is no reason to doubt payroll could reach an even higher level. Everything will be judged on a case-by-case basis, and if the right opportunity presents itself, expect the club to take advantage of it.

"The real reason is that we have to show the fans there's a reason to come out," Beeston said of the recent jump in payroll. "We have a lot of empty seats that we can fill, we have a lot of suites that we can fill. We've got a lot of things that can generate revenue, and we'll put it back into the baseball team.

"I don't worry about that. We can play with the big boys financially, but we're still going to spend smartly, and we're not going to have really long-term contracts. I like three years -- now they've talked me into five -- but I can't see us going to, like, 10-year contracts."

With a higher payroll also comes heightened expectations, and that's something the Blue Jays are embracing instead of shying from. Last winter, Beeston spoke openly about believing that his team would reach the postseason two or three times within the next five years.

Even though one year has already been erased following the disappointing 2012 campaign, Beeston wasn't about to back down from that statement. It's something he strongly believes and was one of the main reasons why the Blue Jays have been so active of late.

"I still believe that; that's the goal," he said. "We're not spending this money guaranteeing we're going to win, but we're not spending this money expecting we're going to be an also-ran, either. That's the truth."

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.

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