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Blue Jays ready for Winter Meetings

TORONTO — The Blue Jays’ offseason has been relatively quiet so far, but it’s possible things are about to heat up with the annual Winter Meetings set to begin Monday in Las Vegas.

Toronto general manager Ross Atkins will arrive at the Mandalay Bay searching for pitching while also trying to decide how some of his prominent stars factor into the club’s long-term plans. One thing is certain: There will be no shortage of talking points in the week ahead.

TORONTO — The Blue Jays’ offseason has been relatively quiet so far, but it’s possible things are about to heat up with the annual Winter Meetings set to begin Monday in Las Vegas.

Toronto general manager Ross Atkins will arrive at the Mandalay Bay searching for pitching while also trying to decide how some of his prominent stars factor into the club’s long-term plans. One thing is certain: There will be no shortage of talking points in the week ahead.

The Blue Jays are scheduled to meet with the representatives of shortstop Troy Tulowitzki in Las Vegas. One of the topics that is sure to come up will be Atkins’ recent comments that Tulowitzki will have to “overachieve” to be an above-average shortstop in 2019. These two parties face an uncertain future with each other, but the public might not have to wait long for clarity.

Video: Chisholm discusses Tulowitzki’s path forward

Toronto also figures to find itself in the rumor mill because of the uncertain futures of Marcus Stroman and Aaron Sanchez. Both starters have just two years of control remaining before free agency, and if the right offer comes along Atkins will have to listen.

To date, Toronto’s offseason has been limited to trading Aledmys Diaz and non-tendering infielder Yangervis Solarte. At some point, the club’s offseason Hot Stove will start to heat up, and what better place than Vegas? Here’s a closer look at what to expect next week:

Club needs
The Blue Jays want to add at least one starting pitcher and ideally a couple of arms for the bullpen. Toronto’s rotation currently projects as Stroman, Sanchez and Ryan Borucki, with plenty of question marks after that. The Blue Jays have plenty of starting candidates, but a proven arm — or one with untapped upside — would help stabilize the staff. In the ‘pen, Toronto has Ken Giles and Ryan Tepera for the late innings, but the club lacks a lefty specialist and needs another hard-throwing setup man.

Whom might they trade?
Sanchez, Stroman, Justin Smoak, Russell Martin, Devon Travis and Kevin Pillar could be on the trading block. Atkins will listen to offers on just about anyone, especially players on the 40-man roster whose timelines don’t match up with the emerging prospects. Toronto would love to be bombarded with offers for Stroman and Sanchez, but that still seems unlikely with both coming off down years. Smoak likely won’t be moved this winter, but the Blue Jays undoubtedly would eat a significant amount of money to deal Martin. Next July is the safer bet for most of these big trades, but all it takes is one meeting to change all of that.

Latest MLB free agent and trade rumors

Prospects to know
The Blue Jays aren’t going to deal any of the prospects they view as being a big part of the future. One interesting name to watch, though, continues to be outfielder Anthony Alford. The 24-year-old is coming off a down season after posting a .654 OPS in the Minors, but he’s also one of the best athletes in Toronto’s system. And considering his career was delayed because of football, some extra patience by the front office does make sense. Do the Blue Jays have enough of it, or would they consider flipping Alford as part of a bigger deal for pitching?

Video: HOU@TOR: Alford races 55 feet to rob sinking liner

Rule 5 Draft
Toronto hasn’t lost anyone to the Rule 5 since infielder Brad Emaus went to the Mets in 2011, but the club’s run of good luck might be about to run out. The Blue Jays have a number of compelling prospects who were left exposed thanks to a lack of space on the 40-man roster. Left-hander Travis Bergen, right-hander Corey Copping, outfielder Forrest Wall and righty Jackson McClelland are among the notable names who might generate some interest. The Blue Jays do have one open spot on the 40-man roster to make a pick of their own, but the far bigger concern is who they might lose.

Payroll summary
The Blue Jays’ payroll has hovered around $160 million during each of the last two seasons, but it’s going down quite a bit in 2019. The departures of players such as Josh Donaldson, J.A. Happ, Steve Pearce and others left the Blue Jays with a projected 25-man roster payroll just north of $100 million. That means the club won’t have to take any additional cost-saving measures and should have enough flexibility to add another starter and some arms for the bullpen without much concern. Expect all of the shopping to be done in the secondary markets, as a major splash in free agency seems unrealistic.

Gregor Chisholm has covered the Blue Jays for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB and Facebook, and listen to his podcast.



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