No guess work for what Biagini needs to do
Toronto Blue Jays GM Ross Atkins was on the firing line on Wednesday and managed to survive an afternoon with the Toronto baseball media.
One of the more interesting tidbits of information offered up by Atkins at the annual event was that right-handed pitcher Joe Biagini was essentially told to work on some specific exercises during the off-season — and to get in shape — if he wanted to remain in the Toronto starting rotation. Biagini, who had great success as a reliever during his first season with the Jays, was thrown into the rotation last year after a number of starters went down with injury and the results were mixed. Biagini had 18 starts and went 3-13 with a 5.34 ERA.
“If he were to come in good shape (to spring training) and looking like he spent the off-season focused on being a starting pitcher, we could start the year with five solid Major League starters,” said Atkins, who was asked what Biagini was asked to do in the off season. “It was more just about his approach to starting pitching and what that means physically, fundamentally, mentally. We have given him some clear goals for this off-season and if he meets them, he’s going to be in a great position to earn that spot.”
Biagini would be added to a rotation that includes Marcus Stroman, Aaron Sanchez (if his finger problems are resolved), J.A. Happ and Marco Estrada, and possibly Brett Anderson if the Jays bring the lefty back. Atkins added that there is a good chance the club will trade, or sign, another starting pitcher. As for next week’s winter meetings and the off-season in general, Atkins said the priorities haven’t changed.
“We know we need to complement our infield further, our outfield further, our pitching further, potentially even complement our catching situation,” he said. “How that comes to fruition from this point not only depends on priorities, but also what (that costs).”
Atkins said there’s a little more depth in the relief market now as opposed to starting pitching. Steve Pearce’s name was mentioned in a question about a potential trade piece.
“We have a lot of talented players on our Major League team (and) in our minor league system that could be in some way used in a potential trade,” said Atkins. “But we love our team, I love Steve Pearce. I feel like he’s going to have an even better year than he had. He had some really big hits and some good streaks for us, so we’re glad he’s here.”
Pearce was slowed by injuries during his first season with the Jays but came on as the 2017 season progressed.
Atkins expressed excitement over the recent trade of outfield prospect J.B. Woodman for shortstop Aledmys Diaz from the St. Louis Cardinals. Diaz had a great rookie campaign in 2016, .300 AVG/.369 OBP/slugging .510 with 17 home runs, but struggled in his sophomore season last year, his numbers dropping to .259/.290/.392 and he was eventually demoted to Triple A.
But the Jays front office firmly believe Diaz has a lot of up- side and will be, at the very least, a strong insurance policy for Troy Tulowitzki and Devon Travis in the middle infield, along with another recent acquisition, Gift Ngoepe, whom they acquired from the Pirates last month.
Atkins said the Jays have a strategy in line in the hopes of getting third baseman Josh Donaldson to sign a long-term contract extension, though he wouldn’t offer any specifics. As for Sanchez, the GM said the young fireballer is “doing great, his finger looks great, he’s strong and is in a great mental state” and will starting throwing soon.