Blue Jays have high hopes for new additions

Busy offseason has Toronto headed to camp with plethora of fresh faces

Blue Jays have high hopes for new additions

TORONTO -- Alex Anthopoulos was one of the most aggressive general managers at the beginning of the offseason, and while the moves eventually tapered off, it's clear the Blue Jays will look a lot different in 2015.

Anthopoulos promised change at the end of last season, and he followed up those claims by making six trades and adding 12 players to Toronto's 40-man roster. Familiar faces like Adam Lind, Casey Janssen and Brett Lawrie are gone, but they've been replaced with a new group that will help form the core of a team with aspirations of reaching the postseason.

In the days leading up to the start of Spring Training, is running a six-part series that takes a close look at each team in the Major Leagues. The second installment is called "The New Guys," and it focuses on additions that will impact the 25-man roster.

C Russell Martin: The veteran backstop received the largest free-agent contract in franchise history when he signed for $82 million over five years in November. Martin is generally regarded as one of the best catchers in baseball, and his abilities behind the plate should go a long way in helping the development of a young pitching staff. Martin posted a career-high .402 on-base percentage in 2014, and he is expected to hit second in the batting order -- ahead of Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion and Josh Donaldson.

1B Justin Smoak: He was mentioned in Part 1 of this series as one of the Blue Jays who is looking for improved production in 2015. Smoak hit at least 15 home runs in three of the past four seasons, and those numbers could improve at Rogers Centre. But he also has to cut down the number of strikeouts and reach base more consistently to fill a significant role. If Encarnacion begins the year at designated hitter, Smoak likely will be part of a platoon at first with Danny Valencia.

Outlook: Smoak, 1B, TOR

2B Devon Travis: He became the second baseman of the future when the Blue Jays acquired him from the Tigers in a deal for Anthony Gose. Travis is expected to compete for the job at second base during Spring Training, but he's never played above Double-A and ideally would start the year in Triple-A Buffalo. That could change if Travis impresses early, but his overall development would be best served with a little more seasoning in the Minors, which would set the stage for a possible midseason callup.

3B Donaldson: Anthopoulos surprised everybody in baseball when he pulled off the trade for Donaldson. Most people assumed Donaldson was off limits in Oakland because he has four years of club control remaining, but a deal featuring Lawrie and a package of prospects (Franklin Barreto) was enough to get the deal done. Donaldson finished in the top 10 in voting for the American League Most Valuable Player Award in each of the past two years, and he'll combine with Bautista and Encarnacion to cause fits for opposing pitchers.

Outlook: Donaldson, 3B, TOR

LF Michael Saunders: He was also mentioned in Part 1 of this series for "On the Rebound" candidates, and he's someone Anthopoulos had been targeting for at least two years. Saunders has the lofty task of replacing Melky Cabrera in left field, and while the bat might not be quite the same, his defense is definitely better. Saunders also has underrated power, and he posted a .341 on-base percentage last season, which would be a nice fit in the second half of the batting order. His main obstacle will be remaining healthy after being limited to 78 games last season in Seattle.

RHP Marco Estrada: When the Blue Jays acquired Estrada in November, it appeared as though he was destined for the bullpen. Instead, it now looks like the club will be forced to use Aaron Sanchez in that role, which opens the door for Estrada to join the rotation. As a reliever in Milwaukee last season, Estrada posted a 2.89 ERA, but it soared to 4.96 when he was pitching out of the rotation. The seven-year veteran will receive competition from rookie left- hander Daniel Norris for the final starting job.

Gregor Chisholm is a reporter for 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.