Blue Jays lay groundwork for future deals

Blue Jays lay groundwork for future deals

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The Blue Jays accomplished most of their offseason goals before the start of the Winter Meetings, and the end result was a very quiet week at the Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center.

Toronto's lone move of the Winter Meetings happened on Thursday morning when the club selected right-hander Joe Biagini in the Rule 5 Draft. Outside of that minor transaction, the Blue Jays stood pat and played the role of observer instead of active participant.

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General manager Ross Atkins believes some additional moves could be on the way in the coming days and weeks, with several transactions being described as "close." The groundwork is in place, but no transactions surfaced as the Blue Jays' contingent left Music City to head north Thursday afternoon.

"I always look at it from a distance and not in small stints," Atkins said at the conclusion of the Winter Meetings. "So what you've accomplished over the course of an offseason, we feel very good about. A lot of the heavy lifting was done earlier ... but still feel good about a couple of things that are really close. We've had great discussions with teams."

Toronto was aggressive early in the offseason by re-signing Marco Estrada, signing left-hander J.A. Happ and trading for right-hander Jesse Chavez. That added a lot of much-needed depth to the Blue Jays' pitching staff, but more work needs to be done before the team can be considered complete.

The Blue Jays still need additional depth in the rotation, and they will look to add at least a couple of arms to the bullpen. The moves likely won't be considered significant, as the club appears to be targeting lower- and mid-level prospects instead of the remaining top available players.

"There are several things," Atkins said when pressed for details on what his club might be on the verge of doing. "We're in both arenas [of free agency and trades], and there are several things we're making progress on. We have opportunities in both arenas."

Deals done
Toronto didn't complete any deals this week, but the club agreed to terms with utility infielder Darwin Barney on Wednesday. That signing won't become official until Barney passes a physical, and the team has yet to announce the signing. The contract was first reported by Sportsnet and was confirmed by Wednesday afternoon. He is expected to begin the year as a backup to second baseman Ryan Goins as rookie Devon Travis continues to rehab from left shoulder surgery.

Rule 5 Draft
The 25-year-old Biagini went 10-7 with a 2.42 ERA in 23 games for Double-A Richmond of the Giants' organization. He struck out 84 and walked 34 while posting a 1.12 WHIP over 130 1/3 innings.

Goals accomplished
The Blue Jays' biggest goal going into the Winter Meetings was continuing a tricky transition of the front office. Atkins became general manager last Friday, and this was the first opportunity that the new front office got to sit down for extended meetings with manager John Gibbons and the rest of the staff. Outside of that, this week was more about exploring minor deals as opposed to targeting the remaining top-level players still on the open market.

Unfinished business
Once the deal for Barney becomes official, the Blue Jays' roster will be pretty set on the position player side. Toronto still needs to add a lot of depth to the upper levels of its Minor League system, and the bullpen remains the top area of focus. Expect at least a couple of arms to be added in the coming weeks, but whether those will be guaranteed deals or invites to Spring Training remains to be seen.

Bottom line
"We made a lot of progress. ... I have a ton of respect for potential moves, trades, acquisitions, affect many people, so I would hate to create any emotions or roller coasters for players. Until something is done, we really can't comment on it." -- Atkins

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.