Royals, Jays, Halos taking low-key approach
Clubs looking to patch holes, but not completely overhaul their rosters
A winter after grabbing headlines with franchise makeovers that turned into summer disappointments, the front offices in Kansas City, Toronto and Anaheim have taken a low-key approach to this offseason.
The teams are looking to patch holes, but there is no sense of urgency to rearrange the roster this time around.
"Your needs vary year to year," said Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos. "Everyone is trying to get things done, but your needs vary from year to year."
The needs for the Royals, Blue Jays and Angels are not as major this year as they were a year ago. There can be a value to allowing things to settle down and not constantly undertaking a roster makeover.
And there's plenty for those teams to have to settle down from a year ago.
Think about it.
The Blue Jays brought in manager John Gibbons, signed free-agent outfielder Melky Cabrera and infielder Maicer Izturis, and swung two major deals that included the addition of starting pitchers R.A. Dickey, Mark Buehrle and Josh Johnson, and shortstop Jose Reyes.
The Angels, a year after signing free agent Albert Pujols and trading for catcher Chris Iannetta, not only signed free-agent outfielder Josh Hamilton, but they overhauled their rotation by signing free agents C.J. Wilson and Joe Blanton, and trading for Jason Vargas and Tommy Hanson.
The Royals underwent a major rotation restructuring that began with the July 20, 2012, acquisition of right-hander Jeremy Guthrie from Colorado, and included acquiring Ervin Santana from the Angels, and then a trade that marked a major change in direction for a team built off home-grown products. Kansas City landed veteran starters James Shields and Wade Davis from Tampa Bay for a prospect package that included outfielder Wil Myers, the 2013 AL Rookie of the Year Award winner, and pitching prospects Jake Odorizzi, a right-hander, and Mike Montgomery, a left-hander.
Well, the Angels know they have some work to do. It just won't be as headline-catching this time around. They have spent the past four Octobers at home, watching baseball's postseason after an eight-year stretch in which they won five division titles and as the American League Wild Card in 2002 claimed the only World Series championship in franchise history.
The Halos have filled a third-base need and addressed bullpen depth by trading outfielders Peter Bourjos and Randal Grichuk to St. Louis for third baseman David Freese and right-hander Fernando Salas.
"This year, what we do address will be with trades, rather than the [free-agent] route," said Angels general manager Jerry Dipoto.
The Royals did find a left-handed look for the rotation, signing free agent Vargas after his one year with the Angels. Vargas is only 51-58 in his big league career, but he has pitched 190-plus innings three of the past four seasons. He filled a back-of-the-rotation need and fit the Royals' budget.
"Winning negotiations for a top free agent is never going to be a way of existence for us," said general manager Dayton Moore.
The Blue Jays? Well, they are kicking tires.
"It's not a lack of trying," said Anthopoulos.
The activity so far was a reported agreement to terms with free-agent catcher Dioner Navarro, which led to the Jays non-tendering J.P. Arencibia on Monday night after they were unable to trade him to another team. But then the Blue Jays don't have as many needs this winter.
Yes, last season went wrong for the Blue Jays, who finished in last place in the AL East for the third time since 1981. However, they also have to be realistic in what went wrong this year, which included season-shortening injuries to J.A. Happ, Johnson and Brandon Morrow. The three combined to make only 44 starts and work only 228 1/3 innings.
Only three of the nine position players appeared in 120 games, including Cabrera, who was limited to 88 games, and Reyes, who appeared in 93 games.
"Some things didn't go as planned," admitted Anthopoulos. "Having 67 percent of your rotation on the shelf is not part of the expectation. And when you lose key position players, it's not just the offense, but the defense that is impacted."
Things didn't go as planned for the Royals either, but they had a more tangible sign of hope than the Blue Jays. Kansas City finished third in the AL Central, behind Detroit and Cleveland, but it went 88-76, giving the Royals their second winning season in 19 years.
"We had the best record in the American League in the second half of last season," said Moore of the Royals' 43-27 second-half surge. "What's that mean? It means we played well for 2 1/2 months. There's no prize for that."
Going 8-20 in May "was a disaster," added Moore. "We did rebound from that. We did play well in the second half. We have to play better than everyone else for 162 games, not nine or 10 weeks."
The Royals, like the Blue Jays and Angels, feel they have the foundation to play better in 2014 than they did a year ago without having to undergo a major offseason makeover this time around.
Tracy Ringolsby is a columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.