MLB Team Report - Toronto Blue Jays - INSIDE PITCH

TORONTO -- Alex Anthopoulos says he is excited about the approaching offseason.

After pulling off a couple of major deals before the 2013 season that fooled the Toronto Blue Jays into thinking they were instant postseason contenders, the general manager did little last offseason.

The Blue Jays used a 21-9 May to put themselves into first place in the American League East from May 22 to July 2 this season. However, injuries and lack of performance pushed them into a slide. They wound up in third place and out of postseason competition for the 21st consecutive year, baseball's longest current futility streak.

"I felt like we were close," Anthopoulos said. "Obviously, we were there the bulk of the year. We can go through individual games. Everyone can do that. It was games we could have won or it was games that we won that we probably shouldn't have won. People replay some of those things all the time, and I don't know if it's fair because you never remember the breaks that went your way. For me, it was that last road trip (to Baltimore and New York)."

The Blue Jays went 1-6 against the Orioles and the Yankees on that Sept. 15-21 trip, and any chance they had was gone. Even so, Anthopoulos feels the talent is there, if certain improvements are made.

"I'm pretty excited about this offseason," he said. "It's probably the first time I've said it, as much because there's going to need to be some turnover in certain areas, but we're going to have some flexibility just because we had a set roster coming into (2014), whether it was guys who were coming back, guys who were under contract.

"As much as it seems like we've got some looming free agents, and we do, or some guys with options, and those decisions need to be made, there's also an opportunity to add some players and to have some turnover with some guys that I think are going to continue to take a step forward. It can be really exciting."

The Blue Jays likely will decline the options on pitchers Dustin McGowan ($4 million) and Brandon Morrow ($10 million), and but they probably will pick up the options on designated hitter/first baseman Adam Lind ($7.5 million) and left-hander J.A. Happ ($6.7 million).

They likely will lose center fielder Colby Rasmus and closer Casey Janssen to free agency. They will try to re-sign left fielder Melky Cabrera. How that turns out could influence everything else Anthopoulos does.

The rotation evolved into a solid unit with R.A. Dickey, Mark Buehrle, Marcus Stroman, Drew Hutchison and Happ. Aaron Sanchez, who pitched in relief the final two months of the season, could become a starter next season. The bullpen will need fixing, and a new closer likely will need to be found.

"I do think we have some relievers -- and I think there's some guys out there that might not be quote-unquote closers, that if given the opportunity can close," Anthopoulos said. "We're going to look to add relievers, and there may be someone that we add via trade or add through free agency that we announce as the closer. There may be a bunch of guys that we add or sign and say they're going to compete to be the closer, depending on who they are."

The Blue Jays need a second baseman. They must decide who plays center field, and they need to improve the defense generally.

"We know the free agents that are out there," Anthopoulos said. "I have a sense of some of the players that could be available (in a) trade. Once you get to the offseason, I expect a whole other group of players to be available. That gets done in the month of October. At some point, we'll come up with where the payroll is going to be, all that kind of stuff. But I expect us to continue to try to build and add and put a World Series team on the field."

The fans would appreciate just getting to the playoffs for starters.


MLB Team Report - Toronto Blue Jays - NOTES, QUOTES

RECORD: 83-79, third place in American League East

TEAM MVP: RF Jose Bautista led the team with 35 home runs and 103 RBIs, batting .286/.403/.524. He is the second player in franchise history to have three seasons with 35 or more homers; 1B Carlos Delgado did it five times. Bautista also runs the bases smartly and plays a top right field, supplying highlight-reel catches. His arm is strong and accurate, and can turn what looks like a single into a 9-3 out at first, helping him compile 12 outfield assists this year. Bautista will willingly play first base or at third if needed. He started 11 games at first base and five in center field.