The general manager of the two-time World Series champions has labeled the Orioles "the team to beat" in the revised American League East.
Toronto executive Pat Gillick made the comment this week at the first Hub City Baseball Banquet presented by the Hagerstown Suns, the Blue Jays' farm club in the South Atlantic League.
"Getting all those new players is certainly not going to hurt them. The Orioles have made significant advances, and they're going to be the team to beat," said Gillick, who re- ceived a distinguished service award at the fete.
"But I still think we're going to win the division. We're pretty happy with our club except for one pitcher. And we've got a good group of guys coming up through the system."
Could that one pitcher be Gregg Olson?
Although he acknowledged that he had conversations with Olson and his agent, Jeff Moorad, Gillick said: "I haven't talked with them in a month. What we're looking for is a starter."
From last year's World Series roster that included 12 home-grown players, the Blue Jays have lost Rickey Henderson, Tony Fernandez and pitcher Mark Eichhorn (now with the Orioles).
But they still have a potent lineup featuring Devon White, Roberto Alomar, Paul Molitor, Joe Carter and John Olerud.
The farm system is a rich one, and Gillick pointed out that "we have a lot of prospects among position players. It's pitching where we aren't as deep as we should be."
He said he isn't surprised by the whirlwind of activity by new Orioles owner Peter Angelos, which has put Sid Fernandez, Lee Smith, Rafael Palmeiro and Chris Sabo in Baltimore uniforms.
"When a new owner takes over, he always does things a little differently than the other guy," Gillick said. "He wants to say, 'I'm here, and I'm running the show.' That's what has happened there."
Attendance in Hagerstown sagged significantly last summer when the team became aligned with the Blue Jays instead of the Orioles.
But Gillick, a former Orioles minor-league executive, said he is not unhappy with the site.
"There are a lot of good Orioles fans in this area, and I would hope they like to see good baseball," he said. "I like the facility here, and the city has been very aggressive about keeping baseball and providing first-class offices and dressing rooms."