11/07/2012 04:18 EST | Updated 01/07/2013 05:12 EST

Blue Jays GM Anthopoulos says progress is being made on managerial search

Toronto Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos has had a full plate over the last few weeks.

His off-season is about to get even busier.

Anthopoulos, who's in Indian Wells, Calif., for this week's general managers' meetings, has been working on finding a replacement for manager John Farrell. The Toronto GM wouldn't reveal names or the number of candidates he has interviewed but said the process is moving along.

"Yeah I think we're closer," Anthopoulos said in a phone interview. "I think each day we get closer. We're certainly not there yet. I think things are obviously going to slow up for the three days or so during the GM meetings and then they'll pick back up. But I definitely think we're getting closer overall.

"We're making progress. I'm pleased with the pace. It's not going to be rushed but I think overall we're on a pretty good pace."

The Blue Jays and Red Sox agreed to a transaction last month that allowed Farrell to leave with one year left on his three-year contract.

The Red Sox sent infielder Mike Aviles to Toronto and obtained reliever David Carpenter in the deal.

Anthopoulos then shipped Aviles to the Cleveland Indians last week along with infielder Yan Gomes for right-handed reliever Esmil Rogers. It could be the first of many moves involving the Blue Jays' pitching staff.

Changes to the starting rotation are also expected.

"Anybody we think can help to improve the rotation, we're going to do it," Anthopoulos said. "Whether it's free agency or trade or even trading someone from the current group."

The Toronto starters were hammered by injuries this season.

Brandon Morrow, Kyle Drabek and Drew Hutchinson all missed significant chunks of the campaign. Ace Ricky Romero had an off-year and recently underwent arthroscopic elbow surgery.

The injury woes didn't help the overworked bullpen, which had to deal with serious injuries to closer Sergio Santos and Luis Perez. Toronto used 12 different starting pitchers and a franchise-high 54 different players over the course of the season.

Some of the big pitching names out there include Zack Greinke, Anibal Sanchez, Edwin Jackson and Dan Haren.

It's unclear whether the Blue Jays will be able to offer the dollars and contract length that might be required to land a top free agent. They might be forced to put a top prospect into the mix and go the trade route.

Rather than targeting a specific number of needed starters, Anthopoulos wants to provide more overall depth to the rotation as a whole.

"I don't think we're going to limit ourselves," Anthopoulos said. "We just need to get better. We need to add if we can, so that's going to be the goal."

This week's GM meetings often spark discussions that can lead to trades and signings later in the off-season. There will likely be more activity around the Dec. 3-6 winter meetings in Nashville.

"Any time you get a chance to get the GMs together, you never know what's going to come of it," Anthopoulos said.

The Blue Jays have a deep pool of prospects and could use some of that stock to address needs on the mound, second base and left field. Anthopoulos is prepared to be a buyer this winter and has already confirmed the team's payroll will rise.

Once the meetings wrap Friday, Anthopoulos will return his focus to the managerial search. He said it has been a different process from the one he used before hiring Farrell in 2010.

"We really cast a wide net the first time, it was much more open," he said. "We hadn't gone through it before. I hadn't gone through the search before. I think now after two years, the organization is in a different place.

"Things over time evolve and change and we can be much more specific about who the right candidate is for this team, for this city, for this group of players. All those kinds of things."


With files from The Associated Press.