Something Toronto Blue Jays fans should closely watch for as the off-season develops is how general manager Ross Atkins and company work to bridge the gap between the current core and the coming wave of kids led by Vladimir Guerrero Jr., and Bo Bichette.

Barring a long-term extension for Josh Donaldson, the window of opportunity opened in 2013 is due to shut once the superstar slugger becomes eligible for free agency after the 2018 season. The Blue Jays are intent on trying to leverage his final year, but the manner in which they go about addressing their offensive problems and pitching needs may also determine how difficult the looming transition will be.

One strategic question to wrestle with is whether it makes more sense to add medium- or long-term pieces this winter so there’s insulation on the roster once the prospects start breaking through, or short-term pieces to create more of a clean slate.

According to Atkins, the Blue Jays aren’t "thinking of it as an either/or."

"We’re considering both," Atkins says in an interview ahead of the general managers meetings in Orlando. "It depends on whether or not you’re talking trade, you’re talking about free agency – ideally some hybrid of those. Last year the difference wasn’t necessarily where we are as an organization, it was more the very defined needs with the players that were exiting, Edwin (Encarnacion) and Jose (Bautista). Our needs are not significantly less defined, but less defined than a year ago. We are in a position to think about several different strategies to ultimately how do we win, and how do we sustain a winning team for a long period of time? That could come in either form, most likely, in the form of both."

Pulling that off won’t be easy, especially with the Blue Jays determined to upgrade themselves without any of the prime prospects other teams will be seeking in trade. Justin Smoak’s emergence last year created some roster surplus with Kendrys Morales and Steve Pearce, they have some depth in the bullpen and they likely won’t have enough 40-man roster room to shoehorn in all the prospects that must be added by Nov. 20 or be left exposed in December’s Rule 5 draft. That list includes Conner Greene, Thomas Pannone, Max Pentecost, Rowdy Tellez, Danny Jansen and Reese McGuire.