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Alex Anthopoulos Rumors
Alex Anthopoulos will remain the GM of the Blue Jays following the 2014 season, reports Steve Simmons of the Toronto Sun. Anthopoulos has been under some scrutiny from fans, media, and even players over his failure to make a big acquisition at the trade deadline. The Blue Jays have begun to lag in the AL playoff picture. They are four games back in the Wild Card race, but would have to pass the Mariners, Tigers, and Yankees to claim the second spot. One reason ownership is patient with Anthopoulos is the emergence of pitchers Drew Hutchison, Marcus Stroman, Aaron Sanchez, and minor leaguer Daniel Norris. Anthopoulos is signed through 2015.
- Also from Simmons, the Jays never actually approached ownership about expanding payroll because a deal was never close. Front office personnel do believe that more money is available for the right player.
- Related to a deal not being close, the Rays apparently wanted both Stroman and Hutchison in return for David Price. In my opinion, it’s understandable why that offer didn’t get anywhere. The Jays would have upgraded one rotation spot while creating a potential hole with another.
- Keith Pelley, president of Rogers Media, says the club is focused on the 2014 playoff run and has not evaluated offseason options, according to Shi Davidi of Sportsnet.ca. That would seemingly contradict Simmons’ report, although such comments are often pure double talk.
- Davidi also illuminated manager John Gibbons’ contract situation. Gibbons is signed through 2015 and will have a vesting option for 2016 triggered after December 31. His contract is structured to continuously add such options until it is terminated.
Blue Jays General Manager Alex Anthopoulos met with the media (including Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet.ca and Sean Fitz-Gerald of the National Post) for 30 minutes today before Toronto’s game with Texas. Here are the highlights:
- Anthopoulos addressed recent reports he isn’t allowed to add payroll at the Trade Deadline. “I don’t think it’s about being ‘allowed’ or anything like that at all. We’re having dialogue with teams.” Anthopoulos added the club has always kept payroll projections in house.
- Anthopoulos says he has the freedom to make the necessary moves to keep the Blue Jays in the playoff hunt. “I don’t have any doubt that we have the ability to add players. How that gets done, we can always be creative, but I’ll say this: we have a very healthy payroll, we have a very strong payroll.“
- Anthopoulos denied ownership will stand in the way of a possible deal because of money. “Ownership’s been outstanding with us from that standpoint. If a baseball trade lines up for us, I don’t see any reason we’re not going to be able to add players at the trade deadline if we can line up in terms of talent.“
- No trades are pending with discussions still in the “conceptual stage,” but Anthopoulos is willing to deal prospects. “It’s really as much about what you get back, as much as what you give up. The more talent you give up, the more years of control, the more talent you get back. It’s a sliding scale.“
- Optimistic injured starters Adam Lind, Brett Lawrie and Edwin Encarnacion “will have a chance to come back sooner than we all think,” Anthopoulos will still look to bolster the Blue Jays‘ offense before the Trade Deadline.
The Blue Jays sit atop the AL East but most feel that the club will try to fortify its starting rotation before the trade deadline. Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos hinted to Peter Gammons of GammonsDaily.com that if his team did make a move, the price might be too high for a big-name arm. “We are pretty much maxed out in terms of payroll, but more important, we cannot keep trading our young [minor league] pitchers,” Anthopoulos said. “We also have to be realistic about whom we can extend if we make a trade for him….We have been feeling out teams and doing background work. I think we’d probably look at something where we have a pitcher for the rest of this season. That makes sense.” Gammons wonders if this means the Jays wouldn’t pursue David Price or Jeff Samardzija since neither pitcher is likely to sign an extension with Toronto to becoming a free agent after 2015. James Shields (a free agent this winter) would also cost a lot, while Gammons suggests names like Francisco Liriano, Jason Hammel or Justin Masterson as possible fits.
Here’s the latest from around the AL East…
- Dellin Betances no longer frets about trade rumors like he did in his younger days, the Yankees reliever tells Brendan Kuty of NJ.com. “I try not to pay too much attention,” Betances said. “Actually, I haven’t heard anything. But this has happened so many times that — you always hear rumors that are coming up.” CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman recently explored Betances as a possible trade chip the Yankees could use in a package for Samardzija, though with Betances pitching so well, Heyman noted New York would be hesitant to move the right-hander.
- In an Insider-only piece for ESPN.com, Christopher Crawford breaks down what each of the five AL East teams could look for in the upcoming amateur draft.
- The struggling Red Sox may not look to help their lineup by trading for a notable hitter, FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal said in a recent radio appearance on WEEI’s Dennis & Callahan Show (WEEI.com’s Nick Canelas has a partial transcript). “To expend what you’d have to expend to get that player, I’m not sure the Red Sox want to do that because right now they’re in a situation where they are protective of what they have,” Rosenthal said. “They have depth in young talent all over the place, we know that; left side of the infield, catching, pitching to some extent. But their idea is to keep this going, and I’m not sure you keep it going by trading for a big-money hitter and expending prospects to do it with one or two years left on the guy’s contract.”
- From that same interview, Rosenthal also touched on Orioles slugger Nelson Cruz, who “looks like a player that a lot of people underestimated” coming off his PED suspension in 2013. “The price was not to the liking of a lot of teams early on, and he’s not that offensive-defensive mixture that most teams seek now….He’s a guy that clearly has shown that whatever was going on with him, assuming that nothing is going on now, he is back to the player that we thought he should be.” Cruz is currently slashing .295/.361/.612 with a Major League-leading 16 homers.
- Rosenthal notes that the Red Sox didn’t pursue Cruz last winter. Cruz’s success notwithstanding, I’d say it’s hard to fault Boston for that non-move since the club was seemingly set in the corner outfield spots and David Ortiz is the everyday DH.
We covered a couple of Yankees items as part of a New York Notes post earlier today, so now let's take a look around the rest of the AL East…
- Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos said the team is open to possibly extending the contracts of Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion and Jose Reyes, the GM tells The Toronto Star's Richard Griffin. Bautista (33) and Encarnacion (31) are contracted through 2015 and the Jays have team options on both players for 2016, while Reyes (30) is locked up through the 2017 season. Extensions would take any of the trio well into their late-30's, yet Anthopoulos points to David Ortiz and Carlos Beltran as older players who are still big hitters.
- Also as part of the wide-ranging interview, Anthopoulos discusses his disappointment over the Ervin Santana non-signing, restocking the farm system and more.
- Grady Sizemore will be the Red Sox center fielder on Opening Day, manager John Farrell told reporters (including Scott Lauber of the Boston Herald). Star prospect Jackie Bradley was widely presumed the favorite to take over from Jacoby Ellsbury as Boston's new center fielder this season, yet Bradley struggled to hit in Spring Training and will start the year at Triple-A. Sizemore, meanwhile, enjoyed a big spring and proved he was healthy after missing the last two seasons. Sizemore signed a $750K minor league deal with Boston this winter that could be worth as much as $6MM if Sizemore meets all the incentives.
- Farrell said that Sizemore will still receive regular rest in order to keep him fresh. Since this will free up some outfield playing time, FOX Sports' Jon Paul Morosi wonders if the Red Sox could be in the market for a right-handed hitting outfielder who can play all three OF spots.
- Red Sox sports-medicine coordinator Dan Dyrek played an important part in both convincing Sizemore to sign with Boston and in getting him back in playing condition, Sizemore tells Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal. Dyrek was “the first guy who has understood not only how it happened but what caused it and how to fix it and how to prevent it from happening again,” Sizemore said.
- The Orioles plan to have Jonathan Schoop on the Opening Day roster, FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal tweets. Schoop will play both second and third base, splitting time with Steve Lombardozzi and Ryan Flaherty, respectively. The 2014 Baseball America Prospect Handbook ranked Schoop as the fifth-best prospect in the Baltimore farm system, and Schoop fought his way onto the 25-man roster thanks to a huge Spring Training.
Now that it's clear Nelson Cruz won't be back, it's unclear who the Rangers will use as their designated hitter against lefties, Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News writes. The Rangers still had interest in Cruz, Grant writes, noting that, in addition to the qualifying offer, they made at least one offer that exceeded the $8MM Cruz ended up taking from the Orioles. That leaves them with a variety of options to play DH against lefties, but none manager Ron Washington likes very much: Mitch Moreland is a lefty, Michael Choice doesn't have enough experience for Washington's taste, and Washington would prefer to keep the Rangers' spare catcher (Geovany Soto or J.P. Arencibia, depending on who isn't starting) available on the bench.
- With Cruz off the market, Grant, in a separate article, believes now is the time for the Rangers to extend manager Ron Washington. Grant also opines players tagged with qualifying offers are going to think more seriously about accepting them in light of Cruz's surprisingly small contract.
- Yankees manager Joe Girardi thinks new minor-league signee Andrew Bailey can help them in the late innings, but probably not until September, Jack Curry of the YES Network tweets. The former Athletics and Red Sox closer had labrum surgery last July.
- The Red Sox will try Mike Carp out at a new position this spring, Alex Speier of WEEI.com tweets. While Spring Training experiments like these aren't uncommon and often have little long-term impact, a bit of added versatility might change Carp's outlook with the Red Sox, particularly if he can play third, where the Red Sox are less settled than they are elsewhere. Carp hit .296/.362/.523 in 243 plate appearances last season, but the Red Sox already have plenty of talent at first base, left field and DH, which has led to speculation that Carp could be a trade candidate.
- Scott Boras blames the Blue Jays' lack of activity in the free agent market on its ownership, Rogers Communications, reports FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal. "There is no one who has the asset base of Rogers," said Boras. "They’re a car with a huge engine that is impeded by a big corporate stop sign . . . a successful and committed ownership that needs to give their baseball people financial flexibility." GM Alex Anthopoulos denied Boras' assertion telling Rosenthal, "Our ownership has been outstanding and given us all the resources we need." The Blue Jays' payroll is expected to exceed $130MM this season.
- Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon told reporters, including Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News Tribune, Justin Smoak will be the team's first baseman as long he performs. This means McClendon expects new acquistions Logan Morrison and Corey Hart to man the corner outfield spots and DH.
- Astros GM Jeff Luhnow acknowledged internal discussions about a contract extension for catcher Jason Castro have taken place, reports the Houston Chronicle's Evan Drellich. No offer, however, has been discussed with Castro.
Edward Creech contributed to this post.
The Blue Jays haven't made any offers to free agent starters but that could change in the near future, FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal reports. The Jays have considered such options as Ubaldo Jimenez, Ervin Santana, A.J. Burnett and Bronson Arroyo, and have also looked at adding starting pitching (such as the Rays' David Price and the Cubs' Jeff Samardzija) in trades. While Jimenez might not be Toronto's top choice, the team has nevertheless looked into his medical records and other "extensive background work" on the right-hander.
Here's some more from general manager Alex Anthopoulos, who spoke to reporters at the Jays' state of the franchise event tonight. All of Anthopoulos' comments are from the Twitter feeds of Sportsnet's Ben Nicholson-Smith and Shi Davidi…
- Anthopoulos noted that any of four free agent starters (Santana, Jimenez, Burnett, Arroyo) could "all be a significant improvement" to the Jays' rotation.
- The idea of pursuing a free agent is becoming more appealing to the club, Anthopoulos said, since prices are beginning to drop.
- In terms of internal pitching prospects, Anthopoulos praised Marcus Stroman, comparing the 22-year-old righty to Athletics right-hander Sonny Gray. While ideally Stroman would spend 2014 in the minors, Anthopoulos believes Stroman is ready for the majors now. Stroman made solid showing in recent top 100 prospects lists from Baseball Prospectus (ranked 27th), MLB.com (r55th) and ESPN's Keith Law (58th), and Baseball America considers Stroman to be the second-best prospect in Toronto's system, behind only Aaron Sanchez.
- Pitching seems to be Toronto's focus, as Anthopoulos said the club isn't actively pursuing position players. We heard yesterday that the Jays were "in the mix" for Stephen Drew to fill their hole at second base.
- Anthopoulos said the team has had dialogue with most of the top free agents and continues to talk with both free agents and with other teams about trades, though "I don't know that I'd say were close on anything."
Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos spoke with reporters at the conclusion of the Winter Meetings today. Sportsnet.ca's Ben Nicholson-Smith (in two seperate pieces) and the Toronto Sun's Bob Elliott have the highlights of Anthopoulos' talk, as well as a few other hot stove items…
- Anthopoulos didn't say whether or not he'd recently discussed a contract extension with Colby Rasmus, who is eligible for free agency next winter. Rasmus has raised his value after a big 2013 campaign, though Anthopoulos noted that larger-market teams like Toronto had the luxury of waiting before locking players up. "We don’t mind paying a little more to be sure we get a little more information," Anthopoulos said.
- Rasmus' name reportedly emerged in trade talks for starting pitching. While Anthopoulos noted that "no one is untradeable," he also added that "for us to move an everyday position player and feel like we can get better, that would be hard to do."
- The Cubs are asking for Marcus Stroman, Aaron Sanchez and a third prospect from the Blue Jays for Jeff Samardzija, Elliott reports. Anthopoulos recently said he was constantly being asked about Stroman and Sanchez, the Jays' top two pitching prospects, in possible deals.
- The Blue Jays have been approached by teams looking to add power hitters. "The one thing we have is power and there’s not a lot of power on the market and the free-agent prices don’t work….We haven’t lined up anything,” Anthopoulos said.
- The Jays have three starting pitchers targeted and Anthopoulos says a fourth pitcher could also be in play. “We’re not going to close the door on the fourth,” the GM said. “The fourth is a little more challenging, but I think there could be a domino effect with the fourth if we do some other things.”
- The signing of Tomo Ohka adds another knuckleballer to the organization and Anthopoulos hinted that the team may add more knuckleballers to prepare their catchers for the challenge of handling R.A. Dickey. “To be honest, we’ll look to add some more guys if we can….We may look to get some other guys that we think can be guys to convert," Anthopoulos said.
- The Jays are looking to add an international free agent, Nicholson-Smith reports, so the trade of Rule 5 draft pick Brian Moran to the Angels for $244K of extra space under the international spending cap helped Toronto prepare for this potential signing. The Blue Jays attempted to acquire international cap space from the Phillies earlier this winter but were turned down.
Here are some news items looking ahead to what will surely be an eventful Blue Jays offseason…
- The Jays are under great pressure to improve in 2014 but have relatively little payroll space or minor league trade options to work with, and Sportsnet.ca's Shi Davidi warns that "operating under such need can often lead to poor choices." Davidi cites the Angels and Phillies as teams that have bloated payrolls and thin farm systems after making ill-advised moves to stay competitive, and he thinks there is potential for overspending on free agent pitchers who wouldn't necessarily represent the clear upgrade Toronto needs in their rotation.
- Speaking of pitching, GM Alex Anthopoulos told media (including The Toronto Star) that the rotation is "the most glaring hole on this team and that’s the most glaring area we need to address." What exact kinds of starters will be acquired, however, is still up in the air. “Can it be done with five mid-rotation starters? Would we be better off with two front-of-the-rotation guys and three guys that are five-hole or four-hole guys? … I think it’s as much about guys who give you a chance to win games," Anthopoulos said.
- Anthopoulos also defended J.P. Arencibia, yet didn't give any hints either way if Arencibia would be brought back in 2014, simply saying "we need to upgrade the production" from the catcher's spot. Arencibia entered tonight's action hitting .194/.229/.365 with 21 homers in 490 PA and is on pace for one of the worst full-season OBP years in baseball history.
- Esmil Rogers was acquired as a reliever but was pressed back into service as a starter this season and hopes to continue in the rotation in 2014, MLB.com's Gregor Chisholm writes. Rogers, 28, posted a 4.77 ERA, 2.18 K/BB and 6.3 K/9 over 44 games (20 of them starts) this season, and he is eligible for arbitration for the first time this winter.
- Sportsnet.ca's Ben Nicholson-Smith examines the trade value for every member of the Blue Jays roster.
It was on this day in 1914 that Babe Ruth hit his first professional home run. Playing for the Providence Grays of the International League, Ruth went yard during a road game in Toronto, an occasion marked by a historical plaque at Hanlan's Point. This was the only homer the Bambino would ever hit in the minors, as he spent the entire 1915 season with the Red Sox and never again visited the farm during his legendary career.
Here are some notes from around the AL East…
- Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos' job isn't in jeopardy, MLB.com's Gregor Chisholm writes as part of a reader mailbag. Anthopoulos "appears to have the full backing" of upper management and should continue to do so for at least the next couple of seasons, though obviously the Jays will be expected to contend at some point. Earlier today, Anthopoulos discussed a number of topics in an interview on Sportsnet 590 radio.
- Also from Chisholm, he predicts that if the Blue Jays don't extend a qualifying offer to Josh Johnson and he hits the open market, Johnson will likely sign a one-year contract with an NL team to try and re-establish his value for the 2015 free agent market.
- Wilson Betemit's time with the Orioles is probably coming to an end, as Eduardo A. Encina of the Baltimore Sun writes that the O's "likely won't pick up" the $3.2MM option on his contract for 2014. Betemit has missed almost all of the season recovering from March knee surgery and the team already seems to have moved on, as Betemit has only nine plate appearances over five games since returning from the DL.
- St. Petersburg mayor Bill Foster criticized MLB in a memo updating his city council about the Rays' stadium issue, Mark Puente of the Tampa Bay Times reports. Also in the piece, Puente notes that the Rays' ongoing search for a new ballpark could be an issue for Foster in November's mayoral election.
- Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer's history with Daniel Bard made it no surprise that the Cubs would acquire the struggling right-hander on a waiver claim from the Red Sox, manager John Farrell said. Farrell told reporters, including MLB.com's Jason Mastrodonato, that his team didn't have the time or roster space to nurture Bard back to form but he thinks Bard can do it. "I guess the most important thing is that we wish him well. We hope he gets back on track. There's still a good pitcher in there once he gets back on track," Farrell said.
- From earlier today around the AL East, the Astros claimed Eric Thames off waivers from the Orioles, the Nationals claimed Mauro Gomez off waivers from the Blue Jays and the Red Sox aren't sure if they'll be willing to re-sign Jacoby Ellsbury if it will cost much beyond $100MM.
Here's the latest from Yahoo! Sports' Jeff Passan:
- Angels GM Jerry Dipoto and manager Mike Scioscia are separated by a "rift" despite Scioscia's recent denial, Passan writes. Since Scioscia's contract runs through 2018, and since his influence throughout the organization is strong, Dipoto is more likely to wind up on the chopping block if the Angels do indeed decide to fire one or the other.
- General managers suspect that Jack Zduriencik of the Mariners needed to have his superiors approve potential trades at the deadline, Passan writes. He also says that the Mariners have checked to see whether former GM and current Phillies advisor Pat Gillick might be interested in coming back to Seattle. Still, now that Zduriencik is apparently under contract through 2014, it appears he'll get more time to see if the Mariners' new core of young players (which includes Kyle Seager, Nick Franklin, Brad Miller, Mike Zunino and Taijuan Walker) can come together.
- Despite the Blue Jays' extremely disappointing season, GM Alex Anthopoulos should get more time, Passan argues, noting that Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion's contracts have been terrific.