Alex Anthopoulos Rumors
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.
In a wide-ranging talk with the media (transcript courtesy of MLB.com's Gregor Chisholm), Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos hit on a number of interesting topics regarding his organization. Among the highlights:
- Defense has been an issue for the Blue Jays this season, as they rank 26th in errors and fielding percentage and 25th in terms of UZR. Acknowledging the problems, Anthopoulos suggested that the team will "evaluate [defense] even more than we have" and place "even more value on it" going forward. "I don't think these guys are trying to make mistakes," said Anthopoulos. "I think ultimately then it falls on me to get certain players that are going to start to make those plays."
- Looking at the club's rotation in the near future, Anthopoulos said that he plans to "be looking outside the organization to see if we can do things." He also expressed hope that younger arms like Drew Hutchison, Kyle Drabek, and Brandon Morrow can ovecome their respective setbacks in the near future. Minor league starters Marcus Stroman and Sean Nolin could both receive call-ups later this year, added the Jays' GM. Meanwhile, veteran Josh Johnson has struggled long enough that the club will "have to look at alternatives at some point if this continues," with Johnson's rotation spot potentially at risk. (Anthopoulos said that the righty is only "start to start at this point.")
- The club's other most pressing area of need is at second base, said Anthopoulos. While he believes that Brett Lawrie could handle the keystone, Anthopoulos indicated that "second base looks like it will be easier to fill" through the trade or free agent market.
- Anthopoulos expects the club's salary levels to remain high ("we won't be going backwards") and says ownership will continue to provide the financial resources to support a contending ballclub. He noted that, other than Jose Reyes, the team's future contract commitments generally only run through 2015.
- Reflecting on August waiver and trade season, Anthopoulos said that too much is often made of a team placing a player on waivers. "If certain All-Stars get claimed, I just think if you didn't see them traded by the end of July they're probably not going to get traded. Guys that are free agents, guys with big contracts, those are the only ones that I think should be big stories." Anthopoulos went on to explain that the club's policy of putting all of its players on waivers after the trade deadline has never caused any clubhouse issues, with the possible exception of the Alex Rios claim back in 2009.
Jose Reyes ran the bases yesterday and today practiced taking double-play relays. The big question posed to GM Alex Anthopoulos, when he met with reporters before the Blue Jays' three-game winning streak ended with a 6-4 loss to the Rangers, was the timing of Reyes' return. "Our medical staff had said about 10 days or so, maybe a little bit less, but he’s certainly getting close and it’s great to see," Anthopoulos said (as quoted by Shi Davidi of Sportsnet.ca). "Then it will be a question of how many at-bats is he going to need and how do his legs feel playing seven innings, nine innings, and so on. We’re definitely going to be anxious to have him back." Based on that timeline, Davidi speculates Reyes, on the disabled list since April 13 with a left ankle sprain, could begin his rehab June 19 and rejoin the Jays for the start of a four-game series in Boston June 27. In other Blue Jay notes:
- The injury news isn't as encouraging for Brett Lawrie, who is now wearing a protective boot to speed the healing of his high left ankle sprain. "I don't really have a timeline [for his return], because it just takes time to heal," said Anthopoulos (as quoted by MLB.com's Evan Peaslee). "Again, he's going to have to get back to running and all those kind of things. It's not as severe as Reyes, but it seems like it's certainly healing very slowly right now."
- Anthopoulos is taking a game-by-game approach with right-hander Chien-Ming Wang, who was signed Friday to a $500K contract, reports Davidi. "We hope he makes a lot of starts for us, but we don’t want to go in and promise x-number amount of starts," the GM said. "Hopefully, he does well and we catch lightning in a bottle with him. But he understands, his agent understands, that if things don’t work out, we have the right to turn the page."
- Richard Griffin of the Toronto Star feels the offseason moves made by Anthopoulos will only be judged as a total failure if he starts a firesale at the Trade Deadline and continues in the off-season to quickly turn some of his off-season acquisitions into prospects because he would invariably receive less in return than what he surrendered.
- Asked in a readers' mailbag about the possibility of trading slumping catcher J.P. Arencibia, Griffin writes this is one question the organization has to really think about moving forward, but there are no internal, minor-league options after trading away Travis d'Arnaud. If Arencibia (owner of a .220/.240/.436 line with 72 strikeouts and five walks in 225 plate appearances this year) were to be dealt, Griffin thinks it would only happen during the off-season when a quality replacement could be acquired.
- Griffin still sees the Blue Jays as contenders in the AL East because, even though all five clubs could finish with winning records, it is unclear whether there is a 100-win team in the division and 90 wins could quite possibly be enough for the second Wild Card berth.
The Twins have devoted only 22.5% of their 2013 payroll to pitching (MLB average is 49.8%) and haven't exceeded the league average since 2005. Phil Miller of the Star Tribune writes perhaps no statistic better illustrates the Twins' dry spell in developing pitching prospects. "It’s not by design. It’s not like we said, 'Let’s spend less on pitching and go another way,'" said Twins assistant GM Rob Antony. "When we’ve spent a lot on a contract, more often than not, it’s on players we already have, that we know. We know how they fit in the clubhouse, and we know their health situation. It makes you a little more comfortable with the investment." Miller notes several pitching investments have been wasted because of injuries including this year's highest-paid pitcher Nick Blackburn ($5.5MM), who was removed from the 40-man roster as he recovers from wrist surgery. One investment that does seem to be paying dividends is Kevin Correia, who signed a two-year, $10MM free agent contract last December. The right-hander tossed eight shutout innings and lowered his ERA to 2.31 in the Twins' 5-0 win over the Rangers. In other news and notes from the American League:
- After a four-game sweep at the hands of the Yankees, the seat is becoming hotter for Blue Jays manager John Gibbons. CBSSports.com's Jon Heyman calls this a big test for Gibbons while Keith Law of ESPN.com says it's too early to think about firing the skipper (Twitter links).
- Before the game, Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos met with the media, including Shi Davidi of Sportsnet.ca, and said he doesn't expect Jose Reyes back until the beginning of July "just to make sure that we do this correctly and we don’t have any setbacks." In the meantime, the plan is use Munenori Kawasaki and Maicer Izturis because Anthopoulos said the costs of going outside the organization for a Reyes replacement "don’t line up for us with what our alternatives are."
- Rays principal owner Stuart Sternberg reiterated his team's ability to afford David Price in an interview with WFAN (partial transcript provided by the Tampa Bay Times' Marc Topkin). "We can; I don't know if we'll have any team around him other than him and (Evan) Longoria."
- In the same interview, Sternberg said he expects the Rays' next TV contract to be "big relative to the size of our attendance" but "mid-sized market" compared to other teams.
- The Red Sox prefer to give Shane Victorino some time to work out his back issues rather than trying to bring Jackie Bradley back too soon, tweets the Boston Globe's Nick Cafardo. Victorino underwent an MRI yesterday, which revealed inflammation in his lower back. Bradley, meanwhile, is 7-for-31 with 10 strikeouts and five walks since being optioned to Triple-A.
Recently, Richard Griffin of the Toronto Star sat down with Blue Jays General Manager Alex Anthopoulos and touched on a number of topics. Here are some of the highlights from their chat..
- The Blue Jays wouldn't have made a deal for R.A. Dickey had they not completed the Marlins blockbuster first. In Anthopoulos' view, the club would not have been "one R.A." away from contending without the likes of Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle, and Josh Johnson in the fold.
- Anthopoulos feels as though he paid a steep price to land Dickey, but that it was worth it given that he was the final piece in helping to push the club to an elite level. The Blue Jays weren't interested in fortifying the rotation with a No. 3 or 4 starter but instead wanted Dickey at the top of the rotation to push everyone else down a peg.
- From a trade standpoint, Anthopoulos says that he has learned over the years to have less balls in the air and to focus on the one or two deals that have a realistic chance of happening. That narrowed scope, he says, helped make the blockbuster deal with the Marlins a reality.
- Within the organization, opinions were split on the deal with the Marlins, but AA ultimately had the final say and pulled the trigger. Feelings were similar on the five-year, $64MM extension that Jose Bautista signed with the club, but the GM ultimately pushed that through as well.
- Griffin asked Anthopoulous if he believes that changes to the draft and international free agent signing rules were directed at creative GMs such as himself, but he doesn't see it that way. However, AA notes that the new cap for international spending hurts teams like the Blue Jays that have opted to shed big league payroll in order to free up money.
- Anthopoulos is glad that the team has purposely stayed away from giving expensive, overly-lengthy deals to free agents. While Reyes and Buehrle both have "free agent contracts", he's comfortable with them because of their talent level. In the case of Reyes, he's the only player on the team with five years to go on his deal and he's just 29 years old, not 32 or 33.
- Even if the Marlins deal didn't take place, the Blue Jays still would have chosen John Gibbons as manager.
- There has been less change in the Blue Jays' front office lately than in years past and Anthopoulos attributes that to increased stability in the organization rather than his own increased comfort level.
Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos sat down for an interview with Sportsnet.ca (video link), discussing (among other things) the club's rotation battle between Ricky Romero and J.A. Happ. The GM said that while Happ will "factor into this club, and it doesn't mean that he can't factor into this club on opening day in some role, some capacity," the team will "do everything we can with Romero" in the spring before taking him out of a starting role.
- Further addressing the issue of rotational depth, Anthopoulos acknowledged that the club lacks "household names" in that area. While the Jays "have 4-A guys," the GM says he wants to add "someone who is a little bit better than that, ... a Happ type of guy." The team is "active ... trying to do some things, trying to make some trades" for a starting-caliber arm that can be used in the bullpen or stashed in the minors, although some player on the current roster "wouldn't be happy, because somebody would be out of a job."
- The Mets appear prepared to enter the season without adding to their mix of outfielders, reports Adam Rubin of ESPNNewYork.com. “I think we’ve got a sense of who the five or six are who might be on the team," said GM Sandy Alderson. "What we have is what we’re going to have, and we’re not entirely displeased with that.”
- Rubin also notes that the Mets could be dealing with a long absence from starter Johan Santana, who is still a ways away from returning to the mound, let alone doing so in a big league game. Santana acknowledged that his absence is indefinite: “I’m making progress. It’s just I don’t know when I’m going to be pitching again.” According to Rubin, “there is now an open question about whether Santana’s shoulder and his career will ever be the same.”
- After sending Darin Ruf down to work on his defense, Phillies’ GM Ruben Amaro Jr. acknowledged that there is a chance the Phillies may look to acquire another outfielder via trade, according to Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com. “There’s a lot of time left. If we can improve the team we’ll do it.”
- The Yankees have made their signing of Chien-Ming Wang to a minor-league deal official, according to a team press release. Wang will enter his age-33 season looking for another chance to pitch in pinstripes, and to regain the success he had during his first stint with the club.
Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos introduced Jose Reyes in Toronto yesterday, explaining that players of Reyes’ caliber are difficult to find. “He’s electric,” Anthopoulos said. “High energy, smile on his face, just so many things. This is a rare guy to find. Leadoff, shortstop, energy, makeup -- check off every single box.” Here are some more notes on the Blue Jays with Spring Training just a month away...
- Before the Blue Jays acquired Reyes, they had been “really close” to another trade that would have had a similar impact on their 2013 payroll, Anthopoulos said. They discussed the deal toward the end of October, when option decisions were due.
- The Blue Jays continue to seek a 25th man to round out their roster. Anthopoulos said last week that the Blue Jays would like to add a right-handed bench player capable of playing multiple infield positions. That said, the Blue Jays could add such a player in Spring Training.
- Don’t expect another deal in the near future. “We’re not having any dialogue at all with respect to trades,” Anthopoulos said.
- The Blue Jays could add a player or two on minor league deals and under the right circumstances they could add a player to the 40-man roster.
- Anthopoulos hopes the rotation provides enough innings that the team doesn’t need to seriously consider an eight-man bullpen. The Blue Jays have a pretty full bullpen, so it doesn’t appear as though free agent right-hander Brandon Lyon will return. “I don’t want to ever close the door on him, since he did a great job for us,” Anthopoulos said.
- The GM stressed the importance of starting pitching depth and explained that players such as Justin Germano, Brad Lincoln and J.A. Happ provide the club with options.
- The Blue Jays are a ‘file and trial’ team meaning if they exchange filing numbers with players they go to a hearing. Anthopoulos said he’s “hopeful” and “optimistic” that the Blue Jays could reach deals with their three remaining eligible players by today’s deadline. Emilio Bonifacio, Happ and Josh Thole are Toronto’s eligible players, as MLBTR’s Arbitration Tracker shows. Assistant GM Jay Sartori is leading the way for the Blue Jays as they negotiate with their players.
- Though the Blue Jays look like an improved team, Anthopoulos cautioned that many of their American League rivals have also added significant pieces. “You can’t take anything for granted,” he said. “We haven’t even played a game yet. We still have to win a game, and we have to win a lot more than one. The whole division is outstanding.”
The Blue Jays didn’t set out to trade for Jose Reyes this winter. Instead, they targeted rotation upgrades to recover from a disappointing 89-loss season. Meanwhile, Reyes expected to remain with the Marlins, even after hype gave way to hopelessness in Miami toward the end of the 2012 campaign. Now, as Spring Training approaches, Reyes is officially Toronto's shortstop and there’s an expectation from both sides that the 2013 season will live up to high preseason expectations.
The Blue Jays look at Reyes as a dynamic shortstop who can help them reach the postseason for the first time in 20 years. His skillset rarely becomes available in the view of general manager Alex Anthopoulos.
“I don’t know that we’re going to see another shortstop like this in Toronto for a long time,” the GM said at Reyes’ introductory press conference at Toronto’s Rogers Centre this afternoon. “I don’t know that we could ever think we’re going to draft someone like this or sign someone like this out of Latin America. This is one of the great players to play the game.”
Reyes sounds equally optimistic about his new team. He thought he'd be staying in Miami despite a 69-93 season that cost manager Ozzie Guillen his job. So earlier in the offseason when he and his wife were vacationing he wasn’t expecting to pick up his phone and learn he’d been traded.
“It surprised me a little bit,” Reyes said, “but after that I said ‘you know what, with what the Blue Jays have it’s all about winning and on the field it’s going to be good,' so I can’t wait.”
Judging by Anthopoulos’ comments, the Blue Jays are also eager to get started. The GM described himself as a longtime admirer of Reyes, citing the 29-year-old's energy and multi-faceted game as reasons for his interest. Plus, Reyes provides Toronto with a traditional leadoff hitter, something that Anthopoulos suggested is becoming increasingly rare in today’s game. It's clear that the GM believes there's a lot to like about Reyes.
“He’s probably one of my favorite players in the league to watch,” Anthopoulos said. “He’s the type of guy you want to watch play. He’s electric. High energy, smile on his face, just so many things. This is a rare guy to find. Leadoff, shortstop, energy, makeup -- check off every single box.”
Last offseason, when Reyes hit free agency, the Blue Jays weren’t involved in the bidding for the client of the Legacy Agency. At the time they believed that they had ample shortstop depth in Yunel Escobar and Adeiny Hechavarria. One year later, Anthopoulos was prepared to trade both Cuban shortstops to Miami in the blockbuster trade that brought Reyes to Toronto.
“We felt we were pretty deep at shortstop, but we’ve never seen a guy like this,” Anthopoulos said of Reyes. “It’s a rare opportunity to get a player like this and we wanted to make sure we were able to get it done.”
Interestingly, Reyes wasn’t the one the Blue Jays initially targeted. Anthopoulos started talks with the Marlins by asking about Josh Johnson, following up on an inquiry he’d made during the summer of 2012. Talks progressed from there and Toronto ultimately landed Reyes and the remainder of his six-year, $106MM contract. The Marlins faced considerable criticism for moving the contracts of Reyes, Johnson and Mark Buehrle, among others. Yet their former shortstop says trades are part of the game, even when they occur one year into a long-term commitment. Few players get to spend their entire career with one team.
“You have to understand that doesn’t happen sometimes, because this is a business,” Reyes said. “As a player we need to understand that.”
After last year, Reyes understands more than just the business side of baseball. He has seen firsthand that preseason excitement doesn’t necessarily translate into wins on the field. Like this year’s Blue Jays club, last year’s Marlins were tabbed by many as a breakout team. The Marlins never emerged as a postseason threat, and Reyes says he learned from the experience.
“No matter what people say -- a lot of people said ‘they’re going to win it all’ -- it’s not about what people say.” Reyes said. “I don’t think that’s going to happen here.”
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.