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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.
After introducing R.A. Dickey to the Toronto media, GM Alex Anthopoulos discussed the composition of his team and the possibility of more offseason moves. Here are some highlights…
- The Blue Jays haven’t heard a final decision from Darren Oliver, who’s weighing retirement against a $3MM salary. Anthopoulos said he’d be pleased to have the left-hander back, though retirement now seems more likely. “If Darren wants to choose to come back we would certainly honor that,” Anthopoulos said. “We would be thrilled to have him.” Anthopoulos suggested Oliver could be placed on the restricted list if he doesn’t report to Spring Training on time or officially file for retirement. If Oliver doesn’t return, the Blue Jays don’t necessarily have $3MM to spend elsewhere.
- Oliver, a Frye McCann Sports client, wants the Blue Jays to increase his salary, Ken Rosenthal and Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports reported this month.
- One of the leading reasons the Blue Jays acquired catcher Josh Thole along with Dickey was because he has experience catching the knuckleballer. “The thought is that Josh has had so much success with [Dickey], why break that up,” the GM said.
- Anthopoulos didn’t rule out the possibility of extending players in the coming months, but he stressed that such deals are possible at any time. And don’t expect much advance warning. “If we’re talking extensions [the media] will be the last to know if I have any say in it,” Anthopoulos said.
- The Blue Jays are looking at ways of adding a right-handed bench player capable of playing multiple infield positions. That said, they’re considering leaving the spot open because players will inevitably become available toward the end of Spring Training when teams need roster space and out of options players get traded.
- The Blue Jays could still add to their bullpen, though Anthopoulos said he expects to move forward with what he has. The GM has had some trade talks “on a few fronts” about the possibility, but those discussions haven’t progressed.
- In case you missed it, Anthopoulos and Dickey are optimistic about the 2013 season.
It didn’t take long for Alex Anthopoulos to convince R.A. Dickey to sign a long-term deal with the Blue Jays. In fact, the defending National League Cy Young Award winner admits he decided to sign in Toronto as soon as he heard the general manager explain his plans for 2013 and beyond.
“I’ll tell it now that the negotiating is over, but I was all in right then,” Dickey said at an introductory press conference at Rogers Centre today. “I think this can be a special few years.”
So do the Blue Jays. Otherwise they wouldn’t have traded top prospects Travis d'Arnaud and Noah Syndergaard, among others, to obtain the 38-year-old knuckleballer. Consider the additional cost of Dickey’s $30MM extension and the Blue Jays gave up a lot. But their GM says that’s to be expected for a player of Dickey’s caliber.
“He’s a Cy Young Award winner, you don’t get those guys for free,” Anthopoulos said. “Ultimately for the organization these guys don’t come around very often, and they don’t get traded very often, they don’t become free agents very often.”
Anthopoulos compared Dickey’s unexpected emergence to that of Jose Bautista, the former journeyman who led MLB in home runs in both 2010 and 2011. Yet unlike Bautista, Dickey enjoyed considerable success at the Major League level before his breakout season. The Blue Jays studied Dickey’s past performances and previous knuckleballers to determine what they can expect from him going forward. Anthopoulos says he likes the way Dickey’s trending, even at the age of 38.
“It took time, but the more work we started doing on him I started thinking he’s going to get better,” Anthopoulos said. “And I know it’s crazy to say as good as he was last season, but he’s gotten better each year.”
Dickey says his numbers improved once he learned to throw the knuckleball for strikes — an accomplishment reflected by a walk rate that stayed well below league average during his tenure with the Mets (2.2 BB/9 from 2010-12). It’s not uncommon for knuckleballers to continue pitching long after they turn 40, and Dickey says that's a goal of his.
“I’m hoping to play for ten more years. You never know. But this could also be my last contract.”
Even after signing a $30MM contract, Dickey said he and his family will continue living modestly and traveling to help underprivileged people elsewhere. He also stressed the importance of giving back by donating to the Jays Care Foundation with the maximum amount allowed under baseball’s Collective Bargaining Agreement.
Dickey, a client of agent Bo McKinnis, signed a two-year, $7.8MM deal with the Mets in January of 2011 following his first season in New York. Two winters later Dickey had a Cy Young Award on his resume, and the sides discussed a more lucrative contract without agreeing to terms. Dickey says he doesn’t have lingering regrets about the fact that the Mets didn’t match his asking price.
“No, in fact I’ve moved on from that point to being thankful that they didn’t,” he said. “It’s important for me to say that I’m very thankful to the Mets for the opportunity to cultivate a pitch. But it’s also important to not live in the past.”
When it became clear that the Mets were willing to consider trade offers for Dickey, Anthopoulos called his counterpart, Mets GM Sandy Alderson, to discuss a deal. That led to an agreement and a 72-hour window for the Blue Jays to complete an extension with their new acquisition. Though he’s pleased with the end result, Anthopoulos didn’t enjoy process of negotiating publicly.
“I hated the fact that in 72 hours the world was going to know about it and we were going to be under the microscope the entire time,” he said. “When we started the process, I made it real clear to R.A. and Bo McKinnis that we need to keep this as quiet as we could.”
With five weeks remaining before pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training, most of Anthopoulos’ offseason moves are now complete. Dickey, perhaps the highest profile addition of all, likes what he sees from his new GM.
“If we don’t win it won’t be because of him,” Dickey said.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
The Blue Jays have been very busy this offseason swinging a 12-player trade with the Marlins, acquiring R.A. Dickey from the Mets, and signing Melky Cabrera and Maicer Izturis. MLB.com's Gregor Chisholm touched on what these moves mean for the franchise and the other roster decisions that still need to be addressed when he recently opened his inbox.
- This offseason will determine the legacy of GM Alex Anthopoulos, not based on the timeline of winning but on the amount of money spent. Chisholm writes it's a similar investment to the one former GM J.P. Ricciardi made in 2006 by signing A.J. Burnett, B.J. Ryan and trading for the likes of Troy Glaus and Lyle Overbay. When those big moves didn't pan out, it reflected negatively on Ricciardi and ultimately led to his firing.
- Darren Oliver is still leaning toward retirement and the Blue Jays aren't expecting to hear a final decision until January.
- Anthony Gose is set to begin the season at Triple-A Buffalo with Rajai Davis assuming the role of fourth outfielder and late-game pinch-runner.
- The Blue Jays have one bench opening left to fill. With the versatility of Davis, Izturis, and Emilio Bonifacio, look for that final spot to go to somone invited to Spring Training on a minor league contract.
- In a separate article, Chisholm writes J.P. Arencibia has solidified his spot in the Toronto lineup for the forseeable future. Anthopoulos made the rare move of reaching out to Arencibia telling him not to concern himself with the trade rumors. "Not only does that make me feel good, but it makes you want to go out and work harder, go the extra mile and go the extra distance for this organization," Arencibia told Chisholm. "If they tell me I need to run through a wall, I'm going to try and run through that wall."
- Anthopoulos wants to interview candidates he didn't interview when he hired Farrell in 2010 because he was denied permission to do so or they were unavailable at the time. Shi Davidi of Sportsnet.ca (via Twitter) believes Tim Wallach and Manny Acta, respectively, fit that description. Davidi adds the search could begin with the three finalists Farrell beat out: Sandy Alomar, Jr., DeMarlo Hale, and Brian Butterfield, although a promotion for the Blue Jays' third base coach appears unlikely.
- Anthopoulos will address the coaching staff once a new manager is hired, tweets MLB.com's Gregor Chisholm.
- Anthopoulos was prepared to enter 2013 with Farrell as manager. "We could have and we talked about it, and he was prepared to do so, as well, " said Anthopoulos (quotes courtesy of the Boston Herald's Scott Lauber). "The big thing here was the fact that once John had indicated this was something he wanted to pursue, it was his dream job, it just didn’t make a whole lot of sense to not at least see if we could work something out."
- Anthopoulos said Red Sox owner John Henry made the first approach and compensation talks, which remained on an ownership-level, focused only on Major League players, tweets Davidi.
- Anthopoulos expressed his displeasure that there was "gamesmanship from a negotiating standpoint, not on our end," writes Tim Britton of the Providence Journal. Anthopoulos, however, added neither he nor ownership have any issues with their Boston counterparts.
- In the same piece, Anthopoulos called Farrell's leaving "a perfect storm of events" tracing back to the Red Sox's 2011 collapse and the departure of Terry Francona. "If that [September collapse] hadn't occurred, I don't think this story ever would have started, I don't think there would have been the interest, and I don't think we'd be talking today."
- Anthopoulos sees new acquisition Mike Aviles "at a mininum" as a utility infielder, but he could also earn playing time at second base, tweets Pete Abraham of the Boston Globe.
- David Carpenter was not going to make the Blue Jays' 40-man roster, according to Anthopoulos (via ESPNBoston.com's Gordon Edes on Twitter). Carpenter could find himself in similar situation in Boston, tweets Alex Speier of WEEI.com.