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Alex Anthopoulos Rumors
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.
With the Blue Jays entering Sunday mired in a five-game losing streak and occupying last place in the AL East behind the dysfunctional Red Sox, GM Alex Anthopoulos met with reporters prior to his team's victory over the Yankees. Mike Cormack of Sportsnet has the details from the press conference.
- Anthopoulos believes Toronto's strengths lie in its potent offense and rebuilt bullpen. "You know for the most part this is going to be a very good, deep offensive team, and we'll have some young kids behind some of these guys for depth. Offensively, I feel very good about it." The 35-year-old general manager went as far as to say his team's bullpen and offense, when healthy, have the makings of being "championship caliber."
- Toronto's starting rotation has been an area of concern for Anthopoulos as his starters have struggled with myriad health issues and performance on the field. With Kyle Drabek and Drew Hutchison set to miss a portion or all of next season, the team may be looking to add as many as three new arms into the rotation to complement Ricky Romero and Brandon Morrow.
- While the Blue Jays are clearly in need of a few starters to bolster their pitching staff, Anthopoulos says he'll be able to devote his entire winter to improving the team's rotation unlike in years past. "… It's a lot easier going into an off-season when you have really one area to really attack, and every trade dialogue, every free-agent dialogue, can be geared to one area rather than having 40 balls in the air and having to fill three spots in the bullpen, two spots in the rotation, two position players," said Anthopoulos.
Phillies co-ace Cliff Lee finally found himself in the win column on Wednesday after starting the season with 13 consecutive starts without a victory. Lee's drought was the longest by a former Cy Young winner since future Hall of Famer Greg Maddux went 14 starts without a win in 2008 with the Padres. Let's catch up on the latest news and headlines from around the league…
- Trade candidate Ryan Dempster doesn't want to wait until after the All-Star break to return to the mound and may be ready in time to make a start against the Mets on Sunday, writes Carrie Muskat of MLB.com. "I think they trust me to make the right decisions," Dempster said. "I also don't want to go out there and have a 50-pitch limit, and that doesn't do us any good." The right-hander has been on the disabled list since June 16 with a sore right lat.
- The Rangers may find themselves without any new prospects from Latin America as the team awaits a resolution from Major League Baseball regarding Dominican outfielder Jairo Beras' contract status, says Evan Grant from The Dallas Morning News. Beras' age at the time he signed with the Rangers has been called into question as Beras claims he was 17 but may have actually been 16. "We put our full budget towards Beras," Rangers general manager Jon Daniels said. "In anticipation of getting the contract approved we’ve had to effectively sit out the signing period."
- Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos spoke on SiriusXM's MLB Network Radio about his team's performance during the first half of the season and how he plans to be a buyer given Toronto's chances of securing a wild card berth (audio link). Anthopoulos expects to pursue pitching depth outside of the organization to help take pressure off an offense that has carried the team of late, thanks to Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion.
- MLBTR's Ben Nicholson-Smith joined the Getting Blanked show on The Score to discuss the Cardinals' plans for the rest of the season given Chris Carpenter's unavailability until 2013 (video link).
The Blue Jays made an interesting move this morning, announcing that they've signed shortstop Yunel Escobar to an extension that could keep him in Toronto through 2015. Here's a note on that and more, courtesy of Gregor Chisholm of MLB.com.
- Escobar's extension won't have an impact on shortstop prospect Adeiny Hechavarria, according to GM Alex Anthopoulos. "There's no effect, because Hechavarria is a highly-touted prospect and we believe in him. But there's no downside to having too many good players. I always say things will find a way to work themselves out, and especially when you have a middle of the diamond player." Toronto signed Hechavarria, a 22-year-old Cuban, to a four-year, $10MM deal in April 2010. He was rated as baseball's No. 96 prospect by Keith Law of ESPN.com in January and is regarded as a glove-first shortstop.
- Anthopoulos regrets his response to reports that the Jays had a pre-Draft agreement in place to sign first-round pick Tyler Beede for $3MM, but insists that the charge is one that shouldn't be thrown out there lightly. Such agreements are not allowed, though most Draft experts say they are commonplace. The reported $3MM would be about $1.7MM over the slot recommendation for the No. 21 overall selection.
Ten years ago today, the Angels signed Alberto Callaspo as an amateur free agent out of Venezuela. He spent four years in their farm system before being traded to the Diamondbacks for Jason Bulger. After a stint with the Royals, Callaspo ended up back with the Halos following a mid-summer trade last year.
Here are today's batch of links…
- MLBTR's Ben Nicholson-Smith appeared on this week's edition of the Beyond The Box Score Podcast, so head on over and give it a listen.
- C.J. Wilson told MLB.com's T.R. Sullivan that he's not thinking about his upcoming free agency, mentioning that the Rangers has never offered him a long-term deal.
- The Russell Branyan signing seems to indicate that the Diamondbacks don't see Brandon Allen as a fit anymore, says Nick Piecoro of The Arizona Republic (Twitter links). He adds that Arizona gauged Allen's trade value at the winter meetings, and he's heard that the Rays were high on him in the past.
- Yankees outfielder Nick Swisher said he and former agent Joe Bick "just grew apart," which is why he signed on with Dan Lozano recently, reports Ken Davidoff of Newsday.
- Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos told MLB.com's Gregor Chisholm that he's not a fan of performance-based incentives because of the uncertainty they create.
- Paul Maholm told Rob Biertempfel of The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review that he's willing to discuss an extension with the Pirates, which pleasantly surprised GM Neal Huntington. "Paul's done some good things for this organization," said the GM. "We'll give it due consideration." The team holds a $9.75MM club option for Maholm's services in 2012 after he earns $5.75MM in 2011.
- John Lowe of The Detroit Free Press points out that there is no dead weight on the Tigers' $105MM payroll. Detroit paid close to $24MM for Nate Robertson and Dontrelle Willis last season, who gave them 43 1/3 IP with a 4.98 ERA (all by Willis).
- Larry Stone of The Seattle Times spoke to Yankees GM Brian Cashman about last summer's near trade for Cliff Lee. Cashman said he's glad he didn't agree to Seattle's revised offer after seeing Lee sign with Philadelphia. "Now I'm like, I've got one of the premier hitting talents here, and I didn't have a two-month rental," said the GM, referring to top prospect Jesus Montero.
Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos met with reporters for an extended media session today, speaking about a wide range of topics. MLB.com's Jordan Bastian brings us the highlights…
- Anthopoulos acknowledged Lyle Overbay's strong finish to the season, but the team's approach for first base is unchanged. They will explore trades and the free agent market with no guarantee that Overbay will return.
- Aaron Hill offered to change positions (third base) if it will help the team. The Jays have until Opening Day of next season to make a decision on the 2012 ($8MM), 2013 ($8MM), and 2014 ($10MM) options in Hill's contract. If they wait until after next season, the 2014 option is voided.
- There is a chance that Edwin Encarnacion will be non-tendered given the raise he's likely to receive through arbitration. Encarnacion earned $4.75MM in 2010 and will be arb eligible for the final time before free agency.
- The Jays are prepared to go to arbitration with 54 HR man Jose Bautista. He earned $2.4MM this year and his salary is likely to jump into the $7-9MM range after his monster season. Bastian doesn't think the two sides will work out a long-term deal this winter.
- Fred Lewis was unhappy when his playing time diminished late in the season. If he's not in the team's plans as a bench player next year, a non-tender could be in order.
- Even with Kevin Gregg, Scott Downs, and Jason Frasor all eligible to become free agents in a few weeks, Anthopoulos doesn't consider having veterans in the bullpen a top priority.
- He'd like to add more balance to a lineup that relied primarily on the long ball this season. The Jays led MLB by a large margin with 257 homers, but they finished just ninth with 755 runs scored because of a pedestrian .312 OBP.
- The possibility of keeping catcher John Buck will be explored, but Anthopoulos said he's earned a long-term deal and a starting job, something that might not work with top prospect J.P. Arencibia having nothing left to prove in the minors.
- The Blue Jays are not operating with a specific payroll; the GM has the ability to adjust the finances as he sees fit. That gives them more flexibility when looking at free agent and trade scenarios.
- There are no more front office hirings in the immediate future, but one thing they're considering is someone with more of a computer and statistical analysis background.
- Shi Davidi of The Canadian Press adds that Anthopoulos acknowledged the inherent riskiness of trades, but he still considers it the best way to improve the team and is willing to deal prospects for established big leaguers (Twitter links).