R.A. Dickey Rumors

Anthopoulos On Rotation, Relief Market, Robertson

Here’s the latest from Alex Anthopoulos and the Blue Jays, courtesy of a series of tweets from Ben Nicholson-Smith and Shi Davidi of Sportsnet.ca, plus a full piece from Davidi…

  • Rumors that the Jays could be shopping Mark Buehrle or R.A. Dickey are untrue, as Anthopoulos said the club is counting on the two veterans to provide innings.  “I’ve read at various times that they’re available in trades or being shopped – completely false. They’ve never come up at any point in time, their names have never come up once, and we need them to be on this team,” the GM said.
  • The Jays could still be looking to add more outfield depth, particularly one who could provide a stolen base threat.  “In a perfect world we’d like to add some speed, obviously a guy that can play centre field but we don’t need that…Ever since we lost [Anthony] Gose, that speed element, we’ve been trying to find that guy,” Anthopoulos said.  Davidi opines that Eric Young could be a possible fit for this role.
  • Several teams have shown interest in Dioner Navarro, who wants a starting catching job that obviously is no longer available in Toronto thanks to Russell Martin‘s presence.  “If we can find the right deal for Navarro we’ll do that, we find him an everyday job, we’ll do that, but there are scenarios he can still get playing time,” Anthopoulos said, noting that Navarro could see some time at DH with the Jays.
  • Anthopoulos would “ideally…like to add more than one” reliever to the bullpen, with two new relief arms seemingly the aim.  They figure to target relief help, but it doesn’t sound like they’ll find it immediately. Anthopoulos says it’s “telling” that the Blue Jays don’t have any offers out to relievers right now.
  • Anthopoulos says that the Jays, who have already added Martin, Josh Donaldson and Michael Saunders this offseason, feel good about their position players.
  • The Jays do notloveDavid Robertson or any other player, Anthopoulos says, denying a recent report.  Anthopoulos’ comments sound mostly theoretical, however, and perhaps shouldn’t be taken as an indication that the Jays aren’t interested in Robertson.
  • Anthopoulos would not comment on reports about the future of president and CEO Paul Beeston, but said the situation would not impact the Jays’ ability to sign free agents.

Anthopoulos On Payroll, Cabrera, Pitching, Gibbons

Blue Jays General Manager Alex Anthopoulos met with the media, including Sportsnet.ca’s Ben Nicholson-Smith and Shi Davidi (Twitter links) and the National Post’s John Lott, for 50 minutes today before Toronto’s season finale against Baltimore. Here are the highlights:

  • Anthopoulos declined to put a figure on the team’s 2015 payroll, but expects to have the financial flexibility to make moves and has “some ideas on trades and free agents.”
  • The Blue Jays will make a competitive offer to Melky Cabrera, but Anthopoulos reiterated the club’s policy of limiting contracts to five years “is still firmly in place. That’s not going to change.” 
  • On the Jays’ starting rotation, I wouldn’t feel good going into the season with five,Anthopoulos said. “Philosophically speaking, you want to hoard as much as you can, keep as much depth as you can.” To that end, Anthopoulos hinted J.A. Happ‘s $6.7MM option will be exercised and Aaron Sanchez (“frontline starter potential“) will be stretched out in Spring Training. He will, however, at least consider trade offers for established arms.
  • The Blue Jays will eschew big-name relievers and focus on set-up arms in an effort to rebuild their bullpen. Sanchez may pitch in relief sometime during the course of 2015, but only to manage his innings.
  • Yes,” was Anthopoulos’ reply when asked would he hire John Gibbons if he had a managerial opening next season.
  • Brett Lawrie is slated to play third base next year, but could be moved to second if an impact third baseman is acquired. As for evaluating the other position players, Anthopoulos will place a premium on durability.
  • Nicholson-Smith opines bench upgrades will most likely be accomplished through trades rather than free agency.

Placed On Revocable Waivers: Wednesday

We’ll use this post to track the players placed on revocable waivers today …

  • The Blue Jays also placed knuckleballer R.A. Dickey on waivers on August 25th, Cafardo tweets. That means that he will either clear or have his claim awarded to a team at some point today. (Of course, that does not mean he will ultimately change hands.) Dickey is owed $12MM next year and comes with a $12MM club option ($1MM buyout) for 2016. He has not shown his Cy Young form since coming to Toronto, and owns a 4.11 ERA over 400 1/3 innings across the last two seasons.
  • The Red Sox placed a series of younger players on revocable waivers yesterday, Cafardo tweets. Bryce Brentz, Drake Britton, Jackie Bradley Jr., and Anthony Ranaudo all hit the wire on Tuesday, and would all appear to be unlikely to clear or be included in any deal.

Earlier Updates

  • Blue Jays starter Mark Buehrle has been placed on revocable waivers, according to a tweet from Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe. The 35-year-old lefty has had one of his finest seasons, posting a 3.41 ERA over 161 frames, but is guaranteed $19MM next year in the last season of his heavily backloaded four-year, $58MM contract. Toronto had figured to be a buyer for much of the year, and may well still hold onto its veteran pieces for next year, but now looks to be a longshot for the postseason after slipping back to .500. It is not clear precisely when Buehrle went on the wire.

For a more complete explanation of how revocable trade waivers and August trades work, check out MLBTR’s August Trades primer. You can also check out MLBTR’s list of players that have cleared revocable waivers to see who is eligible to be traded to any team.

Orioles Seeking Top-Of-Rotation Starter

The Orioles are likely to seek a top-of-the-rotation starting pitcher but are completely unwilling to include top prospects Kevin Gausman or Dylan Bundy in a package, writes Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. Orioles starters currently rank 23rd in ERA, and they recently lost Wei-Yin Chen to the disabled list with an oblique strain. There's no exact timetable no Chen, though Eduardo A. Encina of the Baltimore Sun speculated today that he could be sidelined for as long as six weeks.

The Orioles were very interested in R.A. Dickey this offseason, according to Heyman, but even with the Blue Jays' disastrous start there's no guarantee that he would be available. Dickey can be controlled through the 2016 season, so the Blue Jays can hang onto him even if they don't contend this year. Baltimore has "little, if any" interest in mending Cubs ace Matt Garza, Heyman adds.

The Orioles went out and got some pitching help last summer by adding Joe Saunders in an August trade, but it sounds like GM Dan Duquette and his staff are eyeing bigger targets this time around. Heyman notes that before pursuing second tier options again (e.g. Ricky Nolasco, Edinson Volquez and Jason Vargas), the team is likely to exhaust its internal options.

I imagine that the Orioles will have an incredibly difficult time putting together a package for an ace-caliber pitcher without Gausman and Bundy, as the rest of their farm system lacks elite talent. Neither Baseball America or MLB.com's Jonathan Mayo listed an Orioles prospect besides those two in their respective Top 100 lists this offseason. ESPN's Keith Law (Insider required) ranked infielder Jonathan Schoop 50th overall (noting that he prefers him at third base) and lefty Eduardo Rodriguez 100th, but neither is the type of impact talent typically required to land a front-line starter.

AL Notes: Yankees, Bauer, Twins, Dickey

If you are looking for some interesting reading this evening, have a look at the evolution of the defensive shift as told by Travis Sawchik of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Meanwhile, let's take a look at some American League clubs and ballplayers:

  • We heard on Wednesday that the Yankees were looking for a right-handed bat, and all signs point to that need being real. Bryan Hoch of MLB.com reports that Jayson Nix, who sports a career .365 slugging percentage, has been taking balls at first base in case the team wants a righty to spell Lyle Overbay. Nix has held down third base while Kevin Youkilis works his way back, but the Yanks' recent acquisition of Chris Nelson provides the club with another option at the hot corner. 
  • Yankees GM Brian Cashman deserves a ton of credit for finding value in Overbay, Travis Hafner, and Vernon Wells, tweets Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com. There may be a flicker of light at the end of the tunnel for the scrambling Cashman, however. Hoch reports that Ivan Nova, Mark Teixeira, Alex Rodriguez, and Youkilis are all expected to report to the Yankees' Tampa facility for rehab work. Meanwhile, Curtis Granderson has been playing in extended spring training since Wednesday.
  • Count Paul Hoynes of the Plain Dealer as a fan of the Indians' decision to trade for young pitcher Trevor Bauer this offseason. Hoynes writes that Bauer is ready to be a successful big leaguer this year, and may be the most talented pitching prospect in Cleveland since a certain CC Sabathia.
  • Of course, all three teams involved in the deal that brought Bauer to the Indians seem to have gotten what they wanted out of the deal (at least so far). In addition to Bauer, outfielder Drew Stubbs is off to a fairly promising start for Cleveland, and currently sports a .284/.340/.420 line. The Indians have also enjoyed quality bullpen work from Matt Albers and Bryan Shaw. Meanwhile, Shin-Soo Choo has clobbered the ball for the Reds, putting up a .330/.467/.541 line. He has done so while playing a passable, albeit below average, center field. And the Diamondbacks not only seem quite pleased with shortstop prospect Didi Gregorius, who is off to a .407/.448/.778 start in his first 30 plate appearances, but have received solid production from veteran reliever Tony Sipp.
  • Of course, not all deals turn out the way you hope. As ESPN's Buster Olney notes on Twitter, Twins fans are (or should be) cringing at the hot start for the Brewers' Carlos Gomez. After emerging as a solid regular center fielder last season, Gomez is putting up excellent power, speed, and on-base numbers thus far in 2013. The Twins shipped Gomez to Milwaukee in return for J.J. Hardy after the 2009 season, and later sent Hardy to the Orioles to make way for the failed Tsuyoshi Nishioka experiment. In exchange for Hardy, in turn, the Twins got a pair of young righties — Jim Hoey and Brett Jacobson — who have failed to deliver any value to the club.
  • While the full ramifications of trades often take years to clarify, the Blue Jays could be wondering already how the recent trade for R.A. Dickey will turn out. As Mark Simon of ESPN.com explains, Dickey is failing to get hitters to chase pitches outside the zone, which could attributable in part to decreased knuckleball velocity. On the other side of the ledger, the Mets have surprisingly received incredible production from a seemingly minor piece of that deal — catcher John Buck — and were able to slot prospects Travis d'Arnaud and Noah Syndergaard atop the team's prospect list.

Anthopoulos On Dickey, Marlins, Reyes, Johnson

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.

Dickey, Anthopoulos Optimistic For 2013

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.”

R.A. Dickey - Mets (PW)

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.

AL East Notes: Drew, Orioles, Blue Jays, Rays

On this date 21 years ago, the Blue Jays signed free agent starter Jack Morris to a two-year contract. The right-hander had recently led the Twins to a memorable World Series win over the Braves, out-pitching John Smoltz with ten shutout innings in the deciding seventh game. Morris won 21 games for the 1992 Blue Jays, and Toronto captured its first World Series title. Though Morris struggled in 1993, the Blue Jays successfully defended their title. Now 57, Morris is a candidate for Hall of Fame induction. Here are today's AL East links…

  • Stephen Drew will obtain $500K if he reaches 500 plate appearances in 2013, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reports (on Twitter). Drew agreed to terms with the Red Sox on a one-year, $9.5MM deal yesterday.
  • The Orioles have spoken with at least six teams about possible trades, Brittany Ghiroli of MLB.com reports. The Orioles are seeking a middle of the order bat, but aren't willing to trade their best prospects to obtain one. While there's some interest in pitchers such as Brian Matusz, Jake Arrieta, Chris Tillman and Zach Britton, there are indications the Orioles wouldn't want to trade more than one of them. Plus, their trade value isn't particularly high.
  • The Blue Jays are prioritizing present gains over future potential, Shi Davidi writes at Sportsnet.ca. But it's not about a one-year gamble for GM Alex Anthopoulos. "This allows us to really put what we feel is a contending team together for an extended run, for a three-to-five year period," Anthopoulos said. An interesting note from Davidi's piece: Zack Greinke will out-earn Dickey's $30MM contract about a month into the 2014 season. The two contracts were signed under different circumstances, of course, but it’s still noteworthy.
  • Curtis Granderson expects to hit free agency after the 2013 season, Ken Davidoff of the New York Post reports. The Yankees have a team policy of waiting until players hit free agency before negotiating extensions, and Granderson doesn’t expect GM Brian Cashman to make an exception for him. “I’m just excited to play this year, and then, once we get to the end, we’ll take it at that point,” he said.
  • In a separate piece, Davidoff suggests that the best-run teams — he cites the Rays as one example — look to contend every year instead of targeting specific windows.

Alderson, Anthopoulos Discuss Dickey Trade

The Mets' trade of R.A. Dickey to the Blue Jays became official earlier tonight, and general managers Sandy Alderson and Alex Anthopoulos addressed the media in a conference call (all links go to Twitter)…

  • Anthopoulos "had no idea" he would have this kind of money to spend this offseason (Danny Knobler of CBS Sports reporting).
  • Noah Syndergaard was the last player the Mets insisted on acquiring, according to Anthopoulos (Knobler reporting). By that point, Travis d'Arnaud had been on the table for more than a week.
  • Anthopoulos said that the deal was essentially agreed to by last Thursday (Knobler reporting).
  • The Blue Jays wanted Mike Nickeas in the deal in case of an injury to Josh Thole, so that they can have a backup catcher who has caught Dickey's knuckleball before (via Joel Sherman of the New York Post).
  • The Mets aren't punting 2013 and expect to acquire additional players this offseason, according to Alderson (ESPN New York's Adam Rubin reporting).
  • The Blue Jays initially expressed interest in Dickey about one week prior to the Winter Meetings (via Rubin).
  • Rubin adds that Alderson told d'Arnaud they would "see what happened" following Spring Training, and the GM also noted that d'Arnaud is very close to Major League ready.
  • Alderson stressed that this was a baseball decision rather than a financial decision, and that the team's initial preference was to sign Dickey to an extension (Rubin reporting). Sherman relays that Dickey had several contract offers that would've kept him in New York long-term.
  • Regarding the remainder of the offseason, Alderson says that the team will add a pitcher to whom they can commit a starting role (not just someone to compete with Jenrry Mejia). The team will also look to add catching depth, and is actively pursuing outfielders via free agency and trade (all links to Rubin).
  • Sherman adds that Alderson would like someone with upside similar to their deal with Chris Capuano in 2011. Sherman speculates that Francisco Liriano could match that description.
  • Anthopoulos said he would've walked away from trade negotiations had they thought Dickey's asking price was unreasonable, but they were comfortable with the numbers (via Rubin).
  • John Buck's inclusion and the Mets absorption of his salary came about because the Blue Jays were at their financial limit, according to Anthopoulos (via Rubin).

Blue Jays Acquire R.A. Dickey

The Mets have sold high on R.A. Dickey after the 38-year-old knuckleballer's Cy Young season, trading him to the Blue Jays as part of a seven-player deal. Toronto will receive Dickey, Josh Thole and Mike Nickeas in exchange for John Buck and prospects Travis d'Arnaud, Noah Syndergaard and Wuilmer Becerra. As part of the deal, Toronto has also agreed to a three-year extension with Dickey. 

D'Arnaud, 24 in February, was rated as Baseball America's No. 17 prospect heading into 2012 and the Blue Jays' top prospect according to MLB.com. The catcher moved up to Triple-A this past season and posted a .333/.380/.595 batting line with 16 home runs in 67 games. While some have speculated that his knee could be trouble, the Mets have reportedly reviewed his medicals and deemed them to be fine.

Syndergaard, Toronto's third-best prospect as ranked by MLB.com, was a supplemental first round selection and the 38th overall pick in the 2010 draft. The 20-year-old spent last season at Class A Lansing posting a 2.60 ERA, 10.6 K/9, 2.7 BB/9 pitching line in 103 2/3 innings covering 27 games including 19 starts. Syndergaard's fastball can easily reach into the upper-90s with a power breaking ball and changeup that can develop into above-average or plus pitches.

Becerra, a native of Venezuela, played the first 11 games of his professional career this past season before turning 18 on October 1st. The right-handed hitter stands 6'4" and played left and right field during his Rookie League debut. Becerra signed for $1.3MM in July of 2011, according to Ben Badler of Baseball America. He has athleticism and speed to go along with raw power, and could project as a power/speed corner outfielder, Badler wrote in March.

Nickeas, a Vancouver, British Columbia native, appeared in 47 games for the Mets in 2012. The right-handed hitting 29-year-old posted a .174/.242/.229 batting line in 122 plate appearances with New York. He has MLB experience in parts of three seasons, but is not yet arbitration eligible.

The 26-year-old Thole is a career .261/.331/.333 hitter in 1026 plate appearances for the Mets. The former 13th-round selection has served as New York's primary catcher in each of the past two seasons and is arbitration eligible for the first time this offseason. MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz projects a $1.2MM salary for Thole.

The Mets signed Dickey as a free agent three winters ago and he immediately became a fixture in the team's rotation. From 2010-11 he averaged 192 innings with a 3.08 ERA, 5.6 K/9 and 2.3 BB/9. Then, in 2012, Dickey's performance improved substantially. He led the National League with 233 2/3 innings pitched, 230 strikeouts and five complete games, posting a 2.73 ERA with 8.9 K/9 and 2.1 BB/9. He made his first All-Star appearance, collected MVP votes and won the NL Cy Young Award. It led to some differences of opinion on Dickey's value and some unique contract negotiations.

The Mets discussed an extension with the knuckleballer, but the sides didn't reach an agreement. The club exercised Dickey's 2013 option in October, which means he'll earn $5MM in 2013, and didn't appear to offer more than $20MM for the 2014-15 seasons. 

Many other teams had interest in trading for Dickey. Every AL East team checked in on him, and the Royals, Rangers, Dodgers, Diamondbacks, Nationals and Angels were also interested at various points during the offseason. Ultimately, however, the Blue Jays offered the best package and will add Dickey to a rotation that also includes Josh Johnson, Mark Buehrle, Brandon Morrow and Ricky Romero.

Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports was the first to report that the trade had been agreed upon. Joel Sherman and Mike Puma of the New York Post first reported that the framework consisted of Dickey, Thole and another player for D'Arnaud, Syndergaard, Buck and a prospect (all Twitter links). Jon Heyman of CBS Sports added that Nickeas and Becerra were the other two names involved in the deal.

Zach Links, Edward Creech and Steve Adams contributed to this post.