Blue Jays pitching schedule for series in Montreal

April 3 vs Cincinnati:

Mark Buehrle
Aaron Loup
Brett Cecil
Colt Hynes
Todd Redmond
Jeff Francis

April 4 vs Cincinnati:

Daniel Norris
Miguel Castro
Roberto Osuna
Marco Estrada
Liam Hendriks

Payroll parameters

The Blue Jays began the offseason with a bang but after signing Russell Martin and trading for Josh Donaldson/Michael Saunders everything seemed to come to a grinding halt. Despite a previously stated desire to upgrade the bullpen there wasn’t much done to improve an area of the club that was a major weakness in 2014.

Along the way there was plenty of speculation about “payroll parameters.” It seemed like the club didn’t have as much money at its disposal as previously thought and as relievers started coming off the board there was a thought that the lack of funds was the main reason why. Along those same lines, it was discovered that potential buyouts and money for players getting called up after injuries had to be factored into the club’s overall payroll. Even the sagging Canadian dollar was being hypothesized as a reason behind the lack of spending.

But then came news this week that the Blue Jays signed left-hander Johan Santana to a Minor League contract. Even though the deal doesn’t come with guaranteed money, Santana would make $2.5 million if he makes the big-league roster and could earn as much as $6.55 million through incentives (according to CBS Sports) based on number of games started and time spent on the active roster. Two days later, outfielder Dayan Viciedo was added through a similar Minor League deal that would be worth another $2.5 million if he makes the team.

Anthopoulos is right when he says that both deals are completely risk free but if buyouts and DL time have to be factored into the club’s set payroll, one would assume both of these deals would have to count towards that as well. Toronto wouldn’t be offering upwards of $9.05 million unless it has received permission from ownership group Rogers Communications to have the current payroll increased by that same amount.

So that begs the question, if Toronto had this amount of money to spend all along why wasn’t it used on the bullpen instead of on late additions to a couple of spots where the club already has at least some degree of depth? It’s possible that the disappointing performances of  Frank Francisco, Jon Rauch and Francisco Cordero in recent years are one motivating factor. It’s also possible that Anthopoulos simply didn’t like the available pitchers enough, there were health issues or they didn’t want to come to Toronto. But with the bullpen still very much in a state of flux let’s take a closer look at some of the pitchers who signed that would have been affordable in hindsight:

RHP Burke Badenhop — $1 million with the Reds plus a $4 million mutual option for 2016 with a $1.5 million buyout.
RHP Joba Chamberlain — $1 million with the Tigers, plus an additional $500,000 possible through incentives
RHP Jason Grilli — $8 million over two years with the Braves
RHP Casey Janssen — $5 million with the Nationals
RHP Jason Motte — $4.5 million with the Cubs
RHP Alexi Ogando — $1.5 million with the Red Sox, plus an additional $1.5 million through incentives
RHP Luke Hochevar — $10 million over two years with the Royals

A more expensive group that would still technically fit into the $9.05 million the Blue Jays could be spending on Santana/Viciedo:

RHP Luke Gregerson — $18.5 million over three years with the Astros
RHP Pat Neshek — $12.5 million over two years with the Astros
RHP Sergio Romo — $15 million over two years with the Giants
(Editor’s note — I’m purposely leaving Andrew Miller and David Robertson off this list because their contracts went quite high)

Rafael Soriano is still available but Anthopoulos has already ruled out adding another player on a guaranteed deal. The Blue Jays are open to the idea of signing more pitchers to a Minor League deal and one possible fit could be Phil Coke but he’s still holding out for guaranteed money. Either way, it doesn’t seem like the Blue Jays are going to do anything significant with the bullpen.

Relievers are notoriously difficult to predict from year to year. There seems to be an endless list of candidates for a spot in Toronto with Brett Cecil and Aaron Loup as the only ones with guaranteed jobs. Aaron Sanchez likely can be added to that list because even though he’s competing for  a starting job the lack of viable options likely forces his move to the bullpen (which potentially could have been avoided if Toronto added a pair of arms this winter).

It’s also worth pointing out that because the money going towards Santana and Viciedo isn’t guaranteed if they don’t make the team then that money could be available for additions during the season. Despite all of that, based strictly on need, it seems like it would have been more beneficial to spend at least some of that $9.05 million on a veteran reliever. The Blue Jays obviously don’t agree.

Wrapping up the Winter Meetings

The Winter Meetings officially came to a close on Thursday morning and the Blue Jays don’t exactly have a lot to show for their efforts. The only actual move Toronto made this week was claiming Chris Colabello off waivers from the Twins and the only fans who should be excited about that move are the ones in Buffalo because that’s where he’s expected to start the 2015 season. Outside of that, it was a relatively quiet week at least in terms of news that actually affects the 25-man roster. The constant talk about Paul Beeston and the future of the Blue Jays’ presidency, well that’s another story entirely.

On the main site you’ll find full coverage of this week’s events but I also wanted to provide some of my stray thoughts about how this week unfolded:


Gibbons Q+A at Winter Meetings

John Gibbons met with media on Day 1 of the Winter Meetings here in San Diego and below you’ll find the full transcript of his availability. The transcript was provided by ASAP Sports. (Editor’s note — There are some typos in here, I’ll eventually go back and edit ASAP’s work but in the meantime you should be able to get the full idea of what Gibbons is trying to say here).

Q. It’s had to have been a fun offseason, a couple of significant adds to this team?

JOHN GIBBONS: It’s been big. Of course Russell Martin came on first. He’s a guy that everybody in the organization wanted to be able to get. That was big to set the tone. And of course Donaldson and Saunders, who knows where
it goes from here. It’s been a big offseason for us at this point.


Donaldson reacts to blockbuster trade

Here is the full transcript of Saturday morning’s conference call between a group of reporters and the Blue Jays new third baseman Josh Donaldson:

Initial shock of being traded…
“Like you said, there was definitely a lot of shock. It was something at the time, that was a little ahead of schedule as far as being traded. But then like you said, you start moving past that, you start looking at the capability of this lineup, the potential it brings, I would venture to say that there’s probably not going to be another lineup as potent as this in Major League Baseball.”


Anthopoulos explains Donaldson trade

Full transcript of Alex Anthopoulos’ conference call with reporters late Friday night:

Have you talked to Donaldson yet?
“I just talked to him, 20 minutes ago, and he was excited. I told him, he reminded me a little bit of Bautista in his swing, he has the leg lift, just kind of his set-up even though he’s closed off in his stance. He said, ‘you know what, I’ve actually been studying Bautista quite a bit.’ He told me that’s when he felt like he really emerged, when he started studying him a
little bit, tried to emulate him. Not the exact swing but there are some similarities there. He’s excited, he’s excited to come here, and win, and hopefully help get this team into the playoffs.”


Devon Travis reacts to getting traded

The Blue Jays have potentially found their second baseman of the future by acquiring Devon Travis from the Tigers in exchange for outfielder Anthony Gose. On the main site, you’ll find full reaction to the deal, plus lower on this blog you’ll also find the full transcript of Thursday’s conference call with Alex Anthopoulos.

Here you’ll find another full transcript. This time it’s Travis, who spent about 15 minutes talking to reporters one day after he was told about the trade to Toronto.

Devon Travis:

How did you hear about the trade…
“I actually just walked into the house. It was 10 or 11 p.m., I know that because I got the phone call from Dave Owen, who is the Tigers director of player development and I just had a weird feeling. Why would Dave be calling me at 10 or 11 at night, it was definitely a little awkward. Sure enough, I said to my mom and said, I showed them the phone and I said, I think I’m about to get traded. He called and let me know and as soon as I hung up with Dave Owen, Alex called me to welcome me to the team.”


Anthopoulos explains deal for Devon Travis

The Blue Jays traded outfielder Anthony Gose to the Tigers on Wednesday night in exchange for second base prospect Devon Travis. On the main site, you’ll find an article on what the deal means from a Toronto perspective along with another piece that focuses on Travis’ reaction to the deal.

Below, you’ll find the full transcript of Thursday morning’s conference call with Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos as he talks about his thought process behind the trade.

Alex Anthopoulos:

When the move started to gain traction…
“Myself and (Tigers GM) Dave Dombrowski talked about it. We caught up in the offseason, maybe about two weeks ago, we were talking about some things and as a concept we kind of just kicked it around. I’m trying to remember the nights because they all kind of blend together. Tuesday night we circled back a little bit and got a little more serious that maybe we would both consider doing it. We agreed to sit on for a day and then last night probably around 8 o’clock eastern it got real serious and we probably completed the deal around 10 o’clock eastern time last night.”


Anthopoulos talks about trading Lind

The Blue Jays made their first significant move of the offseason on Saturday afternoon by trading first baseman/designated hitter Adam Lind to the Brewers in exchange for right-hander Marco Estrada. On the main site, you’ll find today’s article on the deal plus another item on the decision to pick up the club option on J.A. Happ while declining 2015 contracts on Brandon Morrow, Dustin McGowan and Sergio Santos.

Below, you’ll find the full transcript of Alex Anthopoulos’ conference call with reporters about the trade and also the contract options:

Alex Anthopoulos:

On the deal…
“We’ve obviously had a lot of meetings and planning for the offseason and spent quite a bit of time talking to clubs and seeing where we might line up and match with them. The more we looked at the areas that we needed to address on the team and where we were going to deploy our resources, we ultimately decided that we weren’t going to move forward with both Adam and Encarnacion at the first base/DH spot. The decision at that point was to see what we could get for Adam. When I talk about resources, it’s where we’re going to allocate our dollars. I think everyone knows we have free agents in center and left, two thirds of the outfield, have some work to do in the bullpen, would like to solidify second or third base.


Bautista talks deadline

“Of course it’s a little disappointing that we somehow weren’t able to get anything done, but everybody around us that’s in contention somehow — and even some teams that aren’t in contention, like the Red Sox – somehow figured it out. But there’s still time to get stuff done.”

“We still have a pretty good team put together and we’re hoping to get the guys that are hurt back and that’ll be a good injection of talent for us down the road.”

“But it’s a little bit of disappointment. So mixed feelings with the disappointment and then you’ve got to look at it from the other perspective: maybe they believe enough in our talent that they didn’t feel like they wanted to break up our group and sacrifice what we have now, because we’re
playing good ball. And maybe they have high hopes for us, and we do as well. So we got to deal with the guys we have here and we got to go out there and keep playing like we have been, with the group of guys that we have here right now.”