November 2011

Anthopoulos reacts to McDonald’s new deal

Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos held a conference call on Thursday afternoon to discuss Adam Loewen and Jesse Carlson being outrighted off the 40-man roster. The article for that story can be found on the main site but Anthopoulos also took some time to talk about John McDonald and Tony LaCava.

McDonald signed a two-year contract worth $3-million with Arizona on Wednesday night. He was originally expected to return to Toronto in 2012 but found a home with the Diamondbacks after making his postseason debut with the club this year. The Blue Jays also weren’t in the position to offer a multiyear contract to the fan favourite because of uncertainty with their roster.

LaCava, meanwhile, recently turned down an offer to become the general manager in Baltimore. LaCava went through a series of interviews with that organization in the past few weeks and as a result had to be kept out of the loop in Toronto’s day-to-day operations. The veteran executive is now back in the fold and Anthopoulos is busy bringing him up to speed.

Here are Anthopoulos’ comments regarding that and a little bit more. Don’t forget, you can follow me on Twitter @gregorMLB

Alex Anthopoulos:

On McDonald’s new contract with Arizona…

“He called me, basically when he was going to get that deal done, and that just tells you what kind of class act he is. He wanted to call me directly and let me know.

“I told him, look, it’s a great opportunity. We weren’t in a position to be able to react and do something like that right now just because there’s a lot of uncertainty with our club. Second base, that may impact what we decide to do with the utility spot, depending on who we end up going with there.

“Like I told John, as much as we love him, and he’s a total pro, he’s going to be a great fit on whatever team he’s on, we weren’t able to at this point make a decision and move forward until some other things played out.

“I think it’s a great deal for John. I know he enjoyed his time in Arizona. The management staff is outstanding, the team did a great job. He’s going to thrive and he’s going to a fan favorite on the West Coast too so he gets to spread his love on the East and the West. John will do well no matter where he goes.”

On LaCava being back with the Blue Jays…

“When he walked into the room we all stood up started to clap. It was like a big joke and everybody was really excited. It’s nice to have him back and I think he’s glad to be back. Just spending the last day and a half getting him caught up.

“He’s obviously been out of the loop for so long. It’s amazing, two or three weeks whatever it was that the process went on, even though it doesn’t seem like a long time a lot went on here so it’s taken quite a bit of time to get him caught him but things are pretty much back to the way they were.”

On current trade possibilities…

“Right now, there isn’t anything we’re excited about doing. But there’s always opportunities to make trades, it’s just ultimately are they good trades and are you willing to do them. It’s still so early in the process and the trade market I believe gets slowed up at this time of year because of free agents and it’s all about options.

“Right now there’s a lot of players that are available and I think every GM is in the same boat as they have a lot of balls in the air. Just like anything, when you make one move whether it’s one trade or one free agent signing it will close the door on a lot of other options and scenarios. I think that’s why it takes some time for these things to play out.”

LaCava staying put

Tony LaCava turned down an offer to become the new general manager of the Orioles on Tuesday afternoon. The news was first reported by FoxSports.com and has since been confirmed by multiple MLB.com sources.

The latest development comes as a major surprise considering how far into negotiations the two sides appeared to be. LaCava went through two interviews in Baltimore and met with owner Peter Angelos on Monday afternoon. No immediate reason behind the decision was provided to either report.

Baltimore’s loss is the Blue Jays’ gain. LaCava returns to his role as assistant general manager and director of player development. The native of Pittsburgh is Anthopoulos’ right-hand man and he has been credited with turning Toronto’s Minor League system into one of the best around baseball.

The latest on LaCava

Rumours continue to swirl that the Orioles are nearing the conclusion of their search for a new general manager. Toronto assistant GM Tony LaCava appears to be the favourite for the job and was recently in Baltimore to meet with the club’s upper brass.

LaCava going south or the border would hardly come as a surprise but it would still be a major blow to Toronto’s front office. The native of Pittsburgh is Alex Anthopoulos’ right-hand man and has played an integral role in rebuilding the Blue Jays’ Minor League system. That being said, I think everyone in Toronto’s organization would agree that LaCava has paid his dues and possesses the type of abilities that could eventually help Baltimore regain its footing in the tough American League East.

MLB.com Orioles reporter Brittany Ghiroli has the latest developments on her blog which can be found here. Anthopoulos also had a few comments about the rumours and while he declined to get into specifics there were still some interesting things said about that and a few other issues.

Alex Anthopoulos:

On LaCava interviewing in Baltimore…

“I know a lot is out there, a lot has been written about and so on, we haven’t come out and commented on anything. Just because if you start doing it with one (employee) you have to start doing it with all of them.

“But I guess I would say, in more general terms, if guys have an opportunity to get a promotion, I think we have been very clear we’re never going to stand in anybody’s way. I think no matter what, we’re always prepared for those types of things, great for our employees, and at the same time we continue to do our jobs. We’re in a position and we continue to do that as we build the infrastructure up in the front office.

“If our employees have opportunities to go elsewhere, hopefully we have some contingency plans in place to be able to adjust and manage with the loss of those employees if they do leave. Overall, what I can tell you, our offseason has not changed, our work, our preparation has not changed.

On overall team policy when an employee is interviewing with another team…

“I think it’s fair to say, if someone is in the interview process for a promotion with another club, they’re obviously not going to be involved in the meetings we have in preparation for the offseason. If there are employees that are currently interviewing, or talking with other clubs, there’s probably less bodies in the room when we have our meetings and that’s pretty accurate to say.”

On how hard LaCava would be to replace and their overall relationship…

“I’ve worked with him for a long time. Obviously everybody knows his responsibilities here and the work that he does. But just like anything, when you work with someone for a long time, you grow close to them, you rely on them, you value them as employees and I think any GM would say the same thing about a front office employee that they’ve worked with for a long time.

“I can’t say enough good things about Tony. That’s not to minimize what the other employees here have done, I’ve probably worked with Tony the longest at this point, but really apart from that, that’s really all I can say. He’s great.”

On Encarnacion’s option being picked up for 2012 and whether Toronto could still upgrade at DH…

“We still have the flexibility if a DH spot comes open, or someone becomes available, to go down that path. I will say it’s very low on our priority list and we have a lot of areas we’d like to address first. But we do have the flexibility to get somebody else if we want in that DH spot. “

On Encarnacion playing left field in Winter Ball…

“We’re trying to make him more flexible from a positional standpoint just because it gives us more options in the offseason. But obviously if we were to break today with who we have on the current roster, he’d get the majority of his at-bats at the DH spot. But who knows what the next few months are going to bring, trades, free agent signings, things like that. The more positional flexibility that he has, it gives John (Farrell) more options and it certainly gives myself and our baseball operations team more options in putting the roster together.”

On potentially platooning Encarnacion with Eric Thames or Travis Snider in LF…

“I wouldn’t want to see him only on the right-handed side of a platoon strictly because it would limit his at-bats. If he’s only facing left-handers it would severely limit the at-bats he would get over the course of the season.”

On Jon Rauch’s option being declined…

“I think Jon pitched a lot better than what the stats will show. I don’t think our OF defence did him any favours at all. He was certainly the fly ball guy, he throws strikes, he pitches to contact. He’s as tough of a competitor as I’ve ever seen.

“He’s all about team and he’s a gamer. I think the numbers are misleading from an ERA standpoint because I don’t think  defensively we helped him out. But everything else, the hits, the innings, the walks are similar, I think the strikeouts were a little bit down, but overall I think he really had a comparable year to what he did the year before with the Twins.

“I just think our outfield defence, especially early on in the year, led to some runs that probably shouldn’t have occurred. We haven’t closed the door on Jon being back with this club because there’s a lot of things that he does that we like … But just right now, at the option price, we didn’t want to lock ourselves into that contract at this stage.”

On signing his own free agents or taking the compensatory picks…

“We’re undecided. We’re going to reach out, and have in some cases reached out, to the agents for all of our current free agents. In terms of salary arbitration and whether we’re going to offer, I believe we have until the 23rd of November.

“I definitely have some thoughts as I sit here today about what we’re going to do and I feel pretty confident in what we’re going to do with all of those players, but at the same time if something does change over the next few weeks, trades, free agent signings, things like that, that may change the decision that we ultimately make. Until we’re forced to make that determination it’s going to be open ended but there’s no question that we have a lean at this stage with all of those players.

On the possible lack veteran influence on the club…

“I think we have enough but you can never have enough at the same time. It’s something that’s certainly important to me and it’s something that I value highly, high character guys in the clubhouse, and there’s no question that it has been talked about internally, the fact that we’re very young from a positional standpoint. We’re committing to a lot of young players and if we can supplement those players with veteran established guys that are good in the clubhouse, that can show them how to be a pro, to be a professional player, to do all of those things. There’s value to that.

“It has to make sense. If the right players don’t come up, or the right opportunities don’t come up, we’ll be fine because even though it’s a young team we feel like we have a pretty good collection of high character players.”

On Jose Molina’s impact on the pitching staff…

“There’s no question that we value it tremendously. Not only that, he accepts his role, he understands his role and he’s good with the starters, the relievers, he’s very good with the Latin players, his experience, he has been a champion … I can’t say enough good things about him. Whenever he’s done playing, he’s someone that will be highly sought after whether it’s a coach or a managerial candidate or working in a front office.”

A few other items of note:

  • The Blue Jays finished with five ranked free agents according to the Elias Sports Bureau. Second baseman Kelly Johnson is a Type A while Jon Rauch, Frank Francisco, Shawn Camp and Jose Molina are all Type Bs. Toronto has until Nov. 23 to decide whether to offer salary arbitration to those players.
  • Anthopoulos didn’t rule out spending big money on an acquisition this offseason but he also reiterated that he would prefer to make trades as opposed to dealing with the free agent market.
  • I’m back in action after taking a week off to vacation in the Maritimes. Now that the offseason has officially begun, you’ll once again start to see more content on this blog and of course www.bluejays.com I’ll be doing at least three stories a week for the main site and of course responding to all the breaking news as it happens.
  • You can  also follow me on Twitter @gregorMLB for the latest news.
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