December 2011

Update on Darvish

The New York Post reported late Thursday night that the Blue Jays were the perceived front runners to land Japanese right-hander Yu Darvish. The report speculated that Toronto submitted a bid to the Nippon Ham Fighters between $40-50 million but also mentioned the Cubs submitted a large bid of their own at an unknown value.

Toronto’s Alex Anthopoulos and Texas’ Jon Daniels were the only two general managers to watch Darvish pitch in Japan. The Blue Jays also had multiple scouts watch Darvish throughout his season in the Nippon Professional Baseball League where he posted a 1.44 ERA in 232 innings this season.

The 25-year-old would be a big coup for Anthopoulos, who has made it his offseason priority to upgrade the starting rotation.

– Gregor Chisholm

Cash considerations

When the Blue Jays traded for outfielder Colby Rasmus in July there were three players to be named later or cash considerations going to the Cardinals as part of the deal.

Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos confirmed to MLB.com on Monday night that cash considerations were sent to St. Louis to complete the trade. There will not be any players to be named later going to the Cardinals as part of the transaction.

As is customary with this type of move, the amount of cash sent to St. Louis was not disclosed. The final trade with St. Louis will go down as Colby Rasmus, Brian Tallet, Trever Miller and P.J. Walters for Edwin Jackson, Marc Rzepczynski, Octavio Dotel, Corey Patterson and an undisclosed amount of cash. 

Blue Jays with outfielders to spare

The Blue Jays acquired outfielder Ben Francisco from the Phillies on Monday afternoon in what appears to be a minor move but one that could be a precursor for something much bigger.

Toronto already has a plethora of outfielders on its 40-man roster. Travis Snider and Eric Thames have been expected to compete for the starting job in left field while Colby Rasmus and Jose Bautista round out the three positions. The speedy Rajai Davis likely fits in as the club’s fourth outfielder but Francisco and Edwin Encarnacion can be found on the club’s depth chart as well.

That’s too many players for too few positions on the Blue Jays’ roster and it’s possible this now gives the club enough flexibility to make a run at Oakland No. 1 starter Gio Gonzalez. The two sides engaged in trade talks during last week’s Winter Meetings in Dallas but it was not immediately clear whether a trade could be worked out.

Oakland expressed interest in Snider last season but the A’s would also need a package a prospects to pull the trigger on dealing Gonzalez, who is under club control for the next four seasons. 

– Gregor Chisholm

Day Four — Saying goodbye to Dallas

The Winter Meetings have now come and gone. I hope everyone enjoyed the coverage on MLB.com this week. It was a busy four days and a lot of sleepless nights for myself and my fellow baseball writers as we tried to keep everyone up-to-date on the latest news surrounding the Blue Jays.

You can find my official Winter Meetings wrap-up on the main site. At the time of this posting, the article had not yet gone live but it should be there later this afternoon. You can also find an Offseason Notebook with items on Yu Darvish, Brian Jeroloman and the Rule 5 Draft. Please make sure to check those out and go through the news archive to catch up on any of the news you might have missed this week.

Thanks a lot for following along this week and you can continue to do so on Twitter throughout the offseason @gregorMLB. I plan on now taking a few days off but if the Blue Jays make a surprise move I’ll be here with the coverage. If not, then check back on Monday for another edition of the Inbox — you can submit your questions to bluejaysmailbag@gmail.com

In the meantime, here are plenty of leftovers from Alex Anthopoulos’ debriefing with the media on Thursday morning:

On Kelly Johnson accepting arbitration…

“It was expected. I had spoken to his agent and it was expected. It’s a good outcome for us. I think either way it would have worked but we’re a better club right now with Kelly Johnson on this team.”

Game plan moving forward…

“I think there are a lot of areas we could still address. You’d always love if you could add a bat to the middle of the lineup — that would be great. Realistically, I don’t know how possible that would be and right now I don’t see us being able to do that but things could change.

“I would love to add a mid to front rotation starter, again, that’s easier said than done because I think every team in the game is going to look to do something like that.

We definitely still need to solidify our bullpen. We’ve taken care of the ninth inning but we still need to take care of the eighth inning and continue to build that depth.”

Would you be okay with the status quo in the starting rotation…

“I guess I would be okay with it. The one thing is we have a lot of depth with young arms and young starters but they are young and there’s always an unknown there with how they’re going to react. But at the same time there’s value to getting those guys the innings and I think they all have the ability to click and do very well for us.”

Strictly trades to improve the bullpen or would you sign a free agent…

“I think it will be a combination of both. I think you’re always going to end up signing one or two free agent relievers. Sometimes it’s Minor League free agents and there are some guys we’re going to look at in trade too. So, getting those late innings eighth inning guys I see that being via trade rather than in terms of free agents but that could change as well.”

On what was accomplished this week…

“I think anytime we get together and we have meetings you move the ball forward. You continue to have dialogue and you continue to narrow your scope, narrow your focus, and realize things can happen or can’t happen.

“I definitely leave these meetings with more information, more of a sense of what it would take to get things done than before I got here. I felt the same way at the GM meetings. I think each time we get together, each time we have dialogue with teams, free agents, you have a better sense of what you can get done.”

Reaction to Pujols signing…

“I think Jerry DiPoto is going to be a great GM, I really mean that. I was really impressed with him when I dealt with him a little bit when he was with the Arizona Diamondbacks. If I’m an Anaheim fan I’m very excited that he’s there and I think he’s going to do great things.”

On the Angels giving Pujols a 10-year contract…

“He’s one of the great players in the game, a Hall of Famer. There are certainly players that are above and beyond anything else. I think everyone has their own philosophies and things like that. I think we’ve been pretty clear what ours is. I’m never one to really have an opinion on what other teams are doing, the parameters of what everyone else has, and things they do and why. They have their own reasons for doing that but Anaheim has always been a great club, great ownership and they’re going to continue to be one of the better teams in the AL.”

How does Darvish compare to Dice-K…

“I wouldn’t get into specifics about how good I think a player is going to be or isn’t going to be. Maybe after players are signed and things like that I would be a lot more to commenting about abilities and things like that. But there’s no doubt it he’s a very talented player.”

Could you go to Rogers and ask for more funds…

“We don’t need to. I have more than enough resources to put a good product and a competitive team on the field. It’s on me to be able to do it. There has never been an issue with that, there hasn’t been a problem at all with all of that stuff.

“That being said, if there’s something out there that makes a lot of sense, we always have the ability to go to ownership. They’ve always been willing to help and try to make the team better.”

On Wednesday you said you would consider Johnson in LF. Is that still the case?

“Right now we don’t have a second baseman — he would be the second baseman as of right now. But we know the fact that he has played left field and we think he did a fine job with it back when he did it with Atlanta. We have the ability to do that, so if some opportunity does present itself, knowing that we have the ability to shift him that’s definitely encouraging from our standpoint because it does keep from a roster construction standpoint a lot more flexibility on my end.”

Are you surprised Johnson didn’t have more suitors?

“It’s hard to say because I wasn’t necessarily in the second base market. I was one foot in and one foot out because I didn’t know. We never really went after anybody, I didn’t engage any agents because I was very clear from the outset that we were waiting on Kelly to find out what was going to happen. The landscape and the dynamics of other teams, and what their needs were, I don’t know a lot of teams that have a need at that position.

“I think we had a clear cut hole there, we had a clear cut need and I can’t speak for Kelly but I think the five weeks that he was here, I think he enjoyed his time. Beyond that, from our standpoint, sure if he left we would have gotten two draft picks but I think the players we would have had to give up in trade would have been significantly better than the two draft picks. From that respect, one, I think we are a stronger team and two we’ve kept some of younger players.”

Are you a better team now than at the end of the season…

“I believe we’re a more talented team now but we still have holes. Our core talent continues to improve. We still need to fill in the remaining relievers, we’re hoping some of our younger players continue to take a stride forward. I would say the biggest thing is I don’t think we lost a core piece in the off-season so far, we added one. From my standpoint that’s an improvement because that’s what we need to do.

“I just would like to have depth. Casey did a nice job for us but we’re that much stronger if he can pitch in the seventh inning. The more we can solidify that bullpen and make it that much stronger the better off we’re going to be.

Depth to make another big deal?

“We’re pretty deep in terms of minor-league players, that being said we’re not looking to trade all of them. But the minor-leagues are there to either help the big-league club by coming up there and playing or to use them in trade, and not all of them are going to pan out. If you take a Baseball America top 30, all 30 of them are not going to be playing for you, we don’t have room. At some point players are going to be used in trade and I think from our standpoint, timing is very important, whether it’s where their value is, if they’re block. I think timing is very important.”

Winter Meetings Day 3 — Evening Edition

Lots of leftovers from today’s extended media session with Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos. You can find an article outlining Toronto’s current financial situation on the main site and another article stating that second baseman Kelly Johnson is very likely to accept salary arbitration prior to Wednesday night’s deadline. I’ll also be updating the piece on Johnson when his decision becomes final shortly after midnight eastern.

Please don’t forget that you can follow me on Twitter @gregorMLB. In the meantime, here are the Anthopoulos leftovers for your enjoyment:

On saying he had to work under payroll parameters…

“Everything is great and I think all my intention with that was, we’re here, we’re negotiating with teams, we’re negotiating with agents. Everyone reads media, they read newspapers and I think it has been just so overblown that the Toronto Blue Jays have trucks of money sitting here and we’re just going to sign blank checks for players, trades, this and that. It just doesn’t work that way.

“That doesn’t mean we don’t have a lot of room to operate with. We don’t have a lot of ability to acquire players, sign free agents, do things like that and there’s also things we don’t believe in — starting with me.

“This is all relative to where our team is and as we continue to build, if the right opportunity presents itself with our team we’re going to continue to explore it and have the ability to do it.”

“I’ve had agents and teams say, well you have all this money. It’s not about that, it doesn’t work that way. I feel like my reputation with teams or media wise is pretty honest and if I come out and say something to somebody directly, and certainly from a media standpoint, for the most part I don’t plan things or misdirect things or use the media to send a mixed signal.

“It’s just taken on such a life that I think every agent feels like we can just spend whatever we want to spend and it doesn’t work that way.

What about adding salary in trades…

“It all depends with where we’re at … have we added anybody, things like that. But sure. Now if I’ve done five other things and added five other $10 million players then maybe it doesn’t make any sense. But there’s no question, if I see value then I’ll go and sit down with Paul.

Does not receiving revenue sharing under the new CBA change things…

“(Paul Beeston) abhorred the fact that we received any revenue sharing money because he knows what we can be and where we can go and the upside. He feels we should ultimately be one of the teams that should be paying into it. We are a large market club. The CBA has shown that, we know that, and I think everyone is starting to realize that we’re absolutely a large market club. We’re not
there yet in terms of tapping into our potential and that’s because the product is not as good as it needs to be.

“That’s why we’re trying to build it the right way. As much as we want to do it fast, if it’s done in a short sighted manner it won’t last and it will be torn apart again.”

Did the timing of Kelly Johnson’s modified Type-A status negatively impact his value…

“I don’t think so. Plenty of time to get a deal done. We’ve seen deals get done — Jerry Hairston just signed a two year deal. I think everyone looks at the Winter Meetings as a time where things come to a head. Maybe it’s because of arbitration deadlines and things like that, but no, I think free agent market has been slow to begin with.”

On attempting to trade for an upgrade at SP still under contract for a few years...

“No club looks to trade that type of player. The same way the White Sox weren’t looking to trade Sergio Santos. There is no motivation on behalf of clubs to trade young, controllable players. You need to do something to make them motivated and that means pay a high price.

On adding a veteran SP for depth…

“We’d be very open to doing that and we’ve talked about that as well. Ideally we’d like to get a mid rotation guy and so on. It ultimately depends on who that guy is going to take innings from. Maybe there is someone right now that needs a little bit more time in the Minor Leagues, needs a bit more work or we need to create that depth. But we’d have to explain that or we’d want them to come in and compete.

“We’ll look in that market and be open to it because it’s a young rotation and as we sit here right now you don’t know how McGowan is going to react, Alvarez just came up, Drabek obviously didn’t establish himself yet, Cecil was down at the start but I thought pitched well after he came back.”

Have you talked to other teams in case Johnson declines arbitration…

“There’s no question I’ve had backup plans and I’ve had dialogue with other teams about second base options and free agents.

“We offered on Kelly Johnson because we were fine with whatever outcome. Either he comes back or we get the draft picks. We’re fine, we’re happy, it’s a good outcome, it’s a no lose for us.”

Anthopoulos on Rule 5 Draft

The annual Rule 5 Draft will take place on Thursday morning at the Hilton Anatole Hotel in Dallas. It’s the final event before the Winter Meetings officially come to an end but the Blue Jays are going to have to do some roster shuffling if they want to become involved.

Toronto currently does not have any openings on its 40-man roster to select any players. The club didn’t select anyone last year and it’s very possible a similar approach will be taken again but a spot on the roster will need to be opened up on Wednesday night if that plan changes,

“We may create a spot,” Toronto GM Alex Anthopoulos said. “There is a very select group of guys that we would consider in the Rule 5. We’re trying to determine if we think they’ll get to us. If there’s a strong possibility that they won’t we won’t create a spot. If we think there’s a chance we may create a spot.”

Anthopoulos also ruled out taking a player that could potentially make the 25-man roster but not have a major impact down the road. For example, if he selects a reliever it’s because Anthopoulos thinks he has a chance to be a set-up man and not just someone who can fill out the seventh spot in the bullpen.

“For me, I know there have been a lot of very successful Rule 5 picks but I’m more of a ceiling guy when it comes to the Rule 5,” Anthopoulos said. “Some teams look at it like, let’s just get someone who can be on the big league roster, and there’s some value to that, I’d rather be aggressive and go ceiling, swing for the fences for the pick if we can.”

A player selected in the Rule 5 Draft must remain on his new club’s 25-man roster for the entire season or be offered back to his original team. 

Blue Jays find their closer

The Blue Jays acquired right-hander Sergio Santos from the White Sox for prospect Nestor Molina on Tuesday afternoon.

Santos is expected to take over the closer’s role for Toronto. He went 4-5 with a 3.55 ERA and 30 saves in 36 opportunities for the White Sox in 2011.

Molina became one of the Blue Jays top prospects this past season with a breakout campaign for both Class-A Dunedin and Double-A New Hampshire. Molina went a combined 12-3 with  a 2.21 ERA in 130 1/3 innings in the Minor Leagues.

Santos arrives in Toronto with a club-friendly contract. He is set to earn a total of $8.25 million over the next three seasons followed by three club options. Molina could earn $6-million in 2015, $8-million in 2016 and $8.75 in 2017.

Update — *8:20 p.m. 

I’ll have my own reaction to the trade in a post on Wednesday morning but in the meantime make sure you check out my piece that outlines the trade and also another article that deals with Santos’ reaction to the trade / background information about how he made the transition from shortstop to the mound.

You can also follow me on Twitter @gregorMLB. Here some leftovers from today’s coverage:

John Farrell:

 How happy are you about the new acquisition today?

“Extremely happy.  You know, we were able to get a guy that ‑‑ Alex outlined very clearly that for potentially the next six years, he’s a Toronto Blue Jay, and to get someone that’s got such strike‑out ability for that role that late in the game, an area that we came into this winter meetings as a focal point to address, we were able to do that.  We gave up a good pitcher, a guy that we really believed in, even though he’s a guy that was just pitching in Double‑A, but gave up a very good pitcher to get a quality closer.”

Do you feel like now it’ll be easier to let the rest of the bullpen fall into place in some sort of order of roles?

“Well, depending on what our bullpen ultimately looks like, the fact that we’ve got someone to build back to and work from the ninth inning back towards the middle of the game, sure, I think that stability, that known commodity is what every team strives to put in place, and we were able at that do that here today.”

What were your observations of him?  I know you didn’t see him pitch much, but from what you saw.

“You know, always have seen him quickly in the last two years.  It’s a remarkable story when you think of a position player to make that quick of a transition and to have dominating stuff as he does, power arm with a well above average slider, and you look at the strikeout rates, again, if you try to draw up a profile this is the type of stuff, you’re looking to put in the ninth inning.”

Given his relative inexperience, how close to a finished product is he?

“You know, I don’t know that any player is ever a finished product.  You’re always evolving, you’re always making adjustments to the league and to your opponents and to Father Time.  I don’t know what his ultimate product is.  I just know he’s got a very good arm with two well above average pitches, and a guy that we’re confident in is going to close out a lot of games for us.”

But he doesn’t strike you as a raw pitcher at this point?  Does he have a pretty good idea what he wants to do or do you see some evolution there?

“I’ll probably reserve comment on that until getting a chance to see him day in and day out, but there is some electric type stuff from a right‑handed closer.  Again, I think you just look at the strike out rates, and that’s one indicator that the fewer balls put in play, the better off I think we’ll all be.”

I know he would have faced those teams before, but is there an adjustment coming in facing teams he’ll face on a regular basis?

“I mean, you’ve got good lineups in every division, so to say that the lineups in the East are better than any others is probably disrespecting everybody in the American League or in Interleague play.

“The ninth inning in and of itself is a unique setting, and the fact that he saved 30 this past year gives us a lot of confidence with his experience at least in that one year and the success rate that he had.  This is a great acquisition by Alex and the rest who have been able to work this deal.”

Alex Anthopoulos:

Thoughts on the trade…

“Molina is a guy that they liked for a long time and we didn’t want to move him. Obviously he’s one of our better prospects, definitely it was a tough one.

“But at the same time we’re getting a guy that we feel has a chance to be an elite closer in the American League. He fits the profile of years of control with six years and the strikeout stuff for the lineup he’s going to face.”

How hard was it to pull the trigger…

“It’s hard, you can get guys to close games, but to find someone who has a chance to be elite and under contract for that period of time, at the end of the day we had to pay a steep price and it was not easy to do. We certainly had a split camp internally because we think very highly of Molina but where our team is right now, where our payroll is right now, all of those things made sense for us.”

Depth in the Minors help make this deal possible….

“It’s part of it but I think more than anything else, the years of control, the salaries, and where our team is currently with the core of the team that we have in place, and what our needs and alternatives are. This is someone that fits right into the timeframe of the other parts of our core and we still do have a lot of prospects but we’re not going to look to trade all of them just because we have depth in certain areas.

“It took some time to really wrap our heads around it. There were a lot of heated debates in the room about it but ultimately I just felt with everything that we have going on this makes sense for us.”

On the budget…

“I have parameters to work with, with respect to the payroll and so on. This gives me flexibility to do some other things and that was definitely a very appealing part of this and the years of control were very appealing. We’re not talking about a Molina unless we’re getting a lot of years of control.”

Does this signify that you’re ready to win now…

“We’re definitely trying to move the team forward, there’s no question. We have some players in the prime of their careers, we have some players that we think are only going to improve. So there’s no question we’re trying to win and get better each year but we’re not going to take shortcuts because we do want to win a team that has a chance to win over a long period of time. That’s why the years of control are so important.”

Sergio Santos:

Were you surprised by the deal…

“A little bit. It was definitely a shock at first, but the writing was on the wall as far as Chicago’s stance, kind of what they were going to do, I didn’t think I was going to be part of those plans, but here I am and I’m excited to be with a new team, and going in the direction Toronto’s going in.”

Best pitch…

“I think everything is off my fastball. In order for me to have an effective slider, I have to be locating my fastball in and out consistently to put that in hitters’ minds. I do have a good changeup, I would need to be more consistent with it, that’s something I’m going to really work on this year to take my game to the next level.”

On the man in white… what’s the real story…

“I have no idea. Hopefully whoever it is, if he’s there, if he’s not there, if he’s a ghost, he’s a help in helping guys put up monster numbers and they score some runs for us and we can win some games.”

More on being surprised…

“It’s a little weird, but exciting at the same time. The hard part is you sign an extension and like where you are at. I’m thinking that hopefully I can be here for the next six years of the contract, or at least the next three. But this kind of happens in the business side of it. So you move on from there and see what happens.”

What he learned from first year of closing…

“Just erase your mind and clear your mind after a bad day and even after a good day. It’s a good thing to pull out of the experience.”

Disappointed or excited…


“A little bit of both. It’s tough leaving a city and team you love and carried about to go to something that’s different. I know Toronto a little bit, we’ll see how it goes.”

Elliott’s day to shine

Bob Elliott finally received the recognition he deserved on Tuesday morning when the Baseball Writers’ Association of America named him the winner of the J.G. Taylor Spink Award for meritorious service to the profession. Elliott becomes the first Canadian to win the award and he will be honoured at the annual National Baseball Hall of Fame induction weekend ceremonies on July 21-22 in Cooperstown, N.Y.

Please take a moment to read my colleague Barry Bloom’s article on Elliott to get some insight into his career and how he evolved into one of the game’s best reporters. I won’t get into too much of that here because it’s covered elsewhere but I wanted to take a few minutes to share my personal story about Elliott and how he had a direct impact on what I do for a living.

I began to closely follow Elliott’s work in the mid-90s. When I was growing up in Saint John, New Brunswick, I wasn’t exactly exposed to a lot of quality sports journalism. Sure, I subscribed to Sports Illustrated and occasionally was able to find a Baseball Weekly at a local convenience store but for the most part I didn’t have access to the day-to-day coverage that normally comes from the big daily newspapers.

All of that changed when I was in middle school and my parents got the internet — suddenly I could read the complete sports sections of the Toronto newspapers. Even though I was 1,300 kilometers away I was able to follow the Blue Jays just like everyone in Ontario could and it became part of my daily routine to read up on what was new with the club.

This was around the time when I really started to pay close attention to Elliott’s work. It never ceased to amaze me the amount of sources he had and the inside information he was able to pass along to his readers. I couldn’t get enough of the rumours as he consistently beat his competitors to gather intel around the trade deadline and of course the Winter Meetings.

What became clear over the years is that Elliott was one of the most connected writers this country has ever known. He successfully became an insider by developing relationships with scouts, front-office personnel and of course players of the team he covered. Perhaps, even more importantly, Elliott was a crusader for Baseball Canada. He made sure the national program received an appropriate amount of coverage and in my opinion he did an incredible job growing the game inside the great country of ours.

A couple of years after I started following Elliott’s work I began to contemplate my own future in journalism. I had no idea how to get started and whether it was even a realistic dream for a kid growing up in the Maritimes to cover a Major League Baseball team. So, in an effort to answer some of the many questions I had, I reached out to Mr. Elliott. I emailed him asking him for recommendations of universities, tips on how to improve my writing, how to get published, etc etc.

Thankfully, Elliott took the time to respond with a well thought out answer. In fact he replied several times over the next few months and played a big role in helping me decide exactly what I wanted to do with my life. I put off getting a journalism degree until grad school but I used my time at St. Francis Xavier University to build up my portfolio and freelance to as many newspapers as I possibly could.

When I finally arrived in Toronto during the fall of 2005 it wasn’t lost on me how much of an impact Elliott had on my career. To him, I was probably just one of hundreds of kids who emailed him with questions but I wanted him to know that the fact he took the time to reach out helped guide me along the way. So I emailed with details of how I arrived in Toronto to chase the journalism dream — he replied again and it’s an email I still have in my Inbox six years later.

“Gregor:

Thanks very much for the nice note. It is a keeper. Sounds like StFX kept you busy.

That’s the ticket — getting your stories published in Telegraph Journal. Hope you kept the clips, so you can use them down-the-road job applications.

Keep chasing the dream and good luck.”

I eventually had the opportunity to work with Elliott during my time with the Toronto Sun. That continued on the Blue Jays beat after I decided to leave the Sun for MLB.com. He’s a man that I will always respect and someone I largely credit with helping me take my own path in this career. It might seem overly simplistic to him, but if he didn’t take the time to respond to me then it’s possible I wouldn’t have been convinced this was the right path for me to take.

Many thanks go out to him and it’s a well-deserved day of recognition for one of Canada’s best.

Day 1 Winter Meetings — Evening edition

Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos met with the Toronto media on Monday afternoon to discuss Day 1 of the annual Winter Meetings at the Hilton Anatole Hotel in Dallas. The main recap of today’s events can be found on the main but here is a bunch of stuff that didn’t make its way into the main piece.

Don’t forget that you can follow me on Twitter @gregorMLB for complete coverage and links to all of my articles from this week’s event.

On initial impressions Day 1….

“I feel like when I come to these meetings, a lot of time you lay more ground work than anything and you get things done after you leave. Certainly things can develop, but it seems to me like a lot of stuff is maybe big free agent signings, you go to the podium, things like that, which I wouldn’t expect (from us).

“Trades wise we’re just continuing to have dialogue. I don’t feel a pressure that it needs to be done over the next few days. You’re having that much more intense conversations with multiple teams, I’d prefer to take all of the information back and sit down rather than rush to make a decision.”

“There is the frame work of a lot of things that we can do but we’re not real excited to do them and we don’t necessarily feel they are the best deals for the club right now.”

On Sunday you referenced the five-yard line in describing the status of current trades. What’s changed between Sunday and Monday…

“It might have been the wrong choice of words. I guess what I meant by that is we’ve explored enough things with teams. Let’s say we’ve asked about a certain player, we’ve massaged it and gone back and forth enough times that it’s probably not moving from what it is right now and this is what it is. Do we want to do it or not?

“Maybe the five yard line means we’re close to getting it done and that’s why it was the wrong choice of words. I guess what I would say is the framework of certain deals is for the most part there and we just have to make a decision if we want to do it or not. The decision as we sit here today is that we don’t want to make those deals.”

On the current market in free agency and trades…

“Talking to other GMs it seems unanimous, at least from my conversations with them, that both the free agent market and the trade market are moving very slowly.

“It just seems like everything is pushed back so much. Whether it’s CBA, whether it’s the asking prices both in trades and free agency are higher than normal I don’t know but it definitely feels like it’s moved a lot slower.

“We’re not as advanced. I think we’re a few weeks behind of where were in the past.”

On whether he’s able to explore multiple trade/free agent options at once….

“You’re doing multiple because you have a lot of time in the day and there are a lot of meetings. Some meetings you just know they’re not really going to go anywhere, or you just have a sense, you walk out of the room and you know what the price is but you don’t really want to pay it.”

Did Papelbon and Bell set the market for relievers…

“I don’t think so. I think those guys are a cut above. Papelbon, clearly, you look at the track record and what he has done. I think Bell, the same way, 40-plus saves three years in a row and an elite closer. I think it’s all slotting in accordingly. You look at Nathan coming in, he came in below Bell. I think everyone is slotting approximately where you’d be expecting them too.”

On Kelly Johnson’s arbitration decision on Tuesday night…

“If Kelly accepts it’s under the understanding that it’s a one-year non-guaranteed deal but doesn’t mean it couldn’t become more than that.”

Second base, what do you need most from that position…

“I think we’re always looking to (increase) on-base percentage. You look at the best lineups in the American League East, they grind. On base is a big one and it’s obviously becoming expensive. But on-base percentage is important.”

What about defensively from a second baseman…

“I think second base, historically, it’s one position you can get away with below average defense and I think you’ve seen it with a lot of players … You see a lot of players that might not be great defenders but have long careers at that position.”

On Jeff Mathis…

“There’s no question he was a non-tender candidate … but for us there was no harm because Brad Mills did a nice job for us but there was a very real scenario that Brad Mills was going to come off the 40-man at some point with some of the needs that we were going to have. There was no downside to having Jeff’s rights for a little bit of time and at least being able to explore it.” 

Are any of your prospects untouchable…

“As a general philosophy, I don’t believe that anyone is untradeable as everyone could be had for the right price. I just think sometimes the price is so exuberant that it makes the player untradeable but I think keeping an open mind like that it’s going to open up more options and it lets other teams know that hopefully we’re creative and we’re open minded to trying to get something done.”

Adding a lefty in the bullpen a priority?

“It would be nice just because of the AL East you always like to have someone. You look at some of the lineups we face but again it’s not going to be just for the sake of adding just because someone throws from the left side. They’re going to have to be someone we feel can really impact, really get the tough left-handers out late in the game.

Are you concerned that adding a closer might block a younger pitcher?

“I think if you pitch, you’re not blocked. If you’re a position player you can be blocked. If you pitch you don’t get blocked because if you catch only one other guy can catch … if you pitch there are five spots in the rotation and seven spots in the bullpen. There is always a spot for you. I just think on the mound that’s why you don’t see many arms get traded because they’re rarely blocked.”

Regarding Lind’s offseason conditioning program and reflecting on his 2011 season…

“He talked about how he just wore down. Obviously he got hurt, his back, his wrist … He had never really played a full season at one position and he worked so hard in Spring Training, ground balls, played almost every game at first. He hadn’t played a full-time position in six years or more, he was
not accustomed to that and I think he really felt the toll in the second half and he wore down.

“I think he now knows how to prepare for a whole season at the position. He knows to back off from his work in Spring Training … I think Adam now knows to pace himself with the body to prepare himself for that position. It’s going to allow him to stay fresh from start to finish”

Day 1 at the Winter Meetings — afternoon edition

Day 1 here at the Hilton Anatole Hotel in Dallas has gotten off to a relatively slow start. There haven’t been any major moves made by any club and even the rumors seem to be somewhat lacking compared to Sunday’s pre-meetings buzz.

Toronto did find itself in some of the lobby talk but just like everything else at this time of year that news needs to be taken with a grain of salt. The first came from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch who reported the Blue Jays are believed to be a potential player for Albert Pujols, which is something I don’t believe even for a second.

Foxsports.com then reported the Blue Jays had some interest in Atlanta’s Martin Prado and that rumour does make a lot of sense. Prado would be a nice replacement at second base for the likely departure of free agent Kelly Johnson but there might not be a suitable match between the two clubs. The Braves are in the market for a power hitting left fielder and they are reportedly not sold on the upside of Eric Thames

A few other items I heard today…

Former Rockies closer Huston Street remains on the trading block and Colorado is extremely high on the Blue Jays’ crop of young pitchers in the Minor Leagues. As of Monday afternoon, though, it didn’t appear as though there was a match because Toronto is reluctant to part with some of that high-end talent for Street. I didn’t hear any specific Blue Jays pitchers mentioned but a quick look at last year’s pitching staff at Double-A New Hampshire and it’s not hard to pick out a few names that the Rockies likely would be interested in. 

Oakland’s Andrew Bailey also remains on the block and A’s appear to want some power at the plate in return. If the A’s aren’t interested in Thames then there aren’t a lot of other players who are close to the Major Leagues that fit the bill from Toronto. David Cooper could be part of a deal but he managed to hit just nine home runs in Triple-A Las Vegas which doesn’t project very well in the Majors.

Today’s other rumor on Monday involved Kansas City relievers Joakim Soria and Greg Holland. The Royals are reportedly looking for help in the starting rotation and Toronto has some depth to spare at the back end of the staff so that’s a story worth following as the week unfolds.

The Toronto media will be meeting with Alex Anthopoulos at 4 p.m. ET and I’ll have a full recap of that available on bluejays.com later today. Also, don’t forget you can follow me on Twitter @gregorMLB 

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