Let the madness begin

I’m happy to report that I have arrived in Dallas where the annual Winter Meetings will officially begin on Monday morning at the Hilton Anatole. It’s the time of year that’s hard not to enjoy if you’re a fan of baseball. There aren’t any games to watch but it’s an opportunity for fans to put on their GM caps and dive into all the rumblings and rumours of the hotstove.

My plane had barely touched down in the Lone Star State before talk quickly turned to the Blue Jays and what they have in store this week. A report surfaced that Toronto was considered a front runner to sign All-Star first baseman Prince Fielder. It’s important to note that most of that talk originated from south of the border as it has been pretty clear for some time to members of the Toronto media that Fielder would not be of serious interest to the Blue Jays unless his asking price significantly dropped.

But that didn’t stop the rumour from taking on a life of its own. It was enough to force general manager Alex Anthopoulos address the issue before the Winter Meetings even opened for business. 

“I don’t comment on rumours on players and free agents,” Anthopoulos told Richard Griffin of the Toronto Star

“All that being said, I expect to be linked to practically every player. I guess I would say from a media and fan standpoint, as a rule of thumb, if something leaks, then it’s probably inaccurate, or if it leaks that it’s done, then it’s probably done.”

Anthopoulos has been saying for the past few weeks that he would like to avoid having to dip into the free agent market to sign someone to a lucrative multi-year deal. The competition between teams to acquire those type of players often drive the asking price — both in dollars and length — to the point where it doesn’t make a lot of economic sense. 

There’s little doubt that inserting a slugger like Fielder into the Blue Jays’ lineup season would be a significant upgrade on offense. What type of value Fielder would bring to Toronto in five, six, seven, maybe even eight or nine years from now is an entirely different matter and Anthopoulos always makes moves with one eye on the present and one eye on the future. 

Some fans might not like that approach but it’s hard to argue with the logic. Anthopoulos wants to build a winner and then add a missing piece or two through free agency to keep the momentum going. Toronto might be on its way to that type of status but they’re not there yet. Afterall, it wasn’t that long ago that the Blue Jays took the baseball hotstove by storm with their signing of A.J. Burnett, B.J. Ryan and trading for Troy Glaus and we all saw how that worked out. Spending more money isn’t always the solution unless it’s done wisely.

Just because the Blue Jays don’t appear to actually be in the running for Fielder that doesn’t mean Anthopoulos will necessarily have a quiet week here in Dallas. Expect Toronto’s GM to be very aggressive on the trade front and he has a very large group of young, controllable players that could attract a lot of interest. If an elite starting pitcher suddenly becomes available from another team Anthopoulos likely will work hard to pull the trigger on a deal.

Toronto also remains in the market for a starting second baseman and of course the much talked about vacancy at closer. It could be a busy week, and even if it’s not, a lot of the groundwork for the coming weeks likely will be put in place at the Hilton Anatole and when things wrap up on Thursday we’ll likely have a much clearer vision of what Anthopoulos has in store for 2012. 

We’ll have all the Blue Jays news for you right here on bluejays.com. I’ll be writing daily recaps at the end of each day on the main site, a recap of John Farrell‘s scrum on Tuesday and of course breaking news as it happens. My blog will also have daily notebooks on some items that don’t make it onto the main site and my thoughts on any moves the Blue Jays do end up making.

Don’t forget… you can also follow me on Twitter @gregorMLB

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