Reaction to McGowan extension

Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos is known for catching people off guard with his moves but usually that is reserved for trades. On Monday afternoon, though,  Anthopoulos pulled another trick out of his hat by announcing he had signed Dustin McGowan to a two-year contract extension worth $3-million plus a club option in 2015 valued at $4 million, which can be bought out for $500,000.

I don’t think anyone saw this deal coming — at least not this early in the year. It was a calculated risk for the Blue Jays but one that comes with a relatively minimal downfall if things don’t pan out. The $3-million in guaranteed money is not going to make a difference to the club’s bottom line and won’t impact which players the club can pursue in the future. Sure, it’s still a lot of money but when compared to the amounts handed out in the First-Year Player Draft and international signings it’s relatively similar and both come with high risk and high reward.

There’s no way of knowing whether McGowan will be able to stay healthy but the fact that he has been throwing in the mid 90s during Spring Training is an encouraging sign. The walk rate needs to be lowered and command within the strikezone needs improvement but what else would you expect from a pitcher who has thrown just 21 innings during the past three years in the Major Leagues. He still needs plenty of work to shake off the rust but now the club can take all the time it needs in the development process without worrying about McGowan leaving like Al Leiter and Chris Carpenter did before him.

Here are today’s leftovers from this morning’s press conference to announce the two-year deal…

Alex Anthopoulos:

Why now…

“There’s no question there’s a risk but that’s part of what we have to do. The one thing is, I’d be lying through my teeth if I said there isn’t a risk, of course there are health concerns, of course there’s risk that’s just a reality of what he has gone through. But at the same time, I find I’ve learned as an assistant GM and then going into GM, the one thing I think I’ll put my head on the pillow as we do more of these is the person we invest in.

“I know I say it, I know it sounds corny, or cliche, but I believe in it more and more each year. If you give the money to the right human being — and obviously you have to have ability, the ability speaks for itself — but if you believe in the person, most times you’re going to be right more than you’re wrong. Whether you’re a little high on the money, a little low, at the end of the day the mistakes I find we’ve made as an organization we may not have done an evaluation of the person first and foremost. Whatever happens, from here forward, it’s not going to be because he isn’t going to work, it’s not because he isn’t going to be a tremendous teammate, it’s not going to be because he isn’t going to lead my example. He’s going to do everything how we want it to be.

“Now you start lining up in the rotation with a Romero, Morrow, a McGowan. All have great ability but the way they carry themselves, the way they handle themselves, the way they go about it day in and day out, for all the young kids that continue to come, we’ve now really set up a formula and a module for how this is going to be done and these guys are going to impact everyone else.”

Did Chris Carpenter situation affect this move?

“I wasn’t here, I wasn’t part of the organization. I know Chris is great, he has developed to become a great starter but I didn’t know the dynamics there. I just know that even when (McGowan) came up last year and the numbers weren’t great, from a scouting standpoint I still loved what I saw. I loved the delivery, I loved the stuff. But at the same time we’re not blind to the fact that yeah, there’s a ton of risk here. But, again, in this division with what we’re up against and what we’re trying to do we have to take a little bit more risk or maybe a lot more risk than a lot of the other teams and that’s part of it. But I’ll take the risk on the right human being and if you bet on the human being you’re going to be fine.

“I think at the end of the day, if we wanted him to be here, and he wanted to be here, you always end up getting a deal done. Just the distraction and the time involved of getting these things done during the season, things can change and so on, it’s always better to do it offseason or even Spring Training at the latest. If it would have had to go into the season we would have done that we would have done that as well but I prefer not to.

Element of risk for McGowan here as well…

“I think in anything, when a player signs a multi-year deal, you should be rooting to outperform your contract. That’s really the goal of these things. If you don’t outperform your contract, well sure financially it was good for you but that probably means your career isn’t going too well and that probably means you’re not having any success on the field, fans, media. From a front office standpoint it probably doesn’t look good on our end. Any time you sign a deal you’re guaranteeing yourself that money, you’re eliminating the risk but you’re hopeful that you outperform it and that there’s a second contract that comes to that.

“I always say that the downside to a player not taking a deal is significantly worse than a player saying I cost myself a little bit of money and oh, you know what there’s a second big deal that’s coming down the pipe and that has happened a lot of times in this game.”

Why two years as opposed to one…

“That was more us. Obviously we’re the ones making the contract offer, we’re the ones making the proposal. On the flip side, you could argue that well, one year it’s less guaranteed money. From our standpoint, he’s going to need to be built up over time. I don’t think he’s going to go to 200 innings or what not during the year. Knowing that we’re going to take him carefully and slowly build him up we wanted to be sure he was going to be here for a certain amount of time as he continues to build up as a starter. I think the years were important with respect to knowing he was going to be here for awhile considering the fact that we were going to build him up. That was something we requested and wanted and it was just a matter of coming up with what the right dollars were in terms of the option and everything else with the options.”

Paul Beeston was really upset when Al Leiter left as a free agent. Did you guys have any conversation about losing a guy you put so much time into?

“Just talking internally there was a lot of sentiment in the front office why are we doing this now? Let’s just wait. It’s not that everyone doesn’t love him and believes in him. But obviously Paul gives me a lot of autonomy. He always says I’m held accountable and he doesn’t want me to come back to him two years, three years from now, a lot of times I make trades he says I don’t want you coming back to me two or three years from now saying I didn’t allow you to do something. If you want to do something I’ll let you do something but you’re going to be accountable for it either way. From my standpoint, I wanted him to be here either way.

“If you know you want to be here then why not get a deal done unless you know you want to be somewhere else. I can tell you from my standpoint, I know my contract status has never been revealed but I want to be here so I don’t care what the money is. It’s kind of the same thing and I don’t care if other GMs make more money, this is where I want to be, it’s my first priority. It’s the same kind of thing with me, talking to my wife, if this is where you want to be, you’re happier. We’ve seen a lot of players go to places where they didn’t want to be because of money and end up getting traded, not happy and things don’t go well. I think there was going to be loyalty either way on both sides. I think we could have talked about it during the season, I think we could have talked about it at the end of the season. But I think we have a very competitive team and we wanted the focus to be on the field.”

Are you saying that Paul was skeptical?

“No, not at all but he always takes the other side. No matter what I bring to him, I come to him with an idea, I might be gung ho a certain way and he’ll say have you thought about this, this, and this. But Paul endorsed it 100%. When I walked Paul through the thought process and why he totally endorsed it.”

Dustin McGowan:

On the deal…

“It feels great. Toronto is where I wanted to be and it’s the only place I’ve ever been. The organization stuck by me the entire time. I’m grateful for that and I wanted to continue it here.”

Were you surprised…

“I was a little surprised, yeah. But when he talked to me I was very thrilled and looking forward to getting it going.”

Was there a point when you wondered if the Blue Jays were going to stick by you?

“Yeah, I guess going through that many years of being injured you’re always going to wonder. It’s just like wondering if I would ever pitch again but they stayed with me and it made me continue to work harder just because I knew they wanted me here and they seen something in me. This is where I wanted to be.”

Weight lifted off your shoulders now?

“Any time you get something done like this it’s just another thought in your mind that you don’t have to think about. Do I think about going out and performing just to get a contract next year? This eliminates all of that. It gives me a little bit of security and gives me a chance to just focus on pitching.”

Did you sign this deal because of the guaranteed money or out of a sense of obligation?

“A lot of both. Any time you’re guaranteed money you want to take it no matter what probably the deal is. They were very loyal to me so I have to be loyal too. It works both ways. It was one of those things where I had to sit down with my wife, we talked about it, and at the end of the day when I lay my head down to sleep at night there’s no regrets whatsoever. Even if I go out and have two or three great years people might say well you signed for, it wasn’t enough, to me it doesn’t matter. I made the deal, I’m going to stick to the deal and in my mind I made the right deal.

“There’s risk and reward. It’s a risk to hold out all year and see what happens. This way we got the deal done and I can concentrate on what I love to do and that’s pitch.”

Was there one major low point for you during your rehab?

“I don’t think there was just one. Spending three years down here it was like groundhog day. You’d have days where you’d just go out and throw and be like man I just had surgery and this still doesn’t feel good. But you go out there the next day and have a little bit of zip on the ball and things felt good and that gave hope and gave me confidence too. That always put my mind that things were going to be better and I’d get through it.”

1 Comment

It sure caught me off guard! I think it was a very wise deal to make from the Jays standpoint. One year with an option for a second would have been a deal I think both sides could have agreed on, too, and it would also have been a bit fairer to McGowan because he would have gotten a big payday a year sooner, assuming he makes it all the way back. Given what this man has been through, I wouldn’t count him out on anything. That being said, if Dustin fulfills his promise, I wouldn’t be surprised that the Jays would offer a multiyear contract extension in 2014. It may well have already been discussed.

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