Anthopoulos meets with the press

Alex Anthopoulos sat down with a group of writers before today’s victory over the Mariners. Not surprisingly, most of the talk centred around Yu Darvish, who is set to pitch against Toronto in Monday’s series opener.

On the main site, you’ll find a game preview for Darvish vs. Drabek and you’ll also find my piece on Anthopoulos denying any interest in making a move for a big bat or frontline starter this early in the season. For the rest of your Yu-mania I’m attaching a full transcript from today’s scrum.

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

Alex Anthopoulos:

On what might not gone as expected so far this year…

“Like you said, it’s an eighth of the year. It’s not to defer the question but you know that over six months you expect the numbers to be there for certain players, and you know how fast it changes.

“Remember John Buck two years ago, the first month he had been hitting .170 or something, and then he made the All-Star team. There’s a lot of guys. I remember years ago, Scott Schoeneweis, first two months was getting hit and then he went nuts and then he had a great season.

“Edwin Encarnacion last year didn’ t have his first home run for what, two months in and then he still ended up putting together a pretty good year, close to an .800 OPS.

“You know what, we’re 11-10. Obviously you always look and say, well, we could have won a few more games here-there. But it will balance out. And I don’t dwell on those because I know we’re going to steal some games down the road. We all do that – sit there, these are games we could have won and you forget the games you should have lost.

“So it will balance out. Same cliches I’ll use every year — a long season. It goes with the way you expect it to. I think, once again, after another month, we get through May we’ll have a bit more of a sense where guys are going to be.”

Any player jumped up so far and surprised him in a positive fashion?

“I’ve always though Eddie was going to be a good hitter and player. He has, he’s just been inconsistent. And he’s had a bit of a stronger start than I would have expected. But I’ve always expected him to do well. But it’s one month. But other than that — the bullpen, the starters.  Again, the starters have thrown well but they’re all capable of this.

“I don’t know that I look at anybody and say they’re over their heads. If anything I think there’s more upside, a lot of guys can play better. I don’t think you sit there and say, like when Jose Bautista had that season … no one saw that. But the talent level with the guys that are playing well we don’t sit there and say, ‘Wow, we never thought he had the talent to do that.

“So that’s all the starters as well.”

How concerned are you with McGowan, just because all he’s gone through?

“I’m not because I base it on the trainers and the doctors and so on. I always go off them. We’ve relied on them throughout the process and they’ve done a great job. It’s just like anything else, and I’m probably more at fault with this than anything else, I’m ultra conservative when it comes to the health of our players, especially guys on the mound. That’s why you’ll see us shut guys down, whether it’s prematurely or early. The smallest sign of anything I’ll err on the side of caution, whether it’s DL-ing a guy.”

With Chavez emerging and guys like Carreno, Jenkins, are you content with the depth in the event anything were to happen at the big league level?

“I don’t know that you’re ever satisfied. You can always do better. And the fact that there’s not a lot of experience. Chavez is a little older but it’s not like he’s got a lot of time up here. He’s throwing the ball great. But again he hasn’t proved it here. I give a lot of credit to our staff, to John and Bruce Walton and Pete Walker. It was there idea to put him in the rotation at the end of spring.

“But you’re always looking to get more depth. But every team is and that’s why during the winter you really need to try to build as much depth as you can, whether it’s claiming guys on waivers, signing minor league free agents. I know there’s moves that the fan base or whatever, they don’t look like they’re all that important. But if you need to get that depth during the season it’s hard to get because no one’s going to really give anything up in trade.”

What are you hearing about Darvish?

“It’s early. We’re not really scouting him. He’s not a guy I expect to be available in trades,” he said with a smile. “I’ve just seen the highlights and you see the stats like everyone else. Sounds like he had an unbelievable game against New York. But other than that it’s just, three weeks into the season, four weeks into the season, the same way if you were to ask me about Albert Pujols. We’re just not really scouting him now.”

Was it wrong to suggest that the acquisition of Darvish was risky because he wasn’t a major league player?

“Oh, sure. I think when you’re spending over $100-million on a player, no matter who it is, there’s always an element of risk there. But like anything else, obviously very talented, great stuff, good athlete. From everything that everyone knows about him, the makeup is outstanding. But again, when you’re spending that kind of money, whether it’s a player from here or a player from Japan or anywhere else, there’s always an element of risk no matter how good the players are. We’ve seen it a lot — $100-million plus deals for established players that guys get hurt, guys don’t pan out.

“So no matter how good you are there’s always an element of risk.”

Was it correct that many people started drawing comparisons to a lot of other Japanese players, like Dice-K.

“I don’t think anybody compared…we didn’t scout Dice-K when I was here. I’d never seen him, I don’t think we had anybody in the organization at the time. But even seeing him in North America. I mean it’s like saying two players from California are the same. It doesn’t mean anything. Body types, deliveries, they’re just night and day.

“I think Dice-K was a point of reference because that was another player that went through the same process, the same way that you get a guy in the draft, and a guy that went one overall or four overall or five overall. They may not be the same player whether it be college or high school. But the signing bonuses are about the same because they’re slotted in the same way.

“So Dice-K was at the time the highest ranked player, front-line starter potential. That was going to be the case no matter what. He was the only one.

“It’s the same way when we signed Adeiny Hechavarria Jose Iglesias was the comparable from the Red Sox. They’re not the same player at all. They’re bodies are different, their games are different. But they were two high-profile, Cuban shortstops. How do you come up with a price? It’s all a game of comparisons.

‘For us, we knew that Iglesias was the number going in. We knew we were going to be competing. And if you want him you’re going to have to above it to guarantee you get him. So when I think ultimately that’s what happened with Darvish, that makes all the sense in the world. If you wanted to give yourself the best chance to acquire him, you’re going to have to go over that number. It doesn’t mean you think he’s the same player.”

The cultural differences for players coming over to North America. Is that overstated?

“You know what I can’t say because we’ve never had a Japanese player. I don’t have enough experience with it.”

What about the Cuban players?

“It hasn’t been a topic. At least in our market I’ve never been asked about it. There’s some adjustments but it’s just like any kid coming from Latin America, there is a period. I don’t know that it’s been overblown because I don’t know that it’s been a story so much so. It hasn’t been a problem for us.”

Darvish – what was going through your mind about fans expectations?

“It’s like anything else. I’m following what’s going on, I’m at the winter meetings, I see TV reports on MLB Network and obviously seeing things on the internet that the Blue Jays’ payroll is going to skyrocket, and we’re going to be players for all the big free agents. I think that’s when I talked about payroll and things like that when we did the Santos trade. I think I explained it even after the fact. I felt like the train had left the station a little bit and it had gone too far out of control, and I felt like I needed to come out and say something, just to maybe – I don’t want to say temper expectations – but I always talk about wanting, as best we can, the fans to think along with us.

“That doesn’t mean they’re going to agree with us, but they understand the thought process and why, based on the information that we can give them. So that payroll component I put out there because it was talked about so much that there were no limits on payroll. We were just going to spend like drunken sailors and the payroll was going to skyrocket. That was not the case. That was not going to happen. There were parameters and so on. So that’s why I said that at the time. That was my way of trying to control it to the best of my ability without being specific about a player, because there are other competitive components to all this stuff too – negotiating with other players, trades with teams. And even, I think, at our luncheon at St. Louis, again without laying it out there, I think Paul and I both said it was highly improbable you’ll see us go after big free agents, $100-million-plus contracts and so on.

“Most likely it’ll be the trade route is what we’re going to explore first. You never know if you’re going to make a trade but I think we pretty much said it’s unlikely you’re going to see us in on big free agents. Even though I said that at St. Louis in October or November, even though I talked about payroll parameters at the winter meetings, no one believed me – which is fine. As GMs, maybe not every one is candid at times, I don’t know, but everyone I guess felt I wasn’t telling the truth, or was spinning. I’ve always tried to the best of my ability to say I’d rather not say anything than lie, and I think if I do say something, I’m pretty adamant about it or pretty accurate with it. Otherwise I won’t say anything at all, or I won’t divulge anything.

“I think I did the best of my ability to come out and say it. Whether people chose to believe it or not, that’s their right and I don’t blame them, because there are a lot of examples in sports where GMs and front office executives will send the media one way because they’re doing something else from a competitive standpoint. I haven’t needed to do that yet. I hope I don’t have to do it. I don’t plan on doing it.”

You were thinking fans would be disappointed?

“The same way we’re linked to every player, we’re linked to every trade, I’ve just become numb to it, I just accept it. This is just part of the way we do things. These are the unfortunate things that are going to happen. There are other components that I’mk trying to work through as well from a strategy standpoint – negotiations, trades. We read what every other club is quoted as saying. We try to use that to our advantage. I think clubs do the same with us. So I don’t want to lie, but I also don’t want to mislead. Sometimes I’m better off not saying anything at all, because I think lying is worse.

“I tried to say what I could. Maybe I should’ve repeated it 40 times. Maybe I should’ve reminded everybody more often. Maybe it was on me. Maybe I wasn’t emphatic enough.”

Awkward that expectations were high and you knew parameters?

“I had a GM ask me about the Darvish scenario before it was done. I said I don’t see us being really big on free agents, fitting everything into our payroll and so on. I think the comment was, ‘You’re a worse sandbagger than I am.’ I’m not sandbagging. That’s just the way it is.”

On Bautista…

“I wouldn’t say I’m worried because the bat speed is still unbelieveable. It’s just timing, mechanics, he’s hitting underneath balls, just off, but he’s hitting some balls hard too. The guy is so good and you know it’s just the way the game is. You have a lot of good players, you look at what Jeter went through last year, how well he’s doing this year, I remember Paul Konerko years ago through the All-Star Break didn’t do so well, it happens with a lot of great players. If Jose’s skills were eroding, that’s when you have a concern, but they’re not. He’s in great shape, the bat speed is unbelieveable.

“He’s a smart player, he’s going to work as hard as anybody, at some point he’s going to come out of it but I don’t know when. At some point it will click because it’s all there.”

Way you measure bat speed?

“No, I think your eyes. I don’t know. You guys can watch you, you watch him around the cage, have everybody step in and then watch Jose and watch the ball come off the bat, the speed, everything else. He’s in tremendous shape. He had a good spring but it’s like anything, some guys have bad springs and so on. I think even the year he had the huge year, in April he hit .214. There are so many examples, David Wright a few years ago had a rough first month, Mark Teixeira’s first year in New York, the list goes on and on. If there was something with his skills that’s where it would (be concerning). He’ll be fine, I just do’t know when. It’s the way the game is, you wait it out, you wait it out.”

Talk of adding another bat… a priority?

“No, and that’s how something gets blown out of proportion. I was asked on the radio in a hypothetical — which you’re always told not to answer hypotheticals — well I decided to answer it just to be a good guy so they said, you know, it was like two weeks into the season, if you think you had to add anything between now and July, if you had to predict and guess, if you’re going to look at add anything between now and July what do you think it would be?

“I’m sitting there a week into the season, my answer I believe was ‘I want to be optimistic about our rotation because we have a lot of young starters. So, being optimistic about our starters, hoping we don’t have a need for a starter, well if you don’t have a need for a starter maybe you go out and get a big bat to grind out the lineup. It wasn’t, hey we’re out there.

“I’ll give you a great one, I just read this a day ago. That we are actively and diligently out looking under every rock for a front of the rotation starter and a big bat. I’ve had zero dialogue with GMs right now on anything remotely resembling that. That’s no knock against the report but it just goes to show you how many things, it’s beyond way out there.

“That got blown out of proportion but that’s where you take a snippet of what was said and the context of the question. I probably should have just answered and said, you know what, we’re happy with our team, we’ll deal with it in July.”

Trade market stagnant because it’s so early in the season?

“Exactly. I think it’s very hard. Any dialogue that we would have had earlier, first week or two of the season, would have been a carry-over from spring. You always have talks at the end of spring on certain guys. But now until I’d say the beginning of June at the earliest, noone is really motivated. They have their teams, they want to give everybody a chance, unless somebody gets hurt and they’re out for the season for someone. But noone’s really motivated, it won’t really start until after the draft.”

Starting pitching and particular Drabek…

“Yeah, he has and they’ve all thrown really well. But I don’t know that, again, it’s a small period of time and we’ve seen this before with a lot of guys. I’m not trying to take anything away from those guys but I’m not ready to say okay, our rotation’s set. It’s going to pitch like this the whole year, it won’t, it’s just the reality of it. Kyle was top 10 in ERA leaders or top five, something like that, it’s very of hard to maintain that no matter who you are.

“I’m encouraged, he’s made strides, he’s getting a lot better, he’s not all the way there yet, his strike percentage still needs to get better. But obviously the stuff and everything else is outstanding, his composure. He’s made strides and he’s starting to evolve but with all of our starters I don’t get overly excited or overly concerned. Just same thing with Morrow, he had some rough starts, he had a great start last night, it’s going to be the body of work but overall they’re off to a great start.”


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Great stuff. Really appreciate you posting the full transcripts for us.

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