Anthopoulos talks Draft and Encarnacion signing

Major League Baseball’s deadline to reach an agreement with this year’s Draft picks was scheduled for Friday night. The Blue Jays weren’t expected to make any last-minute signings and in part because they already had each of their picks taken in the Top 10 rounders under contract.

Here’s what Anthopoulos had to say about this year’s Draft strategy plus leftovers from yesterday’s news conference about Edwin Encarnacion’s new three-year, $27-million contract:

On paying the tax to go overslot in this year’s Draft…

“The tax was fine. I don’t want to minimize it but that’s OK. We don’t want to lose picks. The opportunity to select in an area is worth whatever the tax was going to be. And we factored for it, we wanted to allocate for it, we weren’t geared toward spending that way but if it had to work out that way, we had the ability.

“We weren’t going to not sign a player because of the tax, we were going to not sign players if it meant forfeiting a draft pick the following year.”

Same strategy in the future without having luxury of extra compensatory picks?

“We’re not going to have the same pool of money because of all those extra picks. Now, Round 2 will be significantly higher next year because we had about 30 sandwich picks, you’re not going to have those any more, the sandwich round really became a full round, that’s going to shrink. You’re still going to have very good talent in the top three rounds because the picks are going to be higher.

“You could but rounds four, five, six, you’re not going to have that much bonus money to work with. It was an approach based on the talent that was there and what was available. If there’s no one there sitting on the board, we’re not going to do it.

“It just worked out that Smoral was sitting there. At the beginning of the year he was a guy we would have considered with our first pick, breaks his foot, slides, he’s sitting there, he wants $2 million. Would you trade your fourth, fifth and sixth round picks and second-round (money) for Smoral? That’s the thought process. We’d check the board, what’s left, what’s the draft look like for those rounds? That’s not to say it’s going to work out that way the following year. Maybe we’ll just try to take a big guy in round one, it depends who slides to you, maybe you don’t want to sign the player, maybe you want to defer the pick to the next year, there’s a lot of ways to approach. But it’s absolutely predicated on what talent is available in the draft. I don’t think there’s a flat strategy.”

Dyson/Loup… Do you need a look for next year too?

“That will be a by-product of it, but this isn’t a September look. We have needs, our minor-league people are telling us these are the best guys right now to give them a shot. If the by-product of that is we get to find out and someone pops, someone clicks, great. We all know relievers go up and down.”

Better than signing a veteran?

“We look at everyone who becomes available and ask is that person better than so and so? Bring a guy in and no-one believes in him, your scouts and so on, to pass over someone you have internally, then you have to release him or cut him loose, why go through all the trouble.”

On Moyer…

“They said he could pitch, he was solid, but no one felt he was an upgrade over what we had here. That’s what we told him, if the people down there who have seen everybody we’ve called up here fell that you’re better, we’ll make the move.”

Leftovers from Anthopoulos’ news conference to announce signing of Encarnacion to a three-year deal:

On Encarnacion…

“He has been here for quite some time, and been through some ups and downs, but we’ve really seen him grow as a player, grow as someone who quietly leads in the clubhouse, and as well very-well respected.

“The ability has always been there. I think it finally started to show itself at the end of last year, and currently now. The fact that Edwin wanted to be here and wanted stay here — and we obviously wanted him to stay — it was no-brainer for us to try to get this done.”

How important was this to get this done by the trade deadline and end the rumors?

“The rumors and things like that’s just par for the course, it comes with the territory. We didn’t have any intention of trading Edwin, it was someone we wanted to keep here. He has really emerged as a middle -of-the-order bat. you look at how our offense has developed this year, it has become a strength of this club.

“Making sure that Edwin is going to be here long term, we’ve really solidified that for the next few years. Our offense is in a very good position moving forward the next few years. It allows me, from a front office standpoint, and our staff, to focus a little bit more on helping out the bullpen, helping out the rotation. It is not to say we would ever forgo adding a bat if we could. But I think it is a strength and he is a big part of that strength in the middle of the order.

“From my standpoint, I prefer not to do these during the year. They are a distraction. If we do, we want to do them very quietly and fast. I think that is why the All-Star break was so important — it was an opportunity to do it quietly, quickly, and find out if it can get done or not”

Did this move fast?

“I think so. Edwin’s agent, Paul [Kinzer], we have done deals with him in the past — pretty straight shooter. I think the market for Edwin based on the year, we don’t know certainly what he is going to do the next two or three months, but I think there were enough comparables that it was a matter of trying to get close. I think both sides, you never get the exact number, whether it is years or dollars. But, at the end of the day, if he wanted to be here and we wanted him to be here, we were going come to an agreement one way or the other, and I think we were able to do it very quickly based on past relationships.”

How long?

“I think at the All-Star break is when it got serious. If we were going to get this done, I wanted this resolved by the All-Star break, by the end of the All-Star break. I didn’t want to start the second half, him talking about contract extension, maybe worrying about having to perform, things like that. I just didn’t want it to be a distraction at all.”

First base or DH?

“I think he can do both. I think you guys have seen in the past few years that he has gotten himself into tremendous shape. I don’t think three years ago, four years ago, we would have talked about even putting him in left field. He can obviously still fill in at third, and has done very well at first base.

“I talked to him in the offseason, he had a contract, we exercised the option, it was guaranteed money, but I asked him if he would go to winter ball and play left field and he said ‘no problem.’ It just tells you he is committed to the team. I think that is part of his value, that he can play so many positions for us, and he is willing to do that for us. Jose is the same way. … That is the type of people we want to have in this organization, that are doing whatever it takes to win.”

Can you go into more detail about Edwin’s growth as a player, and is this the type of player you thought he was going to be when he first came here?

“I was assistant GM when he first came here, and I didn’t know him, he was very quiet. I remember talking to Romero one of the offseason’s about Edwin specifically and he said, ‘I love him, he’s a great teammate.’ I don’t get to see that all the time in the clubhouse. You get to see the teammates around him, and he is a quiet leader.

“The way he has committed himself with respect to his body, work ethic, doing everything that we’ve needed him to do. I think that is where the maturity comes from. We had a long talk when Adam Lind got sent down, and him [Encarnacion] and Yunel Escobar were sitting in the locker late one night, the game was well over — it was probably midnight — and I talked to him and said, ‘When you got sent down two years ago, I’m sure you didn’t like me a hell of a whole lot.’ I said ‘You think as hard as it was it helped you,?’ and he said ‘Yeah it probably did.’

“I think maybe sometimes when you hit rock bottom, and I haven’t played obviously, but I think that is where you find the inner strength, you really find out what someone is made of. I remember when he went down there, he had a guaranteed contract, probably going to be upset. The reports we got back from the staff in Las Vegas were unbelievable. Said Edwin was going out everyday, early work. He went down there and hit .400, his attitude was unreal. It is rare, he could have sat there and said ‘Woe is me’ and put his head down, but he kept fighting. You talk about the game, it is a game of failure, you have to have that resolve and that ability to fight, cause guys have bad seasons, guys get hurt. If you quit on yourself, you won’t get very far. But I think, that was a telling sign for me, as a general manager, of what the makeup was like in terms on work ethic, and his competitiveness, and his desire, and his drive.

“You do these deals, and it comes down to trust. Do I trust the player? The ability is there — all those guys in that clubhouse have a ton of ability,. But do you trust someone to put in the work, put in the time, and really care, and he certainly met all those things.”

Was Draft-pick compensation something you considered?

“It doesn’t make any sense. We’re not at that point, especially with a 29-year-old guy that is finally starting to come into his own. He could have certainly been an All-Star, and hopefully he will be next year and going forward. Draft-pick compensation was never even a component. Guys like this, you are praying you get those guys in the Draft.”

Are you sending a message with the Edwin signing?

“No, it’s no knock on players in the clubhouse, but this is the right move for this organization, whether there is nobody in that clubhouse, or anybody in that clubhouse. This is a really good player, this is a middle-of-the-order bat, a tandem with Jose in the middle. I think anybody would want to bring this guy back, sign him back. From that standpoint, it’s a no-brainer to try to extend him.

“We have always said, if we have good players, especially our own, we are going to try to extend them and try to keep them, and so far we have been able to keep everybody. I think it’s encouraging that everyone has wanted to stay. Whether that is a credit to the clubhouse staff, the travel staff, the front office, the staff on the field, the fact that we have created an environment that these guys want to stay here and they believe in what we are doing, that is just a bonus for us.

“It’s not a bad thing that players can see, if you can work hard, and you have been where he has been, you can be rewarded. And maybe that is something that some of the players can take from it. … You can come out of this and get an extension if you play well and we want you to stay, and you want to stay, we will be able to get something done.”

Is it a good thing with what Bautista said?

“I know a lot was made of that. But I don’t want our players with a sense of apathy. I want our players to be all about winning. I have seen it the other way when guys don’t care. I don’t want Jose to ever lose that, he knows that. We have a great relationship, we talk all the time. He speaks from his heart. But I think one thing that was lost a little bit, is that he feels he is an advocate for the club, an advocate for Canada, an advocate for playing here and he is the biggest supported of this city and the market. He tries to get the word out, too. Jose does a lot behind the scenes to try to promote the team, the organization, the players. He does believe in every player in that clubhouse, and that is something I love to see as a general manager.

“Some people might try to take it and spin it,but I don’t see it that way

Does Bautista speaking up push you to do something?

“No, because I want to win just as much as everybody else. It doesn’t change my mindset, or what we are going to look to do as an organization.

“I do want all 25 guys in that clubhouse to think about one thing only — winning, and having a chance to get into the playoffs, and that should be the goal.”

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