Q+A with Anthopoulos on trade deadline moves + more

Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos had a conference call with reporters Tuesday to discuss the trade deadline — specifically the Travis Snider for Brad Lincoln deal — the bullpen, the rotation, and the promotion of Moises Sierra from Triple-A Las Vegas.

Was addressing the bullpen the focus? 

“It’s not so much about focusing on one area. There is no doubt the bullpen for 2012 could still be improved, and even beyond that in 2013.

“Ultimately we had to go into an area of depth. You don’t necessarily want to trade the guys we did but you also understand we were going to have to give up value one way or the other.”

Do these trades address needs more for the future or now? 

“I think it does both. I think if you look at our club right now, our offense, we have one of the better offenses in the entire game. We obviously dealt from a position of strength … We added two big league players to our bullpen.

“I think we’ve improved our club because of where we are positioned right now. I don’t think there is any doubt about that at all.”

Were you willing to take on a rental player? 

“Oh, sure. We talked about a lot of players that were rentals. That was definitely not the focus. Ideally, everyone wants to get a great player with a lot of control. That’s obviously the player that every GM wants to have. … We talked about a number of players that were under short-term control — whether it be to the end of the year or one year beyond this year. We had a lot of dialogue there.”

Is Brad Lincoln someone that could start now or in the future? 

“I don’t think we would ever rule it out because he has done it before but, when we looked at him, the primary appeal is his ability to pitch late innings. A power arm with swing and miss stuff and that was really what he was acquired for. Obviously there is added value, or the upside, maybe one day he would potentially be able to start.

“Again, that wasn’t the primary focus when we acquired him. … He was acquired to fill a late-inning relief role for us going forward.”

More on Lincoln: “Our scouting reports are really high on him as a late-inning reliever.

“I don’t think we had anyone [scouts] that was not excited about him and the way he was throwing the ball. I think all our scouts felt pretty strongly about him. I think it was a unanimous, everyone felt that it was a very, very good talent for us.”

You traded Snider, an everyday outfielder, for a reliever. How do you balance value?

“Travis is hopefully on his way to being an everyday player and a good everyday player. He does a lot of things to help the team win. He’s a winning player and I think that is probably as big a compliment as you can give a player. Great teammate, work ethic, character .. it’s off the charts. He runs the bases, defensively, all those things. Tremendous power potential.

“We all know that the talent and the ability is there. At the same time, finding late-inning relief help isn’t necessarily the easiest thing to do as well.

“I think Travis is someone with the potential and certainly the ability to become a very good everyday player. Being able to come back up here, [he] was just on his way to getting back on track to doing that. I know he hasn’t established himself to that yet but there is certainly the ability to do that.

“I think Brad Lincoln is the same way. He hasn’t been a bona fide late-inning guy right now but I think he’s well on his way to being able to do that. In terms of balance, I think you have to look at what makes sense for your club. We have needs there. … It made sense for us. I think from a value standpoint it was fair.”

On why the club likes Lincoln and Steve Delabar (who it acquired from Seattle for Eric Thames):

“I think there is no question we added bodies, two good bodies that have the ability to strike guys out which was important to us. Guys with above-average stuff and guys who have the chance to be here for a while. That can only improve our bullpen, especially with the number of free agents we have in our bullpen.”

Liked you’ve said before, the bullpen is a volatile area when you build a roster. How do you know what to give up for these guys?

“You aren’t going to get anybody for free, you are going to have to give up good talent.

“Two young talented players that were high picks that are just starting to establish themselves, maybe Travis a little bit behind because he just got back up. Brad has really had a nice year and has really started to emerge late in the year. I don’t know that either really are truly established. I guess you could say there is volatility to both guys with their careers and they are hopefully trying to establish themselves on both ends, for both teams.

“I think that is where there is a similarity there.”

Did you engage in talks for starting pitching? 

“We did. I think we were involved in a lot of things. Starters, position players, anything that we felt could help our club. It does get a little frantic, I guess, especially as you get to today. Ideally you don’t want to necessarily have a lot of dialogue on the last day just because things do seem a little bit rushed when you have to get training staffs involved, doctors, things like that to review files. … I think we had pretty healthy dialogue in a number of areas because, obviously, we still have a number of areas we can improve on this club.

“Until you win the World Series, I don’t think you should ever be satisfied.”

Does the way that Laffey/Villanueva/Cecil have been throwing change way you looked at needs for SPs this season?

“No. Like you said they have done a very solid job for but, again, we definitely could improve in that area. That’s not to single anybody out. If you look at the numbers and where we rank, until you rank 1 you can always improve.”

Rotation wasn’t biggest area to address?

“I think there has been some stability. You look at the way guys like Laffey have performed — I know they haven’t done that in their career. But you look at just the numbers and what they’ve done since they’ve been in the rotation. You look at guys like Villanueva, an ERA below 3 — to be fair to him, I’m not expecting that necessarily to continue. Obviously Romero hit a rough patch and Alvarez has been hit and miss, but he’s someone we’ve seen how good he can be when he’s on his game. I think we did have some guys that really solidified themselves. Cecil, lately, has been solid. He has given us some quality starts. We acquired J.A. Happ, who we thought could be someone that could give us a hand in the rotation, and he is certainly available to do that. … I think we have stabilized the rotation more than anything else.”

After injuries:

“We really weren’t sure who was going to take that opportunity and run with him, and I think we finally found some stability there.

“Again, we still have issues long term. We can continue to look for more guys now. We can continue, obviously, in the offseason.”

Why is Happ not in rotation?

“Because I think we have had everyone else doing a solid job for us. Laffey has done a good job, Villanueva has done a good job. I think Alvarez has finally started to find himself and obviously Romero has certainly earned the right to throw in the rotation. I thought last night he looked a lot better. Obviously Brett, that last game in New York, I know the numbers weren’t good going into that start, and that last game in New York he had a quality start and beyond that he has continued to have quality starts for us.

“We are going to ride the hot hand. We have guys doing a good job and we will continue to ride those guys until we need to make a change.”

More of a sellers market value-wise compared to other years?

“It seemed as though, and maybe because maybe we weren’t sitting in the same place, it seemed as though there maybe was a little more dialogue than years past. … Most times we try to focus on a few items, maybe 1-3 things that we would like to get done … We really try to focus on getting those deals done.”

Close to anything today?

“We thought we were moving toward something late last night. We had a late night here, really late. Didn’t get a whole lot of sleep, and it carried over to the morning and ended up falling apart.”

What was the biggest need a month ago?

“We were always looking to add arms any way we could. … It was either in the bullpen or the rotation. We had needs in both areas.”

Who’s the left fielder of the future?

“Right now, it’s really open … I don’t know if we are really locked into anyone right now.

“A guy like Sierra is someone that we like as well. But again, he is behind the other two right now on the depth chart but we still feel we have some pretty good depth from an outfield standpoint.”

— Sierra is behind Gose and Davis on depth chart. AA mentioned that Davis could stay in the mix into next year, as the Blue Jays have a $3M club option on him. 

Could there be a dynamic between Gose and Sierra like there was with Snider and Thames?

“I wouldn’t rule anything out, and obviously we have Rajai Davis as well. I don’t think we are going to lock ourselves into anything. … The only guarantees in our outfield right now are Jose Bautista in right field and Colby Rasmus in center.

“For me to sit here at the end of July and try to say who’s our left fielder going forward, when we have guys with options and control, it’s way too early to make a decision like that.”

What are the reports on Sierra?

“He is someone we have talked about earlier. There was even a point in time we talked about him last summer for a short period of time. He is someone who has been on the radar, he has been on the 40-man roster, he had a good year in New Hampshire last year. He has certainly done very well from a statistical standpoint in Las Vegas — defensively, he has been outstanding.

“It would be interesting to see him and Jose Bautista throwing from right field to compare the arm strength. He has as good an arm probably as any right fielder in the game. High-energy player.

“We think he has the type of upside to be a Nelson Cruz-type player. I know, obviously, Cruz is a bit of a late bloomer but his skill set and his tools certainly match that. Obviously he’s not there yet and he has to go out there and do it. We are high on him, we are excited about him.”

Playing time? 

“I’m not sure exactly playing-time wise with Gose being up here and Rajai being on the team — John will make the decision there. But he’s on the 40-man roster, and being up here certainly won’t be bad for his development.”

What would you say to the fans that may have been expecting more?

“I guess just probably the same mantra I’ve always really talked about. We are always trying to continue to make the club better. We certainly aren’t going to make a move for the sake of making a move or make a ‘quote unquote splash’ for the sake of doing that. I think there is plenty of opportunities to do those type of things in free agency in the winter. I think the fans understand that we are ultimately doing what we think is best for the short and long term of the club.

“I don’t think anyone wants us to make a bad deal. We have the ability to make bad deals to make a splash and get a big name. A month later, two months, everyone will probably look back and say that was a mistake. I think the fans realize, and they certainly follow along in terms of making the right deal.”

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