Anthopoulos talks 2012 and previews the offseason

Alex Anthopoulos has been forced into a lot of interviews during the past week but for once he was able to avoid having to answer questions about Yunel Escobar. Anthopoulos arrived in Tampa on Saturday morning and plans on remaining with the team through its final road trip of the season.

He took some time to speak with reporters about the 2012 season while providing some interesting comments about the offseason and what to expect for next season. On the main site, you can find my article on next year’s starting rotation but the rest of what Anthopoulos had to say can be found below.

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Alex Anthopoulos:

On all the injuries this season…

“The hardest part about it is, you lose players in season, but the guys you lose going into next year. That’s obviously the hardest part about it. It just reinforces more than ever, and I know this is a year that we’ve had more than anybody else or we’ve ever had in this organization, just reinforces the notion of continuing to add depth more so than ever and even when we have young players, prospects, if we can and even if we think they can come up here, do a good job and be solid, if they have options left let’s just stockpile that depth and they can all just wait there.

“I remember years ago, when J.P. was here, I don’t remember the exact year, the year that Marcum and McGowan year, maybe Litsch came up the same year, we had guys like Zambrano, Ohka and obviously those guys didn’t work out. Not that they were the right signings because obviously they didn’t perform well enough but knowing you had those guys waiting in the wings are your insurance, as your backups, that’s something you look back at.

“Sometimes you want to give kids the innings, want to give them the opportunities but it’s not the worst thing in the world if they’re sitting down there as depth and they’re ready to go because you know guys are going to get hurt or guys aren’t going to perform and you’re going to need a changeup.”

With the exception of those 2-4 weeks after all of the injuries, though, you have to be relatively satisfied with the starters?

“It’s changed, obviously if you would have asked me at the beginning of August, I felt our offense was outstanding and it was. We were leading all of baseball in runs scored and the bullpen really came around. But that’s another thing too, you realize six months is six months. We’ve talked about teams that are in contention through the trade deadline, we’ve seen collapses, we’ve seen all of those things, you have to play the full six months.

“I’d say when evaluating our team, we’re always best to evaluate it month-by-month or third-by-third but really have your final evaluation at the end of the year because things change. From that standpoint, the rotation, I think we got through it. We scored a lot of runs and guys like Happ did a solid job, Aaron Laffey did a solid job for us. But, again, you have to do it over six months and even Alvarez over the last three starts has been solid, Romero has been getting better, but you need it over six months.”

Did you over-estimate the Major League ready depth of the organization?

“I think we felt we had bodies, looking back, what you learn from it is just the reliance on young guys. I know you could look at Oakland, they have all these young guys in their rotation. You look at 2010, we had Morrow, Romero, Cecil, Marcum and the fifth starter was a combination of guys. They pretty much made all of their starts and even for us, the first two months of the year, Drew was up after 2-3 weeks, but Drew, Kyle, Brandon, Henderson, Romero, those five guys I think were leading in starter’s ERA.

“That’s not to say it would have gone on for six months, but relying on health is probably the biggest thing and relying on health with some of the younger guys is the biggest thing. There are a lot of teams that have done it, they rolled out a bunch of guys. A few years back there was the Twins that were doing it with Slowey, Blackburn and so on, and it looked like for us it looked like we were going to be able to do it and even in 2010 we did it. But I think more than youth it was just having bodies, having more and more bodies to protect us. You can never have enough.”

For the postseason this year, there’s 4-5 teams that finished under .500 last year. Does that an encouragement going into the offseason?

“Certainly. It definitely has to be and really the focus is on the rotation. It doesn’t mean we’re not going to look to get better offensively or in the bullpen, but you see how teams obviously that have pitched but haven’t scored as many runs and they’re still in contention, they’re still there. What we did in the middle of the summer, we masked a lot of the issues in the rotation because the offense was performing so well.

“We’ve shown at times the team that we can be and with the extra wild card, I know I’ve said this a lot of times, it’s not to say what we would have done the last third of the season, but at the trade deadline we were two out of one of the Wild Card spots, there were teams that were 10 games up in divisions and they lost those leads. So that’s not to say it would have continued but we’ve shown the ability to put it together for awhile. It would have been much easier to evaluate if everyone had stayed healthy and remained on the field.”

Do the Orioles have anything that you can look at and emulate?

“I think the one thing, the way the bullpen’s performed. I don’t know what you can emulate, guys are having great years, it doesn’t mean they’re not good, but ERAs in the ones and the low twos, but I think contending teams are always going to have to have a good bullpen. I don’t know that there’s many teams that contend that have weak bullpens.

“So, that’s the thing that jumps out about that team and people can debate the one-run games, there’s all kinds of reasons I know, people have talked about run differential with them, I think the Diamondbacks one of the years they made the postseason, they had a negative run differential as well. But the thing that jumps out for them is certainly the bullpen and the strength of the pen.”

For the fanbase, do you have to make quick moves in the offseason to move forward with your own organization?

“I don’t look at the timing of it. We need to get better and I think for the fanbase they just want to see a better team, a better product, a team in contention. If you told the fans that we’ll provide that for you on Jan. 1 rather than Nov. 1 I don’t think that they would really care. But I think it goes without saying, we’ll try to be aggressive and get things done but there’s no question the focus is going to be on getting better.”

You have to sell tickets too…

“I don’t look at it from that standpoint. It’s impossible for me to try to operate that way. But I think if we’re looking at big league players, and get better, it can only help things. But I don’t look at it in terms of sales, all that stuff takes care of itself if you win. It’s not about one offseason or a sales campaign, it’s about putting the winning product on the field and the rest will take care of itself. Try to make moves, add big league players and that should speak for itself.”

You mentioned a couple of weeks ago who had spots locked down for position players. What about the starting pitching? Who has guaranteed jobs there?

“The only guys that we promise — I don’t know how the offseason will go, I definitely want to add as much depth as we can in the rotation — we’re only locked into Brandon and Romero. They both have guaranteed contracts and that’s not to say we don’t have guys that are front runners, obviously if Alvarez continues to perform well, but he has options left. I just don’t want people coming into Spring Training assuming they have a job lined up. Or, we make a trade in the offseason or we sign someone and I have to make a phonecall and say, you know what? I changed my mind. The two guys with guaranteed contracts are them, and everybody else, there are guys that will put themselves in a good position, they’ll compete. Depending on what we do, they might get jobs by default but the goal is going to be to add as much depth as we can.”

With the bullpen seemingly pretty well locked down, does that free up a little bit more time for you in the offseason to focus all that energy on upgrading the rotation?

“I think it helps but I would still like to add depth to the bullpen. You still want to have depth. I was just reading how the Reds lost three or four relievers in Spring Training this year. You sit there in Spring Training and guys that have options left and could be on the team but get sent down, we rarely go through with a 12-man staff from start to finish.

” I’m much less concerned, if someone deserves to be on the team or doesn’t deserve to be on the team, we have to do what’s right for the organization. So, if we can depth, and someone had options, has to go down and wait their team, we’re going to do it because we’re going to be a stronger organization for it.

Does having Buffalo make that easier?

“I think in terms of Minor League free agents it does, the proximity, things like that. But in terms of our prospects, developmentally, we sent them to New Hampshire. We still had guys that worked with them, developed them. Is it nice that they’ll be in the IL? Sure, but I think the real advantage, in terms of players, is being able to sign Minor League free agents. It’s tough to recruit guys to do to Las Vegas and put up stats.

If you consider Morrow a two or a three in the rotation, you don’t know where Ricky is, does that change what you’re looking for in the offseason?

“No. Bottom line, they’re all going to make 30-plus starts. At least 30 starts out of each spot, if not more. So get as many good starters as you can. Forget about titles, forget about order. I don’t even remember who the Braves Opening Day starters were all of those years. Or even Halladay, Hamels, Cliff Lee. I don’t think anybody cares, they’re all great. So, from that standpoint, they’re in our rotation, if we can somehow pull it off that we get three guys that would slot in ahead of them, wow, we’re going to have a really good offseason. But I’m not overly concerned with where guys are slotted. We just have to get better.”

Would you be more inclined to part with top prospects this offseason compared to last year?

“We were (last year). I think it all depends on what the deal ends up being. We made a lot of really good players available. At times it was three, two, four, it’s just how many and does it make sense. I don’t know that you’re more willing, or not willing. The more time you have the better feel you have for your own players too. I think we had players that were a little further down in the Minor Leagues and now they’ve graduated to a higher level. We know them a little bit better. I think their value around the league should be stronger because there’s no question, the prospects that are closer have more value.

“Not that people don’t think guys in low-A ball are valuable but everyone realizes they might have to wait three-to-four years. There’s performance risk, there’s injury risk. As guys move up, assuming they perform, their value increases. I think we’re in a better position, I think our assets are stronger than they were a year ago.”

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