Transcript of media scrum with Alex Anthopoulos
With the Blue Jays having lost three consecutive games and 24 of their past 36, general manager Alex Anthopoulos faced the media on Sunday morning to a lengthy chat. He touched on everything from the club’s defensive woes, plans for next season, problems in the rotation, Josh Johnson, etc. He addressed pretty much everything there simply isn’t enough space to fit it all into today’s notebook so here is the full transcript:
On the lack of fundamentals being displayed on defence…
“It’s been sloppy the last little while, to say the least. We’ve talked about it at length. I know we’re going to be working with Colby a little bit more. Bautista, the first night in Oakland, threw away a ball. But with Jose, if you look at the entire year, he’s made some unbelievable throws, some very accurate throws to the plate. Colby has a tendency to yank balls aimed at home plate. It seems mores this year than in the years past. That’s something we’re going to work on a little bit more. Maybe it’s guys trying to do too much but it’s something that’s going to be addressed and it will eventually show itself on the field.”
Update on Delabar…
“He was sore before, just after the break and we gave him two or three days off. He felt fine. The way (the latest discomfort) was related to me was that if this was the playoffs, he could pitch but it’s one of those things that it’s better to get on top of it right now because it’s taking him a little bit longer to get loose and there is inflammation in the shoulder. He was examined by the Angels team doctor here and they don’t think it’s anything significant . He’s heading to Florida and will be re-examined by our doctors. It looks like he just needs to rest, more than anything else. “
How does it get better, without chasing old money with new money?
“We talk about how to address the rotation going forward and we have some young guys who are coming back. We’re hopeful that guys like Drew (Hutchison) and Kyle (Drabek) will get back here in September, though we’re not guaranteeing that. Drew is throwing today and they’re both throwing the ball well and their velocity is good. They are two players that, again before they went down, they were throwing well. We even look back at Kyle and see that towards the end, his command went downhill and you wonder how much of that the injury played in that. His command now is much better and maybe that’s because he’s finally healthy.
“Two guys like that could factor, and obviously a guy like Brandon Morrow who, last year was really emerging into a front of the rotation starter. Then, as well, we’ll be looking outside the organization to see if we can do some things.”
“I think Brandon has already proven he can do it here. Two years ago he threw 180 innings and last year he threw the ball really well. The other two guys had a short look and we’ll have another look once they get back here.”
Reconcile Payroll Issues with club improvement?
“When we made the trades, it’s something we talked about. Going forward, ownership was aware, and ownership understood where the commitments would be going forward and they green-lighted everything. So, from a financial standpoint, the resources will be available for us. It won’t mean we won’t change some things and reallocate money as you do any time.
“It’s not like those contracts are sneaking up on us. We really have two years of commitments after the current year and, other than Reyes, who has been a great player for us, there’s really no long-term (five-six years out) commitments out. Reyes is going to have four years left on his deal and everyone else either has two years with an option, or just two years straight. At the same time, we were well aware of where we were going to be. We did arbitration projections. There will always be decisions to be made but we’re prepared for that.”
How much money will you have next year?
“I don’t have a number right now and I wouldn’t divulge the number but what I would say is that we won’t be going backwards. That’s not in the plan at all. What the number is, is developed at the end of the season. That’s our conversations with Paul. But the understanding is that we will be able to financially handle those contracts so that was why we were able to do the deals. That was a big part of our discussions. 2013 was going to be fine, it was 14 and beyond. Everyone was aware of that. Ownership was aware and that’s not going to be an issue.”
Moving forward, who don’t you have questions about on the roster…
“There’s still two months left, things change so fast. To sit here today, if you ask me at the end of the season I’ll have a lot more of a firm handle on it. If you look at what we’re currently running out there, the guys that have been able to take the ball the entire time and be consistent, R.A. and Buehrle are two guys that have been able to take the ball the entire time. J.A. Happ we expected coming out of Spring Training, we’ll see how he does when he comes back, he’ll make the start on Wednesday. Brandon Morrow, too, we’ll see how he does with his recovery. Guys like Rogers, we’ll continue to watch and continue to evaluate those guys but it could change. We still have a third of the year left and evaluations can change fast.”
Look at Stroman/Nolin this year?
“We could. We’ve talked about it and that’s definitely something that could happen. We could take a look at one of those guys or both of those guys. Same with Kyle and Drew, we’re not committed that they’re going to be up but they are guys that could be up as well and have a look at them.”
Keeping Josh Johnson out there or is a change needed?
“Right now he’s scheduled to make his next start but there’s no question it’s been about six starts where he has been getting hit. I know he’s working hard and he’s not making any excuses at all, he continues to battle. But it’s something we continue to talk about. We have to look at alternatives at some point if this continues, it’s really start to start at this point, it’s really the only way to characterize it. Right now, he’s going to make one more start and we’ll see how he does but we’ll continue to evaluate it each time.
Melky what can be done defensively when you have him for another year and it looks like you’re better on the field without him there…
“I would say defensively, Melky looked good early in Spring Training, we noticed later in Spring Training, maybe the last 10 days or so, that’s when his hamstring started to tighten up and he continued to battle through it. Especially now, it looks like there are obviously some issues with his knees. He’s 28-years-old we definitely expect him to come back and be a much better defensive player. We don’t know for certain but I think a lot of the issues he had with his mobility were directly related to being banged up. It happened in the spring, in hindsight, if we had given him a month or two to just rest and get healthy, he wanted to battle through it, he wanted to play through it, we wanted to keep his bat in the lineup and it didn’t work out.”
Are you okay with the performance you’ve been getting from the catcher position?
“I think J.P. would be the first guy to tell you he can improve in a lot of areas. I don’t want to single anybody out but I can point to so many areas on the club that we could stand to get better in so many spots. We can always make evaluations at the All-Star Break or four months in, two months from now things will change fast. I’ve used this example before, you look at Lind and Colby two years ago they had great numbers at the All-Star Break and then fell off towards the end so the evaluation changed.
“So, whereas, some guys really emerged at the end of the year where you got really excited about them. Brandon Morrow was that guy three years ago, he was really good at the end and carried it over into the next year. I just don’t want to get too far ahead with two months left on trying to make final evaluations on players.”
On breakdown in fundamentals and how that can be fixed…
“I think one is continue to work at it. By just going through what can we do, what can we do as a staff? Are guys trying to do too much? For example, Jose Bautista making those throws. He’s made so many great throws this year. You’ re entitled to make some mistakes. Colby had had issues throwing. He’ll throw off and that certainly seems to be occurring more often this year than it has in the past. It seems there’s been a lot more plays and all his throws are sailing to that side. Some of the other things can be a factor of trying to do too much, extra things like that. Again, I don’t know that we have the answer right now. We continue to work at it and hopefully it’s going to improve. The same way as everybody was talking about Brett and how he was struggling to swing the bat. You work with him, work with him, he’s starting to turn it around a little bit and hopefully it continues.”
Does the general approach in Spring Training need to change?
“I think it’s up in the air. We’re talking about everything, really. I’m not sure that I can point out the one specific thing. You look at defensively, one, some players haven’t played well. That goes without saying. Brett’s been in and out of the lineup a lot. Two stints on the disabled list. Reyes has been out for a while. His ankle, I don’t know that he feels 100-percent but he’s certainly good enough to play. That certainly could have an impact as well.
“Even from a defensive standpoint, Colby’s been better defensively, just overall on the season than a year ago. The throwing, obviously, the arm strength’s there, the accuracy needs to improve, hitting the cutoff guy and things like that. Melky we talked about and the issues he’s had with his legs we talked about. I think Jose overall has been good in right. I think it’s a combination of things, really. Stability, hopefully guys stay healthy on the field, things like that can factor and maybe guys trying to do a little too much.”
Physical mistakes are going to happen but it’s August and we’re still talking about mental mistakes…
“I think it’s been talked about. I mean we’re talking about it now because you asked me. It’s something we’ve talked about internally. Guys are trying, guys are working. At some point it falls on the players as well. Maybe that’s something that as we’re evaluating going forward, the same way that you work with someone on their mechanics, working with someone at the plate to hit, if the results aren’t there you continue to work, to be committed to the players. But it’s not for the lack of any effort at all – whether it’s the coaches, the manager or so on. At some point, in terms of making the plays, it falls on the players as well. I don’t think these guys are trying to make mistakes. I think ultimately then it falls on me to get certain players that are going to start to make those plays. “
Did you undervalue defence in the offseason?
“Obviously we haven’t played well defensively, so … I don’t know from that standpoint. I don’t know how much of an impact not having the shortstop and the third baseman there the entire time. You look at last year, Brett played the bulk of the year, did miss a little bit of time at the end. Obviously Yunel was out there for the bulk of the time at short. And, again, I think Colby’s been better in centre. I just think it’s been a combination of things.
“So, I would say this. In light of the year that we’re having, I think we’re going to evaluate (defence) even more than we have. I don’t think we’ve ever undervalued it. It’s always been important. There’s some guys that haven’t played as well defensively as we thought they would. So that’s probably been the most surprising part, that maybe expect certain guys to be better defensively. I don’t know that we ever lost value in it, but I can say that going forward we’re going to have even more value on it.”
At deadline you talked about having trade discussions about SP and 2B. Will those conversations continue in the offseason?
“I think so. I think they’re important. They’re definitely the most important areas. There are other areas that we can improve in. I definitely think those are the most important areas. I think the rotation more than anything else. Some of it might be internal, but again, I haven’t looked in the last few days, but when you’re second to last in starter’s ERA that has to improve. It’s hard to get to .500, to contend if the starting rotation ERA is where it is. You obviously put a strain on the bullpen, it puts a strain on the offence when you’re down that many runs. Everyone trying to do a little bit too much. It starts on the mound for us and even some of the sloppy play against Oakland, we still pitched well and we won the games.”
Tougher to identify starters?
“It does, you always look back and say did we miss anything on a certain player, is there something we didn’t account for, and it’s hard to say. From year to year, things change, guys don’t have a great year and the next year they end up having a good year, but you definitely still evaluate it. Even when you look at the free agent market last year, you don’t know who you’re ultimately going to get, we definitely went after some guys and talked about some players, I don’t know that we ever got so far down the road where we ultimately knew we were going to get the player. In terms of the trade market, there weren’t that many guys that were available, there rarely is when it comes to that spot, so it’s always challenging when you need to improve on the mound. But that’s not going to change goals of going out to do it.
Faith in RA as a front-of-the-rotation starter?
“I do, I know he hasn’t put together that type of year, he’s put together some of those starts, he’s shown us the ability to do that. If you look there are a lot of similarities to last year, velocity is the same, ground ball rate is down some, home runs allowed obviously are higher, and the walks are up a little bit as well. That can correct itself, and we’ve seen some outings, whether it’s Canada Day against Detroit and a great lineup, we’ve seen some outings where he’s been really good, it just hasn’t been consistent the entire time. He is giving us a chance to win each time. I don’t know that these are the reasons but it could be the World Baseball Classic, getting ready to throw five innings a lot earlier, the injury and him battling through that early in the year. I can’t say from a definitive standpoint those are the reasons the performance maybe isn’t what he’s had the last few years, but it would not surprise me if next year he comes in and has a great year.”
Internal goal for rest of the season?
“Just winning as many games as we can and playing well. Everybody in there wants to win games and play better and hopefully see some improvement from some guys you k now are going to be here going forward.
Lawrie still an option at 2B for next season or have you settled on him being at 3B?
“You just don’t know what’s going to present itself. If all of a sudden an all-star, Gold Glove defender at third base is available that’s something you could consider and take a look at. Right now from a flexibility standpoint, he’s athletic enough that he can play anywhere around the field. If you put Brett in centre field and gave him enough time, he’d be good. I remember the first we moved him over to third base, it was rough, and everyone had their doubts. He is such a good athlete and has such a great work ethic, especially when you tell him he can’t do something, that he can make himself into a great defender. I would not have any doubts that Brett, with the right amount of time, would be a plus defender pretty much anywhere out on the field. Right now I don’t see that developing trade-wise, doesn’t look like there’s a lot of guys out there at third base, with some of the things we were pursuing, second base looks like it will be easier to fill, it doesn’t mean we will, right now if I had to project three or four months from now, there will be more second baseman available than third.
Esmil has already thrown more innings than he did all of last year. Will he need to be shutdown at some point or moved to the bullpen?
“He could. We’ve definitely talked about it, during the winter as well he started, he’s been a starter before, thrown a lot of innings as a starter. When he’s not a 21, 22-year-old kid, you almost look at how many innings he’s thrown, what’s their high in their career? With Esmil right now we don’t have a number in mind, we’re going to continue to watch him, but at some point it might be something that we look at. We haven’t decided on anything.”
Workload related to his recent struggles?
“Hard to say, I don’t know, better to ask him. A few games ago I thought his slider looked outstanding, it’s hard to say. … It could, it could. I don’t know for certain if that’s the case.”
Are there any untouchables on this team?
“You have to be open to anything, there are certain players like anything you’re more reluctant to move because they’re very productive players, but you’re always open-minded, I’ll hear what any club has to say. We don’t shop our players, we target guys, and players are going to get asked about. There’s always a deal for anybody, it’s rare the other club will make it because it’s one-sided. There are a lot of players you’re reluctant to move because of how productive they are, and if you take them away, how are you going to improve on the production they’re giving you. But I don’t think you can rule anything out.”
Are you content with the rate of production in your farm system?
“We still have a lot of really good young arms. We have a lot of guys down in Bluefield right now that a year from now will be in Lansing, or they should be, and that’s where they’ll start to get more notice and acclaim, but we have some young arms we’re excited about down there. Right now, we would be scheduled to have two draft picks in the first round unless we were to sign a free agent and lose one, so we still feel pretty good. We still have quite a lot of talent there, just some of them are a little bit further down and aren’t going to get the notice because they’re a year away. A year from now or two years from now, people will start to talk about them as some of the best prospects in the game.”
Which pick do you lose if you sign a FA?
“Don’t lose pick from year before so Bickford pick would stay.”
Do you second guess how you nurture your minor league pitchers? (Syndergaard now in Double-A with the Mets as the main example)
“No because he started in high A and that’s where he would have started for us and even, I mean you’ve seen some guys move up, whether it was Drabek or Hutchison. Hutchison was in Lansing, went to Dunedin and ended the season in New Hampshire all in one season. Or Mark Rzepczynski, the same way he through flew through as well. Obviously we loved all those guys and we really liked all those guys but we know that with young starters, they can get up here, like we’ve had a lot of guys come up here before whether it’s a Drabek or a Drew Hutchison, to get them where they’re throwing 200 innings and they stay healthy and they become mainstays in the rotation going forward it takes a little bit of time.
“The tough part about trading a guy like Noah and things like that is that while you’re getting a guy who’s won a Cy Young, who’s thrown over 200 innings three years in a row and it times better with your current club. You can’t get players for free and you have to trade talent away and I think it’s a credit to the scouts and the development staff that we had guys like that that we could draft and develop them to put them in trades. Ideally you’d like to hang on to all of them and sign free agents and not have to give anybody up. Some of those players, like I said, may end up being multiple All Stars, Hall of Fame, some may not pan out, some may get hurt, I mean that’s just part of it. But again, maybe by the time they become the mainstays, some of the current core will either be at the last year of their contracts or free agents or at the end of their careers. It was as much about us trying to move it forward, timing it with the current team.”
Do you keep being surprised about the waiver hoopla even though your policy has always been to put your entire team through waivers at this time of the year?
“Maybe I shouldn’t be surprised. There’s nothing really in August, it’s quiet, I can’t speak for every team but I think every club puts almost all of their players through. Maybe they put 20 of 25. I know it’s a story but when you put a guy through it’s the same as someone calling on the player in July. It’s the same thing. The only time I think you see moves like that is with money. Guys like Alex Rios was moved from us, he was making some money, he got claimed. Years ago Loaiza was claimed by the Dodgers from Oakland but other than that you really don’t see a whole lot.
“We won’t put in claims unless we think there’s a fit, especially claiming players with no service time, zero to three years of service you’re so restricted there’s no need for a club to make a deal in August. They can do it in the offseason. I just don’t think it’s news. If someone gets traded or I think if a big contract gets claimed and that leaks and is out there, that’s a story. If certain All-Stars get claimed, I just think if you didn’t see them get traded by the end of July they’re probably not going to get traded. Guys that are free agents, guys with big contracts, those are the only ones that I think should be big stories.”
The fact that it’s a club policy to put guys through waivers does that help inside the clubhouse when guys see their names leak? You can simply tell them everyone goes through that?
“No one even asks. I think everyone knows we run everybody through. We’ve been doing it for four years now. I’ve never had a player come up to me and ask me about it. The only time I remember it being a distraction is when I was an (assistant general manager) and the report came out about Rios because I think everyone understood with the $67-million left on his contract at the time there was a scenario that he could be gone and that became a story. Rightfully so. It shouldn’t have leaked, you’re not allowed to divulge information by the rules but it was the only time it seemed to be a story in the clubhouse and everyone was wondering what was going to happen.”
Is your clubhouse in need of a “culture” change?
“I don’t know that I’m prepared to say that. I think it’s just player change. Everyone throws the word around, “culture,” and things like that and I think it’s getting players that maybe are better defensive players. Some players and I’ve seen it, and again you guys have been around our team long enough, there’s been players you’ve seen who’ve been plus defenders. I remember there was a player who looked like he was going to win a gold glove one day and then the following year, the year after, the defense isn’t as strong and it’s not for a lack of work ethic. Sometimes guys change defensively and it’s hard to tell why they’re not the defenders they once were. I think it comes down, sometimes, to having the players on the field that are plus defensive players.”