Anthopoulos holds court
Adding rotation depth?
“We’d like to do it but we’re not going to do it at all costs. As we sit here today I think it’s unlikely at this point, we’re getting so late into spring training. Unlikely unless a trade emerges, but again. As the offseason has progressed, we’ve felt better about the internal options, especially the young guys, whether it’s a guy like Stroman, Drew Hutchison, Kyle Drabek. Brandon Morrow looks great. We felt good about him in November but as he’s progressed through the offseason, we feel even better about him. That being said, if something presented itself, we’d love to do it. We just haven’t been able to find anything that works for us.”
Wait and pull the trigger in-season?
“Just from some trade dialogue that we’ve had earlier in the offseason, I think some of those same guys could be available in-season. Things change fast during the season as well. I still think we have some of the prospect capital to get something done in-season. We have the payroll flexibility to do that as well. But we don’t want to force a deal, give someone a four or five-year deal if we don’t believe in it just because you feel the need to add a starter. We’d like to, but it’s not just about adding a guy regardless of the cost. But in-season things can absolutely come up.”
Would you do the blockbusters of a year ago in retrospect?
“With the information we had, we felt good about the process. Now, in hindsight, guys getting hurt, if we had known, obviously that would change things. But from a process standpoint we did everything we could have possibly done: MRI’s, makeup of players, things like that. It happens. Whether it’s Brett Lawrie at the World Baseball Classic, or Reyes sliding into second base, or Bautista stepping on home plate, we had a lot of freak-type things. We didn’t actually have any Tommy Johns. The year before, in 2012, we did and we tweaked some things.”
Feel team is good enough?
“I think we can all agree there’s a lot of talent on this team. The bullpen should be a strength. It’s very deep. We still think the offence will be above average in the AL and the rotation has a bunch of guys who are proven plus a bunch that aren’t proven but are very talented and certainly could emerge.
“That’s going to be the key. It’s an important part of our year. We’re going to go as far as our rotation can take us. I think the guys that we have are going to surprise. I feel better about it today than we did in October when we didn’t know what Morrow’s status was going to be, how Drew (Hutchison) was going to look in the fall league, how Stroman was going to look in the fall league, how Drabek was going to emerge from the offseason and how he’s throwing the ball now.
“The talent and the ability is there. We’d love to have more established, proven guys and keep all the kids in the minors for depth and on option, but if they get the opportunity we think they have a chance to do a very good job for us.”
Enough pitching to contend in the AL east?
“We have the talent. Last offseason because guys were hurt, we didn’t have the bodies. We didn’t have Hutchison or Drabek. We knew we needed Romero to bounce back. Happ was coming off a foot injury. We have a lot more bodies and a lot more depth. Beyond our front five last year we were thin. We had Romero, who scuffled as our sixth starter coming out of camp. Beyond that, it was Ramon Ortiz and Chien Ming-Wang and we had to sign five minor league free agent starters. We didn’t need to do any of that this offseason.
How much did lack of progress on free agents have to do with re-evaluation of internal options?
“Let’s say Brandon Morrow has a setback in November and Drew Hutchison has a terrible fall league, Marcus Stroman has a terrible fall league. That would have changed things. Feeling better about our situation allowed us to not have to stretch as much as we have had to. I used the example earlier that Dioner Navarro has a chance to have a really good year for us and has a lot of up-side. But I would have preferred to do one year and lower dollars but we really felt we needed to make a change there. We stretched. We went two years and we went more money than we wanted to per year because we felt we had to make a change.
“We wanted to add to the rotation, to add depth. But again, where some of the price points were, whether it was years or dollars or some of the acquisition costs in trades, I wouldn’t have felt good standing in a scrum and saying ‘We didn’t believe in the acquisition cost, we just did it but we don’t feel good about it.’ You need to feel good about those moves.”
Ever get close?
“To trades, yes. We got very close on some trades. Free agency-wise, I don’t think we ever got close at all.”
What about the division you’re in. Boston or New York will burn a contract just to get a player.
“A guy like Drew is not proven or established but you’re ultimately weighing how much better will these other guys be? Certainly they’re more established. But then you start talking about that many more years and that many more dollars. Does it make sense to do that? If we didn’t have guys we felt were talented and could contend for those (rotation) spots and could end up putting together good seasons for us, we might have said we’re going to go well beyond where we want to go (on free agents) because we have to.
“To sit here and say that Kyle Drabek or Marcus Stroman or Drew Hutchison can be very good … I don’t think that’s a stretch at all.
“The difference with the young guys is that if they don’t perform, you can option them out and give somebody else a chance. You bring in a big free agent on a multi-year deal … look at Josh Johnson. He obviously was hurting, unable to perform to his ability, you can’t send him down. he’s out of options. You’re not going to release him. You’re going to keep giving him the ball and hopefully he turns it around. A young guy can scuffle and you can send him down and bring somebody else up.”
“A day ago, I was talking to a club about some trades. Right now through free agency, I’d say no. I would think it’s unlikely that we add someone there but I would say that we’ll still continue to have some dialogue trade wise, see if we can bring someone else in. Our target has been more a younger guy that has upside that has a chance to be a long-term piece.”
“We’ll find out. Internally we’ll see how a guy like Sierra looks, he has to make the team. Brent Morel is in camp too, we’ll see how he looks. We’re still monitoring some guys in Spring Training. We had some dialogue with some clubs and one of the clubs, we said let’s just re-visit and watch it in Spring Training. I think that could come either internally or it could be something we do at the end of camp.”
5th spot starters out of options and how that impacts thing…
“It’s too early to tell. We have the ability to put those guys in the bullpen as well. We started before with an eight-man bullpen. We could do that as well. If everyone is throwing the ball that well and we don’t want to expose anyone to waivers, or we don’t want to trade someone and not get full value, we could go to an eight-man bullpen.
“It’s not ideal but we’ve definitely done it before so we could do that. And that would be a good problem to have. I hope everybody throws the ball unbelievably well. I hate saying this, but the reality of it is, there will be some guys that don’t perform. There will be some guys that get hurt. Nobody’s hurt right now, knock on wood, but we have five-six weeks, everyone has something that goes on in Spring Training. A lot of that takes care of itself by the end of camp.”
Market value for pitchers, Homer Bailey’s deal, changing internal policies in terms of term and dollars…
“There’s no policy on dollars. We’ve always separated players on dollars. Term, obviously, everybody knows the policy. Even if you look at a guy like Bailey, it’s a year of arbitration. I know it’s a six-year deal but it’s a year of arbitration and it’s five years of free agency. Yes, it’s a six-year deal but he’s already got the current year. Regardless whether he has an extension, he’s under contract right now no matter what. He was going to arbitration, either they were going to win or lose but he was going to arbitration. I think you can view that as a six-year deal or a five.
“I got asked about Tanaka and guys like Clayton Kershaw. I think you can put those guys off to the side, it’s hard to compare them. You look at the market with some of these other guys, Jimenez, Tim Hudson, Matt Garza, Phil Hughes, Nolasco. The numbers have kind of been all over the place. But I don’t know that we can look at the market per say for that collection of guys … I think it’s pretty consistent with what it has been.
“I think the change has probably been, this offseason for me, is maybe that part-time player, fourth outfielder market. Raj Davis, Nate McLouth, crowded outfield in Washington. Maybe that 300-400 at-bat player has moved up a little bit. More than a fourth outfielder more than a utility player, the guy that’s in between, there has been some movement there. But otherwise I think the starter market has been pretty consistent with what it has been in the past years.”
“I can’t talk specifically about free agents. I guess I would say, for what the cost is for the remaining free agents that are out there, we feel better, what the current cost is, if the price changes sure, it might change thing. That’s what I felt like it’s unlikely. As we sit here today, with what the current cost would be, we feel better with the guys we have internally.
“It’s a comparison, how much better are they than what you have. We have to make that evaluation. Term and dollars are important. You like every player but at certain years and dollars they don’t make sense for us. If it’s just a draft or something and you’re just picking a player, then abilities are a separate thing but there’s obviously an acquisition cost to all of these guys.”
Term or AAV (average annual salary) more of a deterrent…
“At times both. At times both, depending on who it was. You look at a guy like Tanaka, we weren’t going to do seven years. That’s not to say it’s not going to turn out to be a great deal, or that he’s not outstanding, but that was one where term was the issue more than anything else. Some other guys … I can refer to that because everyone knows our policy.
“I don’t want to say that AAV was an issue for someone else because that’s not fair to the club or the player. Just because we feel a certain way doesn’t mean we’re right or that the club that did that AAV was wrong. But there are times, it all depends on both. Sometimes it’s both, sometimes it’s one of them. They just weren’t the right deals for us.”
Was there a time when you had some explaining to do with ownership because you went all-in and it didn’t work out?
“We never view it that way. The big thing we did was having guys under control for awhile. We know what happened. One, a lot of guys missed time. I don’t think anyone felt Brandon Morrow was going to win two games for us. I don’t think we felt three-fifths of the rotation wasn’t going to pitch and we’d lose the left side of our infield for an extended period. A lot of guys went down. That’s why I think there is so much more upside to what we have right now and there are some things that we find out over the course of time.
“Lawrie pulling his oblique at the World Baseball Classic, or Reyes sliding into second. Those are freak things. Bautista jamming his hip stepping on home plate. Those are things, you don’t expect those things to repeat. Tommy John and things like that, that’s separate.
“But we have everybody under control, there’s a lot of talent on this club and we have the ninth and 11th pick in the Draft. We still feel like our farm is pretty deep, we’re excited about some of the guys coming up. Again, we would have liked to have added depth to the rotation, to have some more established guys to have the kids in the minors and let them just build that depth for us, but they ultimately get an opportunity and I think they can do really well for us.”
A team you view as a contender, how does that impact how high you’re willing to go on free agents/trades…
“It definitely has an impact. You’re always trying to win as many games as you can. For example, you take 2010 and 2011, the path was clear cut in those two years. We traded our Opening Day starter two years in a row. The first one was Halladay and Scutaro, Barajas all of those guys leave as free agents. The next year you’re trading Marcum for Lawrie who you know is going to spend the year in the Minors, you took away your Opening Day starter.
“I don’t think you’re ever going to look at your fans and as this move is going to make us better in the short term. So, those first two years there’s no doubt about it. Now, definitely, because where you’re at contractually, age of players and things like that, you’ll definitely extend yourself a little bit more because it makes more sense.”
“In 2012, the Tommy Johns that we had, we looked at a lot of things and we made some tweaks there. We didn’t have any Tommy John issues last year and even a guy like Adam Lind, didn’t spend any time on the DL, we got 140 games out of him. Last year, for us, I don’t know what we could have done with Lawrie diving for a ball at the World Baseball Classic. Reyes has been in the league for so long, sliding into second, I don’t know that we could have done anything there. Guys like Ortiz and Juan Perez, 40 years old and signing Minor League deals, we knew that their arms were not in very good shape when they signed. That was just the mileage and what they had going on prior to that.
“Josh Johnson, was one, we did a bunch of MRIs and he had a clean bill of health. He finished the year totally healthy. It wasn’t like he threw a lot of innings, there wasn’t anything to really pinpoint there. We definitely took a look at it, we examined it, we even took a look at our DL days, a bunch of it was carryover from the year before. Some of the things were just freak injuries that you can’t, I don’t know what we would have done with Brett Lawrie, I don’t know what we could have done with Reyes. Even Lawrie sliding into second, you work on his slides but, those aren’t things that happen very often.
“The one thing we looked at was the obliques, even though guys didn’t miss a ton of time, Colby missed 4-6 weeks, Raj missed 2-3 weeks, there are some things that we tweaked there. Definitely some things that we changed there. Like I talked about at the end of last year, it seems like oblique injuries are popping up a lot more or at least they’re being diagnosed more and it felt like for us the last two years we were getting a lot more obliques. We re-evaluated some of the strength and conditioning work that we were doing and made some tweaks there.”
How do you want players to interpret lack of turnover?
“The turnover wasn’t going to be with the group we had here. We weren’t going to take away from the core of this team. We made a change behind the plate; that was important to us. Second base, we think there’s obviously going to be turnover there. A third of our lineup is probably going to be different from opening day last year.
“The rotation, I mean, R.A. and Mark made all of their starts and were good for us. We think Brandon Morrow has a ton of ability and a chance to be really good and obviously we feel pretty good about J.A. Happ if he’s in the five spot. Everyone felt good about this rotation going into last year. If I would have sat here before opening day and said three-fifths of the rotation is not going to pitch or perform and I would have told you we’re not going to have a very good year. I would have said it right then and there. We felt good about the five guys because we felt they’d give us a chance to win each night.
“I think just with the depth, a third of your lineup is going to be changed and from a rotation standpoint 60-percent is going to change, I think there has already been some change. I think everyone would have, obviously, liked to have seen more additions and we would have liked to as well but not at the expense of doing something that wouldn’t be smart for the club.”
“Yeah, we definitely do. The talent’s there, there’s no doubt about that. You don’t put too much stock into spring training but the young guys, the way they perform is going to be important. You ask any one of those guys, they’re not just saying I’m going to get my work in. These guys are going to be battling, competing. Go ask Drew Hutchison, Kyle Drabek or Marcus Stroman. These guys are going to get after it and they’re going to show us their best stuff and they’re going to be very competitive.”
Ryan Goins at second base?
“I love the defense. He’s as good defensively, I believe, as we’ve had here since Orlando Hudson was here. I think he’s that good a defender. Defensively, he’s gold glove caliber. The question will be the bat. Obviously we’ve got some competition for him and if he does make this team we view him right now as the nine-hole hitter. I think with Ryan, because the defense is so good, it allows him to not have to hit as much because he can help us on the other side of the ball to such a great extent. I love what he brings from a defensive standpoint.
“We’ll see how everyone else looks. Izturis lost some weight; he looks like he’s in great shape and I know he wants to try to win that job. Obviously Getz is in here and wants to win that job.”
“The doctors said they were surprised he was even playing. He hit .279 and he wasn’t able to get the slugging percentage up because he couldn’t get to second base. There were a bunch of times that there should have been extra base hits for him and just because his speed was so compromised and he felt it defensively as well. We did MRIs on the quads and the hamstrings and the hips and couldn’t find anything but inflammation. Finally, when we found (the tumour) and it had been there for a long time it made sense. I think Melky, there’s a ton of upside there. If he’s hitting .280 with a tumour in his back he’s definitely got upside to be a lot better.”
Options a factor in who will make the team?
“It’s going to be a factor. Right now we can’t carry everybody, assuming everyone performs and everyone stays healthy, but based on past spring trainings, I don’t know that anybody ever stays completely healthy or has great performances the entire way, the only two guys that have options are Steve Delabar and Aaron Loup, and they were such a huge part of our bullpen that I’d be extremely surprised to ever see a change with those guys.
“Again, you still have to go out and perform. It’s a great problem to have, I’d much rather be in that position than say we have three or four guys and we’re looking to add someone in spring training. The likelihood is we can go with an eight-man ‘pen if we need to, to start the year, but a lot of that takes care of itself though. If it doesn’t take care of itself by the end of camp, I’ll be very happy because that means everybody I throwing the ball great and we have a tough call to make.”
Enough production elsewhere to carry Goins’ and his defence?
“It all depends. Is it on-base driven? Can he do the little things? The average for the position would be in the sevens, but you have guys who are premium defenders who can dip below that and be in the sixes. You’d like to get more. I don’t know that there’s a number, but with Ryan, if he can get his walks up a little bit, make more contact, do some of the little things, make some productive outs, get a guy in, move a guy over, there are still ways to help the team, even if maybe some of the other stats aren’t there for him.”
“Before we played our first game if you would have told us three-fifths of our rotation and a lot of our lineup wasn’t going to play, and you would have told me Casey Stengel is going to manage the team, I would have said, ‘God bless him, but good luck.’ That’s understandable, when teams don’t perform people get upset, it comes with the job, we don’t shy away from that, everyone accepts it, but we didn’t have the team we expected to have out there for the bulk of the time.
On Anthopoulos becoming a lightning rod with the fans…
“You always are, no matter what. Managers, GMs, front office, at all times you’re accountable good and bad, and things change fast at any time. We’re winning, things are great, we’re losing, things are terrible. That’s just part of the territory in sports, it’s nothing personal at all, it happens in every sport in every city, same way with players. Players don’t perform, same thing, we’re all accountable, it’s just part of the territory, you know that, we wouldn’t be the first ones to go through it.”
Fans want action…
“I understand that, and look, we did a ton of action last year, and that’s why for me to sit here and try to make promises or try to quote unquote sell something, we’re going to find out soon enough, we’re going to play the games and all that kind of stuff. We’ll see. I wouldn’t say I feel good about some of the young guys we have if I didn’t believe it, because I understand I’ll get asked about it two months from now.
“I remember we were getting hate mail and everything else, Edwin Encarnacion, release him, he’s terrible, and we kept bringing him back, why do you keep bringing him back, it took about three years for him to finally deliver on the promise but we said, ‘hey, this guy can hit 30 home runs,’ and he ended up being better, he hit 40. We felt it was in there, but we felt it was going to take time. I remember even the year we brought him back, he didn’t have a home run at the beginning of June and he finally turned it around in the second half, but it was in there.
“We believe in these guys, believe it’s going to come, and these guys are going to be successful, especially some of the young guys we have. There’s a reason they were drafted as high as they were, there’s a reason they were as highly touted as they’ve been. The skepticism and all that? I totally understand, it comes with the territory, but I think these guys might really surprise.”
More on that same subject…
“I don’t look at it in those terms. Do things work out and not work out? Sure. I have to be clear on that, I’m not saying everything worked out by any stretch. If we look at our process, what could we have changed, what could we have done? I don’t know. Do you get two MRIs on Josh Johnson instead of one? Do we get five? If they’re clean, they’re clean. Brandon Morrow, Brett Lawrie, all those guys. I don’t want to make it like I’m not taking accountability, I absolutely am, we didn’t get the results that we wanted, we absolutely expect it to be better, I can’t stress that enough. But when you ask me about the players, I believe in the talent these guys have. Ultimately all that will be established.
“Whether things work out or not, I’m accountable for that. If they don’t work out, it’s not about making excuses. I’m getting asked about the talent level and how good these guys can be, we think these guys can be good, we think these guys can be better. If they don’t perform at the end of the day, the accountability goes all over the place.