The Blue Jays made their first significant move of the offseason on Saturday afternoon by trading first baseman/designated hitter Adam Lind to the Brewers in exchange for right-hander Marco Estrada. On the main site, you’ll find today’s article on the deal plus another item on the decision to pick up the club option on J.A. Happ while declining 2015 contracts on Brandon Morrow, Dustin McGowan and Sergio Santos.
Below, you’ll find the full transcript of Alex Anthopoulos’ conference call with reporters about the trade and also the contract options:
On the deal…
“We’ve obviously had a lot of meetings and planning for the offseason and spent quite a bit of time talking to clubs and seeing where we might line up and match with them. The more we looked at the areas that we needed to address on the team and where we were going to deploy our resources, we ultimately decided that we weren’t going to move forward with both Adam and Encarnacion at the first base/DH spot. The decision at that point was to see what we could get for Adam. When I talk about resources, it’s where we’re going to allocate our dollars. I think everyone knows we have free agents in center and left, two thirds of the outfield, have some work to do in the bullpen, would like to solidify second or third base.
“With some of the other options, decisions, bringing back J.A. Happ, we needed to create some flexibility. Ultimately, because of that, Adam wasn’t going to end up being back on our team and either we were going to decline the option or make a move if a deal presented itself. We were able to work out a deal with the Brewers and get a guy in Estrada that can fill multiple roles, starting and relieving. Experience doing both, excelled at various times doing both. It gives us a lot of flexibility moving forward and also allows us to allocate some dollars to other areas of need.”
Estrada a bullpen guy or a starter…
“Right now, having exercised with Happ, we have our five guys based on how things ended last year with R.A., Buehrle, Stroman, Drew and Happ. We have five starters there. If the season were to start today, Marco would be in the bullpen. But, again, the fact that he can start, he started 20 games or more in the past, he has the ability to do that, it does give us some options and flexibility as we navigate through the offseason. It’s still very early, the landscape will change and we’ll find out more about the trade market, we’ll find out more about the free-agent market, things certainly can change over the next month or so, but having the flexibility and the options, that’s part of the reason we acquired Smoak, acquired guys like Dirks, it gives us a lot of flexibility as we go through the next few months.”
So the deal is mostly about money…
“This deal is about reconfiguring the roster at this point. We’re never going to sit and talk about who we’re going to try to acquire in trade, who we’re going to go after in free agency, but again, Adam was a very productive hitter against right-handers, he did an unbelievable job for us and had a lot of great years here. I want to thank him. Drafted and developed by the organization and won a Silver Slugger in 2009, did a lot of good things. Hit in the middle of our lineup for a very long time. There’s no question the offense and the bat will be missed, but we have some other areas of need on the club and sometimes you have to make some tough choices, tough decisions.”
Reconfiguring roster means sharing DH role?
“I think it’s not entirely that. We’re not married to that. There is some merit to that and we may go that route. Smoak is under control right now, he may fill that spot, but there’s certainly no assurances or guarantees. It’s still early. We have some ideas in free agency, we have some ideas in trade but we’re not naive enough to think every thing we have planned we’re going to be able to get done, whether it’s free agency or trade. We’re trying to create as many options as we can, that’s part of it. We have some ideas of what we’d like to do, plan As, Bs and Cs. Just have to be very nimble overall because the offseason, things can present themselves fast, and being flexible is going to be pretty important for us.”
How quickly did this deal come together…
“We’ve been talking to clubs for the past week or so. It just came together this morning.”
Lack of left-handed power in the lineup with no Lind or Rasmus…
“I’m not overly concerned, the left-right. Sure, you’d love to have that balanced lineup to make it easier on your manager, you’d love to split left-right. But if we were going to have Bautista and Encarnacion one through nine I’d be happy with a right-handed lineup at that point. It does come down to the quality of the player and so on. The more significant thing, to address your question, we’re certainly going to lose a good offensive player. We acknowledge that, we certainly recognize that, how we fill that gap, what we ultimately do, too early to tell right now but it is early in the offseason. We have some ideas and some things we’ll try to accomplish and hopefully we’ll be successful in doing those things.
“We’d like to bring Cabrera back, see where those discussions go. Having lost Lind’s bat, which ultimately we decided we were probably going to decline if there wasn’t going to be a deal there for us. Once we decided to decline, we were obviously going to explore if there was a trade out there and ultimately we found one with the Brewers. We’re cognizant of the fact that we want to maintain a strong offense, still have an elite offense like we’ve had in the past, that’s not something that will be lost on us as we continue to move through the offseason.”
Surprised at the market for Lind, did you expect more…
“It’s hard to say because we know the player, he does a tremendous job against right-handers, an important part of our lineup, but not everyone values players the same way. I always say this, there’s a lot of players that we like but there’s a lot of players we like at a certain salary. So, when salary starts coming into play, the way Adam’s salary works for next year, it’s a $7.5 million option salary, there’s a $500,000 buyout so it’s an $8-million commitment so that certainly has an impact.
“Players are more valuable the less they make. At a million, two million, you’re that much more valuable than you are at eight. It doesn’t mean you’re not a productive player but everyone has their limitations from a payroll standpoint and that by itself, the salary alone, can limit your market. That’s certainly a factor, there’s no doubt about that. It was a factor for us in where we’re going to deploy our resources. The $8 million for us, as productive of a player as Adam was, we have a lot of other needs, some tough decisions, and we’ll re-allocate our resources to some other areas.”
Janssen/Lind gone, does that change the clubhouse…
“Part of it is free agency. Janssen is a free agent and obviously Adam had a chance to be a free agent. We had the option from the contract he signed awhile ago. One, if someone’s a free agent, Cabrera and some of the other guys, you don’t know if they’re going to come back, but Adam, at the end of the day at $8 million, we didn’t think about tenure or anything like that at all. It was just a matter of where we’re going to allocate our resources. It worked out that with some of the other needs we have, some of the other trade talk we have going on, some of the other free agents we’d like to pursue, we had a tough decision to make. I don’t think anything else factored into the decision.”
Morrow done as a Blue Jay?
“He’s a free agent, his option is declined. I spoke to him today, I spoke to all of the players today. I don’t know. Right now, we don’t have a spot in the rotation. I know it’s his desire to start, we absolutely wouldn’t rule out him coming back as a reliever but I’m respectful of the fact that he wants to start and he’s certainly capable of starting. He has showed it here, but with the guys we have in place, with the decision to exercise on Happ, we don’t have that clear-cut starting spot for him.”
Making a push to sign Cabrera…
“I wouldn’t say just because, I can see this, based on the past track record, those players that we want to keep, we normally have talks. Sometimes those talks come out through the media, the players will say something, the agents will say something. I wouldn’t say whether we had negotiations with Melky at some point in time of the season, I would tell you that we’d like to keep him. We’ve had discussions, I just wouldn’t characterize when. When you talk about making a push to signing a player, it takes two parties to come to an agreement. It depends on what you classify as a push. All you can do is negotiate, try to get deals done, make offers and counteroffers, but at some point if you’re far apart, you’re far apart and there’s only so much that can be done.
“Like you would have in salary arbitration if you have to end up in a room, if you can’t see eye to eye on someone’s free agent value, which is very hard to quantify, sometimes you need to have a third party, which is the market, talking to other clubs, so they truly know what they are worth and you still have a chance to circle back and get a deal done. That might be what occurs here. He wants a long-term deal, completely understandable, my expectation is that he will get one, we’re certainly willing to do that, if it gets done, at this point, it’s too early to say.”
“Right now, we don’t have a starting spot for him. That being said, going into Spring Training, he would be stretched out as a starter as we sit here today because we all know, over the course of Spring Training, things do occur, guys get hurt, there’s performances, rarely do you start with five and start the season with the five you went into camp with. I still view Aaron long term as a starter, I don’t know what the offseason is going to bring, there could be all kinds of changes, I don’t know, it’s too early. As we sit here today, we have our five starters and Aaron will have get a chance to come in, be stretched out during Spring Training and we’ll see what happens. That could change in a few months depending on free agents and trades.”
Clarification on the deal being about money…
“(A reporter) mentioned maybe keeping that DH spot a little more open, moving some guys around, maybe there’s some players in free agency that we would like to pursue. It would be hard to pursue those players if we have two guys under contract, it almost eliminates the ability to pursue them. There’s no certainly that if you exercise and keep the player, if something presents itself a week from now or a month from now, you may not have a spot open, you may not be able to make a move, you may not be able to make a trade.
“It’s a combination of things. I obviously can’t sit here and divulge exactly what we’re going to look to do, players we’re going to look to go after and that probably makes it a little more vague but it’s a combination of things. Re-allocating dollars is certainly one. Keeping that DH position a little more open to rotate guys through, that’s a direction we could go as well. The other direction is there could be some other player we’re trying to acquire through trade or a free agent. If you have your commitment to certain players, with no certainty you can make the move after the fact, you may get stuck and not be able to pursue some of the things you wanted to.”
As things stand now, is Eddie first baseman or DH…
“He can do both. Whatever makes the club better, he can do both. There’s no way to know ultimately. We have some ideas, we have some players we’d like to pursue in trades and free agency. But it’s impossible, we can’t even talk dollars to anybody until Tuesday. It’s impossible for me to get any sense of what the chances are of doing some of those things. It all depends but I think the fact that Eddie can do both gives us flexibility. The fact that Estrada gives us some flexibility. The fact that Sanchez can do both, gives us some flexibility. We don’t know ultimately what we’ll come away with but we want to be able to pursue those players without the restrictions.”
Estrada’s home run rate a concern?
“I think there was a little bit of bad luck involved in the home run rate being higher. He was in a great offensive ballpark, as is ours. I think actually Miller Park plays a little more offensive than our ballpark does. If you look prior to last year, his home run rate, very similar to R.A.’s first year with us, he gave up a lot of home runs, even Buehrle, and when a guy has enough years at the big-league level, home run rates for the most part, stabilize. If you look at Estrada, his home run rate uncharacteristically spiked last year. There’s an element of luck involved and we felt the same way in 2013, Buehrle I think had the same home run rate, but I know R.A. had much higher home run rate in ’13.
“When you look at guys like Ervin Santana, the one year with the Angels he gave up 39 home runs, it wasn’t consistent at all with his career. You can have those outlier years and for a lack of a better word, there’s a luck component to that. If you look at the peripherals, the walk rate was still very good, swing and miss was still very good, did a very good job in the bullpen the last two months of the year. But he’s also done a very good job in the rotation the two years prior to that. He has been in a very offensive ballpark, it’s not like we’re bringing him from a huge park … he’s had a lot of success in the past in a place that’s not very easy to pitch. We’re not concerned with how that’s going to translate.
“You can look at guys like J.A. Happ or Carlos Villanueva, that were in the NL, they came over here and did fine. We think a lot of what he does, he’ll be fine. Fully acknowledging that he’ll give up home runs because he’s a strike thrower. He’s going to give up home runs, he’s going to strike guys out, just don’t think it will be to the level that he was at last year.”
Top priority is now what?
“I wouldn’t say to be completely honest. I can give you the stock answer to get better but I know that’s not very exciting to here. We do have some things that are top priority but I wouldn’t say because it’s to our benefit of what we’re trying to do. Clearly, we need to improve the bullpen. That’s fairly obvious with declining some of the options and free agents. There’s no question, the bullpen, we need to address that, the outfield as well with two thirds of those guys being free agents.
“If we can upgrade the rotation, right now we have five guys there, we’d look to do that but we have guys we feel pretty good about. And also to make sure that we’re still a strong offensive club and that can come in the form of outfielders, infielders, second or third base. I don’t know if it’s one position that’s more of a need. The offense, the bullpen, the order that goes in, the players that become available, I think our priorities are based more on players based on the order of need.”
Izturis a candidate to start at 2B?
“I think right now, he might have a chance to do that, I don’t know. We’ll know more as get through the offseason. That could be a way we go. There is a scenario where he could come in and compete for the second base job. There’s a scenario that he’s the utility guy, he’s recovering very well. I saw him in Florida when I was down there for instructional league. He looks great, he’s feeling very, very good. But we’re not ready to make any commitments for his role next year, especially coming off the injury. There are scenarios where he could find himself in that spot but that will ultimately depend on who else ends up being on the club by the time we start Spring Training.”
Sanchez as closer…
“I don’t think we’re prepared to even get that far. If our rotation stays the same, I would say Sanchez has a very good chance to be in our bullpen. He did a great job. What the role would be, I have no idea because right now, we can come up with seven guys for the bullpen based on guys under control, but we clearly want to add to that. I know a lot gets talked about with Sanchez, reliever or starter, there’s no doubt in our minds that long term we view him as a starter. When that happens, I don’t know, but we view him as a starter and it could happen in the current year.”
McGowan’s optioned getting declined…
“It was a case of re-allocating dollars. When we did that contract, the option salary for $4 million, I know there are relievers that make $4 million, but that was based on him as a starter. Right now, that number was just too high for us.”
Assume no qualifying offers to Janssen and Rasmus?
Emotional attachment saying goodbye to McGowan…
“There’s no question. Guys that have been in the organization a long time, Lind has been here a long time, drafted and developed here. McGowan long time drafted and developed here. Janssen’s a free agent and we’ll see where that goes. He had come out and said … we had brief talks with him around the All-Star Break and weren’t able to get anything done. You don’t know. With a guy like McGowan, we weren’t going to exercise the option at $4 million but that doesn’t mean he can’t be back here for a number that makes sense for us. Right now, he is a free agent, he’ll find out what interest is out there for him.
“The only example I can point to, I know sometimes we decline options and everyone assumes these guys are gone … but Encarnacion is a guy we lost on waivers, we didn’t want to pay what the salary arbitration number would be, we wanted to move him to first base, he still felt he could play third at the time, he needed to explore the market, to know he wouldn’t leave anything on the table, or would get an opportunity to play third, only once he felt comfortable that his opportunity was going to be at first, he came back to us and we were able to get a deal done. That could happen with a few of these guys.
“Just because we didn’t agree at the option salary … it’s certainly not a done deal that they couldn’t be back. We’ll still talk. When guys are free agents, there’s a greater likelihood that they won’t come back, the numbers will certainly show you that. Guys that become free agents, more likely than not, they don’t return.”