Hello folks, Spring Training is almost upon us. Partial coverage from Dunedin will begin on Tuesday with full coverage starting on Wednesday in what will be my first full day in Florida. Now that the offseason is over, expect daily coverage on the blog in addition to of course the daily coverage on the main site.
I’ll also periodically submit some photo galleries during the workout days prior to the start of the Grapefruit League season. Don’t forget to follow me on Twitter @gregorMLB for all the breaking news throughout the spring.
In case you missed it earlier this week, here’s the Spring Training preview article that should get you set for everything in camp: http://toronto.bluejays.mlb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20130207&content_id=41475634&vkey=news_tor&c_id=tor
I’m back in action after taking a couple of lovely weeks to return to my home province of New Brunswick to visit with friends and family. Now that the holidays are out of the way, it’s time to resume looking ahead to the upcoming season and what better way to start than a news conference with R.A. Dickey and Alex Anthopoulos.
On the main site, you’ll find my article on Dickey plus another item with all the latest information on Darren Oliver‘s potential retirement, request for more money, or a trade. After the 30-minute news conference with Dickey, Anthopoulos took some additional time to meet with reporters.
I’ll attempt to post a full transcript later this week but in the meantime here is a rundown of what Anthopoulos had to say:
- The Blue Jays continue to move forward under the assumption that Oliver will retire instead of returning for another season in Toronto. The club appears unlikely to offer him additional money on the $3-million he’s set to make in 2013 and Anthopoulos said a trade would only be made if it provided the Blue Jays with a clear upgrade.
- Even if Oliver does retire, Anthopoulos doesn’t expect to spend the $3-million on another player: “We blew so far past where we were supposed to be (in payroll). Darren was an exception, we exercised the option at the beginning of the offseason, payroll commitments were so different back then. Obviously if Darren was to choose to come back, we would certainly honor that, we’d be thrilled to have him. But that money is Darren Oliver money, it’s not go get another player or reliever money.”
- Anthopoulos confirmed that former shortstop prospect Justin Jackson will make the transition to a pitcher this Spring. Jackson said on Twitter that he was clocked at 95MPH and it’s the live arm that has the Blue Jays intrigued about the possibilities. There are no guarantees it will ever work out but with Jackson failing to produce at the plate during his Minor League career it’s a risk worth taking.
- J.A. Happ will begin the season as the Blue Jays sixth starter. In order words, he’s the back-up and won’t get an opportunity in the rotation until someone gets hurt. In the meantime, Happ will compete for a spot in the bullpen but he also has an option remaining on his contract and it’s possible he could begin the year at Triple-A Buffalo.
- Anthopoulos said Happ wasn’t exactly happy about the news but the writing was on the wall once the club acquired Josh Johnson, Mark Buehrle and Dickey for its rotation. Happ has accepted his role and for whatever it’s worth Anthopoulos said he’s excited about playing on a winning ballclub.
- The Blue Jays do not expect outfielder Melky Cabrera to be asked to take part in the upcoming World Baseball Classic. Jose Reyes, Edwin Encarnacion and Brett Lawrie are all but a lock to participate while it remains unlikely Jose Bautista will receive clearance considering he is coming off a left wrist injury that prematurely ended his 2012 campaign. No word yet on whether pitchers like Dickey, Brandon Morrow and Josh Johnson would be in the mix for Team USA.
- Pitchers and catchers are set to report to Spring Training on Feb. 13. The full roster will officially report on Feb. 17.
- Dickey said that he played catch with J.P. Arencibia in Nashville on Monday. Dickey praised Arencibia’s willingness to learn how to catch a knuckleball and provided the third-year catcher with a large glove that it typically used to for that type of pitcher.
- Anthopoulos said the Blue Jays remain in the market for a right-handed bat that can be used off the bench. The preference is to acquire someone that has the ability to play in the infield but Anthopoulos may choose to stick with signing several players to Minor League contract with a shot at competing for the job. It’s also possible that additional players will become available when teams start making their cuts late in camp.
- Anthopoulos also said that Sal Fasano‘s departure as the manager in Double-A New Hampshire will not have any impact on a potential future in that role at the big league level. The Blue Jays approached Fasano about taking a promotion to become a Minor League catching coordinator and they feel it’s something that will make him a more well-rounded coach/potential manager in the future.
Don’t forget to follow me on Twitter @gregorMLB.
The Winter Meetings have come to an end and not surprisingly it was a relatively quiet week for the Blue Jays. Sure, there were plenty of rumours but in reality there was never anything close to getting done in Nashville.
Toronto already completed most of its offseason shopping, and while there is certainly a desire to keep improving, the type of moves that could come next weren’t expected to take place in the Music City. Could R.A. Dickey still be in play? Perhaps but the ball is clearly in New York’s court at this point.
We know that the Blue Jays and Mets have engaged in discussions but the extent of those talks remain very much unknown. Before anything can happen the Mets must make a final decision about whether they can re-sign their No. 1 starter, which remains their top priority. If those negotiations reach an impasse then Toronto along with several other clubs could enter the mix. That doesn’t guarantee any deal will ever get done but it’s safe to assume that Alex Anthopoulos will continue to explore the possibility.
With nothing on the horizon, Anthopoulos left the Winter Meetings a day early and did not stick around for the Rule 5 Draft (which didn’t really matter because Toronto was already at full capacity on its 40-man roster). Before he flew out, though, Anthopoulos sat down for a lengthy chat with Toronto reporters. Here’s what he had to say and make sure to give me a follow on Twitter @gregorMLB if you’re not doing so already!
On whether there was any progress on potential moves as the Meetings drew to a close…
“There are things that we looked at, spent a little time on, but then you realize they’re just not a fit. You always examine everything but there’s nothing that was presented to us that we’ve spent days on, or we’re working through. There was maybe one idea that someone floated that was interesting, that was fair value, we spent the night reviewing it, we just didn’t feel like it was the right fit for our club.”
On whether there were offers he presented to other teams…
“That I would say yes. But, again, I just don’t see it. They are more concepts. We’re not going to have anything resolved at all. Just more ideas, this player, that player, it’s more on the trade front than anything else. We’ve floated ideas, certainly teams can come back to us on them.”
On whether the previous moves this offseason took away a sense of urgency for these Winter Meetings…
“I think it’s always harder to get things done here. I feel like the Winter Meetings, there’s almost too much going on that it’s hard to get anything done other than free agent signings. This is where a lot of free agent deals get done, a lot of agents want to meet, and you’re always weighing free agents with trades.
“If we were to do anything (else), take a lot of the groundwork that was laid here and you do it after you get to step away, everyone gets to calm down a little bit. You’re trying to get a hold of people, they’re trying to get a hold of you, you miss calls because you’re in the middle of a meeting or on a phone call. It’s tough, everyone’s so preoccupied.”
On whether he expects that to continue through the month of December and result in a busy January…
“I think January will be Minor League signings. Maybe last minute trades, teams that have lost out on certain players. If we have depth maybe there’s a fit there.
“Clearly we made a large transaction early and that’s going to impact our ability to do other things. I don’t expect to do anything big.”
On whether he’s more likely to make a trade or sign a free agent…
“If I had to pick one, I’d say we’re unlikely to do either right now. But I’m always going to say the trade front.”
Does it bother you Yunel is back in the division? Would you ask a team not to flip a player to a division rival?
“You can do that. But when you’re making a trade, you’re making a trade with that team. You can’t try to start to control what happens after the fact. And how long does that last? Is it an agreement with the GM and he’s not there anymore, if things change. So, no, that’s just part of the game.
“At the end of the day, you can’t worry about what everyone else is doing. Yunel’s a good player, Reyes was a better fit for us. I’m not surprised that he got traded. I think there was a very real scenario he was going to get traded.”
Are you surprised the Yankees’ money doesn’t seem to weigh as much anymore?
“I know there’s been a lot that has been talked about. It seems odd. I’ll believe when I see it at the end of January or when Spring Training hits. They’re still going to have a healthy payroll, it’s going to be high. I can’t tell you that I know what the Yankees exactly are doing. Maybe they’re waiting for the right deals.
“I think they have been very specific. They’ve spent money, you look at Kuroda, he got a pretty good contract, it’s a one-year deal. Andy Pettitte. I think they’re just being very specific in where they’re spending their money. That’s just from an outsider.
“I know a lot has been written about and talked about on front. It’s not like they haven’t spent money. Three signings they made free agency wise were $10-million or more. They’ve already spent $38-million or whatever it was on three players and that’s pretty good.”
Is filling important positions on one-year contracts a problem? They seem to be trying to get their payroll down by next year.
“Yeah, I read that too, 2014. I think for the Yankees it’s not because they’re a great organization, they’re a winning organization. They’ve made the playoffs every year in the last 18 years or so except once and these are all older, more experienced players. It’s very similar to Toronto in the early ’90s. They had a lot of established stars that took shorter term deals because they wanted a chance to win. Or you see a guy like Torii Hunter go to Detroit on a two-year deal.
“Those winning organizations, they get those players on shorter-term contracts because most times those players have made their money, they’ve had their accomplishments, winning’s the last piece that they want and those organizations are in a great spot to sign those guys.”
Josh Hamilton seems to be having difficulty securing a long-term contract. Are the days of seven or eight-year deals coming to an end?
“They continue to happen because Ryan Braun was extended last year, Troy Tulowitzki, Evan Longoria, David Wright. Seven-year deals, they’re latched onto deals that are already existing but those deals are alive and well.”
Are those better deals to sign when they’re your own player?
“I think any time you’re signing your own player you have more information than on a player from the outside and there’s normally an age component there because the free agency component, you’re only older. We feel pretty strongly, I know Paul definitely has been the biggest proponent of it, is term. We’d rather pay a higher rate on a shorter term than doing an incredibly long deal. Things change.
“I’ve come around to it, I really have. I know that it was more of a wait and see approach at the beginning but I’ve really come around to it. Players change, things change fast. Even five years in this game is a really long time.”
Does A-Rod deal lend credence to that?
“I think the injury component. Eric Chavez signed a deal with Oakland a long time ago and people talked about when Longoria signed his deal, he looked at guys like Grady Sizemore. I think the health is the biggest thing. Even from a performance standpoint things change as well. The longer you go on a deal the more things change. We’re dealing with human beings.”
Contracts Boston gave to Victorino and Napoli does that put Bautista’s contract in a different light?
“I think the biggest thing to look at, Jose, his contract was after one year of performance at the age of 31. At the time of the signing, the free agents at the time, Victor Martinez had a long career at a premium position and he got $12.5 million. Paul Konerko was a multiple All-Star for years, consistency of performance, he got $12.5 per year. Dan Uggla, years of consistent performance, got 12 something. Adrian Beltre, who was a great player for a long time and a Gold Glove third baseman got only $2-million more than Jose per year after a lot of years of great production at a premium position.
“Even if you look at David Wright’s deal right now, the extension, the average annual value is $17-million. I’m not saying it’s a small amount of money, that’s years of performance there, Zimmerman, Longoria. I think someone said it best, there’s no one in the history of the game that made more money off one year than Jose Bautista. That’s not to disparage him.
“I’ve said this before, I was uneasy with the contract. Two or three days later I doubted myself and wondered if I did the right thing. I’d like to sit here and say, we knew all along he was going to perform well. But I still think the way things are, those deals are shorter-term deals and obviously Jose’s was a five-year deal, but look at what Beltre since he has signed his deal, he has been unbelievable and he is making $2-million more.”
On Red Sox plugging holes one at a time and whether the Blue Jays could have taken a similar approach or if they needed to get everything done at once…
“We talked a lot. We had people in the office that would have not done that trade, which was an indication that it was a fair deal from a baseball standpoint. It’s very hard to give up that kind of talent. One of the big talking points internally was, rather than give up the players, we were taking up a lot of dollars, let’s go spend it in the free agent market and we’d get to keep our players.
“In theory, that’s outstanding. That is the way to go, in theory, if you can guarantee getting the free agent players. The problem, as I even saw last year, there are two examples but one especially, there was a reliever that we tried to sign last year that I must have called the agent 80 times. We were offering more money and we just ultimately, it was geography, it was family, it was all of those things. Sometimes even though you have more money and more years there’s no guarantee you’re going to get the player.
“We sit here sometimes now and talk about, let’s go sign this free agent, and I remind everybody, a bunch of other teams are having the same conversation we are. There’s value in getting the bird in the hand and that’s sometimes where you don’t haggle as much if you’re close to being able to get something done.
“In a perfect world you keep the young players, you sign the free agent if you can get the right value. But from that standpoint it was the certainty of acquiring the players carried a lot of weight.”
But would you have been able to get the money if you did it piece by piece or would you have had to go to ownership each time?
“I would have been on my own to a certain point and once I reached that point, now I’m going over, that’s when I pick up the phone and call. But it’s pretty fast. I don’t have to go up to Rogers and put up a PowerPoint slide presentation and spend days doing it. Obviously I have a direct line with Paul and Paul takes care of that.
“It’s pretty seamless and it’s pretty fast. Nothing should develop so fast that I don’t have 30 seconds to make a call.”
But would it have been a tougher sell to keep going back to repeatedly as opposed to the one-stop shopping?
“We had a pretty good amount of money to spend coming into the offseason one way or the other. I would have brought Paul along ahead of time. It wouldn’t have been all of a sudden something came out of nowhere. Free agency wise you always have a game plan. We wanted to get at least two starters. We wanted to fill certain spots, utility infield, shortstop, all that kind of stuff.
“We had meetings right after the season, we had targets in free agency we were going to go after. We had made calls on the trade front. That’s what I talked about at the GM meetings, there were a lot of other balls in the air, there were a lot of other free agents we could have engaged in, but the Marlins trade was clearly the right fit.
“We had the right players for them and they had the right players for us. It made all the sense in the world. Rather than try to spend time on this and that, to focus all of our energy on that. We talked out of the Marlins suite, I said this is the deal we’re going to spend our time on. We’re going go at it hard, spend the week or five-six days and there was value in getting it done early. We couldn’t leave it hanging around with all of the other things going on.”
On whether there’s a specific type of player he’s looking for as the 25th guy…
“There’s value in keeping that spot open. You may, for whatever reason, carry one more guy in the bullpen. You may want to have someone that could be on option that you’ve got the flexibility to have someone go up and down if there’s a need there.
“We’ve picked up players each year at the end of Spring Training. Whether it was (Jayson) Nix or Fred Lewis. Guys become available at the end of Spring Training when they don’t make clubs.”
On Escobar (question asked on behalf of Tampa media)…
“Good player. Good defensive player. Outstanding hands, outstanding arm strength. A guy that has the ability to get on base and has very good raw power, pretty good gap power and has a lot of ability. A lot of talent, very talented shortstop.”
On how the AL East changed with the moves in the Winter Meetings…
“I still think there is so much more to be done on all levels. We up making a transaction early. Not by design, it just worked out that way. There’s no doubt those teams, not necessarily the Rays, but those teams do have dollars to spend, they have holes to fill. They’re going to keep doing it. Normally New York and certainly Boston can be big players in free agency. I expect that to continue, I don’t expect that to change.
“We made a big transaction early but there are still a lot of very good free agents that are out there. We’re done not, those teams are going to continue to get better.”
Leaving here closer to a free agent or a trade?
“If I had to pick one I’d say we’re unlikely to do either right now.”
So you’re set?
“I know we love to put words in my mouth but no I would say we’re going to try to continue to do things. I just don’t see there being anything right now. I think the Winter Meetings is tough. We’ve inquired on players, we’ve talked about things. But we don’t have anything that’s remotely close or that we’re really having a debate. I think there’s a bunch of deals that we can make at prices that we definitely do not want to pay.”
Long question about whether there’s a specific type of hitter for the 25th spot. A versatile player or a guy who can hit with some power, etc…
“We’ve had a debate about the 25th guy. I know it’s the 25th guy, but because of the versatility of the guys on the roster with Bonifacio, Izturis, obviously guys that can play all three outfield spots with Davis and Cabrera. We just don’t know how much the 25th guy is going to play and how he’s going to fit.
“We think Davis is certainly a bat that can hit against left-handers because he’s had some success doing that. The debate has been, do you keep the spot open? See how things go in Spring Training. Guys on Minor League deals that are performing well, guys that are out of options that don’t make teams. We can just take a wait and see approach. If we go sign someone to a guaranteed deal, and if we do, do you take someone that has more ability or someone that has a better clubhouse dynamic. Realizing that there isn’t going to be that many at-bats unless of course everybody gets hurt.
“That’s kind of the debate. Do you get someone that can help the dynamic of the clubhouse or be strictly the best player.”
John Gibbons sat down with reporters for his Meet the Manager session on Monday afternoon here at the Winter Meetings in Nashville. All managers across Major League Baseball will sit through a similar media session this week with Boston skipper John Farrell scheduled to talk on Tuesday afternoon.
A nice bonus of this session is that the full transcript is provided to reporters by ASAP Sports. You can find my article about this scrum on the main media site but here’s with the full transcript from the event:
Q. Your role this week is what? We know what Alex does when it comes to trade signings, but when you’re in the room with him, what contributions does a manager make?
JOHN GIBBONS: Well, what we do in there, you might throw out a name or two you’re thinking about trying to acquire or those kind of things, and he might go around and room and ask our opinions on different guys, if we know them, what do we think, what does that do to the team. But one thing about Alex, he wants everybody’s opinion and he’s got to make the decision. Kind of slow today and not much happening, but that’s kind of what happens at these meetings, and then the managers do these things and you turn around and go home.
Q. What were your thoughts coming into today?
JOHN GIBBONS: Well, I did that the first go‑around here, but it’s been a while. But yeah, it’s always a ‑‑ it’s an exciting time because I’ve been out of it a while. One thing, it’s always good to see some familiar faces that we have here.
Q. It’s a little different coming into these meetings, for the last couple years it’s been about what are they going to give up. Now you guys are coming in from a position of strength looking to maybe add some depth as opposed to what are we going to do.
JOHN GIBBONS: We’re feeling good right now, there’s no question about it. It was a big trade for us and signing Cabrera. So they’ve really done a nice job of bringing in some players. I said earlier when I got hired, now it’s a job that the manager and the coaching staff to pull it all together and get the most out of these guys. But it’s a good position to be in. This job came out of nowhere for me, and to be sitting there looking at some of the players that they acquired in doing that, makes it that much nicer. I would have taken the job if he hadn’t made that deal, but it makes it much nicer to take it now.
Q. Is there enormous pressure on you?
JOHN GIBBONS: There’s always pressure, no doubt about it, because a lot is expected in the baseball world and the country of Canada and Toronto specifically there. But yeah, that’s a good thing. That means you’ve got a good team. But there’s always pressure in this business to perform.
Q. Alex was saying he was blown away by how many free agents are interested now in being a Blue Jay. Do you get that sense in baseball, since the move how much of a popular distinction is now for players?
JOHN GIBBONS: Yeah, everybody is excited about it. When you turn on the TV, you hear about the Toronto Blue Jays a lot because of what they did and what the potential is here. So it’s an exciting time. You’ve got to go out and do it. You can talk all the want, this time of year that’s what the game is. But come April you’ve got to perform.
Q. Have you gotten a chance in the last two weeks to talk to most of the guys you want to talk to?
JOHN GIBBONS: Yeah, I’ve talked to most of the guys. I’ve had trouble getting ahold of some of those guys down in Latin America, but yeah, I’ve talked to just about all of them.
Q. What have you heard from the new guys especially?
JOHN GIBBONS: They’re all excited, too. A group of them came over, all played together last year so they all know each other, but there’s a lot of new faces. And the guys that have been here, they look at if the trade is good for them, too. You know what, our team got that much better and they’re excited about it. Everybody wants to win. And normally guys want to get to the Big Leagues and become everyday players and establish themselves, and once you do that, it’s time to win.
So they’re all ready to go. But I’m going to have to familiarize myself a little bit more when we get to Spring Training because these guys don’t know me and I’ve got to get to know them, and we’ve got to come together as a team. You just can have all the talent in the world, but if you don’t play as a team or focus on the same thing, you don’t get anywhere.
Q. Do you like the idea of having a guy like Buehrle as a veteran of this team? Even when Doc was here, he was still growing with the team a little bit before he became that veteran guy.
JOHN GIBBONS: Yeah, Mark has been around a long time, been very, very successful. Naturally he’s going to be a leader. And you don’t need to be a local guy. He’s the kind of guy that can lead by example. Those guys, when things get tough, you can always fall back on them. They have a tendency of pulling you through it and making a big pitching outing and getting a big hit to get a win. Veterans have been around a while and they’ve got that knock.
Q. Have you started looking at your roster and picture how you’d like the rotation to go or a batting order to do and utilizing what you have?
JOHN GIBBONS: Yeah, I’ve tinkered with it from Day 1 when I got the job. It’s a pretty good lineup now. You’re not scrambling to jam guys in up at the top, but getting somebody who can hit at the top of the order. Now we’ve got so many guys that can do that, we’ll sometimes have to move some guys back. But it’s too early to say who’s going to hit where. I can probably tell you the top four right now, definitely Reyes, probably going to be Cabrera and then Bautista and Encarnacion, I can guarantee that.
Q. Alex was saying you talked about giving the opportunity to hit lefties. What gives you the belief that he can hit lefties?
JOHN GIBBONS: Well, Adam broke in when I was there, I think there was a couple September call‑ups. After I got fired the first time, he got called up for good and really took off. From Day 1 in the Minor Leagues he could always hit. I mean, he was drafted as a hitter and he was always successful. Last couple years he’s fallen on some tough times, but he’s hit before, so I expect he’s going to get every opportunity to do the same because he’s got a chance to be a key part of this. And he hit before, he should be able to hit again.
Q. What other things are going to be your priorities?
JOHN GIBBONS: Well, you know, I just sit back and kind of look at the team, just kind of dream, if you will. But right now with the new coaching staff, the new bench coach, we just kind organizing Spring Training because that’s the main thing in front of us right now, that’s basically it, and then finding a bullpen coach. Hopefully we’ll have something next week where we’re going to do with that. Other than that it’s been quiet and just enjoying the moment.
Q. Have you had a chance to talk to Brett? And what have people told you about him?
JOHN GIBBONS: Well, you know, I had ‑‑ he’s a very aggressive kid with a ton of talent, got a chance to be one of the best players in the game. That’s what I’ve heard about him. I’ve heard, too, that he’s learned at this level on the basis he made some mistakes, that kind of thing. I read that, I’ve heard that. But he’s a kid ‑‑ from everything I’ve heard he’s the kind of guy you want on your team, he’ll run through the wall for you, and he’s got a ton of talent. That’s the bottom line. And with more experience, actually he’ll become a smarter player.
Q. Have you had a chance to chat with him?
JOHN GIBBONS: Yeah, I talked to him a couple times on the phone, yeah, and he’s excited. He’s a gung-ho kid you can just tell by talking to him. Also a friend of mine was one of his hitting coaches when he was down in Double‑A with the Brewers, and he said, “You’ll love this kid. He’ll go through a wall for you.” I’ve heard nothing but good things to be honest with you.
Q. The common thread in describing you as a manager here is knowing how to handle a bullpen. In your mind what is it you do with a bullpen that makes it effective?
JOHN GIBBONS: You know, that would be tough to answer. First of all, you’ve got to have good guys pitching down there. You’ve got to have some talent, some fire power, then you just piece it together. With a good starting rotation that always makes a bullpen better because those guys are working less, and then you’ve just got to identify the roles and run with it, know who can do what. And you’ve still got to protect those guys. You don’t want to kill them down there. You piece it together like a puzzle in a lot of ways.
Q. Do you go into Spring Training in that regard with an open mind in terms of roles?
JOHN GIBBONS: Yeah, because they threw some things at me. I know Janssen, he had a great year and he took over as a closing role. We’ll find out about Sergio, see where he’s at, find out whether coming out of the gates he’s healthy enough. It make take him a while to get going. But guys like Delabar and Lincoln, good arms, see how they fit. Luke, the lefty, it’s always valuable to have a good lefty that can get lefties out. A lot of guys can’t. We’ll piece it together. But I’ve got to learn these guys. And you can’t judge everything off Spring Training because you know how that is sometimes, so I’ll rely on these other guys to tell me some of that.
Q. Is part of it letting them know when they’re going to be used and not getting them up too often?
JOHN GIBBONS: Yeah, that’s where it takes its toll on the bullpen is you get them up and you don’t use them. If you get them up and you get them in the game, everything is fine. There’s ups and downs that really take their toll on these guys. You can’t always do that, but if you’re conscious of it and say ‑‑ especially with your late‑inning guys, you’ve really got to guard those guys because if things are going well they’re going to be in a lot of games, so you’ve got to be conscious of that.
Q. Is Mike the second baseman as far as you’re concerned or could Emilio Bonifacio win that job?
JOHN GIBBONS: As of Thursday he’s signed to do that, but he’s very versatile. He can play several positions. Bonifacio can also play the outfield. We do have to figure that out, but it’s a good problem to have because they’re both very talented kids, men. So we’ll see.
Q. Update on Sergio Santos?
JOHN GIBBONS: Yeah, we don’t know anything about Sergio really. Well, we know ‑‑ we don’t know how far along he is. You’ve got to be conscious of that.
Q. Regardless of that, what Janssen did last year, would you give him the chance to keep the job because it’s his to lose?
JOHN GIBBONS: Well, that’s tough to answer right now, but I’m a big fan of Casey’s because I had him before, I know what he’s capable of doing. Any time you come off a surgery, you’ve got to be ‑‑ you don’t know what’s going to happen. I don’t want to get ahead of myself. But it’s nice to have both those guys and maybe can do that. Casey had a little minor procedure himself, so you’ve got to be conscious of that, of both those guys.
Q. Can you compare how you’re looking for a place in this division?
JOHN GIBBONS: Well, I still think it’s the toughest division in baseball. That first go‑around, it was tough. You were looking up at Boston and New York all the time. Tampa was on the verge of really coming into their own. You could see some young players ‑‑ in Baltimore at that time they scored runs; on the nights they pitched they were very tough. I followed them over the years, and New Yorks and Bostons, they’re always going to be ‑‑ Boston had a down year last year, but that’s not going to last. And Baltimore gets into the postseason. Tampa is right there. So it’s a tough grind, tough division to play in, but that’s why we feel with the trades we made and signing of Cabrera gives us a shot. But you’ve got to go out and do it, but it gives us a lot of excitement.
Q. How do you feel about the starting rotation?
JOHN GIBBONS: Very good. Very good. You know, I think every team in baseball is looking for five guys they can count on, and through this trade we added two pretty good ones. So that was a question mark coming in before they made that trade. Yeah, we feel pretty good.
You’re going to have your ups and downs throughout a year, guys are going to get banged up, there will be some injuries. That’s just part of it. Now the thing is you’ve got to focus on depth. So one of these guys or two of those guys go down for any length of time, can we cover it. That’s where teams get in trouble. Same thing with the bullpen. Hopefully you have a guy sitting down in Triple‑A that can come up and maybe has a little experience and he’s not just a BP arm out there.
Q. How much do you know about Happ? He pitched in the National League. And what do you expect out of the fifth starter in terms of performance?
JOHN GIBBONS: Well, you want a guy that’s good and competitive that can keep you in a ballgame, give you a chance to win. The thing I remember most about Happ was a Spring Training game the last time I was here and we played the Phillies over there, and he just blew us away for five innings or whatever his stint was. I can remember talking to J. P. about that afterward. Who’s this guy right here? I kind of lost track, but he’s got a good arm. He strikes out ‑‑ he’s a big strikeout guy, and he’s be a perfect fit. Here’s his opportunity over here to do it, and lefties are always valuable. Some of the best hitters in the game are lefties.
Q. It seems like there’s a special window for the Blue Jays who have been shut out for a long time. Is this your time?
JOHN GIBBONS: Well, we hope so. But I mean, it’s still early in the offseason. The Yankees are going to be good. They won it again last year. You know, the Red Sox, there’s too much pressure on them not to do something to strengthen their team after what they went through last year. That’s a given. And Tampa, they come at you and they’re one of the better teams in baseball every year the last few years. And Baltimore.
I don’t know if this is our window. We think we’re very competitive and we can compete in this division now, but we’re hoping this is our time.
Q. Is it going to be strange at all playing in your division after managing another team?
JOHN GIBBONS: No, because I don’t really know them. If I knew them, it might be a little bit different, but I know he’s a fixture there in Boston. They really wanted him back. After all those years of being the pitching coach there. I did get a chance ‑‑ I was in town with Kansas City a couple years ago and got a chance to meet John, but I really don’t know him, but I’m sure he’ll do a great job over there.
Q. He knows your players fairly well.
JOHN GIBBONS: Yeah, but you know, to get him out or hit him, you’ve still got to execute, and we like our guys.
Q. What else do you think this team needs to finalize the roster?
JOHN GIBBONS: To be honest with you, I like the way it sits now, but you’re always looking to strengthen it in whatever way. I think the big thing now is depth, to overcome some injuries, what have you. But you know, they put together a pretty good group of guys. You can’t have everything. Nobody has a perfect team. You’re never going to ‑‑ we sure like the way it’s shaping up right now.
Q. Have you had conversations about what went wrong last year, what things have you heard?
JOHN GIBBONS: Well, just from what I’ve heard and what I’ve read and things like that, baserunning was an issue, running into needless outs. I can’t comment on a lot of that because I wasn’t here. That’s not fair to anybody that was. I guess this would be my chance because I don’t know most of these guys. To get to know them, make my own judgments. You know, throw my philosophies at them, that kind of thing, my style of play.
So I can’t worry about that. It’s a new start for them. It’s a new start for me. But this team has got very good team speed. We’ve got power. We’ve got the pitching. So we need to play smart baseball is basically all I can tell you right now.
Q. On the running game….
JOHN GIBBONS: Well, you know, you’ve got guys and that’s their game and they’ve been very successful about it and they do it, you don’t want to shut that down. That’s why we got them, because they can do those things. So go for it, but be smart, too. Because we have some hitters sitting in the middle of that lineup that are ready to drive you in and hit home runs and those kind of things. So be smart about it. We don’t want to run unnecessary outs or ‑‑ still, you’ve got to be successful at a high rate, you know, when you’re stealing. But hey, that’s your game, go for it. That way you come up against tough pitching on a given night, low run scoring game, those guys can generate the runs for you and that’s how you can win those games. But they’re getting paid a lot of money to do those things and we’re not going to get in the way of that.
Q. Which coach will handle the running game?
JOHN GIBBONS: Luis will handle that, and Murph, and then me.
Q. When you were interviewing with Alex on the weekend in Toronto, since then when you’re talking with players on the phone, has anyone mentioned the clubhouse situation late in the season, especially the players? Have you talked to them about it?
JOHN GIBBONS: No. I had heard some things and read it, but I didn’t want to approach that. You’re going to get guys, different views on what’s going on in there, and you’ve got ‑‑ I’m sure you run into guys that weren’t fond of somebody that might have been here, that kind of thing, so you’re going to get different stories and that kind of thing, so I didn’t want to approach that.
I’m taking over, so this is my chance to kind of shape the clubhouse the way I think it is. I think they’ve got some good guys on the team, but there’s going to be a bunch of new faces, so you’ve still got to come together.
Q. You mentioned your approach and philosophy. How would you describe it?
JOHN GIBBONS: My personality or ‑‑
JOHN GIBBONS: Well, I think any smart manager, you’ve got to take a look and see what you’ve got. Like I said a minute ago, we’ve got really good team speed, we’ve got guys that can hit the ball in the seats. And you’ve got to remember, too, in our division, it’s a good division for hitting home runs, too. We’ve got guys that can do that, some guys that are just good hitters.
We’ll turn them loose when we need to and then it’s just pretty much just running the pitching staff is where everything comes into play. Getting the most out of your players. You’ve got to get the most out of who they are. That’s what I think successful managers do. I’ve said before, and I don’t want to minimize things, but baseball is different from other sports where it’s not all Xs and Os because most teams bunt at the same times, whatever the situation might be. They’ll hit and run, steal and all that, depending on who’s on the mound. You know what I’m talking about. Fastball, play calling, Xs and Os is everything, so baseball is getting the most out of what you’ve got, and the guys that are successful in this business do that. Your top managers, that’s what they do. And then they’re smart enough, I believe, to get out of the way and let those guys ‑‑ you can’t control everything in this business. That’s why you see talented teams win and less talented lose. Turn them loose and let them use their skills.
Q. A lot of times when you bring good players together, they don’t always match.
JOHN GIBBONS: No doubt, yeah.
Q. So that’s part of the job, too.
JOHN GIBBONS: That’s a big part of it, yeah. A lot of new faces. Everybody has got to be looking for the same goal, and that’s to win. You’d like that to always be the case, but different teams that’s not always the case.
So we’ve got to make sure we get that out of them, and I think we will. But it should be fun. But there’s no substitute for talent in this business, and so going in we’ve got a lot of talent. That’s why we feel really good.
Q. Is it going to be tough on you not having at least Lawrie and Reyes all Spring Training because of the World Baseball Classic and maybe some other guys?
JOHN GIBBONS: Yeah, you’d rather have it the other way, but it’s been very successful. It gives them a chance to represent their countries. But you’d rather have it the other way because you want them doing their normal routine instead of going off and just playing games. But nothing you can do about it.
Q. Would you have anything to say about Bautista, whether he plays or not?
JOHN GIBBONS: Well, I know the team’s, the ballclub’s, talked to him about it might be smart not to. But if you get a chance to represent your country, that’s kind of tough to get in the way of that. But you’re still ‑‑ your player is still your number one responsibility. So whatever that means.
Q. There’s been a lot of talk about expanding instant replay after some of the things that have happened. What’s your view on that?
JOHN GIBBONS: You know, I wouldn’t get carried away with it because I think that’s one of the beauties of the game is the human element. The umpires, they don’t miss a lot. Maybe fair or foul balls down the lines would be something I would look at to go along with the home runs. But as far as trapped balls and things like ‑‑ I don’t know, now you’re getting ‑‑ expanding it any more than that, I think it would mess up the game too much.
Like I said, these guys are pretty good at what they do. When you slow those things down and actually see it. But we all make mistakes out there. That’s one of the beauties of baseball. The human element can get in the way sometimes.
Day 1 of the Winter Meetings is now in the blocks. On the main site, you’ll find my article on Blue Jays’ likely choosing minor additions over another blockbuster move and a piece about John Gibbons entering the season with a lot of pressure to perform.
Here’s a full rundown of what GM Alex Anthopoulos had to say to the media on Monday afternoon:
How do these meetings compare to the first ones you attended in Indy?
“Didn’t enjoy the first meetings in Indy, Roy Halladay, getting grilled by you guys daily, trying to keep it quiet, I didn’t feel pressure the first meeting because it was what it was, it was just hard with the media focus and the frenzy to try and keep things quiet. The tough part of that one is you’re coming here trying to trade a player that has a full no-trade clause, so it’s not one hand tied behind your back, it’s both. Just not an enjoyable process and I think that really cemented my belief in no no-trade clauses, I wouldn’t want to be in that position again.”
Change after payroll jump?
“I haven’t seen that yet from a financial standpoint, I have seen more interest in all of a sudden coming to the Toronto Blue Jays by players. I’ve had other players call me and say so and so wants to come here, free agents, that’s exciting to see. Paul always talked about this, whether it’s the hot water in the bathrooms, or the field, or that stadium, and it’s winning. We haven’t won anything or played a (playoff) game, but it’s the attempt to win and be competitive and be a contending team has opened eyes and that’s exciting. Paul’s right, we have to go out and do it and win, but there’s definitely been more interest because of the commitment that ownership has made and it’s clear everyone believes we’re trying to move forward and make the club better.
Depth to rotation, minor-league free agents, why not aim higher?
“I think you can do both. I always get asked about payroll and it’s not a bottomless pit and we talked about the parameters or the areas, and for where we’re at not, we blew by whatever the area was, that’s in the dust, the rear-view mirror of where I thought we were going to be. The Marlins trade really changed that. It’s not a bottomless pit but I also know the right trade, the right player, I always have that ability to have the conversation with Paul and he in turn takes that up to ownership.
“We’re happy with the five starters we have, it’s the reality of you’re probably going to need more than five, someone’s not going to perform, someone is going to get hurt, so it’s more starters 6, 7, 8, at least and no team is motivated to trade those types of players. They don’t make any money, they have options left, so you’re looking to trade young player for young player or conversely you’re talking about signing a minor-league free agent. It’s important but it’s hard to do. Sure if somebody came up that would push someone out of the rotation, great, I just don’t necessarily see that occurring, and we’re happy with the talent of the starting five.”
Would you look at guys like Kevin Slowey?
“Anyone that qualifies as a minor-league free agent we would look at. The challenge is that we do have five established starters in the rotation right now, so it’s not about selling the opportunity, the opportunity is right there and it speaks for itself. That’s certainly a challenge. The fact that there’s not a lot of upper-level depth, anybody can look at it and say, ‘you know what? I’m one pitch away from being called up, one 6.00 ERA from being called up, and that certainly can happen.’ And it’s probably going to happen.
“The fact that we don’t have a lot of bodies at the higher levels to compete with can open it up. Again, most of those deals to minor-league free agents, at least the ones that have a chance to have the greatest impact, they’re going to wait as long as they can to get a 40-man spot, to get a big-league deal, and those deals might get done in January. The meetings aren’t normally where you get those deals done.”
Carlos Villanueva — Could he be the depth SP/swing man you guys are looking for?
“Yeah, he could. After we made the trades, I called him just to check in with him and just to see where he’s at. He still wants to start but I think, at the same time, with the changes that we made to the team and to the roster, he’s a little more open to coming in and competing for a spot. Carlos wants to win, he has always been adamant about that. Clearly he wants an opportunity to start as well but because he feels better about the team he was a little more open-minded.
“I probably don’t have anything more to report on that front. I just wanted to check in on him and see if he was adamant that he needed a guaranteed spot or if he was a little more open to competing. From my conversation with him, was a little more open but it didn’t go any further than that at that point. I told him this during the summer, that the reason I couldn’t lock into a spot is one, if I did, I would keep my word to him, but I didn’t want to be prevented if a trade presented itself, all of a sudden we made a commitment and I had to turn down a trade.”
Open to the idea of bringing back Brandon Lyon or Jason Frasor?
“Early in the process, all of our free agents, whether it’s the agent or the player, depending on my relationships. Obviously Brandon Lyon I don’t know as well but a guy like Jason Frasor or Darren Oliver I’ve gotten to know a little bit more. We’re open to all of those guys we’re just trying to work through a few things. There’s still some trade opportunities and it’s just like what I talked about earlier, if you still have some options and you make a trade, all of a sudden it may eliminate an opportunity. We want to make sure that some of the trade options, we vet those out and we know that they’re not going to happen. Then we can maybe go back to some of our free agents if they’re still around.”
On whether Oliver’s informed the club whether he’ll be back or not in 2013…
“He’s not sure yet. I talked to him a week or two ago, he’s open to coming back to Toronto, so I think it’s more a decision on whether he’s going to play or not. It’s very consistent to what we talked about last offseason when we signed him, it’s family considerations more than anything else. His boys are getting older and it’s hard being away from home.
“I think he’s encouraged and excited by the changes that we’ve made to the team but I think it’s going to go to January. I just talked to him before we left and he’s going on holidays for a week or so. It may go to January. I think most likely it will go to January. We’re going to continue to have dialogue but right now I’d say it’s a coin flip whether he’s going to be back or whether he’s going to play again.”
On whether a deal for a frontline starter seems likely…
“We always look but I would just say right now, unlikely. If something changed tonight, tomorrow, the day after. I just think there is so much going on. There’s so many teams having dialogue it’s hard to really pin anybody down. I think it’s harder to get things done here. I think free agents, I think the Winter Meetings have become a place where free agents sign, more than trades get made.”
On Eli Whiteside essentially replacing the recently non-tendered Bobby Wilson…
“Pretty much. The Yankees signed him to a deal where they guaranteed some Minor League dollars. We talked about doing the same thing with Bobby Wilson on Friday, where we would have signed him to a pre-tender deal, he may have come off the roster, if he cleared he would have provided us depth. He wanted to see his options, test the market a little bit. So, Whiteside is someone that we think is similar. We like him and we have depth and we’ll just see how the offseason continues to move forward.”
This rules you out of the Rule 5, correct?
“We’re going to be at 40. Today was the day. We could have not claimed Whiteside and left the spot open but we decided to go ahead with it. So, unless we release someone, which we don’t play on doing (we’ll pass on Rule 5).”
On reaction to the news that Alex Rodriguez is undergoing another hip surgery…
“I wasn’t surprised. Maybe slightly on the level of what they say – four to six months. I heard grumblings that there may have been some rumors and things like that but it doesn’t really change what we do. The Yankees are great. They’re good every year. They continue to be good every single year. Brian Cashman does an unbelievable job of continuing to sign players to short term contracts that produce, so it doesn’t change anything for us.
On whether Janssen’s recent surgery increased desire for more depth in the bullpen…
“No, I find, last year, I mean I talked about this a lot. Transitioning to a team that we hope is a contender year in and year out, starting to place more of an emphasis on the bullpen and building that depth. Again, the more options you have, the greater likelihood that you don’t have to overuse a reliever when the manager has more options.
“We have some guys in the bullpen that have options, so if we have more relievers. That’s why you see us claiming guys on outright waivers, whether it be Cory Wade, we just took off or Jeremy Jeffress and so on. Building that depth is so important, like I said. You know guys are going to get hurt and you need to try to build as much depth as we can.”
On whether it will be tough to replace Oliver in free agency or if club could go with status quo…
“Right now we’re fine with the group that we have with or without him. We’re better if we have him, clearly.But we’re fine with the group that we have. Again, it’s about what do we have behind those guys. Maybe it’s just last season, all the injuries and the changes.I know you can’t have depth all over the place, but depth on the mound is so important. I do think better performance out of the rotation is certainly going to help the bullpen as well. We had so many starts where guys were going an inning and a third, a third of an inning. The bullpen would get crushed for six days. The adage is the bullpen’s only as good as your starting rotation. There’s definitely some merit to that.
“So the more options we have, we’ve talked about right now Loup would be one of the left-handers. Cecil is out of options. He’d have to make the team. You need another left-handed reliever but you have a bunch of righties that can get lefties out. Rogers can get lefties out. Delabar can get lefties out. Lincoln can get lefties out. So, we like the depth. We like the sawing-and-miss ability. I’d just like to have another two or three guys waiting in the wings in case we have to make some changes.”
Update on Joel Carreno (who was struck near the eye by a ball during a game in the Dominican Republic)…
“He’s having surgery tomorrow in the Dominican. He should recover. His eyesight is pretty much come back, He should be recovered in three weeks and ready for spring.”
Update on search for a bullpen coach…
“Gibby and I, we’ve talked about it on and off. Before the meetings. We’ve talked to Pete as well. Pete’s going to have very strong, probably the most important voice because he’s the one that has to work with him day in and day out. We have a short group of candidates. I would expect it to get done before the holidays. There’s a lot of trade stuff going on. There’s a liort of things we were trying to work on before we got here. We just figured when we get to the meetings, we’ll just talk about it more, so it’ll certainly get done before the new year.
On whether there has been more trade talks than a year ago…
“I have to sit back and think about what we did last year, but maybe in my mind I feel like we’re much more specific about who we’re really engaging n trade. I don’t think we’re casting as wide a net. You always cast a wide net at the beginning. You talk to every club. What are your needs? Once I realize we don’t really fit with certain clubs, I really won’t follow up as much as I would have. I’ll stick with the teams I really feel like there’s a really good chance of there being a deal. It doesn’t mean deals get done, but like I mentioned at the GM meetings, there may be 10 teams I feel could be a deal with, but two have a stronger likelihood. Then I push the eight teams to the side and concentrate on the two.”
On who is the favorite in the AL East…
“I would say the way the division ended up last year. You have to go that way. I don’t like to get caught up in what people do in the winter. People talk about Anaheim last year, Boston two years ago. I was here when they signed Crawford and Gonzalez. We were all saying wow, nobody’s going to win a game again. To me you show respect to the teams that already won. The other thing too, is the changes that we made, we’ve got a larger gap to make up. We won 73 games. It’s one thing if we’re within a win or two of each other, but we still have a large mountain to climb. Till we start playing games and guys stay healthy and have good seasons, we’re the fourth best team in my opinion because the other three teams haven’t gotten worse.”
Trading Molina last year make it easier to part with prospects this offseason? You were extremely reluctant to part with Molina but were eventually convinced to pull the trigger…
“I don’t think Molina had an impact on that, I think it was more where the team was. We consciously went into last season….we had our own scouts see our own affiliates more than we ever have. I remember Charlie Wilson saying ‘Man, someone’s running through our affiliates every day, pretty much’ we had a scout there and I really wanted to have as much information on our own players ‘cause we felt like the organization was starting to shift in that direction, and clearly it was going to be the focus was going to be on big-league players rather than Minor-League players. And that’s what…at the trade deadline, because we have a larger staff, by the time we got to July, we already had seen every minor-league team multiple times, so we would have gotten a 3rd or 4th look the last month or two, and we really didn’t need, we had enough.
“So it was let’s now get a 3rd or 4th look at the big-league level instead of a 3rd or 4th look at the minor-league level, because we had all the information so, ummm, I probably spent more time with our affiliates and so on. I think it’s just where you’re at as an organization. 2010 when we started we had a lot of holes to fill – the age of the players, the contractual status – you don’t want to be in the middle, it’s one or the other. I don’t think it’s ever easy to trade prospects and young kids, especially when you have your staff around you that believes so strongly in them.”
More likely to trade or sign for a bullpen piece?
“I think we’re more likely to not do anything in the pen, if I had to guess. If something presents itself, great, but it’s not something that’s a front-burner issue for us. It’d be nice to get a little more depth, it’d be nice to get a little more starting depth.”
On Triple-A affiliate being in Buffalo and how that improves club’s chances at Minor League free agents…
“I think it’s helped. I think the hard part about the PCL is, as a minor-lg free agent, you sign a contract, and if you end up spending the bulk of the year there – you’re signing a one-year deal – you always think about how you’re going to hit the market the following year. Unfortunately, the ERAs are so inflated, you’re not as appealing if you’re coming off a 6 ERA in that league and I think it allows you to maintain your value a bit more, being in the IL. From some of the feedback we’ve gotten, people have great things to say about the operation, the way players are treated, the stadium and so on, that certainly helped as well. I think it’s been a help all over the place.”
Update on Santos…
“I asked our staff that the other day, and again, until he’s off a mound in Spring Training, but they think he’s going to be fine, so we’re encouraged. But again, in my mind, until guys are out there doing it, it’s more of a wait and see approach on all these guys.”
Platoon partner for Lind a top priority?
“I think Davis certainly can do that. We’ve talked about it, I think Gibby’s thought – we were talking about it a little bit today – I think his thought would be to give him one more crack at facing some left-handers early but knowing that obviously we have some other options. But his thought today, and obviously he’ll make those decisions going forward and he could change his mind in the spring and during the season, but he did bring it up today that he thought you know what, maybe to let those guys get the Abs early even against some left-handers, take a look at the results and maybe then make the adjustment, but clearly you look at the left-right splits and we do have some options with some right-handed bats and we’ve looked at who’s our 25th guy going to be and it might make sense to get a right-handed bat. We don’t really have anybody right now who would be the 25th guy.”
On trainer Hap Hudson leaving. Did it have anything to do with the injuries?
“No, no, not at all. Hap’s been a trainer for a long time and he has some other opportunities that he wanted to pursue as well but no, it’s not related at all. Hap could have absolutely stayed in the organization but he wanted to pursue some other things. He was outstanding for us, a valuable and experienced trainer.”
Can you rely on McGowan next season?
“I hope so, but again, anyone who has been injured, I don’t want to go into Spring Training counting on them. That’s not to take anything away from them, but I think we’re better to prepare in the winter that way and if they all factor, I’d love to be in a position that we didn’t count on the injured players and all of a sudden they all come back and we’re stuck and we have too many guys. That’d be a great set-up for us.”
Cecil strictly a reliever now?
“I think so. I think the thought right now is just strictly pen and he’s got to make the team out of Spring Training.”
As promised yesterday, here is the transcript of a brief scrum with Blue Jays president Paul Beeston. It’s obviously much, much shorter than the 6,000-plus transcript of Alex Anthopoulos‘ media availability but there are still some interesting nuggets to take out of this:
Can you do an all-dirt infield?
“It’s not going to happen for the next five years, four years, or until we deal with the Argos situation. Because of the way the stands move, because of the fact it’s multi-purpose, that’s not going to happen. The way we’d like to see it is an all-grass field, we would put it in on March 1st and leave it there until the end of the baseball season. It can be done.”
Is there more money available for this team?
“In all honesty, I think we have to look at each case and whether or not it makes sense. We have a great owner. What I said before, we’ll spend money when the opportunity is right. The opportunity has been right before and we actually didn’t get the deal done. So, when Alex did this deal, and when he signed Melky Cabrera, the reality of the situation is that we had been down this path before. It didn’t get done, but we knew we had the support of Rogers and Rogers is 100% owners, they don’t have to go to anybody else.
“From the point of view, if there is more and it makes sense and you can improve the team I think the answer to that is yes. I don’t know that but I have absolutely no reason to say the answer is no. They have been terrific all the way along. We didn’t execute for a lot of different reasons.”
Learn lessons from the last spending spree (A.J. Burnett, B.J. Ryan, etc)?
“I don’t know if they learned, I learned. There’s no use in spending money just for the sake of spending money. There’s smart money and there’s dumb money. We want to spend smart money, we think we spent smart money. But we don’t start Spring Training until Feb. 15, we’ll find out whether it’s smart money or not at that time.
“But we actually believe we improved the club. Our goal is to be a team that wins on a sustainable basis. He didn’t give away the farm system but he gave away potentially great players in the sense of the way they project. And I think the reason we were able to do it, is the money that has been spent in the last three years in the farm system. I would think maybe Washington spent more than us, but I don’t know anyone else that spent more than us in the farm system.”
In terms of players or?
“In terms of dollars. We’ve been spending, $15,16,17-million a year. So from the point of view, the way that we would sign guys that we picked up as a sandwich pick, I think Sanchez came that way, Nicolino. So, I don’t have any question that Rogers …. (inaudible) … because I think Rogers wants to win but you can’t just go buy a team.
Last winter, you said in the three of next five years Toronto would make the postseason. Do you still stand by those comments?
“The way that question went, we had one-year, three-year, five-year, and I said two-to-three years actually and I still believe that. That’s the goal. We’re not spending this money guaranteeing we’re going to win, but we’re not spending this money expecting we’re going to be an also-ran either. That’s the truth.”
Whether TV deal for MLB helped the funds become available this offseason…
“No. The real reason is that we have to show the fans there’s a reason to come out. We have a lot of empty seats that we fill, we have a lot of suites that we can fill. We’ve got a lot of things that can generate revenue and we’ll put it back into the baseball team. I don’t worry about that, we can play with the big boys financially but we’re still going to spend smartly and we’re not going to have really long-term contracts. I like three years, now they’ve talked me into five, but I can’t see us going to like 10-year contracts.”
Recently acquired starting pitchers Josh Johnson and Mark Buehrle spoke to the Toronto media today for the first time since the 12-player blockbuster trade with Miami was completed earlier this month.
There wasn’t anything earth shattering in terms of news but Buehrle provided a lot of information about the problems he is going to encounter in Ontario because of his four dogs — including one pitbull. Johnson talked about how he wasn’t all that surprised by being traded because he expected something to happen before free agency. It’s just the timing of the deal that caught the potential No. 1 starter a little off-guard.
Below, I’ve provided the transcript for Johnson’s conference call with reporters:
On his reaction to the trade….
“At first it was a little bit of a shock. I’ve only known one thing and that’s the Marlins ever since 2002 when I got drafted. They’ve always been good to me but as soon as I slept on it, I woke up the next day and I was excited. It was a little bit of a shock, I thought I’d be there for maybe another half season to give it one more run at it but as soon as I woke up the next morning I was excited and ready to move on.”
On whether he’d be interested in signing a long-term extension in Toronto…
“That would be great. That’s the last thing on my mind, is worrying about getting an extension, or how long I’m going to be there. It’s more about winning. That’s all I’ve been about since I started playing baseball. I’m all about winning, that’s all I want to do. It makes everything better. It makes food taste better, it makes your wife happier, your family happier, everything is better when you’re winning.”
What were the major differences between your 2010 season and the one you had last year…
“2010, everything was clicking. Everything was working. I felt like I could throw anything up there and it would be an out, or a swing and a miss, get lucky and a line drive right at somebody. Last year it felt like every ball fell … My timing, my tempo, tempo is everything for me in my delivery. Whenever that’s missing, or it’s off, everything is going to kind of be thrown off. My tempo was all over the place, I was getting into bad habits early in the year. I’d get away from them for a start and I’d get right back to them a couple of starts later. It was tough and frustrating but the last 10 or so starts of the year I felt like I was getting back on track and getting right where I need to get.”
On what he asked John Buck about Toronto and the Blue Jays organization…
“Just kind of how is it, what should we expect? Those kinds of questions. I’ve known nothing else but the Marlins. Mark went through this last year a little bit, got into Spring Training and didn’t really know anybody. But just what to expect, I knew where Spring Training was, I flew down there and kind of saw Dunedin a little bit, where do you live. Just the basic questions that make that transition a little bit easier.
“Buck said that it’s an amazing place to play. The fans are amazing and the coaching staff all the way through the front office and everyone was amazing while he was there and said it shouldn’t be any different.”
On Buehrle saying Johnson turned a corner near the end of the 2012 season…
“Yeah. At the end of the year last year, I’d say maybe the last 15 starts I felt so much better than before. I was kind of fighting myself, my body, trying to do this or that. Maybe trying to find a little bit more velocity but once I started to relax and trust myself, trusted my stuff, it kind of just came out. I don’t know if I was throwing any harder or anything like that but the depth I had on my slider, curveball and the location of my fastball got much, much better.”
On whether he’s talked to any of the current Blue Jays yet…
“Yeah, I talked to J.P., he texted me. I actually met him last offseason in Miami and I talked to him for about five minutes. He texted me and said ‘Welcome, I’ve already got a video on you, I’m watching it, and getting ready for Spring Training to get you back on track.’ I texted Ricky Romero yesterday I believe, maybe the day before, just to tell him if he’s ever in Vegas to let me know and if he needs a throwing partner. I told him whenever I’m in Southern California I’ll hit him up and we’ll get together.”
On his thoughts about the revamped Blue Jays’ roster…
“Extremely excited. The people I hadn’t seen in awhile, just last night, went to a basketball game with them and they were asking me about who’s in the lineup, and just going through it again and I was just like, ‘Wow, it’s even better than what I had first imagined when the trade first went through.’ I’m extremely excited to get it going, to meet the guys and start that camaraderie going.”
On using the curveball more last season…
“I used to throw it back when I first got drafted. Whenever I was in low-A, somebody told me I’m not going to throw a curveball anymore you’re going to throw a slider. So I just had to jump into throwing a slider in the middle of the season and with kind of mixed reviews. The first outing was really good and then after that it was all over the place. The next couple of years I learned how to throw it.
“I didn’t throw a curveball for six-seven years, maybe more than that. Occasionally I’d mess around with it, during flat ground I’d throw it. Then in 2010 I actually started throwing it, but my season was so short, nine starts, and I’d throw it once or twice a game and that was it. A little show me, slow the hitters down and then I’d just throw them a fastball, slider, changeup. Then, this last year I finally learned how to pitch with it.
“This was my first full season to pitch with it and to throw it that much. I was learning the whole year. Good thing I had John Buck back there because he helped me out tremendously. Whenever I was in doubt he would put it down, kind of gave me that re-assurance that this is the right pitch, let’s throw it. So I could throw it how to throw it and when, where to throw it, things like that.”
On whether he’s comfortable using it at any time now…
“Any count. Last year, I started throwing it 0-2, 3-2, 2-0, I was throwing it in every count. It’s a pitch I relied on a lot last year.”
On why he stopped throwing it in the first place…
“They told me not to throw it anymore. It wasn’t consistent enough and actually the game before that I was starting to throw it for first-pitch strikes, two strikes, I finally got that feel for it just like I had in high school. It took awhile, it took half a season to figure out, but then all of a sudden I go to my bullpen the next time out and they said no more curveball. So, I was like, ‘Um ok, I guess I’ll start throwing a slider.’”
On whether he’s talked to any of the coaches yet…
“Yes, I talked to the pitching coach. Talked to John Gibbons really briefly, he texted me the day he got hired and just said I wanted to say happy thanksgiving and I’ll call you after the holidays and stuff like that. Two brief conversations and I talked to Alex a couple of times. Everybody seems nice and everybody’s excited and ready to get this thing going.”
On what went wrong in Miami…
“It was tough. Seemed like everything that could go wrong, went wrong. We’d have a good stretch there in May where everything was going right and I was pitching terrible too. I was maybe 0-3 in five starts in that month or something like that. We went like 21-8 or something like that. But then all of a sudden I started throwing well and the team was playing bad.
“I don’t know if it was more about, sometimes it seemed like it was more about the stadium. It was more worried about all of the new stuff, what’s going to happen next with the stadium and not worrying about just playing baseball and down to the basics of it.”
Below you can find a transcript of today’s scrum with Alex Anthopoulos. Tomorrow, I will post the transcript of today’s scrum with Paul Beeston. Both individuals joined the Toronto chapter of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America for a lengthy interview about how the offseason has gone so far, next week’s Winter Meetings, plus an outlook for 2013.
It’s important to note, these questions are not mine alone. Members from all of the city’s major newspapers were there along with the wire services. During the sit down interview just about every topic was broached including a slew of injury updates, potential position battles, and payroll.
Don’t forget to follow me on Twitter @gregorMLB if you’re not already doing so.
Q-in Nashville are you actively looking or just fielding calls?
“A bit of both. We’ll still try to be active. We’re trying to do things now.
“We feel better about our club today than we did at the end of the season, but there’s still areas where we can improve. We still can add depth in our rotation, still get better in the bullpen. Offensively I feel pretty good about the team. I feel pretty good about the bench. So I’d say bullpen and rotation depth and if we can upgrade some other spot in the rotation or upgrade a position player, sure we’d look to do that.”
Q- Deal with Marlins shut down some free agents you were looking at?
“It changed things. I think it’s fair to say. Shut down? I wouldn’t say that. It just changed the dynamic of maybe some of the players we had called on and we had started to talk to. At the same time, free agents we had talked to nobody was necessarily ready to move that fast. It certainly changed. We may have been looking at — for the sake of argument — 10 players. We weren’t going to sign all 10, but we might now be down to two or three that might still fit.”
Q- Some free-agent pitchers who are trying to reestablish themselves might be looking for one-year contracts. That the kind of guy you’re looking at?
“We would. The problem is those players probably want guaranteed contracts, so it comes down to, the rotation the way it’s set up — whatever the order is, but, Buehrle, Johnson, Romero, Morrow, Happ — all those guys are, no one’s a zero-three player in terms of service time. We said from the outset we weren’t going to guarantee Happ that fifth spot. He’s definitely a front runner and going to compete for that spot. But we’d have to feel that anybody we get, especially if we’re going to guarantee them a contract, they’re going to want the opportunity to start, that they would be an upgrade over the current five.
“So the likelihood is that a minor-league free-agent signing, probably try to be more active there. I think if you see us give a guaranteed contract to a starter that’s going to be someone we think is going to beat out someone in the current rotation or would be willing to compete and end up in the ‘pen. And some of those guys want a guaranteed starting spot.”
Q- What was it about last year where the depth didn’t work out?
“We had an inordinate number of injuries. I think we had the most DL days in the history of the organization, double the DL days of what we averaged in the past five years or so and I’ve been here for all five of those years. I thought we had enough bodies. We always plan to have 11 guys that have the ability to start.
“After your first five starters, the remaining six, three might get 10 starts, one of them might get two or three. We had enough bodies, but everybody broke down. I think all I can learn from that is to continue to stockpile depth and not rely on as much youth in the starting five. I think we had enough bodies, but out of the guys we were counting on to be in our rotation, the inexperience, the youth, maybe those guys should have been that depth for us. Maybe an Alvarez, last year, as well as he performed at the end of September in 2011, maybe we should have gone into it saying, ‘You know, as good as he looked, maybe he should be optioned and we’ll just have depth and he’ll be sitting there as our sixth starter.’ Rather than pretty much guaranteeing him a job coming into the year.”
Q-In the 6-10 guys, how many bodies do you have in place?
“We have bodies, it’s just: what’s the quality? Some guys, especially the minor-league free agents we signed or guys that we claimed off waivers and so on. Until you get to see them, you don’t know. Some guys emerge. We didn’t know what we were going to get out of a guy like Aaron Laffey last year. Relatively speaking I think he did a solid job for us on a guy that was a minor-league free agent. I don’t think we planned on him getting 18 starts. He probably would have been more valuable if we only had four or five starts out of him. I think you just try to get as much quality as you can.
“But you look at the teams that win, they normally don’t have to us 10 starters or 11 starters. When it comes to that point something’s gone wrong; guys are not performing or guys are getting hurt. Most teams that win use somewhere in the eight range. Obviously health is important for all clubs.”
Q- When you say you’re down to two or three free agents, you’re talking pitchers?
“Ideally. Right now we’re not in the market for any free-agent position players.”
Q- They would have to be upgrades?
“Over what we currently have. We have a bunch of guys in the bullpen that are out of options, so that can impact things as well. But they don’t have guaranteed contracts. In the rotation we would have to feel someone would clearly be an upgrade over the current five.”
Q- Have you been fielding calls about guys you acquired?
“Almost all the guys. Obviously you can’t trade a free agent, so no Izturis.
“But on the two trades — the Marlins trade and the Indians trade — got calls on all the players (calls or emails or texts, he clarified).”
Q- Buehrle was hurt by trade, what’s the reaction been for other guys to coming here?
“I’ve talked to all of them. Spoke to Mark a day or two ago, spoke to his agent today. I think they’re hurt. I can’t speak for them, but from what I understand, the commitment that they made in Florida, they expected to be there for a long time. They were obviously stunned and shocked. I think over time, though, I think there’s a level of excitement to come to a team that’s got a chance to win.
“Josh Johnson knew could be traded because year left on contract … It’s the guys that signed as free agents. John Buck is obviously excited because he’s been here and is very fond of the city. But I’d say Buehrle and Reyes because they signed as free agents last offseason, just more of the shock of being traded because it’s not what they expected to happen after signing those long-term deals. At the same time I think they have turned the page and they’re excited to be here; it’s a chance to win.
Q- How does second base shape up?
“I think Izturis is the front runner. He hasn’t been promised the everyday job so there’s definitely potential to compete there. Izturis would certainly be the front runner for that spot. Bonifacio’s value is that he can play second, can play all the outfield spots, can play the other infield spots as well. But as we sit here today — and it can change at spring training — Izturis would be the front runner but he hasn’t been guaranteed the everyday job.”
Q-Can you explain the catcher for catcher part of the Marlins deal? Equalization of the contracts?
“You’d have to ask Florida. That wasn’t something that we set out to do. We weren’t looking to trade Jeff Mathis. I can’t tell you what Florida was looking to do with John Buck. My understanding with Florida is that they were going to go with the kid they got from Detroit last year … and they wanted to make a change there.
“That was not something that we brought up. We never brought it up at any time. That part of the trade was introduced the last day and I was unwilling to do it. I said ‘No.’ It’s not anything against John Buck. I think he’s a very good player. He had a great year for us here. But we made a commitment to Jeff. He had been here and we weren’t looking to trade Jeff at all. From a loyalty component I didn’t think we needed to go down that path. That was what they felt was the final piece that they needed to get it done.
“So in the morning I said, “No.” The trade was off. If that was what was going to take to get it done, I would not make that trade. And we shut it down. They were pretty adamant that it wasn’t getting done without those two players, so I let the day go by, then at the end of the day, maybe 4 or 5 o’clock, after a lot of talks internally, finally decided that we couldn’t let this deal, the magnitude of this trade and the potential impact on the franchise and the dollars involved, we couldn’t let it not get done because of those last two parts of the deal.”
Q-Did you talk to Jeff beforehand?
“No, spoke to him afterward. It was tough, no doubt about it. I love Jeff as a player, there’s a reason why we signed him. Obviously it’s the largest trade I’ve ever made. In terms of total dollars and bodies it’s probably the largest one the franchise as made. I don’t think Jeff wanted to leave; I think he enjoyed it here, made a commitment here. At the same time, I think he also realizes the magnitude of the trade, he wasn’t shopped. The trade wasn’t going to get done without the two of them being included.”
Q-What’s up with Buehrle and the dogs (regarding the pitbull ban in Ontario)?
“They’re trying to work through it. I just talked to his agent again today.”
Q-How can you work through it?
“I think he’s talking to some groups and looking to where they can live. From what I understand they had to do some things in Florida, they had to do some things in Chicago as well. They had to live farther away from the ballpark.”
“I’m not sure. That could happen. It could be Niagara Falls, I’m not sure. There could be some changes to the laws in April. I’m not well-versed in that. They’re looking at their options, but they’re going to work through it.”
Q- (Phillies catcher) Carlos Ruiz busted for amphetamines, drug for ADD. My understanding is that there are 107 exemptions for different things by MLB. Without naming names, do you have any of these exemptions?
“Sure. I would say every team has players that are exempt from it. You have to do an exam, get it evaluated. But every team has some exemptions.”
Q-Status of Drabek, McGowan and Hutchison?
“Recovering from rehab … Drabek and Hutchison similar Tommy John’s, about a month apart, so they’re going to be during the season or some point late in the season. McGowan is on track for spring training, but obviously we’ll see how he comes along.”
Q-What is McGowan doing now?
“Right now it’s just recovery. He’ll have a date when he starts throwing.”
Q-So he’s not throwing now?
Q-Any change of thought on him moving to bullpen?
“Right now there hasn’t been. It’s just at the point of getting him back healthy. We’ll cross that bridge hopefully when we get to it.”
Q-Any headway on reviewing pitching injuries?
“Not yet. We’ll look at a few things. There are some things that we looked at. I know there are some things specifically that we can address and change. Things I’d rather keep private. It’s not from a training standpoint.
“There’s some things as we review the season we’re examining a little more. Just some things we can look at, workloads and whatnot. Again, we don’t know for certain. We think there may be something there. But we haven’t drawn any conclusions. Right now we have some ideas on some of the things that may have occurred.”
Q-Did Bruce Walton pay the price for all the pitchers that were hurt?
“No, not at all. Bruce has been in the organization a long time and prior to this past year we had great health. Bruce’s first year on the job in 2010 … the top four starters had never pitched 200 innings and they all made it through the season. So I think it was one of those things for John it was tough to make that change but he really felt strongly about Pete and wanted to go with him.”
Q-Could Bruce stay in organization?
“He might. Right now we don’t have a role. Bruce has been here a long time. He’s done a great job. It’s the unfortunate part about being in these spots. We’re not going to rule it out. Right now we don’t have anything, but things change. You get a phone call from a club, a spot opens up. We’re going to do our best, is the guess the best way I can put it. We’re not closing the doors on that at all.”
Q-When pitching went south, did combo of Farrell and Walton cause problems for pitchers?
“I don’t think so. I didn’t see that and I didn’t think so. You’d have to ask them. No one ever expressed that to me. I never had Bruce or John express that to me. If there was anything like that at all it was definitely not expressed to me. I think it was just, guys got hurt and we went through so many bodies and there was just so much turnover. Then we had a bunch of starters go 1/3 of an inning and that just kills your bullpen. There’s just so much turnover there’s no way to have any continuity.”
Q-One guy that’s been given a free pass has been your centre fielder. Is he a guy that people are still interested in or is he your long-term guy you might think of extending?
“You know what, I never talk about who we’re going to extend who we’re not going to extend. With Colby, at the all-star break, I think he was at 17 home runs, I think he had an over .800 OPS. He was having an unbelievable season. The last two months he did not play well at all.
“We’ve talked about it internally, what went wrong and so on. We think there could be a component of fatigue. He played all the time and one of the issues is that he hits all the time. I remember being in Miami and he had a good game against the Marlins, it was on a Saturday, I think he hit a home run or even two in the game. Afterwards, we played a day game, players were going to go out that night and enjoy themselves. He was going to go to the cage and hit. He just wanted to keep going.
“One thing we’re going to talk to him about is maybe learning to work a little smarter. He doesn’t need to work as hard as he does. He doesn’t need to take as many reps in the cage. It seems like now two years in a row he wears down at the end of the season and maybe we have to watch, give him some rest, give him some days off. We were so banged up from a position-player’s standpoint, we didn’t have that much depth on the bench.
“Colby didn’t necessarily get a tonne of days off. He was banged up as well. It’s not to make excuses for him. It’s the only thing that we can point to, that he did seem to wear down and tire, because the first half of the season he played so well.”
Q — Surprising that someone who has played that many years in big leagues is still getting tired?
“If you’re playing every day, and then you’re hitting, you’re taking a million swings in the cage in the morning, a million swings in the afternoon, a million swings at night, I think you can wear down. I think it’s a matter of learning how to work smarter. Roy Halladay was the same early in his career when he overworked himself, wore himself out in the offseason trying to get ready.
“I think over time you learn yourself, you learn your body, you learn how to do things. So, I think some players just have to adjust their routine. He’s still a young player, he’s 26, he has four years in now. I think it’s just learning how to get through a season and I think he had that success in the first half and my thought is to maintain that success, to keep it going, his work ethic, he almost works too hard.”
Q — Have you had conversations, the staff had conversations, with him about that last season?
“No, because it’s something we look back on. You go through the roster and you look at everything, pinpointing, and you start to look at it, start to have conversations. Whether it’s with the trainers, strength guys, and so on. That’s a theory. I don’t know that. Colby might manage his work a little bit better, maybe his results would still be the same. That’s something we’ll talk to him about but it’s a theory that makes a lot of sense from the conversations that I’ve had.”
Q — Regarding catching situation, Arencibia/Buck/Wilson/d’Arnaud…
“Right now, Bobby Wilson is an arbitration-eligible player, he’s out of options. We have a decision to make on him by Friday … I don’t see us carrying three guys to Opening Day. I think things can change.”
Q — On d’Arnaud’s situation…
“Travis wouldn’t come up unless there was a need, someone got hurt, someone got traded. It’s like the year when J.P. was having an MVP-calibre season down in Las Vegas. John Buck was having an All-Star year here so there was no room for him. But things can change.
“Travis has played some other spots, he has played some first, he can obviously DH. If his bat plays that well in the Minor Leagues and you think he can help, we’ll try to find a spot for him. I’d love to be in that position.”
Q – Last season you seemed pretty adamant about d’Arnaud being able to crack next year’s team. What has changed?
“I think I said he’d have a chance to compete. We’d be open minded to him competing, we wouldn’t rule it out. Adam Lind was sent down, he wasn’t promised a job. I think the lineup has changed a little bit now, we have more options, we have a little more depth, we had a young guy in left field but we feel pretty good about that now. The infield, there was just a lot of uncertainty I guess from a positional player standpoint and that’s where Travis is better than some of the guys.
“Lind is in the same spot, obviously he’s not guaranteed anything. He finished the season well, played well the last two months but he has to go out and prove it. d’Arnaud right now, if the season was to start today, we haven’t seen him come back from the injury, he’ll be in the Minor Leagues. But if he does force our hand there are always ways to make trades or find a spot for him.”
Q — On d’Arnaud playing some first base in the Minor Leagues. Is that an option?
“Could be. But right now we see him behind the plate long term. You never know. The fact that we tried that out to see if it he does hit that well, and if we have the need, we’d have the ability to call him up.”
Q — Did Hechavarria’s potential change in your mind?
“No, not at all. When we were doing the trade, we didn’t need a shortstop per say It wasn’t an area of weakness for the ballclub. We were clearly talking about the rotation, that was the priority. Reyes was someone I’ve always liked quite a bit, maybe to a fault, but it’s just what he brings.
“We didn’t want to include Hechavarria in the trade but ultimately if Reyes is under contract for five years, Hechavarria wasn’t going to take away Reyes’ job. As great as it would have been to keep him, he would have been blocked. He could have played other spots in the infield but, we’re hoping Hechavarria is as good as (expected). We think he’s going to be a great player, I don’t know that I can sit here and tell you that Hechavarria can do what Reyes does with the speed, the leadoff component, all of those things. I think he’s going to win some Gold Gloves. I think he’s going to be a very good everyday player but ultimately we got a star player in shortstop that we know what he can do now.”
Q — Insinuated before, Lind would have to play his way onto the roster. Has depth in lineup changed his status?
“No. I’m encouraged by the way he ended the year. David Cooper did a nice job before he got hurt. d’Arnaud if he really opened our eyes, we wouldn’t rule it out again right now. I would expect him to start in the Minor Leagues … But Adam still has to earn his spot and he still has to earn his at-bats. We’re trying to win and if someone is going to be an upgrade over Adam in the lineup and he has to be on the bench then we’ll look at it.
“I think Encarnacion has gotten to the point where he became the everyday first baseman at the end of the year … I think Encarnacion emerged as the everyday guy at first base but between first and DH we have enough guys that can play there.”
Q — Lind’s contract with options, does it make it attractive for other teams?
“Contracts are only as good as the player plays. So, really it comes down to does he perform? If he performs, then he’s a very valuable player to us. Really what it comes down to is trying to come to an agreement on length, we wanted a shorter deal, player wants a longer deal and there’s a trade-off. If we do that, then we want the options. But if he performs then there’s great value.”
Q — But talking more specifically about the Winter Meetings…
“I don’t think that Adam’s contract impacts anything other than the guaranteed commitment. I don’t think those options have any component right now. I think it’s what does he make right now, it’s a $5-million based salary with a $2-million buyout, and what was the production. I think that’s the way he’s looked at. If I was a club, I’d look at it as, if he performs for us, that’s added value, that’s upside. I don’t know that the options are going to be the determining factor if I ever want to acquire a player.”
Q — Lind clearing waivers last summer sober you up on his value?
“No, because at the time he was put on waivers he was hitting .190. To bring his average up to where he did, shows how much better he played at the end of the season. You got from .190 to maybe mid-.200s, and if you look at his left-right splits, if you look at him as a player that doesn’t face the left-handers, he’ll only face right-handers, close to an .800 OPS, which is a pretty good player.
“I think the marker, right now free agency wise, is not that deep and just look at some of the signings of last year, Casey Kotchman got $3.5, two years ago Lyle Overbay got $5-million. I think Adam has a lot of upside and a lot of ability and he’s still young. It’s definitely encouraging the way he played at the end of the year. If you take away the left-handed numbers, if you use him only against right-handers, I still think he’ll be a very good player.”
Q — Has Lind settled into an approach… regarding not working hard enough, working too hard, with the back, has that settled itself?
“We’ve had a lot of conversations with him. I think he’s learning himself as well. He had the back issue, he overworked trying to strengthen it and maintain it and then over time he started getting sore. We changed some of the exercises. You’re learning yourself and what learns for you and I think there was some concern that maybe he was five or 10 pounds more weight than maybe he should have been. He has to watch that as well.
“But I think Adam now understands where he’s at in his career. I think he’s encouraged as well with how he ended the year but I think he realizes where he’s at and what he needs to do to stay on the field and stay healthy.”
Q — Encarnacion everyday 1B so DH for Adam?
“It’s going to depend on everything but obviously Encarnacion is the everyday player, how many days a week he’s at first or DH I don’t know. Whether it’s a d’Arnaud, a Cooper, an Adam Lind, all those guys can play first base so however it works out Encarnacion is one guy that has every day at-bats. Who gets the everyday at-bats from the remaining three, Adam Lind because he ended the season as the everyday player and he played well is certainly the front-runner for that job, but he’s not promised that job. He still has to come out through spring training and earn that job.”
Q — Reyes injury history, leery of turf?
“We talked about it a lot, there’s always concern there, the fact he only missed two games last year was very encouraging, we obviously did a lot of exams on him, our analysis of the turf is if you’re going to get sore it’s going to be your knees and your back, but it doesn’t mean there can’t be some type of impact on your hamstring. But our doctors overall said there is risk, just like every other player, but not enough that we wouldn’t go ahead and sign the player or trade for the player. If we knew there was a direct link between turf and hamstrings, there would have been a lot more pause, but if it’s more knees and lower back.
“I remember when we signed Alex Gonzalez and he had a major knee issue that he had finally recovered from, we didn’t know how the turf was going to react to it, and he didn’t have any problems at all and that’s where something might come up. We feel pretty good that the turf isn’t going to add that much more risk to him, but it’s certainly part of the equation, we just felt pretty good about what our doctors said, that he should be fine.”
Q — What’s Jose Bautista’s status?
“He actually wants to play Winter Ball, wants to play World Baseball Classic, we’re not allowing him to, he feels great, and I explained it to him, we just can’t take a chance right now. Winter Ball for certain, World Baseball Classic, I told him we’d continue to look at it, the thought as we sit here today would be no, but we haven’t closed the door on it.
“I just talked to our staff about it again, we haven’t completely ruled it out, there’s still a chance we would allow him to play in the Classic, it’s just exactly as I told him, if there’s any concern from our staff about playing in the Classic he won’t play, if they feel it’s a good idea and that it would be good for him to do it, then he’ll play. He wants to play, he expressed to me that he doesn’t know how many more chances he’ll get to play in that tournament and so on, but he also understands we have to do what we need to do with what’s good for the club. Right now the lean is no, but we haven’t closed the door, there’s still a chance.
“it’s just an indication of how good he feels.”
Q — Is Dwayne Murphy invited to help with hitters, or expected to help with hitters?
“His primary role is to work with the outfielders and he and Chad (Mottola) have a great relationship. It’s both. If someone wants to go work with Murph, or needs Murph, or Chad needs to bounce something off him, the program is going to be Chad’s, he’s going to run everything, advance meetings, all that kind of stuff, but Murph is there to help as a No. 2 guy and his primary responsibility is the outfield. He’s there to help.
“Just like everything else, I don’t think one coach connects with every single player. Two or three guys might have a comfort of going to work with Murph, a few guys might have a comfort going to work with Chad, there are other responsibilities with that role that Chad is going to deal with, he’s there to help in whatever capacity is needed. And it can only work because their relationship is so strong.”
Q: Looking to do something different offensively that led to Chad being lead guy?
“I don’t think we’re looking to change approaches. There are always ways to get better but from an offensive standpoint, we’ve been a pretty good team the past couple of years, at least in terms of runs scored, we’ve always talked about improving on-base percentage, I don’t know that there’s a hitting coach in the world that’s going to make someone all of a sudden be selective and walk.
“Can you slightly improve? Sure, but at the end of the day our offence has been a strong suit of this club, John ultimately had the final say on the staff, it was very important to me that he made the decisions, and he felt like this was probably going to be the best set up. We need someone who can work with the outfielders, Murph’s won a tonne of gold gloves, very good outfield instructor as well, it’s a way to have both guys on the staff in the right roles to help the team move forward because of Murph’s ability to work with the outfielders.”
Q: Concern about rookies pitching and hitting coaches?
“That’s something that John brought up as well, we talked about it for a day or two, ultimately there was a familiarity with both those guys. The fact that Murph is here offsets a bit of Chad, Pete there’s a comfort level and familiarity with all the players and the staff. If we had brought someone from the outside that didn’t have that experience, there may have been more cause for concern there. Pete has strong relationships and strong ties, if he’s the best guy for the job, he should be fine.”
Q: Any untouchables on your team?
“Earlier in my time as general manager, it’s only been three years, I would have been more adamant but I guess I would say I’ve softened my stance. I’ve never had anybody I wouldn’t trade, I’ve always had players I’m highly reluctant to trade, but at the same time, over time, I’ve realized if we have a chance to make the team better I’m going to be open to it.
“There’s no one we would never trade, there’s just too much risk and too much uncertainty, especially at the minor-league level, we’ve seen it, top guys, they don’t do well. The debate we have is the best prospects in the game were prospects at one time, as well, you do have to be careful with who you do trade.”
Q: How strong is farm system now post-Marlins deal?
“I still feel it’s very strong and as we were going through the Marlins trade, we still were looking at everybody we had in the minor-leagues, who our top prospects were, we were always looking at the remaining list of players and it still looked strong, it still looked good. I still feel we’re in a very good position, we’ve got very good players. The other thing is you’re always trying to manage ahead, trying to say who are some players who might take over from some aging players and expiring contracts and things like that, you want to protect yourself, especially at the premium spots.
“That’s why trading guys like Jake Marisnick or guys like Adeiny Hechavarria, they’re harder to trade because shortstops, centre field, are just tough positions to find. But I think we’re in good shape, I still think we can make more trades involving prospects and assuming we don’t trade everybody, still have a pretty good group of players. We’re still going to be active in Latin America going forward, we’re still going to have a top draft pick again, there are still ways to replenish. We built up enough inventory that we could handle one more big trade if we needed to.”
Q: How far away is next generation of in-house starters?
“I used to try to predict how many years and so on. What I prefer to do now and with the way the rotation is starting to shape up is have hopefully a solid five that are under control, have as many bodies as we can but realize that if we’re to the point that guys are ready to be up here and they have to be optioned, it’s a great problem to have.
“A good example is when Anaheim called up Jered Weaver and I think he went 5-0 or something like that and one of their starters came back and they had to send him down. He was ready to be up here but they had enough depth in that starting five, and they always made sure they were five deep, Tampa is another good example, guys have to be optioned that are ready, I’d love to get to that point, that we’re not relying on those guys, that they’re just sitting there as the sixth starter, the seventh starter, the eighth starter and the only time our hand is forced is when they’re out of options, which means we have enough continuity with the starting five that we’re not going into seasons banking on a bunch of young kids, in an ideal scenario.”
Q: No priority to extend Josh Johnson until season to see how things turn out?
“Years ago I would have been much more apt to try and do extensions with players sooner and I don’t mind waiting now, we’ve got the ability to extend players, we’ve shown that players that are here enjoy being here and as long as we can come up with what everybody feels is a fair contract, we can keep those players. I never feel a rush to extend a player, I always think we have the ability to do it if we had to live up to our end of the bargain, put a good product on the field, make it a good place for them to play.”
Blue Jays manager John Gibbons has put almost all of the finishing touches on his coaching staff for the 2013 season. Toronto announced on Monday that DeMarlo Hale (bench coach), Chad Mottola (hitting coach), Luis Rivera (third base coach), Dwayne Murphy (first base coach) and Pete Walker (pitching coach) all agreed to deals.
The only remaining spot that’s still up for grabs is the bullpen coach. Walker will put together a list of candidates while Gibbons will do the same and eventually the two will come to a decision on who is the best choice. Gibbons will have the final say but said he’ll leave it mostly in the hands of Walker because he feels it’s important for the pitching coach and bullpen coach to have a strong working relationship.
There weren’t a lot of surprises in today’s news. Mottola had been considered the leading candidate for the hitting coach after receiving glowing reviews for his work in Triple-A Las Vegas. Over the past couple of years, we’ve heard a lot about Mottola’s tutelage through the work of Travis Snider, Anthony Gose, Adam Lind and Adeiny Hechavarria.
I realize that not all of those players came back to the Majors with noticeably improved results but it’s hard to pinpoint whether that’s the fault of the players or the coach. What I do know, is that all four spoke glowingly about Mottola’s coaching abilities and went out of their way to give credit to the former big leaguer. That can only be taken as a positive and likely played a factor in the club’s decision.
There’s a lot of speculation about whether Pat Hentgen will be considered for the bullpen coach. It’s hard to imagine he wouldn’t be considered but it’s also just as hard for me to imagine that he would be interested in the role. Hentgen recently said during an interview on the Fan590 in Toronto that he would have a tough time saying no to Gibbons because of their past relationship but that doesn’t necessarily mean he would jump at the opportunity.
Hentgen spent one season in the bullpen role while on John Farrell‘s staff in 2011. He left at the end of the year for personal reasons and a desire to spend more time with his family. I’m also a little skeptical about how much Hentgen actually enjoyed working out of the bullpen. He never told me he didn’t like it, but in conversations Hentgen did seem to speak more highly about his previous role as a roving pitching instructor in the Minor Leagues.
While serving in that capacity, Hentgen had more freedom over his own schedule and also was able to spend time with the club’s up-and-coming top prospects. In particular, Hentgen enjoys working with starting pitchers which always led me to believe he would possibly consider the pitching coach position (if offered) but would take a pass on the bullpen role.
This is admittedly mostly speculation on my part but I just don’t see Hentgen agreeing to go back into the bullpen. I think it’s more likely he stays on in his current role as a special assistant to the organization. In that capacity, Hentgen acts as a part-time instructor during Spring Training while continuing occasional work with Minor Leaguers.
Here’s what Gibbons had to say about the coaching staff during today’s conference call with reporters:
On how the Blue Jays were able to lure Hale away from the Orioles even though Baltimore offered him a contract extension at the end of the year…
“DeMarlo and I go way back. We managed against each other in the Minor Leagues in ’96 or ’97. I think it was ’96 we coached together in the Hawaiian Winter League, we roomed together for those two months down there so we got to know each other pretty good. Then of course managing against each other coming up through the Minor Leagues.
“That’s our connection right there and he’s one of the better baseball guys around. He’s intelligent, he’s always viewed as a guy who’s a possible manager and hopefully he gets his opportunity because I think he would be a darn good one. So, knowing that, he’s the perfect guy to have on the bench.
“He was highly sought after by the Blue Jays at one time, when Farrell got the job, so it was just a natural fit. Our friendship’s big, we can trust each other, I know him very well and everywhere he goes, his teams wins so if anything that’s a big factor right there in itself.”
On how he balances friendships and coaching pedigree when making decisions on the coaching staff…
“I think No. 1 is baseball resume and their ability as a coach instructor. That overrides everything. You can get to know guys over time and you know what, you don’t always have to get along and see eye-to-eye on everything. You want the best coaches … I know some of the guys, I think that’s important, the players already know a lot of these guys and they are very good coaches so there isn’t always a need to make a change.
“This is these guys’ livelihoods, you don’t always want to turn that over either. If there are guys that are highly qualified, good guys, highly respected and their doing a good job, you know what let’s keep them around. But I have the benefit of knowing most of them anyways.”
On the decision to replace Bruce ‘Papi’ Walton with Walker as the club’s pitching coach…
“First off, that was one the toughest things I’ve ever had to do because Papi and I go way back. We’re good friends, he has done a good job and he was very good to me over my years here. The way I look at Pete, I have a long history with Pete coaching and managing him over in the Mets’ system. I even had a few words for him when we first got him over here in Toronto. I think it was 2002-03 when he came over here.
“So I know him well and I’ve always followed his career, he’s always been one of my favorite guys. Knowing what kind of pitcher he was and what it took for him to get to the big leagues, the dedication, just the way he approached the game, it wasn’t an easy road for him. He was always that one guy who was always going to go above and beyond, do whatever it took to get there.
“Honestly, I always thought this guy had a chance to be a great coach some day and he can be a difference maker. Here was my opportunity to give him a chance to do that and that’s basically how all of that came out. But it was tough, Papi is a good friend and has done a very good job as well.”
On whether there’s any concerns about having a rookie hitting coach and a rookie pitching coach…
“I did look at that and you wonder how will that go over. But they’re both known. Pete was in the bullpen last year, Chad has been in the organization. It’s not like they’re unknowns but they are new to their profession and that did cross my mind. But as far as Chad, we still have Murph on the staff and Murph’s going to help out with the hitting as well. He’ll primarily be the outfield guy and handle the base running but he’s there to assist Chad and I’m sure there are a lot of guys on the team that have a lot of faith in Murph and I have no problem with them using both of these guys.
“The thing is, after talking with both of them, they’re happy to work as a tandem and bottom line is we want guys that produce. Murph knows the inside out of these guys so I told him not to hesitate to share what you know and what these guys might need. He’s perfectly fine with it, Chad’s perfectly fine it. This also allows Murph, he’s a six-time Gold Glover, he’s going to take over the outfield for us and that’s big. We’re able to utilize both of these guys now. I don’t think it will be a problem, they’re both highly respected that’s for sure.”
On whether these decisions were ultimately made by Gibbons or by Alex Anthopoulos…
“I made all of the decisions. I bounced some things off him, I’d ask him about the different coaches but he said, ‘Hey this is your baby. Go for it.’ Like I said earlier, I’m big on continuity. They had a number of injuries last year that I think hurt the ballclub and the tough record, the manager left, so it wasn’t necessarily people weren’t doing their jobs and it was a total collapse, there were some things that were involved.
“These guys have good reputations, they do a good job, they’re known to do a good job. I was looking for a little continuity, that way there’s not so much turnover and it’s not a big shock to all of the players. But I did, I had the final say. Alex was adamant about that and I told him I think it’s important any time you can promote within the organization I think it does wonders for morale down at the bottom because it gives everybody a feeling they have a shot some day. But in the end he said pick the guys you want, I’ll give you my input, but in the end I have to live and die with it.”
On whether the club is waiting for an answer from someone on the bullpen coach role…
“I told Pete, I said listen, ‘I think it’s very important that the pitching coach and the bullpen coach work together.’ They’ve got all of those guys and they have to make them work. I’m getting some input from him, I told him to come up with some names that he might like. I’ll throw some names at him. To me, it doesn’t necessarily have to be an ex-pitcher to hold that position, it could be anyone else as long as it works well with Pete.”
On whether this is more ‘his’ staff than when he took over in 2004…
“When I took over at the end of ’04, Butter was in place, Gil Patterson was the pitching coach and then, let’s see, how many years ago was that? You guys expect me to remember all of that? (laughs) That staff was pretty much in place and this one he said,’Hey come up with some names of guys you like. You have to make it work, we’re putting together a good team right here, we have to make it work.’ So he’s giving me a little bit more stake in that. But like I said, I’ve always been big on continuity and rewarding guys in the organization if they’re good coaches and good instructors and that’s what we have here.”
On the loss of Brian Butterfield….
“Butter’s leaving, that’s a big loss, there’s no question about it. Personally, I don’t think there’s a better coach in baseball than Butter. But he moved on and I expect Luis to be very, very good over there. I don’t know Luis very well but I’ve heard some great things and I think he’ll do fine. He’s a good baseball man, good infield instructor and Butter had nothing but praise for the guy. There’s no question that Butter’s a big loss.”
On whether Hale or Rivera will be in charge of the infielders…
“Luis will do that. DeMarlo will oversee everything, he’ll keep an eye on everything. If somebody needs help here and there, he’ll do that. There’s lots to do with that bench coach job, especially going into Spring Training, that’s when a lot of the work is done. When we get into the season, he’ll be very valuable, he can dabble in a lot of different things.”
On who will be in charge of Spring Training and how important it was to have Rivera return because of his ability to speak Spanish in a diverse clubhouse….
“DeMarlo will do all the Spring Training. As far as the latin guy, Luis’ here anyways. But, yeah I think that’s important. Most of them all speak English but it never hurts to have a guy in case you get into an in depth conversation, some guys may struggle with English like I do. (laughs). But that never hurts.”
When the news first broke about Toronto’s massive 12-player trade with the Marlins I admit to feeling a little bit skeptical. The issue wasn’t talent – there’s no denying that Jose Reyes, Josh Johnson, Mark Buehrle, Emilio Bonifacio and perhaps even John Buck fill obvious needs. Sure, there’s risk associated with each player but almost every trade will have at least an element of that.
My biggest problem with the deal was the amount of salary heading north of the border. I figured that if this gamble didn’t pay off the Blue Jays would be saddled with the type of immovable contracts that would once again create a slow rebuilding process and set the franchise back a decade. If it worked out, Anthopoulos would go down in Toronto sports history but if it didn’t then it would be years before the Blue Jays could compete again.
Upon further review, though, that’s not really the case. Based on information from Cot’s Baseball Contracts, I crunched the numbers on Toronto’s payroll through the 2018 campaign. It’s true that the Blue Jays won’t have a whole lot of flexibility for the next few seasons but the club could get out from under almost all of its major commitments following 2015.
That gives the Blue Jays the next three seasons to compete with almost all of its core completely in place. It’s a very reasonable timeframe to see whether this team can take it to the next level. If they do, then presumably some of these players will have their contracts extended again. But if it doesn’t, the club once again will have a lot of money to spend.
Another benefit of clearing contracts by 2015 is that Toronto’s next wave of Minor League talent should be ready by then. Even after this week’s trade with Miami, the Blue Jays still have one of the best Minor League systems in all of the baseball. The thing is, most of that talent can be found in the lower levels and needs at least a couple of years to develop. With the exception of Anthony Gose and Travis d’Arnaud there really aren’t any potential impact players that will be ready before then.
The only major piece of the Blue Jays’ roster that is eligible for free agency prior to 2015 is Johnson. The newly acquired right-hander is set to enter the final year of his deal and there are a few ways this scenario could play out. Assuming he stays healthy this season (which is far from guaranteed) the Blue Jays could deal him at the deadline if they are not in contention or they could opt to re-sign him at the end of the season.
If Toronto makes a strong run at the postseason then there will be even more increased pressure on ownership to strike a deal with him. That becomes a pretty realistic scenario because of all the funds available after 2015. A reasonable salary in years 2014-15 could then be offset by a backloaded contract, which as you can see below would definitely be feasible.
J.P. Arencibia — (**500,000)
Edwin Encarnacion – 8,000,000
Emilio Bonifacio – (*2,500,000)
Jose Reyes — 10,000,000
Brett Lawrie – (**500,000)
Melky Cabrera – 8,000,000
Colby Rasmus – (*4,500,000)
Jose Bautista – 14,000,000
Adam Lind – 5,000,000
John Buck – 6,000,000
Maicer Izturis – 3,000,000
Rajai Davis – 2,500,000
Mike McCoy – (**500,000)
Josh Johnson – 13,750,000
Mark Buehrle – 11,000,000
Brandon Morrow – 8,000,000
Ricky Romero – 7,500,000
J.A. Happ – (*3,800,000)
Casey Janssen – 3,900,000
Sergio Santos – 2,750,000
Darren Oliver — 3,000,000
Steve Delabar – (**500,000)
Brad Lincoln – (**500,000)
Esmil Rogers – (**500,000)
Brett Cecil – (**500,000)
Dustin McGowan — $1,500,000
Approximate 2013 Total – 122,200,000
Extras – Potential deals for Bobby Wilson, and Corey Wade. Also contracts for players on the 40-man roster such as Luis Perez, Drew Hutchison and Kyle Drabek. Miami reportedly is sending $4-million to the Blue Jays as part of their deal so some savings will be found here as well.
*Arbitration eligible. Salary projection taken from MLBTradeRumors
**Contract can be renewed by the club as player is not yet eligible for arbitration. This is a very rough estimate for the salary.
Edwin Encarnacion – 9,000,000
Jose Reyes – 16,000,000
Melky Cabrera – 8,000,000
Jose Bautista – 14,000,000
Adam Lind – 7,000,000 ($2-million buyout)
Maicer Izturis – 3,000,000
Mark Buehrle – 18,000,000
Brandon Morrow – 8,000,000
Ricky Romero – 7,500,000
Casey Janssen – 4,000,000 (club option – no buyout)
Sergio Santos – 3,750,000
Dustin McGowan – 1,500,000
2014 Guaranteed Total – 77,000,000 (10 players)
2014 Total With Options – 99,750,000 (12 players)
Edwin Encarnacion – 10,000,000
Jose Reyes – 22,000,000
Jose Bautista – 14,000,000
Adam Lind – 7,500,000 ($1-million buyout)
Maicer Izturis – 3,000,000
Mark Buehrle – 19,000,000
Brandon Morrow – 10,000,000 ($1-million buyout)
Ricky Romero – 7,500,000
Sergio Santos – 6,000,000 ($750,000 buyout)
Dustin McGowan – 4,000,000 ($500,000 buyout)
2015 Guaranteed Total — 78,500,000 (Six players)
2015 Total With Options – 103,000,000
Edwin Encarnacion – 10,000,000 ($2-million buyout)
Jose Reyes – 22,000,000
Jose Bautista – 14,000,000 ($1-million buyout)
Adam Lind – 8,000,000 ($500,000 buyout)
Maicer Izturis – 3,000,000 ($1-million buyout)
Ricky Romero – 13,100,000 ($600,000 buyout)
Sergio Santos – 8,000,000 ($750,000 buyout)
2016 Guaranteed Total — $22,000,000
2016 Total With Options — $78,100,000
Jose Reyes – 22,000,000
Sergio Santos – 8,750,000 ($750,000 buyout)
2017 Guaranteed Total — $22,000,000
2017 Total With Options — $30,750,000
Jose Reyes — $22,000,000 ($4-million buyout)
2018 Guaranteed Total – 0
2018 Total With Options –$22,000,000