Anthopoulos talks finances

*** As always, these questions aren’t necessarily taken word for word from the scrum. It instead provides a general assessment of the topic but the quotes from general manager Alex Anthopoulos are exactly as he said them. The only thing that might be eliminated from this transcript is a little back and forth from the reporter to the GM. ***

Here’s the full transcript of today’s media scrum with Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos as he addressed the club’s current financial situation:

Is there money available from ownership?
“I believe so. We’re not at that point right now. We’ve had a nice nine games but you don’t really even start to engage in trade dialogue until mid-June, after the draft. At that point, what would normally happen is you would talk to other teams about needs, people get dispatched to see affiliates or big- league players. You rekindle talks in July, just before the all-star break and if things move fast and you’re aggressive, maybe get something done just before the break. If not, it carries over after.

“I hope we’re in that position. It’s late May and we need to see how we play in June and we’ll re-evaluate things at the beginning of July. If we’re in a good position then, we’ll know the landscape a little bit more with respect to our needs. I can have that conversation with Paul and Paul will have that conversation with ownership. We need to still be playing well at that time and we’re far away from that.”

Could you take on pro-rated salary at the deadline?
“We have a number that we work with and I always have the ability to have that conversation. We came into the season at the number we expected to be at and as the year goes on, we have needs. Depending on how we’re playing and what’s available, if we have a need come the trade deadline, I have every confidence we’ll have the resources to do that. I have no doubts about that at all.”

Gammons report on payroll being “maxed out”…
“We’re at a number to start the year. I think that’s fair. I don’t think it varies from anything we’ve ever said. It’s always fluid. even when we did the deals last year, we were supposed to be in an area and then something came up.

“Nothing at this time has come up. We are having no dialogue whatsoever. If there is any (rumours) out there that we’re engaged with players, we’re not having any active talks at all. We’re really immersed in the draft right now. I expect that when that draft is over, the Monday after, that’s when everyone is going to start making their calls again.”

Lot of changes at Rogers; anything to do with ballclub?
“Guy Lawrence came to a game on the weekend. The directiove and mandate was ‘Keep winning.’ I got a slap on the shoulder and he left. Seems pretty straight-forward to me.”

You said you’re not engaged in anything right now but how much ear-to-the-ground stuff are you doing to avoid another team getting the jump on you…
“I don’t know. Not any more so than any other time. In terms of getting the jump, you just can’t do anything about it. If you want to get the jump on someone I guess you could be aggressive and do things but you can’t prevent what other teams are doing. I will say this, though, this is the time of year where a lot of gamesmanship goes on, there’s a lot of false reports out there for various reasons and some of them are pretty obvious. Just like anything else, I know I do this every offseason, if there’s anything out there about us being engaged, we have nothing at all going on.”

You’ve previously said Rogers has never said no to you before. Has that changed? (ex-Santana, etc)
“No, no. Like I said, we have areas we stay in. There are certain things that make sense and there are some things that if you really don’t think is going to move the needle that much, and look, I never specifically addressed the Santana scenario but the only thing that I can say about that is, people make it like we were getting Santana for free. Money was going to be spent on Santana. How that payment was going to be structured, when it was going to come out, but money was coming out of the bank account of the Toronto Blue Jays. That money was being spent and it was an add. So, how things are structured, just like we’ve done certain contracts, or how the Marlins did their contracts.

“I think people lose sight of the fact that we were still adding payroll at that point and we had the go ahead. There may be reasons to
structure things certain ways and obviously some of those things are internal. We’ve been able to add payroll, we may need to be creative, we may need to do some things but we’ve been able to add payroll when needed.”

On whether he’s content with starting depth outside of the current five…
“I would hope so. You’re always hoping. Sanchez pitched today and gave up some runs but you’re looking for other things. I think he got 12-1 groundball to fly. He went six innings but gave up six runs. You’re hoping for him it clicks at some point. Obviously a guy like Stroman we’re very high on and we think he can certainly factor in for us and I think the next time he is here he’ll be that much better having already gone through it. And look, you see it with the guys like the Pillars, the Goses, you want to get those firsts
out of the way for the young kids.

“And Morrow, I think Morrow is a wild card as well. We expect him back around the All-Star Break, we’ll have more of a report by the end of June. If he’s going to be around the All-Star Break, by late June he should be going out on a rehab assignment. I think it can
actually time well because, again, I remember the deals we’ve done before the trade deadline, we did the Yunel Escobar deal and that was early, that was being really aggressive, most times, even the Colby Rasmus deal I think was right after the (All-Star Break) we had a lot of dialogue before. By that time, we’ll know that much more. There may be other needs on this team, maybe we didn’t perform well in June and that changes things. Morrow’s recovery, the development of guys like Stroman, Sean Nolin should be back from a groin (injury), what if he starts to click and things like that. We’re a long ways, so much can change in the next six weeks or eight weeks really.”

On performance of current rotation…
“Obviously they’ve performed well. I haven’t looked at the stats but I think I read or heard that all five starters have ERAs below four right now so does that continue? Who knows but for the most part, I was telling somebody today and I said this last year, I know I sounded like a broken record, we were 14th in starter ERA and the won-loss reflected it. I think we’re fifth in the American League and we’re performing well and if you look at it, I think the top five in the AL last year, four of those teams were playoff teams or won the division and so on. There’s a correlation, there’s no doubt about it, and for us it’s going to be key. I know the offence has been great, we’re hitting home runs and it’s been fun to watch but we will go as far as our rotation takes us, there’s no doubt about that.”

The payroll range that you previously mentioned, does that include the draft?
“No, No. Those are separate. Big-league payroll is totally separate than other areas, they’re not linked. You have a total baseball operations budget but payroll is payroll, draft is draft, development is development and all that kind of stuff.”

On whether there’s a scenario he’d try to save money in the draft and use it on additions for the 25-man roster….
“I think the draft is something that’s always very important to us. It’s something that you can never neglect. It’s just so key, it’s so important especially with where some of the salaries have been going, free agency and things like that. The draft is always going to be extremely important for us.”

So is this year any different then? From the previous ones you’ve had?
“No, it’s the same. We have two picks in the first round so that can impact things. But it all depends on what’s out there in the draft as well, what the opportunities are and things like that. We’ll see how it goes. I love the draft, I always get excited for it. It’s a fun week for us and I expect everything to be the same.”

Spending decrease in draft year-over-year of late…
“Number one, we didn’t sign the 10th pick. I think it was around a $3-million slot or right around there, $2.9, so right there you’re at the number. Part of it is where you sit. Did we have sandwich picks? Did we not have sandwich picks? Things like that. I do think with the changes to the draft, the CBA, the way bonuses are capped, the slotting, that can impact some things. I find some players, we would have loved to have sign some players that just were unwilling to sign. They wanted to go to school and you do have some limits if you don’t want to be penalized or go over slot.

“The dynamic has changed since the first year or two that we did it just because the rules are in place. We’re not going to spend for the sake of spending. The other thing is slotting has lowered some of the total dollars spent. After the 10th round, $100-thousand is now the max. The structure itself has impacted what teams are spending. I would say, as a whole, we’re probably spending less.”

If guys are unwilling to sign wouldn’t you get a sense of that beforehand?
“You do, but you know what, there’s so much gamesmanship. They’re not willing to sign, and then you do more work and if it’s the right number they are willing to sign. I remember last year there were two guys we would’ve loved to have had and they just really wanted to go to school. Their parents really wanted them to go to school. We loved the talent and we thought, round two, round three, they could be a factor for us. There was no dollar amount, they just really wanted to go to school.

“There’s times where kids say that, as you get close to the draft, all of a sudden things change. It could be for various reasons. Just because you might hear on May 15 someone wants to go to school, you don’t quit on it until really it comes time to draft. You’d be amazed too, the numbers that people throw out Day 1, their expectations and so on, that day comes, they sleep on it, reality starts to set in – ‘Oh, I didn’t get picked,’ or day two, you expected to go in the top three rounds, you didn’t get picked – now your bonus demands totally change. You wanted to go to school may have been a negotiating component, and then, ‘I want to play, I want to sign,’ and your tune changes. So you really can’t quit on keeping in contact and having information. That’s why your scouts are so important.”

Prioritize differently in higher rounds, college over HS, because of signing likelihood?
“Each year we try to get better. We tweaked some things from a philosophy standpoint. I wouldn’t necessarily divulge that specifically, but I do think we try to make adjustments from year to year. You hope you get better and you refine your process. I’m big on going back and looking at where we made mistakes and why. I am adamantly against the, ‘it happens, no big deal.’ Let’s take something from it and let’s see why we made a mistake and what can we change in our process. It’s a constant search to try to get it right.
That’s what’s so much fun about scouting.”

Would you draft someone you’ve drafted before?
“Sure, as long as that player signed the re-consent card. Tyler (Beede) signed it. If he’s there for us, and we have him lined up accordingly, we wouldn’t have a problem at all.”

State of the franchise with Anthopoulos

Here’s the full transcript of today’s media scrum with Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos:

Any thought of moving Lawrie to 2B on a full-time basis to open a spot in the lineup for Juan Francisco?
“He’s a third baseman. We did talk, just the fact of just interleague. Francisco’s done well for us in a short period and it’s just like Gibby talked about, wanted to keep his bat in the lineup. He’s the one who brought it up to me and I said, hey, it made sense, want to keep his bat in the lineup.”

“There hasn’t been any talk of full time like that at all. No, it’s strictly for right now. We know he can do it, I know he had a two or a three -game stint last year but Brett’s athletic enough you could put him anywhere on the field, I really believe that. I do believe that if you gave him enough time at any position and you gave him enough reps he could be a gold glove defender anywhere.”

“When we first got him and I saw him take ground balls at third base for the first time at Rogers Centre, it wasn’t pretty. To see what he’s become today is incredible and I just give him all the credit in the world and obviously all the guys who’ve worked with him.”

(more…)

Stray thoughts from a Thursday afternoon

The Blue Jays just finished Game 1 of a doubleheader here in Minnesota and it wasn’t exactly pretty. R.A. Dickey actually handled the cold weather a lot better than I thought he would and after the game said the frigid temperatures weren’t an issue. It’s sort of hard to tell based on his pitching line, though, as Dickey’s control problems continued again and he has now walked 15 batters in just 23 innings this season.

The full game recap is available here which goes into a lot more detail about the command issues. As I mentioned in the game story, he certainly seems to be falling into pitfalls of a what everyone usually stereotypes a knuckleballer to be. That usually includes a high number of walks and an overall ability to command the pitch. That’s not really something that happened to Dickey when he was with the Mets but there were glimpses of it last season and the issue has carried into 2014.

But let’s not get too carried away about this. There was a lot of talk on Twitter today about what the Blue Jays should do with their Opening Day starter. Let’s get one thing straight, for better or worse, Dickey isn’t going anywhere. His job isn’t in jeopardy, there’s no threat of being moved to the bullpen and even if the club were to consider something that drastic it’s not like J.A. Happ, Todd Redmond or Esmil Rogers provides a viable alternative.

Dickey went through similar issues last season. His numbers from his first few outings of 2013 are eerily similar to what he has done so far this year. Keep in mind, this is a pitcher that still had an ERA above 5 as of June 21. The Blue Jays can’t afford to have Dickey’s struggles continue that late into the year this season but he’s going to get every opportunity to turn this thing around. It’s an incredibly small sample size and there’s no reason to believe the numbers won’t eventually even out but that won’t overshadow another slow start. One thing with Dickey seems to be a tendency to let starts get away from him, in 38 outings with the Blue Jays he has alllowed five-plus runs in 12 of them.

Here are a few other random thoughts from this week:

  • A lot was made of J.A. Happ’s comments to the media this week about his frustration of being put in the bullpen. It’s clear that Happ believes he should be in the rotation and is definitely not happy about his current role with the team. Personally, I don’t agree with him but I also don’t have a problem with the public comments. A lot of people immediately jump to the conclusion that just because Happ is saying this publicly it must mean that he is a problem in the clubhouse. That couldn’t be further from the truth. Happ is one of the most mild-mannered athletes in the game and for the most part keeps to himself. He’s causing a stir within his team and I don’t think anyone in that dugout really cares one way or the other whether he decides to give an honest opinion about his current circumstances. That being said, he belongs in the bullpen for now but I certainly wouldn’t be cutting him loose just for the sake of it. If a starter goes down with an injury in the relatively near future, Happ is still a viable option — at least in comparison with Esmil Rogers and even Todd Redmond, who I think is a perfect fit in long relief because of his tendency to struggle two and three times through a batting order.
  • The Blue Jays are going to have to make a decision in the very near future on the status of Adam Lind. John Gibbons said he’s taking a day-by-day approach for the immediate future but if Lind’s not ready to go this weekend in Cleveland the Blue Jays simply can’t afford to wait any longer. Lind was barely able to move after tweaking a back muscle on Tuesday and even though he was better two days later it still didn’t seem to be close to the point of playing. With a three-man bench, unless the Blue Jays ditch a reliever in the near future, they just can’t afford to keep an injured player on the active roster. Toronto has yet to make any official announcements but I fail to see how a stint on the DL can be avoided at this point.
  • In my opinion, the odd-man out in the bullpen should be Esmil Rogers. He has gotten off to an awful start this season and his tendency to give up a lot of home runs — and a lot of long fly ball outs — has become a major liability. At this point, he can’t be trusted in close games and he’s behind Redmond on the depth chart for long relief. Carrying three long relievers — Rogers, Redmond and Happ — is extremely redundant and there’s a big problem if a valuable piece like Neil Wagner gets optioned to the Minor Leagues when Casey Janssen returns. I understand the desire to protect assets, and losing a pitcher because he’s out of options (like Redmond and Rogers) isn’t ideal but at some point the roster configuration has to be based on performance, especially for a team that views itself as a contender. Rogers may eventually pan out somewhere but it hasn’t worked in Toronto and if someone has to go, it should be him.

Blue Jays pitching schedule

March 19 vs Phillies:

J.A. Happ (four-to-five innings)
Sergio Santos (one inning)
Brett Cecil (one inning)
Aaron Loup (one inning)
Steve Delabar (one inning)

Minor League outing — Drew Hutchison (one inning)
Work — Todd Redmond

(more…)

The fallout from failing to sign Santana

Transcript of Anthopoulos’ scrum with the media:

(editors note — As always the questions asked by the group of reporters — including myself — aren’t transcribed word for word but it gives the jist of the question in each case. Anthopoulos’ quotes are word for word.)

How close were you to signing Santana?
“Probably don’t want to comment on how close I felt we got or didn’t get. I think what I’ll say is from what I was told he wanted to pitch in the NL. Couldn’t compete with it. It wasn’t money. It wasn’t years. He had a strong desire to pitch in the NL and there was no way to compete with that. Wish him the best, obviously I’m sure us and other clubs would have loved to have had him but we’re going to move on.”

Did he always want to pitch in the NL?
“I think you’d have to ask them. I was just told recently that he had a strong desire to pitch in the NL. It was on a one-year deal and that was where he wanted to be.”

Were you used in the process?
“No. No. That’s probably the only thing I’m going to say. No.”

(more…)

Anthopoulos holding court with the media

On Ryan Goins…
“Defensively, the more you watch him, the more you realize how good he is defensively, just his actions, the way he moves. You know, the bat, that’s something we’re going to watch in spring training. The tough part is, you realize it’s two at-bats a game, three at-bats a game, the competition level varies. I would say, again, the competition is still there. We’re going to value the defense because it’s that good. He has room to do less offensively because the defense is so elite. I don’t use that word lightly. I really think he’s elite and he’s got a chance to win a gold glove there.”

“If you actually look at Goins’ minor league track record in the International League last year and Jonny Diaz’s, their OPS’s are similar. Jonny may walk a little bit more, strike out a little bit less but won’t have any power whereas Goins, there’s a little bit of power there. They’re both good defenders. Getz has swung the bat great. Tolleson, we’ve just gotten a chance to see, to get playing and obviously Kawasaki has had a good camp too.”

“Goins is the front-runner because of the defense that he showed but he still has to earn that job.”

(more…)

Q+A with hitting coach Kevin Seitzer

On Ryan Goins…
“Love his swing, love everything about what he is doing mechanically with his approach and now it’s just a matter of him getting at-bats and timing and putting it all together in a game. For me, he’s on the right path, and now it’s about getting more at-bats and timing.”

(more…)

Updated pitching schedule

March 1 @ Baltimore:

Drew Hutchison (two innings)
Ricky Romero (one-to-two innings)
Marcus Stroman (two innings)
Tomo Ohka (one-to-two innings)
Deck McGuire (one-to-two innings)
Neil Wagner (one inning)

Extras — Rob Rasmussen, Marcus Walden, Ryan Tepera, Randy Boone
Side work — R.A. Dickey, Dustin McGowan

March 2 vs New York Yankees:

Esmil Rogers (two innings)
Todd Redmond (two-to-three innings)
Brett Cecil (one inning)
Aaron Loup (one inning)
Jeremy Jeffress (two innings)
Chad Jenkins (one inning)

Extras — Rob Rasmussen, Marcus Walden, Liam Hendriks
Side work — Brandon Morrow, Aaron Sanchez, Sergio Santos, Steve Delabar

March 3 @ Minnesota:

J.A. Happ (two-to-three innings)
Dustin McGowan (two innings)
Kyle Drabek (two innings)
Sean Nolin (one inning)
Mickey Storey (one inning)

Extras
 — Rob Rasmussen, Marcus Walden, Deck McGuire
Side work — Marcus Stroman, Ricky Romero, Casey Janssen, Tomo Ohka

March 4 @ Philadelphia:

R.A. Dickey (three-to-four innings)
Sergio Santos (one inning)
Steve Delabar (one inning)
Neil Wagner (one inning)
Marcus Walden (one inning)
Liam Hendriks (one-to-two innings)

Extras
 — Deck McGuire, Chad Jenkins, Rob Rasmussen
Side work — Drew Hutchison, Todd Redmond, Esmil Rogers, Brett Cecil

Bautista’s first availability of the spring

Lack of health last two years…
“I know that both injuries I had, the ones that actually took me out of the lineup for an extended period of time were from impact plays or a freak accident with the wrist. It’s not because I was neglecting my training regime or anything like that but it is disappointing and it is upsetting that I don’t get to go out there and finish the season with the team or finish strong. That has been the case in the last two years so hopefully it doesn’t happen again.”

(more…)

Anthopoulos holds court

Adding rotation depth?
“We’d like to do it but we’re not going to do it at all costs. As we sit here today I think it’s unlikely at this point, we’re getting so late into spring training. Unlikely unless a trade emerges, but again. As the offseason has progressed, we’ve felt better about the internal options, especially the young guys, whether it’s a guy like Stroman, Drew Hutchison, Kyle Drabek. Brandon Morrow looks great. We felt good about him in November but as he’s progressed through the offseason, we feel even better about him. That being said, if something presented itself, we’d love to do it. We just haven’t been able to find anything that works for us.”

(more…)

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