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
It might not seem like it, but the Blue Jays have been down this road before and the truth is it wasn’t even that long ago.
Back in 2005, J.P. Ricciardi had just finished his fourth year on the job as Toronto’s general manager. He oversaw a club which finished two games below .500 but had plenty of optimism for the future with the promise of an increased payroll.
The club’s ownership group, Rogers Communications, was a multi-billion dollar corporation that in theory had plenty of money to spend while the public pressure only increased after the company purchased what was then called SkyDome for a measly $25-million.
Ricciardi and president Paul Godfrey presented ownership with a plan on how to get baseball relevant in Toronto again. In order to compete against the likes of Boston and New York in the American League East, the club would have to start spending like it belonged.
Rogers responded in kind favor and agreed to provide a major influx in cash to get things started. What followed was one of the busiest offseasons in franchise history as Ricciardi’s phone number suddenly was put on speed dial by all of major player agents from around the league.
The first major move was signing closer B.J. Ryan to a five-year, $47-million contract. Right-hander A.J. Burnett followed a few weeks later armed with a five-year, $55-million deal while the club then put the finishing touches on a major trade which saw third baseman Troy Glaus and the remaining three-years, $36 million on his contract come to Toronto.
But Ricciardi didn’t stop there. He would also pull the trigger on a trade with Arizona for first baseman Lyle Overbay and later signed veteran catcher Bengie Molina to a one-year contract valued at $5-million.
The Blue Jays committed more than $145 million in total salaries as part of those deals. The club went from being ranked 25th in baseball with a $45.7 million payroll in 2005 to No. 15 the following year with $71.9.
The quick-fix solutions were supposed to turn the Blue Jays into potential contenders for the postseason. Ryan and Glaus managed to earn spots on the All-Star team and the club also finished with 87 wins — its highest total since 1998 — but it still wasn’t enough to overtake the Yankees atop the AL East.
With the postseason seemingly within striking distance, the Blue Jays decided to go all-in for a second consecutive offseason. Toronto began once again made an early splash by signing designated hitter Frank Thomas to a two-year contract valued at $18-million in what seemed like only the beginning.
Ricciardi then took a strong run at free agent pitchers Ted Lilly and Gil Meche. He boasted about having enough money to potentially sign both hurlers but was ultimately spurned in their decisions to go elsewhere.
Not to be outdone for long, Ricciardi continued along with his offseason and once again it seemed as though money wasn’t an issue. He signed Vernon Wells (seven-years, $126 million) and Overbay (four-years, $24 million) to long-term extensions while ensuring his core would remain in place for the distant future.
It was another $168-million in guaranteed money and Toronto’s overall payroll jumped to $81.9 million for the 2007 campaign. Looking back, it was the final positive news of Ricciardi’s eight-year tenure in Toronto.
The Blue Jays suffered more than their fair share of injuries during that 2007 season en route to a disappointing 83-79 record. The following year, things didn’t get much better as Toronto managed to finish 10 games above .500 but were still a distant 11 games back of New York for first place in the division.
After a series of failed attempts for the postseason, the club ultimately was broken up and the slashing of payroll slowly began. Glaus and Wells were dealt, Ryan and Thomas were waived, while Burnett and Overbay left via free agency.
But now everything has come full circle with Alex Anthopoulos having just finished his third at the helm as GM and Rogers Communications apparently once again eager to spend money. The end result was Tuesday night’s reported deal with Miami that sees Jose Reyes, Josh Johnson, Mark Buehrle, Emilio Bonifacio and John Buck on their way to Toronto.
The Blue Jays will take on upwards of $160 million as part of the blockbuster trade and their 23rd-ranked payroll ($75.5 million) could move into the upper-third of the league with salaries expected to approach $120 million in 2013.
Anthopoulos made the bold megadeal knowing full well that there’s a strong chance it will ultimately define his time in Toronto. Ricciardi was aware of that, too, back in the spending sprees of 2005-06.
That’s where the Blue Jays hope the similarities between the two will end. Right now, there’s only optimism for the future but also go in knowing that nothing is guaranteed.
Alex Anthopoulos is in the middle of what can only be described as his most important offseason to date as Toronto’s general manager. He’s in the market for a pair of starting pitchers while also searching for potential upgrades in left field and at second base.
If that wasn’t enough, Anthopoulos also faces the unenviable task of having to conduct his second managerial search in just over two years. The speed — or lack thereof — of the current search has led to some criticism about a perceived lack of urgency with free agency already well underway.
Here’s a mostly complete transcript of what Anthopoulos had to say about that and other important offseason topics during a phone interview on Tuesday afternoon. You can find my article from this interview on the main site.
Also, don’t forget to follow me on Twitter @gregorMLB where I’ll be posting breaking news on the Blue Jays’ offseason moves.
Where do things currently stand in your search for a new manager? Do you have a timeline and will the search be temporarily put on hold because of this week’s GM meetings in California?
“It will slow down for two or three days but hopefully sooner than later. I don’t have a specific timeline but we’re making progress, moving in the right direction, moving along. Sooner than later but for two or three days while we’re at the meetings it slows up. But it will pick right back when the meetings are over.”
There has been a lot of talk about how not having a manager in place could impact negotiations with free agents. Has this been mentioned in conversations or do you think it’s somewhat overrated in the public eye?
“It has come up in conversations, which is to be expected. I haven’t really seen it so far be an issue. I think a lot of it will get resolved before some of the big free agents sign. I’ve yet to see be a problem.”
You’ve been quoted as saying this search is about finding the right fit for Toronto. What are some of the qualities in a manager that you’re looking for this time around?
‘It’s finding the right fit for the city, for the players, for management. You could take the top five managers in the game and they might not be the right fit. It’s not a player, you’re not filling in first base or an outfield position. There’s more than just checking off boxes in terms of what makes a good manager.
“I think it’s much more specific for what fits with the organization, the players, the community. It’s hard to quantify it that way but I think it’s more specific to the organization and the city than anything else, management, community and the players.”
Having been through this process once before, how do you weigh what experienced guys have done before versus what rookie candidates say they’ll do in an interview setting?
“You can find out tangible things from coaches they worked with, players they managed, you have a much better feel how guys are going to run a bullpen. You take out a lot of the guess work involved and they’re much more of a known quantity, the guys who have done it before, and there’s definitely a comfort in that.
“That’s not to say that those are the best candidates, but there is definitely a comfort when you don’t have to guess as much because ultimately you’re not sure how someone’s going to react.”
What can you tell us about Esmil Rogers? What did you like about Rogers and how long were you interested in him?
‘We had talked to the Indians about him a little bit during the summer and then in the offseason we started to talk a lot more. We always look to add any arms that we can, bullpen, starters. It’s a power arm guy, we think he’s just coming into his own. He’s always had tremendous stuff, whatever the reasons might be it didn’t work in Colorado but he really turned the corner with the Indians and our scouting reports of him were outstanding.
“It’s a power arm with an out-pitch slider, swing and miss stuff, every good athlete and it’s someone we think, in time, can pitch late in the game. It was a small sample size with the Indians but he seemed to really get his confidence going, really had some success, and we think the stuff certainly translates to pitching late in the game and you can never have too many of those guys.’
How does the acquisition of Rogers impact negotiations with guys like Brandon Lyon and Jason Frasor? Is there still room for another arm?
“I wouldn’t say we’re ever done. It takes away some of the urgency to do something but the goal is to have a deep bullpen. If you’re going to be a contending team you’re going to be in most games, whether it’s down a few runs or up a few runs, you’re going to need a deep bullpen to either hold those leads or keep the game close.
“If you only have two or three guys to rely on, you’re going to end up burning them out and you’re not going to the performance. We want to have as deep of a bullpen as you can, you love to have swing and miss stuff if you can. It’s still early to tell, we could still have a scenario where we’d have a spot for someone but it’s probably not as much of a priority as it was before we made this trade.”
In terms of payroll and what your current needs are, do you need to fill holes in the starting rotation before moving on to potential upgrades in left field and second base?
‘It’s all fluid and mixed in together. In a perfect world, you would address your rotation first and see what’s left over but you just can’t. It’s impossible for us to dictate free agent timelines, other teams in trade. I’ve repeatedly said that the rotation is definitely the No. 1 priority but that doesn’t mean that if a trade for a reliever like Rogers comes up that we’ll put it on hold until we know we can make a trade for a starter.
“I think we just have to jump at the opportunity as they come and if that means a second base option comes up or a left field option comes up we’ll jump at that. But we always have our eye on the rotation as well.”
Would you ideally leave Anthony Gose and Adeiny Hechavarria in Triple-A for another year or does that depend on what moves you make this offseason?
“Ideally yes, but that’s not to say it’s going to be the way it’s going to work out. There are scenarios where both could be on this team. But in a perfect world we would have them in the Minor Leagues, continue to develop and get every day playing time. But come Spring Training depending on what has been done with the roster, where we have to allocate our funds, there’s a scenario where they could find themselves on the team.”
When the rumors linking John Farrell to Boston first surfaced last year, it was hard to take them at face value. It seemed relatively impossible that Farrell would be looking to bolt after one season on the job even if a dream scenario in Boston hung in the balance.
The speculation seemed as though it was a by-product of the Boston media and an organization that is notorious for leaking information to the press. There was almost a sense that it was the big bad Red Sox acting as league bully with a sense of entitlement and that Toronto should step aside and simply let Farrell return to his roots.
At the time, the Blue Jays didn’t crumble under the pressure. They instead instituted a club policy which prohibited employees departing for another organization in a lateral move. That was supposed to be the end of the rampant speculation but instead it was really just the beginning.
Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos declined to get into the specifics of what took place in 2011 but he did outline the recent events on Sunday afternoon. He said that it was the Blue Jays belief all along that Farrell would return in 2013 but that changed during a debriefing at the end of the season during which the manager expressed his desire to join the Red Sox.
The move supposedly caught the organization completely off-guard but there were indications throughout the past two seasons that Farrell hadn’t ruled out a possible return to Boston. There were the relatively weak denials through the media that sidestepped the issue more than it brought closure.
Whenever pressed on his connection to the Red Sox, Farrell frequently answered with “I am the manager of the Toronto Blue Jays.” At no point did Farrell say he wasn’t interested in the job nor did he openly lobby for a contract extension beyond the 2013 campaign.
This was viewed by some as taking a common-sense approach to the situation. Managers very rarely have leverage in negotiations but it was clear from the start that almost all of the power rested in Farrell’s hands. Here was a Red Sox organization ,in a big-time market, with a big-time budget that clearly felt Farrell was the solution to their problems.
Instead of speaking out about the issue in any great detail, Farrell held his cards close to his chest. Along the way, there were plenty of clues where Farrell’s heart truly lied but at the time most of them seemed relatively innocent. It was clear through their pre-game embraces and discussions on the field that Farrell had a close personal relationship with Boston’s franchise player Dustin Pedroia.
There were also Farrell’s fond memories of his old neighborhood in Boston. There were his close ties to the organization with plenty of friends to be found even following the departure of Terry Francona at the end of the 2011 season. None of these developments were entirely surprising because of course he would have fond memories of a place he used to call home.
But for me, the clear sign that there was something to this Farrell speculation came on Aug. 25 when the Dodgers and Red Sox reached an agreement on a blockbuster trade. I was sitting in the Blue Jays dugout watching batting practice when I saw the breaking news on my phone.
I turned to Farrell and relayed the news and as is somewhat custom on the road we discussed the day’s events with a handful of other Toronto beat reporters. At the time, I made an off-handed remark about how that has to be the most salary being traded to one team in the history of baseball.
Farrell thought about it for a few seconds and then began running down the list of players I just mentioned were in the deal. Within a minute, Farrell had the total amount the Red Sox would be shedding in the trade. I remember being somewhat taken aback by this because — despite public opinions to the contrary — this is not the type of information most managers would know off the top of their head.
Sure, a lot of managers could ballpark the total figure but when I got back up to the pressbox I checked Farrell’s math. He was within a few million of the total amount going to Los Angeles, which is no small feat when you’re talking about a deal worth more than $250-million.
Now, I’m not relaying this story because I think Farrell had any knowledge of the deal prior to it actually taking place. Nor am I insinuating that there was blatant tampering on the part of the Red Sox and that Farrell knew with absolute certainty the job would be his at the end of the year.
Instead I’m using it as an example that Farrell never really let go of the past when the Blue Jays gave him his first managerial opportunity just two years ago. There’s very little doubt in my mind that Farrell would not have been able to immediately crunch of the numbers of any other team in baseball the way he could with Boston.
It became evident that he was still monitoring the Red Sox’s state of affairs. Yet another clue was provided at the end of the season when Farrell did an interview with MLB Network Radio in which he admitted knowing the timing of interviews for Boston’s managerial search. That’s also something that wouldn’t be considered commonplace even for an intelligent man like Farrell who is aware of his surroundings more than most peers.
Farrell’s departure isn’t exactly an act of treason but it does feel like the Blue Jays have been left at the altar. There’s no way the 50 -year-old could have envisioned when he originally departed for the Blue Jays that Terry Francona would be relieved of his duties less than a year later.
At the time, Francona was revered in Boston and it seemed inevitable for Farrell being forced to leave for another team in order to reach of goal of becoming manager. It was ultimately Toronto that ended up taking a shot only to see the favor repaid with a quick departure for a team he never really put in the past.
Right fielder Jose Bautista re-joined the Blue Jays for their final series of the year at the beginning of October. He took the opportunity to provide an update on his rehab from right-wrist surgery, an assessment of the club’s supposed lack of leadership and Yunel Escobar‘s eye-black stickers controversy. Associate reporter Chris Toman will have an article coming your way in the next week or so but in the meantime I wanted to provide this transcript to keep some content flowing into the blog.
Don’t forget to follow me on Twitter @gregorMLB. I’m currently in Baltimore to help cover the Orioles/Yankees American League Division Series but once that comes to an end I’ll be back on the Blue Jays beat. This should prove to be a very busy offseason, so keep following for the latest news and rumors.
On the injured right wrist….
“The wrist is feeling good. I’m about four weeks out of surgery, or close to that. It’s getting the range of motion back. Still a little bit of soreness and a little bit of stiffness but it’s pretty normal considering that the point in the recovery that I’m at right now. All the rehab right now consists of getting the swelling out and getting the mobility back and the range of motion. That strengthening process begins in probably about two weeks. Some time after that, I’ll pick up the bat and start swinging.”
On Omar’s comments…
“Omar is a guy that I really respect. Being latin and having played the game for so long, at an elite level, and hoping he gets into the Hall of Fame. I respect him a lot and I do know that his intentions were not malicious when he made those comments. That being said, I can’t say that I agree with what he said.
“When it came to addressing mistakes, I see it every day. I saw it every day when I was playing and I see it on TV when I’m watching games. Maybe he didn’t use the correct words he tried to use. But I haven’t really sat down with him to know exactly where he was coming from but more importantly I’d hate to see this being used as an excuse for our record. We’re the players, we’re on the field, we’re accountable for playing good and helping to get wins. I’d hate for something like this to be looked upon as the reason we’re losing more than we would like, or should.”
“I don’t think the fact that I would have been here or not would have made a big difference. There is no doubt, that what he did was not acceptable. He does regret it and he’s really had a tough time dealing with everything and if he would have had any clue that that’s the way it was going to turn out, I guarantee you he wouldn’t have done it. But at the same time, I also feel like I need to defend him.
“I know behind what he wrote, there was no ill feelings. I know Yunel personally, I’ve been to his house in Miami. I’ve seen his friends. It doesn’t correspond writing something people thought was derogatory, with his lifestyle and the people that he knows. So, for everything to be blown out of proportion like it was, just simply because of a mis-translation and because of cultural differences and things like that. I feel bad for Yunel being in that position because English is his second language and he left Cuba around eight years ago on a raft, I mean he has been through a lot. So you can’t blame him for not being able to express himself the best way.
“Other people around baseball have said it and made comments about it and it’s not right but in latin cultures and in the clubhouse where boys are being boys, stupid stuff gets said all of the time. Yeah, it should have been happening behind closed doors where nobody would get offended or take it the wrong way, it’s unfortunate that it went outside of the clubhouse. Yunel really should have thought about it better before he did something like that but I don’t think if I would have been here, I’m not going to look at him and see what he has written on his face to see if it’s okay to go on the field. Nobody is going to do that. Nobody can pay attention to that and still worry about playing good baseball.
“Some things happened, mistakes happen and hopefully we can just grow from it. Hopefully this incident will teach him different things in life that he might not have learned. Because of it, and you guys know, he’s going through different projects and different programs. So, maybe from that mistake something good will happen, he can meet somebody that he can end up helping and affect their life in a positive way. It was unfortunate but if that’s what destiny led him to the path he walked down just so he can affect one life positively then so be it.”
On the skeptics who think Bautista might not re-gain his power stroke because of the nature of the injury…
“I want to know who those people are who think I’m not going to get it back because of this particular injury. The only people that could know that are either the people who had the surgery or that do the surgery. I’ve talked to about 20 people in that position and they all seem to agree that it was 99.9% chance that I was going to be the same player that I ever was before the injury. I have no doubt that I could be ready to play in about a month, game type situations, in a Major League game. Definitely plenty of time before spring training and the start of the season.”
On Miguel Cabrera’s triple crown….
“What he has done is not a surprise to me. I think more light has been shed on it because they’re going to the playoffs. But if you look at his numbers it doesn’t look much different than it has in the past. He does that consistently every single year and he has been my top MVP candidate, if I had to choose, in the last three years alone. If he wins the Triple Crown or not I still think he deserves to be the MVP but it would be really amazing to see somebody come off with a season like that because it obviously hasn’t been done since the 60s.
“It’s not easy to do, it’s not easy to hit for average let alone the combination of average and power and runners on base has really allowed him to drive in a lot of runs. Being on a good winning team with guys that are really performing well in front of him to get on base, a lot of things have happened at the same time for him. I feel very happy.”
Do you think this team needs more veteran leadership or do you agree with Farrell that leadership has no age?
“I do agree that leadership has no age. I really don’t understand why everybody is making, in my eyes, a big deal out of that subject. It’s not something that needs to be addressed in our clubhouse. I think we have plenty of leadership on the players side, on the management side, on the ownership side, on the manager side. So, I don’t think we need any extra or additional leadership. That’s my personal opinion.”
What does this team need to make the next step?
“We need to play better. The guys that are on the field every night, at seven o’clock, we need to perform better. I can control what I do so I can really address in more detail what I can do to help this team win more games. I could have used a better on-base percentage this year. The lack of discipline at the plate early on really hurt my overall numbers when it comes to getting on base. I wasn’t getting pitched to earlier in the year, other teams were taking advantage because I kept swinging at bad pitches. So, when my teammates were on the bases for me, I couldn’t drive them in and when I needed to get on base for them I couldn’t do it enough. “
“It’s hard to point fingers at any specific area that the team needs to address just to guarantee wins. I don’t think that’s possible. But overall I think we can probably improve on anything. When you’re 20 games below .500 I think that can be a general assessment that you’re doing something wrong, something’s got to change. But the players that are on the field every day, the 25-man roster and the guys that we rely on in the Minors that are on the 40-man, we all need to be better because that’s the only thing that matters.
“We can prepare the best way ever, we can manufacture the best roster, and you can do whatever you want but when the game starts, if we don’t play good, we’re still going to lose.”
Here is Alex Anthopoulos’ final news conference of the season. I apologize in advance for a typo here and there. I wanted to post this tonight but also have articles in the works for the main site but it has been a bit rushed. Instead of waiting any longer, though, he’s Anthopoulos:
Top priority this offseason?
“The starting rotation. A lot of where our team goes is going to be predicated on what we do with the rotation, it’s clear we have needs there, especially with the guys that were injured, they are not going to be ready for the start of the year or even the middle of the year. That’s definitely going to be a major area of our concentration in the off-season.”
Leadership an issue?
“It could be a combination of things, people define it in so many different ways, there are so many examples of it. Take Roy Halladay for example, I know he’s not a vocal, fiery guy, he is on the field, but he leads by example. Some guys will be more vocal and so on, I think a lot of it is we have a young team, and even though you can have young players that show attributes and the ability to lead, not all of them can and not everyone has comfort doing that necessarily. Beyond all that, winning is big part of it, when you win, things go a lot better, when you don’t win, I’ve seen both sides with teams over .500 and under .500, that’s when some of the other things come out. That’s not to say there’s not areas we can’t get better at, we can’t improve but there’s no question winning cures a lot of things.”
Payroll going up?
“It will, it will definitely go up, there’s going to be a little bit more to work with going forward into the off-season than last . there’s no question with what I’ve been told about where we can be, we’ll be able to look at players we wouldn’t have been as serious about or wouldn’t have fit. Again, and I tried to say this last off-season, it’s not a bottomless pit, it doesn’t mean we can have everyone we want, we’re going to have to be creative and make some things fit, but it’s definitely more to work with than we did last year and that will certainly be exciting.”
Prospects versus free agency?
”The trade route may have been a more attractive avenue in the past, well if there’s a little more flexibility from a payroll standpoint, free agency might make more sense. If you look at the return and you can say we get to save these four players in trade and spend the dollars on a free agent, that ultimately might make more sense. It will have to be a combination. If that rotation can be shored up and it needs to be, that’s really going to dictate where this team goes.”
Fan increase leads to more payroll?
AA not involved at senior level, only knows what he’s been told. “Revenues for this organization have gone up and those revenues are going to be plowed back into the payroll. We talked about that last off-season, I think everything has been up across the board and the exciting part is we get to re-allocate that into payroll. In terms of pressure and things like that, I don’t look at that way at all, it’s more opportunities, maybe being able to look at players we may not have looked at in the past. That’s an exciting thing.”
Accountability for disappointing season?
“There was a lot of change to the roster and rather than trying to put it on a coach or a manager or things like that, the results of the current season you can put on me for the roster I give the manager and the staff. I know we’ve talked about the injuries quite a bit, that’s certainly part of it as well, but it is a young team but I give the manager and the staff the players, with injuries and some of the performances, it’s on me from that standpoint to give them a roster they can with and we didn’t have that this past year.”
On Adam Lind…
Less impressed with small sample sizes, seen improvements, need them to take, Lind has ability. “We need to see him do it start to finish rather than trying to speculate on what he may or may not do. I just don’t think we can prepare that way, we have to let him go out and do it.”
Type of SP to target?
“We just need quality. If we can go get five front of the rotation guys we’re certainly going to do it. You’re always looking at the best quality you can get and that’s all it’s going to come down to. The guys that are at the front or middle of the rotation, those are guys that are going to chew up innings with good ERAs, all that kind of stuff. We just need to improve.”
Darren Oliver status… do you need an answer whether or not he’s coming back by a certain period of time?
“I’m going to give it a few days at least and then probably reach out to Darren and then let him get back with his family. . I’m not going to rush Darren at all, I’d love to have him back. He’s an asset to any club he’s with.” Knew last off-season retirement would be possible.”
John Farrell coming back?
“John is the manager of our club. I don’t have a problem at all (with him returning on a one-year deal), I know this has been asked before, about terms of the contract and things like that. I think I’ve been pretty consistent from that standpoint, we need to focus on the roster, we need to focus on making the rotation better, those are the areas of this team that needs to be addressed, especially in light of what the results have been. Certainly health is going to be part of the solution, but not all of it. The rotation still needs to get better.”
Prepared to overpay for upgrades?
“Yes. Again, it’s not a bottomless pit, so you’re weighing your options and I think that’s ultimately what it comes down to if you have x amount of dollars to spend, what percentage of that are you going to allocate to one or two or three areas. For the right fit, or what you might deem the perfect fit, the overpay makes a lot of sense. Where you do get into trouble is when you start settling for someone who you objectively weren’t as excited about, I’d rather overpay for someone we really believe in than someone we’re not so certain of if it saves money. You end up getting what you pay for.”
Any danger in tipping your hand about having such a strong desire to acquire pitchers? Possible disappointment from fans if it doesn’t happen?
“I think if I sat here and said we were going to get these three free agents and we don’t, that would be a problem. Or we guarantee certain things, that would be a problem. But I think I’m stating the obvious. I mean people look at the numbers, every team, every GM look at it like we do. They go through the teams,where they ranked in their respective areas, blown saves, starter’s ERA, offence, on-base percentage. So, for the sake of argument, if someone is lacking in power, you know they rank last, the GM would say ‘These guys need power.’ I don’t think they’d tell me ‘We’re all set.’ I think it’s pretty obvious.
“I don’t see how with a straight face I can tell anybody we’re all set in the starting rotation. I think I’m stating the obvious, to the fans, to the guy on the corner, to every GM in the league. There might be some other areas that discreetly, quietly I have some concerns with that might not be as apparent. Those are the things I would keep quiet.
“I will give Shi credit on this one,during the year he wrote about how we should have some concerns for the bullpen going into next year because we had a lot of guys that were free agents and that was something that was very on my mind from the beginning of the season. We had guys that were making some money and weren’t under control. It was something I was going to really be aggressive about during the season and try to address. If that (fact) had been out there I think it would have been a problem, but this (starting pitching) is pretty apparent, pretty obvious. I don’t think I’m showing my cards at all.”
Emphasis on making a big move before the Winter Meetings?
“You always prefer to get things done sooner than later. I think it’s safe to say the bigger the free agent the longer they want to wait. The winter meetings, from past experiences, with any of the bigger free agent signings, it seems like it always drags a little bit. That’s the toughest part about free agency. Sooner than later sets everything up. You know how much money you have left,whether options can be in trades, but you can’t force things, especially with free agency.”
Personal adjustments as GM….
“I’m constantly adjusting. I don’t know that it’s one area. Roster, draft, development, all of it, so I don’t think I ever stop learning, ever stop getting better. It’s not to avoid the question, it’s just I think the list can go on and on. I won’t sit here and say that we’ve settled on anything. We trying to constantly adjust, constantly get better. You only stop doing that when you win the World Series. Even then I bet you’re still trying to improve.”
Impressions on Gose and Hechavarria for next year….
“They’ve both performed fairly well for young guys, obviously ups and downs. The longer they’ve been up here they’re starting to settle in a little bit more, but again over the years,especially in the AGM role you see a lot of guys come up and perform in September and not perform the following year, so ideally your young guys are in the minor leagues and you have players that are a little more established to give them a little more time. They get to force your hand. There may be a set of circumstances that one of them’s on the roster. If two of them are on the roster that means we probably made some big trades and it was a payroll thing and we needed to fit some things in. It’s hard to tell;. I wouldn’t rule it out but you just don’t know what the results will be the following year. I guess I would never rule anything out,but ideally we would have them in the minor leagues.”
Why was Romero not sent down by Lind was?
“I think with Adam the struggles were a little bit more prolonged.They started the second half of last season. Especially someone with a track record that’s done it before, you stick with them. If this was the first time Adam had not had as much success, he would have been given a little more rope like he was last year, even the year prior to that. He hit for some power, but the average was down.
“Ricky, the three years prior to that has been outstanding. He got better each year. The innings, ewverything else. I think it’s one of those things that you continue to try to work through things.”
Did you consider sending Romero to the Minors?
“No. We evaluated things start to start. He struggled and so on, I think you’re always looking for solutions first and foremost. At no time did we ever get serious about anything like that at all. The extent that we went with it was to have him skip a start.”
What type of tinkering does Romero have to do this offseason?
“I don’t know that today I’m prepared to answer that question.I have a lot of different theories and ideas and I know I’ve pointed to that start in New York (on Sept. 19), it’s so tough to pinpoint, is it mechanics. We obviously tried all kinds of things all year. It was a lot of trial and error throughout the season waiting for him to come out of it.
“We use Brandon Morrow as an example the year before. He really only clicked the last three starts of the year. He struggled for that long a period. We’re going to spend a lot of time in the off-season taking a look at more things. I don’t know that we have the answer right now. If we did we would have certainly done it sooner. All you can do is chalk it up to a down year for him. His work ethic, outstanding stuff is still the same, velocity still the same.The walks is what really spiked. Conversely the strikeout rate dropped and so on. It’s something we’re going to continue to look at in the off-season.”
Have you seen enough from Encarnacion that you’d be comfortable with him starting next year at 1B as opposed to DH?
“He played well at first. I know he’s been banged up a little bit. He’s athletic,he’s gotten himself in tremendous shape the last two years. I thought he did a very good job.”
Does that open up the possibility of going after a DH that doesn’t necessarily play a position or do you need someone that can play 1B as well?
“I think we’d be open to either. I can’t say that we’re really locked into anything.Like I said the fact that Edwin can play first it does give you some flexibility there. He can play first, he can DH. Maybe Lind can play first base and DH. Does someone come in? Is there a trade made? The only person whose guaranteed anything in his role is Encarnacion. If we had guys under contract that would be a factor but I don’t know that we’re locked into has to be a DH or has to be a position player.”
Studying the injuries…
“There’s no set date.I think it’s just the more we look at it, the more we evaluate it,over the course of a season I think we don’t want to be too quick to make change. We’ve really done things in this organization even when I was in scouting in 2004 when I got here. There’s been a lot of consistency, the medical staff, the doctors the training staff. There’s been a lot of stability there. And 2012 was absolutely, when you look at a nine-year period, 2012 is definitely the (year that stands out) with the number of injuries. I think we had more DL days than we’ve ever had in this organization.If we had made changes coming into this season with our doctors, our trainers, our strength staff, if we had made changes for routines,for throwing programs, it would be something to point to. We’ve stayed consistent. We don’t want to just chalk it up to ‘it happens, it’s bad luck.’ We want to make sure we do the work. We want to make sure before we make any drastic changes or tweaks that we’re certain about what we need to do and we’re certain about cause and effect.
What type of hitter are you looking to acquire?
“We’ve always talked about adding on-base. We knew coming in because we’d talked about it in spring training in the off-season, seven out of nine guys we git hit 20 home runs or have the ability to do it. And then we knew that was going to be a high strikeout lineup. Striekouts, power, home runs go hand in hand.We’re always looking at more on-base if we can. Contact-ability so not a bad thing either. You see it come into play. You try and move a runner over, man on third less than two outs, getting the run in. Strikeout’s going to hurt you there. Conversely we do hit a lot of home runs as a team. There were times we were ranked one, right up with New York. We always looked at more on-base and contact-ability, if we can.”
On Lyon and Frasor (pending free agents)…
“They both did great jobs. Jason got hurt in the middle but he’s been here a long time. He leads in career appearances for this organization and everything else he does bring. But the bullen is an area of depth. It’s going to be important that we have some relievers that have a chance to be here for a while.Both guys we’ll strongly take a look at. I don’t know where that’s going to go,but even Brandon performed incredibly well for us. Strike thrower, good curveball. They both did a great job for us so they’ll both be guys we definitely take a look at.”
Alex Anthopoulos has been forced into a lot of interviews during the past week but for once he was able to avoid having to answer questions about Yunel Escobar. Anthopoulos arrived in Tampa on Saturday morning and plans on remaining with the team through its final road trip of the season.
He took some time to speak with reporters about the 2012 season while providing some interesting comments about the offseason and what to expect for next season. On the main site, you can find my article on next year’s starting rotation but the rest of what Anthopoulos had to say can be found below.
Don’t forget to give me a follow on Twitter @gregorMLB
On all the injuries this season…
“The hardest part about it is, you lose players in season, but the guys you lose going into next year. That’s obviously the hardest part about it. It just reinforces more than ever, and I know this is a year that we’ve had more than anybody else or we’ve ever had in this organization, just reinforces the notion of continuing to add depth more so than ever and even when we have young players, prospects, if we can and even if we think they can come up here, do a good job and be solid, if they have options left let’s just stockpile that depth and they can all just wait there.
“I remember years ago, when J.P. was here, I don’t remember the exact year, the year that Marcum and McGowan year, maybe Litsch came up the same year, we had guys like Zambrano, Ohka and obviously those guys didn’t work out. Not that they were the right signings because obviously they didn’t perform well enough but knowing you had those guys waiting in the wings are your insurance, as your backups, that’s something you look back at.
“Sometimes you want to give kids the innings, want to give them the opportunities but it’s not the worst thing in the world if they’re sitting down there as depth and they’re ready to go because you know guys are going to get hurt or guys aren’t going to perform and you’re going to need a changeup.”
With the exception of those 2-4 weeks after all of the injuries, though, you have to be relatively satisfied with the starters?
“It’s changed, obviously if you would have asked me at the beginning of August, I felt our offense was outstanding and it was. We were leading all of baseball in runs scored and the bullpen really came around. But that’s another thing too, you realize six months is six months. We’ve talked about teams that are in contention through the trade deadline, we’ve seen collapses, we’ve seen all of those things, you have to play the full six months.
“I’d say when evaluating our team, we’re always best to evaluate it month-by-month or third-by-third but really have your final evaluation at the end of the year because things change. From that standpoint, the rotation, I think we got through it. We scored a lot of runs and guys like Happ did a solid job, Aaron Laffey did a solid job for us. But, again, you have to do it over six months and even Alvarez over the last three starts has been solid, Romero has been getting better, but you need it over six months.”
Did you over-estimate the Major League ready depth of the organization?
“I think we felt we had bodies, looking back, what you learn from it is just the reliance on young guys. I know you could look at Oakland, they have all these young guys in their rotation. You look at 2010, we had Morrow, Romero, Cecil, Marcum and the fifth starter was a combination of guys. They pretty much made all of their starts and even for us, the first two months of the year, Drew was up after 2-3 weeks, but Drew, Kyle, Brandon, Henderson, Romero, those five guys I think were leading in starter’s ERA.
“That’s not to say it would have gone on for six months, but relying on health is probably the biggest thing and relying on health with some of the younger guys is the biggest thing. There are a lot of teams that have done it, they rolled out a bunch of guys. A few years back there was the Twins that were doing it with Slowey, Blackburn and so on, and it looked like for us it looked like we were going to be able to do it and even in 2010 we did it. But I think more than youth it was just having bodies, having more and more bodies to protect us. You can never have enough.”
For the postseason this year, there’s 4-5 teams that finished under .500 last year. Does that an encouragement going into the offseason?
“Certainly. It definitely has to be and really the focus is on the rotation. It doesn’t mean we’re not going to look to get better offensively or in the bullpen, but you see how teams obviously that have pitched but haven’t scored as many runs and they’re still in contention, they’re still there. What we did in the middle of the summer, we masked a lot of the issues in the rotation because the offense was performing so well.
“We’ve shown at times the team that we can be and with the extra wild card, I know I’ve said this a lot of times, it’s not to say what we would have done the last third of the season, but at the trade deadline we were two out of one of the Wild Card spots, there were teams that were 10 games up in divisions and they lost those leads. So that’s not to say it would have continued but we’ve shown the ability to put it together for awhile. It would have been much easier to evaluate if everyone had stayed healthy and remained on the field.”
Do the Orioles have anything that you can look at and emulate?
“I think the one thing, the way the bullpen’s performed. I don’t know what you can emulate, guys are having great years, it doesn’t mean they’re not good, but ERAs in the ones and the low twos, but I think contending teams are always going to have to have a good bullpen. I don’t know that there’s many teams that contend that have weak bullpens.
“So, that’s the thing that jumps out about that team and people can debate the one-run games, there’s all kinds of reasons I know, people have talked about run differential with them, I think the Diamondbacks one of the years they made the postseason, they had a negative run differential as well. But the thing that jumps out for them is certainly the bullpen and the strength of the pen.”
For the fanbase, do you have to make quick moves in the offseason to move forward with your own organization?
“I don’t look at the timing of it. We need to get better and I think for the fanbase they just want to see a better team, a better product, a team in contention. If you told the fans that we’ll provide that for you on Jan. 1 rather than Nov. 1 I don’t think that they would really care. But I think it goes without saying, we’ll try to be aggressive and get things done but there’s no question the focus is going to be on getting better.”
You have to sell tickets too…
“I don’t look at it from that standpoint. It’s impossible for me to try to operate that way. But I think if we’re looking at big league players, and get better, it can only help things. But I don’t look at it in terms of sales, all that stuff takes care of itself if you win. It’s not about one offseason or a sales campaign, it’s about putting the winning product on the field and the rest will take care of itself. Try to make moves, add big league players and that should speak for itself.”
You mentioned a couple of weeks ago who had spots locked down for position players. What about the starting pitching? Who has guaranteed jobs there?
“The only guys that we promise — I don’t know how the offseason will go, I definitely want to add as much depth as we can in the rotation — we’re only locked into Brandon and Romero. They both have guaranteed contracts and that’s not to say we don’t have guys that are front runners, obviously if Alvarez continues to perform well, but he has options left. I just don’t want people coming into Spring Training assuming they have a job lined up. Or, we make a trade in the offseason or we sign someone and I have to make a phonecall and say, you know what? I changed my mind. The two guys with guaranteed contracts are them, and everybody else, there are guys that will put themselves in a good position, they’ll compete. Depending on what we do, they might get jobs by default but the goal is going to be to add as much depth as we can.”
With the bullpen seemingly pretty well locked down, does that free up a little bit more time for you in the offseason to focus all that energy on upgrading the rotation?
“I think it helps but I would still like to add depth to the bullpen. You still want to have depth. I was just reading how the Reds lost three or four relievers in Spring Training this year. You sit there in Spring Training and guys that have options left and could be on the team but get sent down, we rarely go through with a 12-man staff from start to finish.
” I’m much less concerned, if someone deserves to be on the team or doesn’t deserve to be on the team, we have to do what’s right for the organization. So, if we can depth, and someone had options, has to go down and wait their team, we’re going to do it because we’re going to be a stronger organization for it.
Does having Buffalo make that easier?
“I think in terms of Minor League free agents it does, the proximity, things like that. But in terms of our prospects, developmentally, we sent them to New Hampshire. We still had guys that worked with them, developed them. Is it nice that they’ll be in the IL? Sure, but I think the real advantage, in terms of players, is being able to sign Minor League free agents. It’s tough to recruit guys to do to Las Vegas and put up stats.
If you consider Morrow a two or a three in the rotation, you don’t know where Ricky is, does that change what you’re looking for in the offseason?
“No. Bottom line, they’re all going to make 30-plus starts. At least 30 starts out of each spot, if not more. So get as many good starters as you can. Forget about titles, forget about order. I don’t even remember who the Braves Opening Day starters were all of those years. Or even Halladay, Hamels, Cliff Lee. I don’t think anybody cares, they’re all great. So, from that standpoint, they’re in our rotation, if we can somehow pull it off that we get three guys that would slot in ahead of them, wow, we’re going to have a really good offseason. But I’m not overly concerned with where guys are slotted. We just have to get better.”
Would you be more inclined to part with top prospects this offseason compared to last year?
“We were (last year). I think it all depends on what the deal ends up being. We made a lot of really good players available. At times it was three, two, four, it’s just how many and does it make sense. I don’t know that you’re more willing, or not willing. The more time you have the better feel you have for your own players too. I think we had players that were a little further down in the Minor Leagues and now they’ve graduated to a higher level. We know them a little bit better. I think their value around the league should be stronger because there’s no question, the prospects that are closer have more value.
“Not that people don’t think guys in low-A ball are valuable but everyone realizes they might have to wait three-to-four years. There’s performance risk, there’s injury risk. As guys move up, assuming they perform, their value increases. I think we’re in a better position, I think our assets are stronger than they were a year ago.”
Yunel Escobar was supposed to make his return to the Blue Jays’ lineup on Friday night following a three-game suspension but instead he found a seat on the bench. Toronto manager John Farrell met with Escobar on Friday afternoon and following that closed-door sitdown, it was decided that the Cuban shortstop needed at least one more day away from the game.
Here is the official reasoning behind the surprise decision:
On the decision to sit Yunel…
“When we met earlier today, it became increasingly clear during that discussion that he needs another day to get back and be ready to play a Major League game.”
More Yunel’s choice to sit out then?
“It wasn’t his choice. It became very clear during our discussions about all that has taken place, all that has potentially anticipated going forward, that he needs another day.”
Is that a result of something he did or didn’t do once getting to Florida?
“No, it’s not so much staying in shape or baseball activity, it’s just about how he’s dealing with the fallout of what he did. He’s remorseful for what took place and as a result he needs another day to get things in line.”
Has Yunel spoken to you about what he anticipates from the fans in Toronto?
“No, he hasn’t because I don’t think he fully understood the ramifications at the time of doing what he did. So this is all a first for him. Regardless of intent and all of the things that he has expressed, all of these experiences and the backlash that has taken place, I can tell you, on his part, have been unanticipated.”
Another meeting with Yunel tomorrow then?
“There’s nothing scheduled tomorrow. It’s anticipated and expected that he’d be ready to play tomorrow but if the case exists that he needs another day to get through this, we’ll be open minded of that move on.”
From the tone or the language used?
“Just a number of things that he’s processing right now.”
Based on what you’re saying then, it sounds like this has been mentally draining on him and has led to this decision?
“He’s remorseful, he understands that he made a mistake and regardless of what his initial thoughts were, those are drastically different than what he’s dealing with right now. He knows he made a mistake and he’s not ready to play a Major League game tonight.”
Were you almost like a father figure during this meeting?
“You deal with people, you manage people, you manage a game and they’re inter-related. It was clear in the discussion that he needs another day.”
It’s pretty obvious this has become pretty hard to deal with for him…
“Consequences exist for every action and these are the consequences he’s dealing with. That doesn’t mean we’re turning a cold shoulder to him but at the same time he’s coming to grips with the fallout and the backlash that has taken place. If that means dealing with others in the organization that are available, if in fact that is determined to be needed we’ll provide that for him. But we would expect in short order that he’ll be back on the field.”
You said this was your decision — did he want to play today?
“Through our discussions it was clear that he felt that he needed another day as well.”
Any of this a carryover from Tuesday’s news conference? Something that wasn’t done or said?
“I wouldn’t say it’s a carryover from the press conference. I will say that it’s a continuing process for Yunel now that he’s realizing what the backlash has been. It wasn’t something that he said or the way he came across, it’s the scope in which this has offended a large number of people. With all that feedback, he’s still processing it.”
Would anything have been done differently if Bautista was still around?
“No one saw it. I can’t say that is Jose was here that would have made a difference. That’s not to point the finger at Jose and say you’re going to keep everyone in line, that’s not the case at all. The fact is, it wasn’t seen and just so we’re clear, writing on eye-black patches is no longer permissible.
“That won’t be a case in the future and while you trust certain slogans aren’t going to be on display, you give players some freedom to play as they are as people, but as we talk about routinely, when being an individual takes away from the team concept, it’s our job to pull that back and that’s what we’re doing.”
On teammates’ reaction to this situation…
“There has been, from what I’ve seen, there has been a wide range of reactions. Surprise with the suspension because in their minds this wasn’t an issue. To the other end of the spectrum, that because of the issue, there have been a lot of questions that have been answered by other people inside of the clubhouse that otherwise might not want to answer them. But he’s a teammate and we can’t turn on a teammate, it is part of our family as the Blue Jays to support him, to correct what might need to be corrected and to move on together as a group.”
What does Yunel need to do, or show, to get back into the lineup?
“In talking with him, just a sense that he has some of these distractions under control. That he can focus on the task at hand once he gets back into the lineup. We recognize too that he’ll be a focal point and we spoke of that, how he plays, how he goes about his actions on the field, what some of the response might be from people in the crowd. That might be a further distraction if he’s not accepted for whatever performance he does on the field and know that that might be forthcoming.”
MLB changed the rule on eye black or the Blue Jays did?
“It’s been included in the equipment where no writing can be displayed on any type of equipment, including the eye-black patches.”
More on MLB banning written words on eye black…
“No, it’s not case by case. When you see either a number or initials in the batting gloves or sweatband, that has been pre-approved. So when you have a hand written slogan that’s on display, that’s above and beyond.”
Yunel Escobar (through interpreter Luis Rivera:
What have the last few days been like for you?
“It has been really tough on me. I haven’t slept well the last three or four days, I’ve been receiving a lot of calls from friends and family to give me some support but it has been hard for me knowing that I made a mistake, I hurt some people, it has been really hard for me.”
On Farrell keeping him out of the lineup…
“I’m living in a tough situation that happened, I put myself into it. It’s going to take a little awhile. I spent three days and today I took groundballs, I took groundballs yesterday, I took groundballs today and I’m going to start putting my mind back in the game today so that I can play a Major League game.”
Did you expect to be in the lineup tonight?
“I always come to the game thinking I’m going to in the lineup. But after I spent some time inside the clubhouse, all of the things that were going through my mind, it was better for me not to play tonight.”
How important is it to be back around your teammates?
“My teammates are like my family. We spend seven months together, we know each other really well. Those are the people who make my life a little more comfortable.”
Anything you’d like to say to the fans?
“I’m having a hard time dealing with the situations. I’m really sorry for what happened on the field … If I hurt somebody from the bottom of my heart I feel really sorry about it. I’m looking forward to meeting the people in Toronto and go from there.”
Important for you to finish the year strong?
“Always from Day 1, I always think about finishing strong every year and this is not an exception. I always try to finish strong so I can continue with my career.”
How long until you think you’ll be back in the lineup?
“In case they need me tonight, I might be able to play tonight, if not, tomorrow. Tomorrow I will hopefully be ready to play.”
Here are the main highlight’s from yesterday’s situation involving Yunel Escobar and his three-game suspension for writing a slur onto his eye-black patches:
“It is just something that has been said around amongst the Latinos, it’s not something that is meant to be offensive.
“It’s a word used often within teams. It’s a word without a meaning.”
“I agree with the suspension, I don’t have any problem with that.”
“I am embarrassed and for the organization, the Blue Jays, as well.”
“It was just a joke, it was my idea but wasn’t directed at anyone in particular.”
“Honestly, it has been a terrible experience in my life and career. It’s something I am sorry for.”
When did he know he was in trouble?
“Yesterday afternoon when I heard there were some photos on the internet. I was surprised because I didn’t think that something like that would cause any problems. I didn’t do it to offend anybody, so it surprised me.”
Chance to speak with your teammates?
“Honestly, my teammates, my coach, I had to apologize to them. I apologized to my teammates and my coach because it was not their fault.”
Does Yunel have gay friends?
“I have friends who are gay. The person who decorates my house is gay, the person who cuts my hair is gay. I have various friends who are gay. Honestly, they haven’t felt as offended about this, there’s just a different understanding in the Latin community with this word.”
Question not translated…
“I understand now the actions that it did and that it was a great error.”
I don’t understand why you’d write something on your eyes if you didn’t want anybody to see it…
“I wrote it but I didn’t do it to make anybody feel bad, or to offend anyone. It was 10 minutes before I left to play the game. I just wrote it.”
Word seems to have different meanings. In Cuba how would it be used?
“It depends on how you say it and who you say it to.”
When did you start writing stuff on your eyes?
“At the beginning of my career, if you look at my photos when I wear stickers I write something on them.”
What did you mean with the word you meant?
“I didn’t mean to say anything with it. It wasn’t meant for anyone and it wasn’t meant to offend.
Question not translated…
“Honestly, the ‘you’ is not referencing to anyone specifically, it’s not directed at anyone. It’s just a word.”
“I think what came out through all of this is the lack of education. It’s not just an issue in sports, it’s an issue in life.
“It’s clear that the problem isn’t going away, this is just an example of it.”
“Something we are not proud of, we are not happy and Yunel is going to, I think now, become and advocate and work with those groups.”
“I don’t know if there is a right way to deal with these things. I don’t think you are ever going to satisfy everybody. It’s ultimately, how do we move forward?”
“From a Latin perspective, the word is used a certain way — it doesn’t make it right but that’s not to say it is just specific to one culture, one race, one dialect. …
“At the end of the day, the Blue Jays become a vehicle, Yunel becomes a vehicle to improve things, to make things better. As unfortunate as all this is, some good will hopefully come from it.”
MLB hasn’t done anything?
“No, the formal suspension is from the club. Obviously this was done with a lot of parties involved. We spent the day at the commissioner’s office today, the PA was there as well, spoke with the commissioner, spoke with Paul. Had everybody really involved but ultimately the way the suspension comes out, it’s from the club.”
“There are a number of occasions where Yunel has written a message on the eye-black patches that he does wear and because it is frequently done on his part, really, no one paid attention to it.”
On his reaction…
“My reaction initially was one of surprise because knowing Yunel in many different situations, this is completely out of character as I know him as a person and as a player. And, it speaks to clearly that those who wear this uniform have an inherent responsibility that goes along with a Major League uniform and there’s very much a social component to that.
“We’re in the spotlight, we’re a spectacle to young people, to people of all walks, our fanbase is a diverse one and this is no different. We did address the club before coming in here today, we made them aware of the penalties and the suspension is there but more importantly knowing that all are going to be exposed to this in our clubhouse. We tried to make this, and will continue to try to make this, in a positive way to continue to educate as Alex has outlined. Initially, it’s a surprise as I know Yunel as a person, from what he did on Saturday.”
Often has words on eye black… every questioned what those words were?
“No, I haven’t because the ones that we were aware of were always about something uplifting and motivational to his teammates: ‘Let’s go today” or something that’s of encouragement. So there was really no reason to think there was anything derogatory and anything pointed to one individual or any group. So honestly, and personally, I didn’t think anything of it.”
But someone on the bench would have noticed…
“If someone had seen it, I would suspect that someone would have said something. Or, at least seen it up close enough to see what was actually written. I know that when you look at the video and when you zoom in on it, and you expand the size of that photo, yes it becomes legible. But, because it had been written, and other messages had been written that were nowhere near this inflammatory, there was no reason to suspect anything different.”
Is homophobia a problem in MLB clubhouses?
“I don’t believe so and I say that because I don’t see any examples of that. I know we’re here discussing what was interpreted by someone as a homophobic action, but you don’t see that.”
“You have to respect the way things work here. But sometimes it has to happen in the first person point of view for us to change the way we view things. I know he’s extremely embarrassed, we’re extremely embarrassed for him, we know it’s not an easy thing. I know he doesn’t want to deal with it, but he has to, he has to step up, especially how things are nowadays, you just have to watch what you say, or what you express out there.
“Sometimes it takes an incident, hopefully it doesn’t happen for anybody else like this, but it goes through experience.
“Hopefully guys who are here and guys that are on other teams can learn from this and understand that it can become a huge distraction and it can become something detrimental to the team and to the city.
“If he’s in the box and he calls time and he yells it at me, maybe. … Some guys can take it as an insult, I don’t think in our sport, and the way clubhouse banter works, I don’t think it would offend that many people in the clubhouse. But it only takes one person to be offended and that’s why we have to stop it from happening again.
“It might be used among the Latin guys and we joke around, and in our countries it’s very macho, but it’s not right, using it as a joke or not. It doesn’t make it any better and it won’t go away just like that. He said, it’s just a simple thing I did, well, you know what, no it’s not, it’s something you have to know, it shouldn’t have to take all this for it to happen to become a big deal. He’s gone through other stuff before, too, but I think this will put him over the fact he know it might only cost him three days, or a fine, but it might coast him, nobody wants a guy that’s going to come on a team and cause controversy, and he understands that. He’s remorseful and we have to work with him, he’s our teammate, we can’t just turn our back on him now.
“Knowing Yunel, he’s gotten a bad rap before, either when he was in Atlanta or here. I don’t know him as a bad person or a guy with bad character. I think the most important thing is that he understands he messed up. He seemed very remorseful when he addressed us.”
“He could be suspended for 20 games, and if he doesn’t really care, it doesn’t matter. The next step is for him to learn what he did is wrong and why it’s wrong, and to go from there.”
“It doesn’t matter where you come from. I don’t think we can use the fact that ‘Oh, we come from Latin America’ as an excuse. Sometimes it just takes for an incident [to learn]. Hopefully it doesn’t happen to anybody else like this. It goes through experience, and nobody wants to experience it. I know, right now, he doesn’t want to be in front of the cameras, he doesn’t want to do any of that stuff, but you have to face the music.”
“I feel real sad, knowing Yunel is a great guy, I know what kind of heart he has and he would never use that word to offend anybody. “(Latin players) always play around with that word but we don’t use it to offend anyone. Just use the word not the meaning of the word.”
When asked if he noticed Yunel on Saturday and why didn’t he say anything, Encarnacion said “No, I wasn’t looking at him. During the day games he always writes something on his eyes … but I didn’t notice those words Saturday.”
Encarnacion said Escobar has used other words including “Chilling” which is the same as in English, and “Gamboa,” which means, loosely, someone who is bow-legged.
“I am surprised knowing that we were just playing around with each other, how big it is now and how sensitive it is. But no one told him anything Saturday, he always writes something on his eyes.”
“Obviously it’s no laughing matter. It’s something you don’t mess around with as an athlete. I’m sure he’s learned his lesson. I know guys in this clubhouse and that the organization don’t tolerate that at all. All you can do now is educate him.”
“Am I surprised at how big it is? No, not really. Like I said it’s no laughing matter. You never want to put yourself in a situation like that.”
On why no one said anything to Yunel: “He writes stuff on his eyes all the time. You just get so caught up in a game you’re not really trying to look at someone’s face all the time. For me, I was getting treatment (Saturday) so I was in and out a lot, I didn’t see it.”
“We say that word very often, and to us, it doesn’t really mean that we are decreasing anybody or talking down to people or anything like that. It’s just a word we use on an everyday basis. I don’t know why people are taking this so hard and so out of place or out of proportion. Obviously he has to explain why he wrote it, but it is a word that is normal to us and we use it all the time. I don’t think he was meaning something out of the ordinary, really.”
“I’m surprised that I’m walking in here and everybody’s asking me about this. It’s like, ‘What happened? Who died?’ It’s just a word that we use. I don’t know why he said he put it on [his eye black]. He was probably joking around with some guys on the team or somebody who was watching him. I realize the problem now, the magnitude of the problem, but I don’t think people should be that alarmed or that surprised.”
“I guess every man has to be responsible to what they do and what they say. He’s not a kid anymore. He’s a man, and he has to admit his problem and his mistake. I’m glad he stepped up and said that, but I don’t think people in Toronto or people wherever that saw the sign need to be that worried or that panicked about this. It’s a regular word for us that we use all the time.”