Results tagged ‘ Jose Bautista ’

Transcript of media scrum with Alex Anthopoulos

With the Blue Jays having lost three consecutive games and 24 of their past 36, general manager Alex Anthopoulos faced the media on Sunday morning to a lengthy chat. He touched on everything from the club’s defensive woes, plans for next season, problems in the rotation, Josh Johnson, etc. He addressed pretty much everything there simply isn’t enough space to fit it all into today’s notebook so here is the full transcript:

On the lack of fundamentals being displayed on defence…
“It’s been sloppy the last little while, to say the least. We’ve talked about it at length. I know we’re going to be working with Colby a little bit more. Bautista, the first night in Oakland, threw away a ball. But with Jose, if you look at the entire year, he’s made some unbelievable throws, some very accurate throws to the plate. Colby has a tendency to yank balls aimed at home plate. It seems mores this year than in the years past. That’s something we’re going to work on a little bit more. Maybe it’s guys trying to do too much but it’s something that’s going to be addressed and it will eventually show itself on the field.”

Update on Delabar…
“He was sore before, just after the break and we gave him two or three days off. He felt fine. The way (the latest discomfort) was related to me was that if this was the playoffs, he could pitch but it’s one of those things that it’s better to get on top of it right now because it’s taking him a little bit longer to get loose and there is inflammation in the shoulder. He was examined by the Angels team doctor here and they don’t think it’s anything significant . He’s heading to Florida and will be re-examined by our doctors. It looks like he just needs to rest, more than anything else. “

How does it get better, without chasing old money with new money?
“We talk about how to address the rotation going forward and we have some young guys who are coming back. We’re hopeful that guys like Drew (Hutchison) and Kyle (Drabek) will get back here in September, though we’re not guaranteeing that. Drew is throwing today and they’re both throwing the ball well and their velocity is good. They are two players that, again before they went down, they were throwing well. We even look back at Kyle and see that towards the end, his command went downhill and you wonder how much of that the injury played in that. His command now is much better and maybe that’s because he’s finally healthy.

“Two guys like that could factor, and obviously a guy like Brandon Morrow who, last year was really emerging into a front of the rotation starter. Then, as well, we’ll be looking outside the organization to see if we can do some things.”

Internal Options?
“I think Brandon has already proven he can do it here. Two years ago he threw 180 innings and last year he threw the ball really well. The other two guys had a short look and we’ll have another look once they get back here.”

Reconcile Payroll Issues with club improvement?
“When we made the trades, it’s something we talked about. Going forward, ownership was aware, and ownership understood where the commitments would be going forward and they green-lighted everything. So, from a financial standpoint, the resources will be available for us. It won’t mean we won’t change some things and reallocate money as you do any time.

“It’s not like those contracts are sneaking up on us. We really have two years of commitments after the current year and, other than Reyes, who has been a great player for us, there’s really no long-term (five-six years out) commitments out. Reyes is going to have four years left on his deal and everyone else either has two years with an option, or just two years straight. At the same time, we were well aware of where we were going to be. We did arbitration projections. There will always be decisions to be made but we’re prepared for that.”

How much money will you have next year?
“I don’t have a number right now and I wouldn’t divulge the number but what I would say is that we won’t be going backwards. That’s not in the plan at all. What the number is, is developed at the end of the season. That’s our conversations with Paul. But the understanding is that we will be able to financially handle those contracts so that was why we were able to do the deals. That was a big part of our discussions. 2013 was going to be fine, it was 14 and beyond. Everyone was aware of that. Ownership was aware and that’s not going to be an issue.”

Moving forward, who don’t you have questions about on the roster…
“There’s still two months left, things change so fast. To sit here today, if you ask me at the end of the season I’ll have a lot more of a firm handle on it. If you look at what we’re currently running out there, the guys that have been able to take the ball the entire time and be consistent, R.A. and Buehrle are two guys that have been able to take the ball the entire time. J.A. Happ we expected coming out of Spring Training, we’ll see how he does when he comes back, he’ll make the start on Wednesday. Brandon Morrow, too, we’ll see how he does with his recovery. Guys like Rogers, we’ll continue to watch and continue to evaluate those guys but it could change. We still have a third of the year left and evaluations can change fast.”

Look at Stroman/Nolin this year?
“We could. We’ve talked about it and that’s definitely something that could happen. We could take a look at one of those guys or both of those guys. Same with Kyle and Drew, we’re not committed that they’re going to be up but they are guys that could be up as well and have a look at them.”

Keeping Josh Johnson out there or is a change needed?
“Right now he’s scheduled to make his next start but there’s no question it’s been about six starts where he has been getting hit. I know he’s working hard and he’s not making any excuses at all, he continues to battle. But it’s something we continue to talk about. We have to look at alternatives at some point if this continues, it’s really start to start at this point, it’s really the only way to characterize it. Right now, he’s going to make one more start and we’ll see how he does but we’ll continue to evaluate it each time.

Melky what can be done defensively when you have him for another year and it looks like you’re better on the field without him there…
“I would say defensively, Melky looked good early in Spring Training, we noticed later in Spring Training, maybe the last 10 days or so, that’s when his hamstring started to tighten up and he continued to battle through it. Especially now, it looks like there are obviously some issues with his knees. He’s 28-years-old we definitely expect him to come back and be a much better defensive player. We don’t know for certain but I think a lot of the issues he had with his mobility were directly related to being banged up. It happened in the spring, in hindsight, if we had given him a month or two to just rest and get healthy, he wanted to battle through it, he wanted to play through it, we wanted to keep his bat in the lineup and it didn’t work out.”

Are you okay with the performance you’ve been getting from the catcher position?
“I think J.P. would be the first guy to tell you he can improve in a lot of areas. I don’t want to single anybody out but I can point to so many areas on the club that we could stand to get better in so many spots. We can always make evaluations at the All-Star Break or four months in, two months from now things will change fast. I’ve used this example before, you look at Lind and Colby two years ago they had great numbers at the All-Star Break and then fell off towards the end so the evaluation changed.

“So, whereas, some guys really emerged at the end of the year where you got really excited about them. Brandon Morrow was that guy three years ago, he was really good at the end and carried it over into the next year. I just don’t want to get too far ahead with two months left on trying to make final evaluations on players.”

On breakdown in fundamentals and how that can be fixed…
“I think one is continue to work at it. By just going through what can we do, what can we do as a staff? Are guys trying to do too much? For example, Jose Bautista making those throws. He’s made so many great throws this year. You’ re entitled to make some mistakes. Colby had had issues throwing. He’ll throw off and that certainly seems to be occurring more often this year than it has in the past. It seems there’s been a lot more plays and all his throws are sailing to that side. Some of the other things can be a factor of trying to do too much, extra things like that. Again, I don’t know that we have the answer right now. We continue to work at it and hopefully it’s going to improve. The same way as everybody was talking about Brett and how he was struggling to swing the bat. You work with him, work with him, he’s starting to turn it around a little bit and hopefully it continues.”

Does the general approach in Spring Training need to change?
“I think it’s up in the air. We’re talking about everything, really. I’m not sure that I can point out the one specific thing. You look at defensively, one, some players haven’t played well. That goes without saying. Brett’s been in and out of the lineup a lot. Two stints on the disabled list. Reyes has been out for a while. His ankle, I don’t know that he feels 100-percent but he’s certainly good enough to play. That certainly could have an impact as well.

“Even from a defensive standpoint, Colby’s been better defensively, just overall on the season than a year ago. The throwing, obviously, the arm strength’s there, the accuracy needs to improve, hitting the cutoff guy and things like that. Melky we talked about and the issues he’s had with his legs we talked about. I think Jose overall has been good in right. I think it’s a combination of things, really. Stability, hopefully guys stay healthy on the field, things like that can factor and maybe guys trying to do a little too much.”

Physical mistakes are going to happen but it’s August and we’re still talking about mental mistakes…
“I think it’s been talked about. I mean we’re talking about it now because you asked me. It’s something we’ve talked about internally. Guys are trying, guys are working. At some point it falls on the players as well. Maybe that’s something that as we’re evaluating going forward, the same way that you work with someone on their mechanics, working with someone at the plate to hit, if the results aren’t there you continue to work, to be committed to the players. But it’s not for the lack of any effort at all – whether it’s the coaches, the manager or so on. At some point, in terms of making the plays, it falls on the players as well. I don’t think these guys are trying to make mistakes. I think ultimately then it falls on me to get certain players that are going to start to make those plays. “

Did you undervalue defence in the offseason?
“Obviously we haven’t played well defensively, so … I don’t know from that standpoint. I don’t know how much of an impact not having the shortstop and the third baseman there the entire time. You look at last year, Brett played the bulk of the year, did miss a little bit of time at the end. Obviously Yunel was out there for the bulk of the time at short. And, again, I think Colby’s been better in centre. I just think it’s been a combination of things.

“So, I would say this. In light of the year that we’re having, I think we’re going to evaluate (defence) even more than we have. I don’t think we’ve ever undervalued it. It’s always been important. There’s some guys that haven’t played as well defensively as we thought they would. So that’s probably been the most surprising part, that maybe expect certain guys to be better defensively. I don’t know that we ever lost value in it, but I can say that going forward we’re going to have even more value on it.”

At deadline you talked about having trade discussions about SP and 2B. Will those conversations continue in the offseason?
“I think so. I think they’re important. They’re definitely the most important areas. There are other areas that we can improve in. I definitely think those are the most important areas. I think the rotation more than anything else. Some of it might be internal, but again, I haven’t looked in the last few days, but when you’re second to last in starter’s ERA that has to improve. It’s hard to get to .500, to contend if the starting rotation ERA is where it is. You obviously put a strain on the bullpen, it puts a strain on the offence when you’re down that many runs. Everyone trying to do a little bit too much. It starts on the mound for us and even some of the sloppy play against Oakland, we still pitched well and we won the games.”

Tougher to identify starters? 
“It does, you always look back and say did we miss anything on a certain player, is there something we didn’t account for, and it’s hard to say. From year to year, things change, guys don’t have a great year and the next year they end up having a good year, but you definitely still evaluate it. Even when you look at the free agent market last year, you don’t know who you’re ultimately going to get, we definitely went after some guys and talked about some players, I don’t know that we ever got so far down the road where we ultimately knew we were going to get the player. In terms of the trade market, there weren’t that many guys that were available, there rarely is when it comes to that spot, so it’s always challenging when you need to improve on the mound. But that’s not going to change goals of going out to do it. 

Faith in RA as a front-of-the-rotation starter?
“I do, I know he hasn’t put together that type of year, he’s put together some of those starts, he’s shown us the ability to do that. If you look there are a lot of similarities to last year, velocity is the same, ground ball rate is down some, home runs allowed obviously are higher, and the walks are up a little bit as well. That can correct itself, and we’ve seen some outings, whether it’s Canada Day against Detroit and a great lineup, we’ve seen some outings where he’s been really good, it just hasn’t been consistent the entire time. He is giving us a chance to win each time. I don’t know that these are the reasons but it could be the World Baseball Classic, getting ready to throw five innings a lot earlier, the injury and him battling through that early in the year. I can’t say from a definitive standpoint those are the reasons the performance maybe isn’t what he’s had the last few years, but it would not surprise me if next year he comes in and has a great year.”

Internal goal for rest of the season?
“Just winning as many games as we can and playing well. Everybody in there wants to win games and play better and hopefully see some improvement from some guys you k now are going to be here going forward.

Lawrie still an option at 2B for next season or have you settled on him being at 3B?
“You just don’t know what’s going to present itself. If all of a sudden an all-star, Gold Glove defender at third base is available that’s something you could consider and take a look at. Right now from a flexibility standpoint, he’s athletic enough that he can play anywhere around the field. If you put Brett in centre field and gave him enough time, he’d be good. I remember the first we moved him over to third base, it was rough, and everyone had their doubts. He is such a good athlete and has such a great work ethic, especially when you tell him he can’t do something, that he can make himself into a great defender. I would not have any doubts that Brett, with the right amount of time, would be a plus defender pretty much anywhere out on the field. Right now I don’t see that developing trade-wise, doesn’t look like there’s a lot of guys out there at third base, with some of the things we were pursuing, second base looks like it will be easier to fill, it doesn’t mean we will, right now if I had to project three or four months from now, there will be more second baseman available than third.

Esmil has already thrown more innings than he did all of last year. Will he need to be shutdown at some point or moved to the bullpen?
“He could. We’ve definitely talked about it, during the winter as well he started, he’s been a starter before, thrown a lot of innings as a starter. When he’s not a 21, 22-year-old kid, you almost look at how many innings he’s thrown, what’s their high in their career? With Esmil right now we don’t have a number in mind, we’re going to continue to watch him, but at some point it might be something that we look at. We haven’t decided on anything.”

Workload related to his recent struggles?
“Hard to say, I don’t know, better to ask him. A few games ago I thought his slider looked outstanding, it’s hard to say. … It could, it could. I don’t know for certain if that’s the case.”

Are there any untouchables on this team?
“You have to be open to anything, there are certain players like anything you’re more reluctant to move because they’re very productive players, but you’re always open-minded, I’ll hear what any club has to say. We don’t shop our players, we target guys, and players are going to get asked about. There’s always a deal for anybody, it’s rare the other club will make it because it’s one-sided. There are a lot of players you’re reluctant to move because of how productive they are, and if you take them away, how are you going to improve on the production they’re giving you. But I don’t think you can rule anything out.”

Are you content with the rate of production in your farm system?
“We still have a lot of really good young arms. We have a lot of guys down in Bluefield right now that a year from now will be in Lansing, or they should be, and that’s where they’ll start to get more notice and acclaim, but we have some young arms we’re excited about down there. Right now, we would be scheduled to have two draft picks in the first round unless we were to sign a free agent and lose one, so we still feel pretty good. We still have quite a lot of talent there, just some of them are a little bit further down and aren’t going to get the notice because they’re a year away. A year from now or two years from now, people will start to talk about them as some of the best prospects in the game.”

Which pick do you lose if you sign a FA?
“Don’t lose pick from year before so Bickford pick would stay.”

Do you second guess how you nurture your minor league pitchers? (Syndergaard now in Double-A with the Mets as the main example)
“No because he started in high A and that’s where he would have started for us and even, I mean you’ve seen some guys move up, whether it was Drabek or Hutchison. Hutchison was in Lansing, went to Dunedin and ended the season in New Hampshire all in one season. Or Mark Rzepczynski, the same way he through flew through as well. Obviously we loved all those guys and we really liked all those guys but we know that with young starters, they can get up here, like we’ve had a lot of guys come up here before whether it’s a Drabek or a Drew Hutchison, to get them where they’re throwing 200 innings and they stay healthy and they become mainstays in the rotation going forward it takes a little bit of time.

“The tough part about trading a guy like Noah and things like that is that while you’re getting a guy who’s won a Cy Young, who’s thrown over 200 innings three years in a row and it times better with your current club. You can’t get players for free and you have to trade talent away and I think it’s a credit to the scouts and the development staff that we had guys like that that we could draft and develop them to put them in trades. Ideally you’d like to hang on to all of them and sign free agents and not have to give anybody up. Some of those players, like I said, may end up being multiple All Stars, Hall of Fame, some may not pan out, some may get hurt, I mean that’s just part of it. But again, maybe by the time they become the mainstays, some of the current core will either be at the last year of their contracts or free agents or at the end of their careers. It was as much about us trying to move it forward, timing it with the current team.”

Do you keep being surprised about the waiver hoopla even though your policy has always been to put your entire team through waivers at this time of the year?
“Maybe I shouldn’t be surprised. There’s nothing really in August, it’s quiet, I can’t speak for every team but I think every club puts almost all of their players through. Maybe they put 20 of 25. I know it’s a story but when you put a guy through it’s the same as someone calling on the player in July. It’s the same thing. The only time I think you see moves like that is with money. Guys like Alex Rios was moved from us, he was making some money, he got claimed. Years ago Loaiza was claimed by the Dodgers from Oakland but other than that you really don’t see a whole lot.

“We won’t put in claims unless we think there’s a fit, especially claiming players with no service time, zero to three years of service you’re so restricted there’s no need for a club to make a deal in August. They can do it in the offseason. I just don’t think it’s news. If someone gets traded or I think if a big contract gets claimed and that leaks and is out there, that’s a story. If certain All-Stars get claimed, I just think if you didn’t see them get traded by the end of July they’re probably not going to get traded. Guys that are free agents, guys with big contracts, those are the only ones that I think should be big stories.”

The fact that it’s a club policy to put guys through waivers does that help inside the clubhouse when guys see their names leak? You can simply tell them everyone goes through that?
“No one even asks. I think everyone knows we run everybody through. We’ve been doing it for four years now. I’ve never had a player come up to me and ask me about it. The only time I remember it being a distraction is when I was an (assistant general manager) and the report came out about Rios because I think everyone understood with the $67-million left on his contract at the time there was a scenario that he could be gone and that became a story. Rightfully so. It shouldn’t have leaked, you’re not allowed to divulge information by the rules but it was the only time it seemed to be a story in the clubhouse and everyone was wondering what was going to happen.”

Is your clubhouse in need of a “culture” change?
“I don’t know that I’m prepared to say that. I think it’s just player change. Everyone throws the word around, “culture,” and things like that and I think it’s getting players that maybe are better defensive players. Some players and I’ve seen it, and again you guys have been around our team long enough, there’s been players you’ve seen who’ve been plus defenders. I remember there was a player who looked like he was going to win a gold glove one day and then the following year, the year after, the defense isn’t as strong and it’s not for a lack of work ethic. Sometimes guys change defensively and it’s hard to tell why they’re not the defenders they once were. I think it comes down, sometimes, to having the players on the field that are plus defensive players.”

Anthopoulos on the trade deadline

On standing pat…

“Like we do every trade deadline, we had plenty of dialogue leading into it. We had something we were trying to do much before the trade deadline and last week it probably fell apart. I don’t know that we were ever that close but for a day or two we had momentum and it fell apart. There was one other thing we were hopeful to get done that it looked like we had a chance and were moving towards but that didn’t really materialize as of yesterday morning.

“It was pretty quiet overall, at this time you get a lot of ideas that are getting bounced around between GMs, phone calls, emails, texts, but for us we weren’t going to be involved in rentals unless it was a no brainer and anything we were going to do was going to help us not only in the current year but moving forward. I think we had a lot of productive dialogue that could lead to a deal in the offseason. That’s certainly happened before where you start at the trade deadline and it continues on
into the offseason and you get something done.

Still comfortable with current roster?
“There’s no question we need to make improvements, we need to get better and the results in the standings speak for themselves. We certainly are going to need to improve, I think that goes without saying. There are times during the year when you have a chance to do that, when teams are engaged, general managers are engaged and this trade deadline is certainly one. GMs meetings, winter meetings are obviously other areas and then you obviously have free agency as well. I still feel good about a lot of our players but like anything from year to year you evaluate, some evaluations change, and the way that the season plays out you have to adjust accordingly, there’s no question we’re going to have to make some changes and improve the roster in various ways but there weren’t those opportunities for us in terms of deals that made sense right now.

What areas did you focus on at the deadline?
“I don’t even know that I want to say we came close, I’d say maybe we had some traction. I think last year we came a lot closer to a deal that we were working very hard on and I thought we came very close but it ended up falling apart at the last minute. We had some traction on some things but ultimately it wasn’t going to make sense for us.

“We’re always in the market to add a starter especially with the way the rotation has been for us so we definitely explored some things there and we’re still looking to acquire some middle infield help, that’s definitely something we’ve taken a look at as well. Those were probably the two areas we were most active in overall and then there were some other ideas thrown at us that were larger concepts but just didn’t seem like things we needed to rush to do now. There were a lot of concepts that were thrown around where you just agree that maybe it’s something we talk about again in the offseason when we both have more clarity at that time.”

Blue Jays players drawing interest from a lot of other teams?
“We have a lot of players, we had a good number of players that made the All-Star team, each team has players that fit for other clubs. So I’m not saying ours is any more than any others but you always get activity. It’s a good team of the year in the sense that it’s the one time that 29 clubs are really engaged and open to making trades and that’s really their focus especially this past week, the past three or four days, that’s all everybody spent time doing. Deadlines are a good thing in terms of
getting deals done and that’s why you get a lot more dialogue.

“As we have each year, we got asked about a lot of our players. The two things we
tried to do, did not ever once get out there in the media, they were never in the rumour mill, there was a lot of things out there, we follow it, we read it … there was a lot of things out there about us shopping players, being asked about players or being engaged in players that were completely false. The things that we worked the longest and the hardest on were not out there and the things that were out there from a media perspective I’d say almost all of them were completely false.”

On not moving guys who are on expiring contracts…
“You don’t want to make a deal for the sake of making a deal, that’s the biggest thing. You can trade anybody at any time, every GM can make trades at this time of the year but you have to feel good about it and you have to feel like it makes sense.  Same way if we made trades today and you had asked me why I made the trades, I’d better have some reasons. Even though there are expiring contracts, if you don’t feel good about the value…

“I know we have expiring contracts and I know a lot of times players get moved on expiring contracts, I haven’t looked at the total with the other 29 clubs but it’s not always the case that guys get moved just because their contracts are expiring. We make deals when we think it makes sense and we think it improves the ballclub. If we don’t think the moves are going to improve the ballclub, there’s no sense in doing them. “

On not moving Oliver…
“In fairness to him specifically I don’t want to comment about trade rumors but I guess what I can say, in general terms, the left-handed relief market overall there were a lot of players out there that were available to other teams. I think you only saw one team in the last two or three days acquire a left-hander and that was the Indians. I don’t think any other team made a deal for a left-handed reliever.

“That’s not to say teams didn’t want to but sometimes things get written that teams are interested in this player, that player, and I don’t know if there was the demand out there … you didn’t see a lot of left-handed relievers traded and I’m pretty aware of what players were available on other teams and there were quite a number of left-handed relievers available through trade, many with expiring contracts, and you just didn’t see them move. In fairness, maybe the demand isn’t there for a certain spot.”

(editor’s note — Anthopoulos did later talk about a left-hander going to the Diamondbacks in the deal for Ian Kennedy as well)

Anticipate August being busier than years past?
“It’s tough to say, I think there’s more money in the game so I don’t know as many contracts will slide through waivers in August, with a lot more players getting blocked and I think that could limit the activity overall.  I don’t have a sense one way or the other, it wouldn’t surprise me if it stays consistent to what it has been in the past. I know there has been a lot of talk that this has been a slower trade deadline than it has in the past.  I think a lot of that is because of the wild card standings, even last year you saw more teams that were in the running and in the hunt.  I think a lot of teams want to be as competitive as they can be. I don’t  know, it’s hard to predict, I would expect it to be slow. I don’t know that I expect it to be a very active August one way or the other because I don’t know that that many players are going to clear.”

State of affairs with Jose Bautista

On Reyes and Melky at the top of the batting order…

“People with high on-base percentage and low strikeout rates at the top of the lineup is always good, especially when they can run like Jose and Melky can. They’re going to set the table for us. The better they do, the better that Edwin and Adam and I will be able to drive runs in, and that’s going to lead to more runs, and that should lead to more wins. It’s not solely on them, though. We can get going one through nine because we’re pretty solid. The first half of the lineup and the second half of the lineup are different styles, but there’s still a capability of scoring runs.

“J.P. can drive a lot of runs in and he can hit home runs. So can Adam in the five-hole if that’s where he ends up. Brett’s got speed. Bonifacio’s got speed if he ends up being the starter. Colby’s got speed and Colby can hit home runs. It’s a good mix. I get excited when I talk about the offence because I think that we’re going to be able to score a lot of runs. We did that for two months last year. We were at the top of the league in offence categories when we were all healthy and performing, and we have a much better and accomplished lineup now than we did last year.”

Reyes as leadoff hitter…

“We haven’t had a true leadoff guy here since Scutaro left and even him, he wasn’t a true leadoff guy. He did have some good leadoff hitter characteristics like getting on base and not striking out but he didn’t steal bases. With Reyes, we have the whole package which is going to be huge.

“With Bonifacio we’re basically going to have a second leadoff guy. If you look at his career stats, they’re in percentages they’re pretty similar to Jose’s with stolen bases and getting on base. He might strike out a little bit more but if he ends up being the starter and he hits ninth, that nine, one, two combination, even without getting hits, tough ground balls, high choppers, hit and runs, bunts, they can create some havoc too without even having to hit the ball in the gaps or get some hard base hits.

“That can actually get you excited too because you see a pitcher when they’re dealing and you have three guys in a row that can bunt, get jammed and beat out a ground ball, and also hit a high chopper and get a base hit, then we get to the plate. That’s not bad either.”

Versatility of lineup…

“We’re pretty balanced left to right and we definitely have more depth. When you talk about Izturis and Bonifacio battling for the second-base job and the other guy is going to be on the bench that’s going to give you a Major League starter on your bench. So does Rajai, the guy steals 50 bases a year and he’s going to be on our bench. You feel for those guys because you know they can start on any team but at the same time they’re trying to win and they’re trying to have that depth so those are weapons we can use later in the game in case we have those close games.

“We’re pretty balanced left and right. I wouldn’t worry about our versatility too much even though it’s there. Hopefully we can just play in our basic positions without having to move around too much, especially up the middle.

“So whoever gets the second base job hopefully they get handed the job and they can play every day. Because we’re going to have J.P., whoever ends at second, then Reyes, then Colby in center. We can build around those guys. I think Melky and I are pretty much set to be in the corners and then Lawrie’s entrenched at third. So, whoever is at first the other is going to be at DH. Everything is pretty set except for second base and I don’t think we’re going to have to be moving around which hopefully we don’t get. But in case that does happen, we do have the versatility because Izturis can play everywhere, so can Bonifacio.

“If I have to move around, hopefully I don’t, but I’ll volunteer myself. Edwin can actually play third whenever it’s needed. Adam used to play outfield, he can play first, he can DH. We can move around, Melky can play in any spot in the outfield, so can I, so can Colby, so we can move around.”

Bonifacio even more valuable during Interleague Play…

“Especially because of the double switch. Izturis too, he can play the outfield if needed. We have a good bench. DeRosa can play everywhere, first, third, outfield. Name it, even if shortstop or second if needed. Especially in a National League game, double switch, late in the game, we’re going to have to do whatever it takes to win each particular game. We’re not going to just sit back and rely on people stepping up to the plate and driving the ball. Whatever it takes, maybe we need to make some moves and we’re going to be able to plug guys in, in different positions on defense in the aftermath when we have to go back.”

Chemistry tough with so many new guys?

“It depends on the guys. If you have a group of guys that are kind of pulling the rope their own way and not the team way, it could happen. But the sense I get from meeting all of these guys is that’s not going to happen. They’re all Major League established players. They’re not out to make a name for themselves, they’re not prideful players where they’re going to take their personal stats over team wins.

“I think everyone here has the same goal in mind and that’s winning games and hopefully going to the World Series and being world champions. Because of those reasons I don’t think team chemistry is going to be an issue at all.”

On having so many Dominican players and what that brings to the club…

“We’re just like any other Latin american from the Caribbean, close to the equator. We’re just high energy, warm, passionate people at anything we do. We bring that to the table when we play baseball and these guys have seen me play for awhile and Edwin and maybe a lot of other Dominicans that have been through Toronto.

“We play with our emotions on our sleeve and that’s usually a good thing. It can be negative in certain situations but hopefully we don’t take that to the negative side and we can keep it on the positive. Because of the skill set that a lot of these guys have, high energy, high speed guys, we’re going to have a loose clubhouse with a lot of happy people with people running in and out and keeping the energy and the emotions running high at all times and I think that can drive a team to be always in a good move, be happy and when people are happy and we do what we love for a living and getting paid for doing, it gets you excited to get out of bed everyday to go to work and when that’s the energy around you’re going to do the best you can every day.”

It’s from the culture…

“It’s from a mix. Demographics don’t lie, they’ve been studied for a lot of years in social and cultural qualities and characteristics. That’s just how our people and our race is as a whole. We have those traits because that’s where we’re from.”

Expectations do they bring added pressure…

“No, at least not for me. I can’t speak for everybody but expectations for me are usually good because they make you feel that people think you’re capable of doing it. I have no problem with people holding me accountable for my job. If I didn’t feel like I was good enough, I probably wouldn’t be here and I probably wouldn’t be doing this for a living.

“Just because people expect me to play good, that’s not going to add any more pressure on me. How would you feel it your editor told you that you had to put in a good article by noon. You’d probably not have any pressure because you do it all the time. You just sit down and do it and that’s what you get paid to do. Same with us. At least for me. I don’t feel any added pressure. I don’t think anybody individually has to do anything outstanding here in order for the team to succeed.”

What’s it like taking hacks with R.A. Dickey…

“I’ve only hit off him once. He was a different pitcher back then but it still wasn’t fun. It wasn’t fun hitting off Wakefield and he throws way harder than that and more pitches. But luckily I don’t have to worry about that anymore because he’s on my side. I don’t have to worry about hitting off him.”

Fastest workers in Buehrle and Dickey does that help…

“Of course it does and hopefully Ricky can go back to doing that because that’s what he was really good at his first two years. I can’t really speak for him and the reasons why he changed. I can guess but I’d rather not do that now. Hopefully having those examples in front of him it will get him back to his own ways which allowed him to be successful in the past, that was working quick, inducing ground balls, working off the sinker and throwing a lot of strikes. It does help a lot on defense because it keeps you on your toes, plus it keeps that momentum going your way.

“That’s why I think some of those guys stay away from the big innings because they throw a lot of strikes, they work quick, and even when they have runners on base, just because they work quick means they can’t steal bases, can’t certain things, which keeps them out of the big innings so that’s going to be huge.”

Did you mention that to Ricky?

“A lot of stuff was mentioned to Ricky, from my end, to the manager but after awhile you just kind of felt like he was just adding too much pressure on himself and you just wanted him to get out of it and do as good as we know he can. After awhile, we just let him go to work and let him figure it out on his own. It was just one of those odds years. I’m not worried about him, though, I think he can get back. But last year was definitely tough for him and tough for us to watch him go through it. I’m a big believer that he’s going to be back to being the pitcher that we all know he can be and he has shown in the past.

Surprised he was hurting physically?

“No, not at all. I could kind of tell from the way he was throwing and the velocity dip a little bit and the movement of his ball and the fact that he couldn’t really have the control that he showed in the past. But those were just guesses, I couldn’t tell you for sure but in my head maybe there was something going on. But pitchers pitch through that at times. He’s not going to blame his lack of success on that either.”

He doesn’t, but he also acknowledges more than he did before…

“Of course, but he’s competitive and he’s going to give it his best no matter what. When he’s out on the mound, he’s not going to think, his elbow’s hurting, his shoulder, his knee, whatever. He’s going to go out there and do his job as best as he can given his condition on that particular day. He battles his ass off and I think that’s something to be admired. Even so, he had a tough year, but he had the bad ending of the year.

“His first two months, even though his ERA was up and he had a lot of base runners, he was still like 8-1 or something, he was giving us a whole lot of chances to win games. I’m a big believer in Ricky, I don’t think the Ricky last year is the real one and I think the real one is going to be back this year and hopefully we’re going to keep him on that note for the rest of his career.”

Doubted that the time would come this team would spend?

“It’s hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel when you don’t see any hints. But they had a plan and they’re not the type of people that operate on telling people what they’re going to do first. You guys know that they keep their cards close to their chest but they do have a plan and I don’t think it’s really the players or anybody else’s responsibility to kind of be a step ahead of them and really think or be proving anything that we’re going to make any moves.

“They’re the ones running the show for a reason, they’re good at it, they have a plan and they executed it when they thought the moves were needed and the timing was right to do them. It was one of the promises that was given when I signed here and they definitely came through.”

Alex bounce ideas off you?

“He always bounces stuff off all of us. He doesn’t ask for permission or he doesn’t seek approval but he wants to know everybody’s feedback. Most of the time it’s not about the physical ability or the baseball player that he is acquiring but the person. He wants to know what type of guy some of these players are. If they’re good in the clubhouse, if they’re good people outside of the stadium and how they’re going to gel in the clubhouse and if it’s going to be an issue and stuff like that. It’s more on the personal side more than anything, I think the baseball analysis is done by him and his team and they’re the people who make those types of decisions.

“But if questions are asked about guy’s personalities and stuff, we’re honest and that’s important for a clubhouse because we don’t want to acquire someone that’s going to be a black sheep or a rotten tomato and kind of ruin the whole atmosphere in the clubhouse or the team chemistry. I think he does a good job, trying to not only figure out who the player that he’s going to get but the person as well.”

Melky different player now?

“I played with him in three different levels in the Minor Leagues and he was an All-Star in all of them. I thought he was a Major League caliber player back then. He’s a great person, he is not perfect, he made a mistake and has admitted it and that’s in the past. But I thought his baseball skills have always been way above average and he has shown that year after year. I can’t say why he didn’t have success in New York, I can guess a couple of reasons but I don’t like to guess too much especially when I’m talking to you guys.

“I don’t think we’re going to see anything different. He’s a great hitter, he’s going to make contact here, he’s not going to strike out too much. He’s going to steal bases, play solid defense and hold runners, which I think a lot of people are overlooking in what he’s going to bring to the table on the defensive side. He has a great arm and knows where to throw the ball in certain situations which is going to prevent runs. It’s almost as good as driving in runs, preventing runs. We’re going to have a lot of fun, he’s going to bring a lot to the table for this team on the field and off the field. He’s a Major Leaguer with a lot of success in the past so we’re happy to have him.”

AA said you’d be willing to go to his press conference and they said it wasn’t necessary…

“I watched the whole Escobar thing from afar and I think there were a lot of things that got lost in translation and lost in the cultural differences. Personality of the player, which when you’re put under the microscope in the public’s eye, everything is under scrutiny and people’s personalities are not taken into consideration. People are very judgmental when you’re put in that type of situation, especially after you made a mistake.

“I think his situation could have been handled better by having a good liaison, a good person translating and kind of just letting the public know exactly what the player was feeling at the time. I think I could have brought that to the table with Melky, they chose to address it in a different way and I think it was a good way to address it. I volunteered, they passed and I don’t have a problem with any of that.”

Q+A with new Blue Jays hitting coach Chad Mottola

To the surprise of pretty much nobody, Chad Mottola was hired to become the Blue Jays’ new hitting coach when John Gibbons was brought on board in November. It was a natural promotion considering Mottola spent the past four years as a Minor League hitting coach and review rave reviews from some of the club’s top prospects and struggling veterans.

Last year’s hitting coach, Dwayne Murphy, is still on the staff but will spend the majority of his time in charge of baserunning and outfield defense. In some ways it’s a perfect mix because Murphy has already established strong working relationships with the likes of Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion. So some of the veterans will be able to continue their work with Murphy while Mottola seems better suited to deal with the younger players on the team.

Here’s what Mottola had to say about his overall coaching philosophy and working with Murphy…

Process taking over as new coach, what are things you look to establish…

“What’s nice is that I’ve had a lot of the younger guys early on in their careers so kind of getting them back to where they were and letting Murph continue with the guys he had success with.”

Is it tough, though, having your predecessor still on the coaching staff?

“Not a shared position but having Murph makes it different than most… I wouldn’t say it’s shared but I’m going to let the guys lean on Murph when they need him. Murph’s going to be here for outfield and base running which is a priority and I think was needed at times last year. Going into camp, he’s going to have those guys more often than being in the cage and being around the cage. When he’s needed, he’s going to be used, if not when the younger guys, I already have a pretty good relationship with we’re going to go with what we had in the past.

“Murph’s nickname is pro and it’s for a reason. We have a pretty good relationship where there’s no ego with either of us. Going into it, having that established relationship makes it easier.”

Inherit team that has last two NL batting champions..

“Yeah, for sure. I’m getting to know those guys the first couple of weeks, find out what their philosophies are and build off what they’ve done in the past.”

Approach or philosophy how is it different from Murph…

“There’s not going to be much change with the guys who have had success. There are plenty of guys that had success under Murph and then I’m going to kind of work with the younger guys and see what they need to change to be what they can be.”

Getting guys in proper head space (ex Lind)…

“One thing about baseball is everyone has hit, everyone has their own opinion and everyone feels like they can fix everybody. One thing is that everybody has good intentions but one thing we’re going to concentrate on this year is having one message. So there is no mixed message, there’s not anybody trying to sneak in and be like hey I know you’ve done this.

“With Adam, I played with him, I coached him, we’ve done everything so we kind of know his personality and how to get him in the right position mentally to hit and I think that’s where he was at in the past, it was kind of mental.”

Being up with the big league club the past two Septembers must help…

“It makes really simple. Murph and I know eachother, I’ve sat in the cage hours upon hours and watched him work. He allowed me to work with guys which you don’t see in baseball of a big league coach allowing someone to come up in September and say go ahead have at it. So going into it, we have the same thing going, if a guy hops into our cage, my cage, or his cage, there’s nothing personal. There’s no worries about what he’s saying, we know how to work together.”

Past years coaches have tried to impart their own philosophy on hitting…

“I work individually. I think that’s what’s important about this game is that everybody has their own personality and their own style. They’re going to strike fear into their own team yet they’re going to let different guys have different approaches.”

Approach with Lawrie, priorities…

“We have a relationship in the past just getting him to slow down. He gets himself in trouble, the same thing that makes him great is the same thing that gets him in trouble. So just slowing down and quit trying to get the ball at 40 feet, let it travel a little bit.”

Rasmus…

“The talent in him is unbelivable. The things he does, the way he gets to the front of the box and we’re just going to get his quick hands to work in his favor rather than going through swing changes all year. I think we have a pretty good base going into the year and we’re going to try and keep it there.”

Rasmus made transition to front of the box last year… sticking with that?

“We modified it a little bit but it’s one of those things where as time goes on we hope we’re not going to see five different stances after an 0-for-4. We’re trying to get a consistent base and then we’re going to stay there.”

What are you trying to modify?

“We’re still doing some things, getting his hands a little bit lower and getting him in a better position to hit.”

Newcomers does it take time to get familiar with them…

“I think more getting to know their personalities. I think their track records speak for themselves. More than getting them comfortable here, the sooner that happens the better off we are. Guys that have the track records, kind of stay out of their way.”

Been with Gibby before…

“Yeah, I actually was in camp for a couple of years, had about a month and a half up in the big leagues with him. As far as our personalities, they’re great. Let the guys play and when they need us we’ll get involved. But with the talent we have now, it’s a good mix.”

Hitters facing live pitching Sunday…

“That’s all for the pitchers. Spring Training in the first week is for the pitchers. It’s one of those things that hey guys, get what you can get out of it, let the pitchers get their work in.”

Looking for specific things who are coming back from injuries…

“Just make sure they’re healthy. Early on, it’s a longer spring this year with the Classic going on, not necessarily numbers for sure, just make sure we’re healthy and then worry about the last week getting ready for the season. “

Return from the holidays

I’m back in action after taking a couple of lovely weeks to return to my home province of New Brunswick to visit with friends and family. Now that the holidays are out of the way, it’s time to resume looking ahead to the upcoming season and what better way to start than a news conference with R.A. Dickey and Alex Anthopoulos.

On the main site, you’ll find my article on Dickey plus another item with all the latest information on Darren Oliver‘s potential retirement, request for more money, or a trade. After the 30-minute news conference with Dickey, Anthopoulos took some additional time to meet with reporters.

I’ll attempt to post a full transcript later this week but in the meantime here is a rundown of what Anthopoulos had to say:

  • The Blue Jays continue to move forward under the assumption that Oliver will retire instead of returning for another season in Toronto. The club appears unlikely to offer him additional money on the $3-million he’s set to make in 2013 and Anthopoulos said a trade would only be made if it provided the Blue Jays with a clear upgrade.
  • Even if Oliver does retire, Anthopoulos doesn’t expect to spend the $3-million on another player: “We blew so far past where we were supposed to be (in payroll). Darren was an exception, we exercised the option at the beginning of the offseason, payroll commitments were so different back then. Obviously if Darren was to choose to come back, we would certainly honor that, we’d be thrilled to have him. But that money is Darren Oliver money, it’s not go get another player or reliever money.”
  • Anthopoulos confirmed that former shortstop prospect Justin Jackson will make the transition to a pitcher this Spring. Jackson said on Twitter that he was clocked at 95MPH and it’s the live arm that has the Blue Jays intrigued about the possibilities. There are no guarantees it will ever work out but with Jackson failing to produce at the plate during his Minor League career it’s a risk worth taking.
  • J.A. Happ will begin the season as the Blue Jays sixth starter. In order words, he’s the back-up and won’t get an opportunity in the rotation until someone gets hurt. In the meantime, Happ will compete for a spot in the bullpen but he also has an option remaining on his contract and it’s possible he could begin the year at Triple-A Buffalo.
  • Anthopoulos said Happ wasn’t exactly happy about the news but the writing was on the wall once the club acquired Josh Johnson, Mark Buehrle and Dickey for its rotation. Happ has accepted his role and for whatever it’s worth Anthopoulos said he’s excited about playing on a winning ballclub.
  • The Blue Jays do not expect outfielder Melky Cabrera to be asked to take part in the upcoming World Baseball Classic. Jose Reyes, Edwin Encarnacion and Brett Lawrie are all but a lock to participate while it remains unlikely Jose Bautista will receive clearance considering he is coming off a left wrist injury that prematurely ended his 2012 campaign. No word yet on whether pitchers like Dickey, Brandon Morrow and Josh Johnson would be in the mix for Team USA.
  • Pitchers and catchers are set to report to Spring Training on Feb. 13. The full roster will officially report on Feb. 17.
  • Dickey said that he played catch with J.P. Arencibia in Nashville on Monday. Dickey praised Arencibia’s willingness to learn how to catch a knuckleball and provided the third-year catcher with a large glove that it typically used to for that type of pitcher.
  • Anthopoulos said the Blue Jays remain in the market for a right-handed bat that can be used off the bench. The preference is to acquire someone that has the ability to play in the infield but Anthopoulos may choose to stick with signing several players to Minor League contract with a shot at competing for the job. It’s also possible that additional players will become available when teams start making their cuts late in camp.
  • Anthopoulos also said that Sal Fasano‘s departure as the manager in Double-A New Hampshire will not have any impact on a potential future in that role at the big league level. The Blue Jays approached Fasano about taking a promotion to become a Minor League catching coordinator and they feel it’s something that will make him a more well-rounded coach/potential manager in the future.

Don’t forget to follow me on Twitter @gregorMLB.

Winter Meetings wrap-up with Anthopoulos

The Winter Meetings have come to an end and not surprisingly it was a relatively quiet week for the Blue Jays. Sure, there were plenty of rumours but in reality there was never anything close to getting done in Nashville.

Toronto already completed most of its offseason shopping, and while there is certainly a desire to keep improving, the type of moves that could come next weren’t expected to take place in the Music City. Could R.A. Dickey still be in play? Perhaps but the ball is clearly in New York’s court at this point.

We know that the Blue Jays and Mets have engaged in discussions but the extent of those talks remain very much unknown. Before anything can happen the Mets must make a final decision about whether they can re-sign their No. 1 starter, which remains their top priority. If those negotiations reach an impasse then Toronto along with several other clubs could enter the mix. That doesn’t guarantee any deal will ever get done but it’s safe to assume that Alex Anthopoulos will continue to explore the possibility. 

With nothing on the horizon, Anthopoulos left the Winter Meetings a day early and did not stick around for the Rule 5 Draft (which didn’t really matter because Toronto was already at full capacity on its 40-man roster). Before he flew out, though, Anthopoulos sat down for a lengthy chat with Toronto reporters. Here’s what he had to say and make sure to give me a follow on Twitter @gregorMLB if you’re not doing so already!

Alex Anthopoulos:

On whether there was any progress on potential moves as the Meetings drew to a close…

“There are things that we looked at, spent a little time on, but then you realize they’re just not a fit. You always examine everything but there’s nothing that was presented to us that we’ve spent days on, or we’re working through. There was maybe one idea that someone floated that was interesting, that was fair value, we spent the night reviewing it, we just didn’t feel like it was the right fit for our club.”

On whether there were offers he presented to other teams…

“That I would say yes. But, again, I just don’t see it. They are more concepts. We’re not going to have anything resolved at all. Just more ideas, this player, that player, it’s more on the trade front than anything else. We’ve floated ideas, certainly teams can come back to us on them.”

On whether the previous moves this offseason took away a sense of urgency for these Winter Meetings…

“I think it’s always harder to get things done here. I feel like the Winter Meetings, there’s almost too much going on that it’s hard to get anything done other than free agent signings. This is where a lot of free agent deals get done, a lot of agents want to meet, and you’re always weighing free agents with trades.

“If we were to do anything (else), take a lot of the groundwork that was laid here and you do it after you get to step away, everyone gets to calm down a little bit. You’re trying to get a hold of people, they’re trying to get a hold of you, you miss calls because you’re in the middle of a meeting or on a phone call. It’s tough, everyone’s so preoccupied.”

On whether he expects that to continue through the month of December and result in a busy January…

“I think January will be Minor League signings. Maybe last minute trades, teams that have lost out on certain players. If we have depth maybe there’s a fit there.

“Clearly we made a large transaction early and that’s going to impact our ability to do other things. I don’t expect to do anything big.”

On whether he’s more likely to make a trade or sign a free agent…

“If I had to pick one, I’d say we’re unlikely to do either right now. But I’m always going to say the trade front.”

Does it bother you Yunel is back in the division? Would you ask a team not to flip a player to a division rival?

“You can do that. But when you’re making a trade, you’re making a trade with that team. You can’t try to start to control what happens after the fact. And how long does that last? Is it an agreement with the GM and he’s not there anymore, if things change. So, no, that’s just part of the game.

“At the end of the day, you can’t worry about what everyone else is doing. Yunel’s a good player, Reyes was a better fit for us. I’m not surprised that he got traded. I think there was a very real scenario he was going to get traded.”

Are you surprised the Yankees’ money doesn’t seem to weigh as much anymore?

“I know there’s been a lot that has been talked about. It seems odd. I’ll believe when I see it at the end of January or when Spring Training hits. They’re still going to have a healthy payroll, it’s going to be high. I can’t tell you that I know what the Yankees exactly are doing. Maybe they’re waiting for the right deals.

“I think they have been very specific. They’ve spent money, you look at Kuroda, he got a pretty good contract, it’s a one-year deal. Andy Pettitte. I think they’re just being very specific in where they’re spending their money. That’s just from an outsider.

“I know a lot has been written about and talked about on front. It’s not like they haven’t spent money. Three signings they made free agency wise were $10-million or more. They’ve already spent $38-million or whatever it was on three players and that’s pretty good.”

Is filling important positions on one-year contracts a problem? They seem to be trying to get their payroll down by next year.

“Yeah, I read that too, 2014. I think for the Yankees it’s not because they’re a great organization, they’re a winning organization. They’ve made the playoffs every year in the last 18 years or so except once and these are all older, more experienced players. It’s very similar to Toronto in the early ’90s. They had a lot of established stars that took shorter term deals because they wanted a chance to win. Or you see a guy like Torii Hunter go to Detroit on a two-year deal.

“Those winning organizations, they get those players on shorter-term contracts because most times those players have made their money, they’ve had their accomplishments, winning’s the last piece that they want and those organizations are in a great spot to sign those guys.”

Josh Hamilton seems to be having difficulty securing a long-term contract. Are the days of seven or eight-year deals coming to an end?

“They continue to happen because Ryan Braun was extended last year, Troy Tulowitzki, Evan Longoria, David Wright. Seven-year deals, they’re latched onto deals that are already existing but those deals are alive and well.”

Are those better deals to sign when they’re your own player?

“I think any time you’re signing your own player you have more information than on a player from the outside and there’s normally an age component there because the free agency component, you’re only older. We feel pretty strongly, I know Paul definitely has been the biggest proponent of it, is term. We’d rather pay a higher rate on a shorter term than doing an incredibly long deal. Things change.

“I’ve come around to it, I really have. I know that it was more of a wait and see approach at the beginning but I’ve really come around to it. Players change, things change fast. Even five years in this game is a really long time.”

Does A-Rod deal lend credence to that?

“I think the injury component. Eric Chavez signed a deal with Oakland a long time ago and people talked about when Longoria signed his deal, he looked at guys like Grady Sizemore. I think the health is the biggest thing. Even from a performance standpoint things change as well. The longer you go on a deal the more things change. We’re dealing with human beings.”

Contracts Boston gave to Victorino and Napoli does that put Bautista’s contract in a different light?

“I think the biggest thing to look at, Jose, his contract was after one year of performance at the age of 31. At the time of the signing, the free agents at the time, Victor Martinez had a long career at a premium position and he got $12.5 million. Paul Konerko was a multiple All-Star for years, consistency of performance, he got $12.5 per year. Dan Uggla, years of consistent performance, got 12 something. Adrian Beltre, who was a great player for a long time and a Gold Glove third baseman got only $2-million more than Jose per year after a lot of years of great production at a premium position.

“Even if you look at David Wright’s deal right now, the extension, the average annual value is $17-million. I’m not saying it’s a small amount of money, that’s years of performance there, Zimmerman, Longoria. I think someone said it best, there’s no one in the history of the game that made more money off one year than Jose Bautista. That’s not to disparage him.

“I’ve said this before, I was uneasy with the contract. Two or three days later I doubted myself and wondered if I did the right thing. I’d like to sit here and say, we knew all along he was going to perform well. But I still think the way things are, those deals are shorter-term deals and obviously Jose’s was a five-year deal, but look at what Beltre since he has signed his deal, he has been unbelievable and he is making $2-million more.”

On Red Sox plugging holes one at a time and whether the Blue Jays could have taken a similar approach or if they needed to get everything done at once…

“We talked a lot. We had people in the office that would have not done that trade, which was an indication that it was a fair deal from a baseball standpoint. It’s very hard to give up that kind of talent. One of the big talking points internally was, rather than give up the players, we were taking up a lot of dollars, let’s go spend it in the free agent market and we’d get to keep our players.

“In theory, that’s outstanding. That is the way to go, in theory, if you can guarantee getting the free agent players. The problem, as I even saw last year, there are two examples but one especially, there was a reliever that we tried to sign last year that I must have called the agent 80 times. We were offering more money and we just ultimately, it was geography, it was family, it was all of those things. Sometimes even though you have more money and more years there’s no guarantee you’re going to get the player.

“We sit here sometimes now and talk about, let’s go sign this free agent, and I remind everybody, a bunch of other teams are having the same conversation we are. There’s value in getting the bird in the hand and that’s sometimes where you don’t haggle as much if you’re close to being able to get something done.

“In a perfect world you keep the young players, you sign the free agent if you can get the right value. But from that standpoint it was the certainty of acquiring the players carried a lot of weight.”

But would you have been able to get the money if you did it piece by piece or would you have had to go to ownership each time?

“I would have been on my own to a certain point and once I reached that point, now I’m going over, that’s when I pick up the phone and call. But it’s pretty fast. I don’t have to go up to Rogers and put up a PowerPoint slide presentation and spend days doing it. Obviously I have a direct line with Paul and Paul takes care of that.

“It’s pretty seamless and it’s pretty fast. Nothing should develop so fast that I don’t have 30 seconds to make a call.”

But would it have been a tougher sell to keep going back to repeatedly as opposed to the one-stop shopping?

“We had a pretty good amount of money to spend coming into the offseason one way or the other. I would have brought Paul along ahead of time. It wouldn’t have been all of a sudden something came out of nowhere. Free agency wise you always have a game plan. We wanted to get at least two starters. We wanted to fill certain spots, utility infield, shortstop, all that kind of stuff.

“We had meetings right after the season, we had targets in free agency we were going to go after. We had made calls on the trade front. That’s what I talked about at the GM meetings, there were a lot of other balls in the air, there were a lot of other free agents we could have engaged in, but the Marlins trade was clearly the right fit.

“We had the right players for them and they had the right players for us. It made all the sense in the world. Rather than try to spend time on this and that, to focus all of our energy on that. We talked out of the Marlins suite, I said this is the deal we’re going to spend our time on. We’re going go at it hard, spend the week or five-six days and there was value in getting it done early. We couldn’t leave it hanging around with all of the other things going on.”

On whether there’s a specific type of player he’s looking for as the 25th guy…

“There’s value in keeping that spot open. You may, for whatever reason, carry one more guy in the bullpen. You may want to have someone that could be on option that you’ve got the flexibility to have someone go up and down if there’s a need there.

“We’ve picked up players each year at the end of Spring Training. Whether it was (Jayson) Nix or Fred Lewis. Guys become available at the end of Spring Training when they don’t make clubs.”

On Escobar (question asked on behalf of Tampa media)…

“Good player. Good defensive player. Outstanding hands, outstanding arm strength. A guy that has the ability to get on base and has very good raw power, pretty good gap power and has a lot of ability. A lot of talent, very talented shortstop.”

On how the AL East changed with the moves in the Winter Meetings…

“I still think there is so much more to be done on all levels. We up making a transaction early. Not by design, it just worked out that way. There’s no doubt those teams, not necessarily the Rays, but those teams do have dollars to spend, they have holes to fill. They’re going to keep doing it. Normally New York and certainly Boston can be big players in free agency. I expect that to continue, I don’t expect that to change.

“We made a big transaction early but there are still a lot of very good free agents that are out there. We’re done not, those teams are going to continue to get better.”

Leaving here closer to a free agent or a trade?

“If I had to pick one I’d say we’re unlikely to do either right now.”

So you’re set?

“I know we love to put words in my mouth but no I would say we’re going to try to continue to do things. I just don’t see there being anything right now. I think the Winter Meetings is tough. We’ve inquired on players, we’ve talked about things. But we don’t have anything that’s remotely close or that we’re really having a debate. I think there’s a bunch of deals that we can make at prices that we definitely do not want to pay.”

Long question about whether there’s a specific type of hitter for the 25th spot. A versatile player or a guy who can hit with some power, etc…

“We’ve had a debate about the 25th guy. I know it’s the 25th guy, but because of the versatility of the guys on the roster with Bonifacio, Izturis, obviously guys that can play all three outfield spots with Davis and Cabrera. We just don’t know how much the 25th guy is going to play and how he’s going to fit.

“We think Davis is certainly a bat that can hit against left-handers because he’s had some success doing that. The debate has been, do you keep the spot open? See how things go in Spring Training. Guys on Minor League deals that are performing well, guys that are out of options that don’t make teams. We can just take a wait and see approach. If we go sign someone to a guaranteed deal, and if we do, do you take someone that has more ability or someone that has a better clubhouse dynamic. Realizing that there isn’t going to be that many at-bats unless of course everybody gets hurt.

“That’s kind of the debate. Do you get someone that can help the dynamic of the clubhouse or be strictly the best player.”

Meet the manager with John Gibbons

John Gibbons sat down with reporters for his Meet the Manager session on Monday afternoon here at the Winter Meetings in Nashville. All managers  across Major League Baseball will sit through a similar media session this week with Boston skipper John Farrell scheduled to talk on Tuesday afternoon.

A nice bonus of this session is that the full transcript is provided to reporters by ASAP Sports. You can find my article about this scrum on the main media site but here’s with the full transcript from the event:

Q.  Your role this week is what?  We know what Alex does when it comes to trade signings, but when you’re in the room with him, what contributions does a manager make?

JOHN GIBBONS:  Well, what we do in there, you might throw out a name or two you’re thinking about trying to acquire or those kind of things, and he might go around and room and ask our opinions on different guys, if we know them, what do we think, what does that do to the team.  But one thing about Alex, he wants everybody’s opinion and he’s got to make the decision.  Kind of slow today and not much happening, but that’s kind of what happens at these meetings, and then the managers do these things and you turn around and go home.

Q.  What were your thoughts coming into today?

JOHN GIBBONS:  Well, I did that the first go‑around here, but it’s been a while.  But yeah, it’s always a ‑‑ it’s an exciting time because I’ve been out of it a while.  One thing, it’s always good to see some familiar faces that we have here.

Q.  It’s a little different coming into these meetings, for the last couple years it’s been about what are they going to give up.  Now you guys are coming in from a position of strength looking to maybe add some depth as opposed to what are we going to do.

JOHN GIBBONS:  We’re feeling good right now, there’s no question about it.  It was a big trade for us and signing Cabrera.  So they’ve really done a nice job of bringing in some players.  I said earlier when I got hired, now it’s a job that the manager and the coaching staff to pull it all together and get the most out of these guys.  But it’s a good position to be in.  This job came out of nowhere for me, and to be sitting there looking at some of the players that they acquired in doing that, makes it that much nicer.  I would have taken the job if he hadn’t made that deal, but it makes it much nicer to take it now.

Q.  Is there enormous pressure on you?

JOHN GIBBONS:  There’s always pressure, no doubt about it, because a lot is expected in the baseball world and the country of Canada and Toronto specifically there.  But yeah, that’s a good thing.  That means you’ve got a good team.  But there’s always pressure in this business to perform.

Q.  Alex was saying he was blown away by how many free agents are interested now in being a Blue Jay.  Do you get that sense in baseball, since the move how much of a popular distinction is now for players?

JOHN GIBBONS:  Yeah, everybody is excited about it.  When you turn on the TV, you hear about the Toronto Blue Jays a lot because of what they did and what the potential is here.  So it’s an exciting time.  You’ve got to go out and do it.  You can talk all the want, this time of year that’s what the game is.  But come April you’ve got to perform.

Q.  Have you gotten a chance in the last two weeks to talk to most of the guys you want to talk to?

JOHN GIBBONS:  Yeah, I’ve talked to most of the guys.  I’ve had trouble getting ahold of some of those guys down in Latin America, but yeah, I’ve talked to just about all of them.

Q.  What have you heard from the new guys especially?

JOHN GIBBONS:  They’re all excited, too.  A group of them came over, all played together last year so they all know each other, but there’s a lot of new faces.  And the guys that have been here, they look at if the trade is good for them, too.  You know what, our team got that much better and they’re excited about it.  Everybody wants to win.  And normally guys want to get to the Big Leagues and become everyday players and establish themselves, and once you do that, it’s time to win.

So they’re all ready to go.  But I’m going to have to familiarize myself a little bit more when we get to Spring Training because these guys don’t know me and I’ve got to get to know them, and we’ve got to come together as a team.  You just can have all the talent in the world, but if you don’t play as a team or focus on the same thing, you don’t get anywhere.

Q.  Do you like the idea of having a guy like Buehrle as a veteran of this team?  Even when Doc was here, he was still growing with the team a little bit before he became that veteran guy.

JOHN GIBBONS:  Yeah, Mark has been around a long time, been very, very successful.  Naturally he’s going to be a leader.  And you don’t need to be a local guy.  He’s the kind of guy that can lead by example.  Those guys, when things get tough, you can always fall back on them.  They have a tendency of pulling you through it and making a big pitching outing and getting a big hit to get a win.  Veterans have been around a while and they’ve got that knock.

Q.  Have you started looking at your roster and picture how you’d like the rotation to go or a batting order to do and utilizing what you have?

JOHN GIBBONS:  Yeah, I’ve tinkered with it from Day 1 when I got the job.  It’s a pretty good lineup now.  You’re not scrambling to jam guys in up at the top, but getting somebody who can hit at the top of the order.  Now we’ve got so many guys that can do that, we’ll sometimes have to move some guys back.  But it’s too early to say who’s going to hit where.  I can probably tell you the top four right now, definitely Reyes, probably going to be Cabrera and then Bautista and Encarnacion, I can guarantee that.

Q.  Alex was saying you talked about giving the opportunity to hit lefties.  What gives you the belief that he can hit lefties?

JOHN GIBBONS:  Well, Adam broke in when I was there, I think there was a couple September call‑ups.  After I got fired the first time, he got called up for good and really took off.  From Day 1 in the Minor Leagues he could always hit.  I mean, he was drafted as a hitter and he was always successful.  Last couple years he’s fallen on some tough times, but he’s hit before, so I expect he’s going to get every opportunity to do the same because he’s got a chance to be a key part of this.  And he hit before, he should be able to hit again.

Q.  What other things are going to be your priorities?

JOHN GIBBONS:  Well, you know, I just sit back and kind of look at the team, just kind of dream, if you will.  But right now with the new coaching staff, the new bench coach, we just kind organizing Spring Training because that’s the main thing in front of us right now, that’s basically it, and then finding a bullpen coach.  Hopefully we’ll have something next week where we’re going to do with that.  Other than that it’s been quiet and just enjoying the moment.

Q.  Have you had a chance to talk to Brett?  And what have people told you about him?

JOHN GIBBONS:  Well, you know, I had ‑‑ he’s a very aggressive kid with a ton of talent, got a chance to be one of the best players in the game.  That’s what I’ve heard about him.  I’ve heard, too, that he’s learned at this level on the basis he made some mistakes, that kind of thing.  I read that, I’ve heard that.  But he’s a kid ‑‑ from everything I’ve heard he’s the kind of guy you want on your team, he’ll run through the wall for you, and he’s got a ton of talent.  That’s the bottom line.  And with more experience, actually he’ll become a smarter player.

Q.  Have you had a chance to chat with him?

JOHN GIBBONS:  Yeah, I talked to him a couple times on the phone, yeah, and he’s excited.  He’s a gung-ho kid you can just tell by talking to him.  Also a friend of mine was one of his hitting coaches when he was down in Double‑A with the Brewers, and he said, “You’ll love this kid.  He’ll go through a wall for you.”  I’ve heard nothing but good things to be honest with you.

Q.  The common thread in describing you as a manager here is knowing how to handle a bullpen.  In your mind what is it you do with a bullpen that makes it effective?

JOHN GIBBONS:  You know, that would be tough to answer.  First of all, you’ve got to have good guys pitching down there.  You’ve got to have some talent, some fire power, then you just piece it together.  With a good starting rotation that always makes a bullpen better because those guys are working less, and then you’ve just got to identify the roles and run with it, know who can do what.  And you’ve still got to protect those guys.  You don’t want to kill them down there.  You piece it together like a puzzle in a lot of ways.

Q.  Do you go into Spring Training in that regard with an open mind in terms of roles?

JOHN GIBBONS: Yeah, because they threw some things at me.  I know Janssen, he had a great year and he took over as a closing role.  We’ll find out about Sergio, see where he’s at, find out whether coming out of the gates he’s healthy enough.  It make take him a while to get going.  But guys like Delabar and Lincoln, good arms, see how they fit.  Luke, the lefty, it’s always valuable to have a good lefty that can get lefties out.  A lot of guys can’t.  We’ll piece it together.  But I’ve got to learn these guys.  And you can’t judge everything off Spring Training because you know how that is sometimes, so I’ll rely on these other guys to tell me some of that.

Q. Is part of it letting them know when they’re going to be used and not getting them up too often?

JOHN GIBBONS:  Yeah, that’s where it takes its toll on the bullpen is you get them up and you don’t use them.  If you get them up and you get them in the game, everything is fine.  There’s ups and downs that really take their toll on these guys.  You can’t always do that, but if you’re conscious of it and say ‑‑ especially with your late‑inning guys, you’ve really got to guard those guys because if things are going well they’re going to be in a lot of games, so you’ve got to be conscious of that.

Q.  Is Mike the second baseman as far as you’re concerned or could Emilio Bonifacio win that job?

JOHN GIBBONS:  As of Thursday he’s signed to do that, but he’s very versatile.  He can play several positions.  Bonifacio can also play the outfield.  We do have to figure that out, but it’s a good problem to have because they’re both very talented kids, men.  So we’ll see.

Q.  Update on Sergio Santos?

JOHN GIBBONS:  Yeah, we don’t know anything about Sergio really.  Well, we know ‑‑ we don’t know how far along he is.  You’ve got to be conscious of that.

Q.  Regardless of that, what Janssen did last year, would you give him the chance to keep the job because it’s his to lose?

JOHN GIBBONS:  Well, that’s tough to answer right now, but I’m a big fan of Casey’s because I had him before, I know what he’s capable of doing.  Any time you come off a surgery, you’ve got to be ‑‑ you don’t know what’s going to happen.  I don’t want to get ahead of myself.  But it’s nice to have both those guys and maybe can do that.  Casey had a little minor procedure himself, so you’ve got to be conscious of that, of both those guys.

Q.  Can you compare how you’re looking for a place in this division?

JOHN GIBBONS:  Well, I still think it’s the toughest division in baseball.  That first go‑around, it was tough.  You were looking up at Boston and New York all the time.  Tampa was on the verge of really coming into their own.  You could see some young players ‑‑ in Baltimore at that time they scored runs; on the nights they pitched they were very tough.  I followed them over the years, and New Yorks and Bostons, they’re always going to be ‑‑ Boston had a down year last year, but that’s not going to last.  And Baltimore gets into the postseason.  Tampa is right there.  So it’s a tough grind, tough division to play in, but that’s why we feel with the trades we made and signing of Cabrera gives us a shot.  But you’ve got to go out and do it, but it gives us a lot of excitement.

Q.  How do you feel about the starting rotation?

JOHN GIBBONS:  Very good.  Very good.  You know, I think every team in baseball is looking for five guys they can count on, and through this trade we added two pretty good ones.  So that was a question mark coming in before they made that trade.  Yeah, we feel pretty good.

You’re going to have your ups and downs throughout a year, guys are going to get banged up, there will be some injuries.  That’s just part of it.  Now the thing is you’ve got to focus on depth.  So one of these guys or two of those guys go down for any length of time, can we cover it.  That’s where teams get in trouble.  Same thing with the bullpen.  Hopefully you have a guy sitting down in Triple‑A that can come up and maybe has a little experience and he’s not just a BP arm out there.

Q.  How much do you know about Happ?  He pitched in the National League.  And what do you expect out of the fifth starter in terms of performance?

JOHN GIBBONS:  Well, you want a guy that’s good and competitive that can keep you in a ballgame, give you a chance to win.  The thing I remember most about Happ was a Spring Training game the last time I was here and we played the Phillies over there, and he just blew us away for five innings or whatever his stint was.  I can remember talking to J. P. about that afterward.  Who’s this guy right here?  I kind of lost track, but he’s got a good arm.  He strikes out ‑‑ he’s a big strikeout guy, and he’s be a perfect fit.  Here’s his opportunity over here to do it, and lefties are always valuable.  Some of the best hitters in the game are lefties.

Q.  It seems like there’s a special window for the Blue Jays who have been shut out for a long time.  Is this your time?

JOHN GIBBONS:  Well, we hope so.  But I mean, it’s still early in the offseason.  The Yankees are going to be good.  They won it again last year.  You know, the Red Sox, there’s too much pressure on them not to do something to strengthen their team after what they went through last year.  That’s a given.  And Tampa, they come at you and they’re one of the better teams in baseball every year the last few years.  And Baltimore.

I don’t know if this is our window.  We think we’re very competitive and we can compete in this division now, but we’re hoping this is our time.

Q.  Is it going to be strange at all playing in your division after managing another team?

JOHN GIBBONS:  No, because I don’t really know them.  If I knew them, it might be a little bit different, but I know he’s a fixture there in Boston.  They really wanted him back.  After all those years of being the pitching coach there.  I did get a chance ‑‑ I was in town with Kansas City a couple years ago and got a chance to meet John, but I really don’t know him, but I’m sure he’ll do a great job over there.

Q.  He knows your players fairly well.

JOHN GIBBONS:  Yeah, but you know, to get him out or hit him, you’ve still got to execute, and we like our guys.

Q.  What else do you think this team needs to finalize the roster?

JOHN GIBBONS:  To be honest with you, I like the way it sits now, but you’re always looking to strengthen it in whatever way.  I think the big thing now is depth, to overcome some injuries, what have you.  But you know, they put together a pretty good group of guys.  You can’t have everything.  Nobody has a perfect team.  You’re never going to ‑‑ we sure like the way it’s shaping up right now.

Q.  Have you had conversations about what went wrong last year, what things have you heard?

JOHN GIBBONS:  Well, just from what I’ve heard and what I’ve read and things like that, baserunning was an issue, running into needless outs.  I can’t comment on a lot of that because I wasn’t here.  That’s not fair to anybody that was.  I guess this would be my chance because I don’t know most of these guys.  To get to know them, make my own judgments.  You know, throw my philosophies at them, that kind of thing, my style of play.

So I can’t worry about that.  It’s a new start for them.  It’s a new start for me.  But this team has got very good team speed.  We’ve got power.  We’ve got the pitching.  So we need to play smart baseball is basically all I can tell you right now.

Q.  On the running game….

JOHN GIBBONS:  Well, you know, you’ve got guys and that’s their game and they’ve been very successful about it and they do it, you don’t want to shut that down.  That’s why we got them, because they can do those things.  So go for it, but be smart, too.  Because we have some hitters sitting in the middle of that lineup that are ready to drive you in and hit home runs and those kind of things.  So be smart about it.  We don’t want to run unnecessary outs or ‑‑ still, you’ve got to be successful at a high rate, you know, when you’re stealing.  But hey, that’s your game, go for it.  That way you come up against tough pitching on a given night, low run scoring game, those guys can generate the runs for you and that’s how you can win those games.  But they’re getting paid a lot of money to do those things and we’re not going to get in the way of that.

Q.  Which coach will handle the running game?          

JOHN GIBBONS:  Luis will handle that, and Murph, and then me.

Q.  When you were interviewing with Alex on the weekend in Toronto, since then when you’re talking with players on the phone, has anyone mentioned the clubhouse situation late in the season, especially the players?  Have you talked to them about it?

JOHN GIBBONS:  No.  I had heard some things and read it, but I didn’t want to approach that.  You’re going to get guys, different views on what’s going on in there, and you’ve got ‑‑ I’m sure you run into guys that weren’t fond of somebody that might have been here, that kind of thing, so you’re going to get different stories and that kind of thing, so I didn’t want to approach that.

I’m taking over, so this is my chance to kind of shape the clubhouse the way I think it is.  I think they’ve got some good guys on the team, but there’s going to be a bunch of new faces, so you’ve still got to come together.

Q.  You mentioned your approach and philosophy.  How would you describe it?

 JOHN GIBBONS:  My personality or ‑‑

 Q.  Both.

 JOHN GIBBONS:  Well, I think any smart manager, you’ve got to take a look and see what you’ve got.  Like I said a minute ago, we’ve got really good team speed, we’ve got guys that can hit the ball in the seats.  And you’ve got to remember, too, in our division, it’s a good division for hitting home runs, too.  We’ve got guys that can do that, some guys that are just good hitters.

We’ll turn them loose when we need to and then it’s just pretty much just running the pitching staff is where everything comes into play.  Getting the most out of your players.  You’ve got to get the most out of who they are.  That’s what I think successful managers do.  I’ve said before, and I don’t want to minimize things, but baseball is different from other sports where it’s not all Xs and Os because most teams bunt at the same times, whatever the situation might be.  They’ll hit and run, steal and all that, depending on who’s on the mound.  You know what I’m talking about.  Fastball, play calling, Xs and Os is everything, so baseball is getting the most out of what you’ve got, and the guys that are successful in this business do that.  Your top managers, that’s what they do.  And then they’re smart enough, I believe, to get out of the way and let those guys ‑‑ you can’t control everything in this business.  That’s why you see talented teams win and less talented lose.  Turn them loose and let them use their skills.

Q.  A lot of times when you bring good players together, they don’t always match.

JOHN GIBBONS:  No doubt, yeah.

Q.  So that’s part of the job, too.

JOHN GIBBONS:  That’s a big part of it, yeah.  A lot of new faces.  Everybody has got to be looking for the same goal, and that’s to win.  You’d like that to always be the case, but different teams that’s not always the case.

So we’ve got to make sure we get that out of them, and I think we will.  But it should be fun.  But there’s no substitute for talent in this business, and so going in we’ve got a lot of talent.  That’s why we feel really good.

Q.  Is it going to be tough on you not having at least Lawrie and Reyes all Spring Training because of the World Baseball Classic and maybe some other guys?

JOHN GIBBONS:  Yeah, you’d rather have it the other way, but it’s been very successful.  It gives them a chance to represent their countries.  But you’d rather have it the other way because you want them doing their normal routine instead of going off and just playing games.  But nothing you can do about it.

Q.  Would you have anything to say about Bautista, whether he plays or not?

JOHN GIBBONS:  Well, I know the team’s, the ballclub’s, talked to him about it might be smart not to.  But if you get a chance to represent your country, that’s kind of tough to get in the way of that.  But you’re still ‑‑ your player is still your number one responsibility.  So whatever that means.

Q.  There’s been a lot of talk about expanding instant replay after some of the things that have happened.  What’s your view on that?

JOHN GIBBONS:  You know, I wouldn’t get carried away with it because I think that’s one of the beauties of the game is the human element.  The umpires, they don’t miss a lot.  Maybe fair or foul balls down the lines would be something I would look at to go along with the home runs.  But as far as trapped balls and things like ‑‑ I don’t know, now you’re getting ‑‑ expanding it any more than that, I think it would mess up the game too much.

Like I said, these guys are pretty good at what they do.  When you slow those things down and actually see it.  But we all make mistakes out there.  That’s one of the beauties of baseball.  The human element can get in the way sometimes. 

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