Rumours and the Toronto Blue Jays have gone hand-in-hand since Alex Anthopoulos brought his cone of silence to 1 Blue Jays Way, largely due to the fact that the club’s commitment to neither confirming nor denying anything allows them to be used by others to inflate a market or to make it look like they have inside information when they really don’t. As a consequence, a lot of what is rumbling out there on the internet turns out to be completely untrue.
Because of this, I seem to always take flack (read: shit) whenever posting one of the many rumours that fly especially fast and furious at this time of the year. Inevitably someone will bring up the “fact” that if we’re hearing about the Jays being up to something, it’s almost certainly false.
This kind of stuff has been repeated so often that I get the sense that some people actually think that not only is it true, but it’s so true that it’s a waste of time to even bother looking at what’s being rumoured– even in instances where it’s obvious that the speculation we’re seeing is not necessarily based on actual conversations with people involved in trade talks, but on groping around to try and figure out what the club may be thinking, and what hypothetical pieces may find their way into a real world deal.
Thing is, MLB dealings aren’t quite such a complicated and ethereal thing– even when the Anthopoulos-era Jays are involved– and by examining whatever shreds of evidence and speculation we can get our hands on, we can often see a lot more of the picture than we realize. Or, at least, more than AA’s reputation suggests.
That doesn’t mean we aren’t often or won’t continue to be surprised by the deals that he executes, but it’s to suggest that there’s definite value in taking in all that’s out there.
Since taking over for JP Ricciardi on October 3rd, 2009, Alex Anthpoulos has made, by my count, nine majorly significant transactions:
- Trading Roy Halladay to the Phillies
- Acquiring Brandon Morrow from Seattle
- Signing Cuban defector Adeiny Hechavarria
- Acquiring Yunel Escobar from Atlanta
- Flipping Brett Wallace to Houston for Anthony Gose
- Trading Shaun Marcum for Brett Lawrie
- Unloading Vernon Wells on the Angels
- Acquiring Colby Rasmus from St. Louis
- Acquiring Sergio Santos from the White Sox
It’s mostly through these deals that Anthopoulos has fashioned his reputation as a stealthy wheeler-dealer, and while it’s true that many were surprising– the Wells and Santos transactions were particular shockers– the myth doesn’t really hold up in the light of reality.
And by reality I, of course, mean checking for stuff that was being said before these deals went down on Google, this site, and– most invaluably by far– MLB Trade Rumors.
While the Wells and Santos transactions were the epitome of Anthopoulos at his stealthiest, the Halladay deal was excruciatingly public and full of rumblings of innuendo that ended up having followed the scent rather closely. As an extension of the swirling clusterfuck around Halladay, for example, we learned that the Jays had their eye on Anthony Gose, and while it was definitely a surprise that they flipped presumed-coveted first base prospect Brett Wallace to the Astros once Gose had moved there in the Roy Oswalt trade, it’s hard to categorize that one as coming from way out of left field. No, it wasn’t talked about for days before the trigger was actually pulled on the deal, but those who had followed the many twists and turns of the Halladay saga shouldn’t have been surprised to see that Anthopoulos kept Gose in the back of his mind, and ultimately found a way to get his man.
Some of the other deals I’ve listed have those kinds of elements as well.
During a confusing mess of a day in December 2009, when the Phillies traded Cliff Lee to Seattle and acquired Roy Halladay from the Jays, Jon Morosi and Ken Rosenthal wrote that Brandon Morrow was “in play” in what was then thought of as a three-team deal.
Nothing specific is said about the Jays having an interest in Morrow, but this was reported at a time when it looked like the Jays may have been receiving players from both Philadelphia and Seattle in the deal.
His was a name among many that surfaced during that period as being players the Jays were interested in, which made it hard to separate the serious from the unserious whispers, but obviously Morosi and Rosenthal were on to something with that report. Morrow ended up being dealt to the Jays in a second deal, straight-up with Seattle for Brandon League and Johermyn Chavez, about a week later.
Hechavarria is one of the more blatant examples of a player known to be of interest to the Jays long before Anthopoulos was able to acquire him. It was in mid-February, 2010, that the baseball world was waiting for the Cuban defector to be “unblocked” by the Office of Foreign Asset Control. On the 25th of that month that Jordan Bastian, then of BlueJays.com, wrote that the Jays were interested, though many teams at the time were still reportedly in play.
The club was linked to Hechavarria a few times on MLBTR over the next month, before word broke on March 14th that the Jays had signed him. Even then, for legal and technical reasons, the club would not comment on him until officially announcing the signing almost a month later, on April 13th.
The Escobar deal could be listed with Wells and Santos among the most surprising ones that Anthopoulos has pulled off, simply because it looked at the time as though the club had a decent shortstop in Alex Gonzalez, and wouldn’t jump into the market to create a redundancy. However, there was perhaps at least one small breach of total stealthiness, as on July 6th, 2010, Jerry Crasnick of ESPN wrote that teams were calling Atlanta looking to “bottom feed” on Escobar, who was in the midst of a thoroughly disappointing season. The Jays weren’t mentioned by name, but we now know that this is one of AA’s favourite tricks, and these days we’d immediately consider Anthopoulos among the GMs who’d be doing such a thing.
Amazingly, these rumours were swirling around Escobar just one year removed from MLBTR printing this gem about him, from MLB.com’s Mark Bowman: “There is zero truth to those Escobar rumors. The Braves have NO and I repeat no intention to move him. Believe me, if they move him, it will simply be a deal that they simply can’t refuse and that wouldn’t include anything involving Holliday.”
Yes, he’s referring to Matt Holliday. And… um… wow.
Escobar was traded to the Jays for 80 cents on the dollar a little over a week after Crasnick’s tweets.
Shaun Marcum/Brett Lawrie
The specific date may be foggy in your brain, but you may remember that, rather amazingly, on June 26th, 2010– more than five months before the deal went down– MLBTR wrote these exact words based on a video report filed by Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports:
“The Brewers are still searching for pitching, and the Blue Jays could be a potential match. Toronto likes Double-A infielder (and Canadian) Brett Lawrie, but the Brewers would be reluctant to trade him. They would have to consider it if he could land them someone like Brett Cecil or Shaun Marcum, though.”
No, seriously, five months prior, that’s what was really written. And while, no, we’re weren’t seeing reporters beating the drum for this trade weeks in advance of it happening, it was definitely out there, even if only in the mind of Kenny Ken Ken.
Of course, if you remember back further, word was the Jays were enamoured of Lawrie in the lead-up to the 2008, only to see him scooped by the Brewers with the 16th pick. The Jays took David Cooper at 17.
With all of the public acrimony between Rasmus and Tony La Russa, over his final years in St. Louis there was a wealth of speculation about Colby being moved– including to the Jays, on this very site in March of last year, as provoked by some Twitterings from Drew, back when he was doing Ghostrunner.
Similar to Escobar, MLBTR mentioned in January of 2011 that the Cards had been receiving calls from teams “bottom fishing” on Rasmus, which we could take as an indication of Anthopoulos sniffing around, if we really want to stretch things. Of course, prior to that, in October 2010, after it became public that Rasmus had requested a trade, we passed along a note about Mike Wilner having asked Alex Anthopoulos about the Rasmus situation during a playoff pre-game show. Additionally, there was some Rasmus speculation with a Jays bent in a Keith Law chat, which I cut-and-pasted along three days prior.
Sure the only “involvement” you could pin on the Jays here amounted mostly to speculation, but Rasmus is another player who was being talked about widely in the weeks and months before the Jays found a way to pry him loose.
It’s undeniable that, at least since the Halladay trade, the Jays’ involvement in deals that are imminent hasn’t become day-to-day fodder for the rumour mill. The total silence that Alex Anthopoulos insists upon seems to serve its purpose in that regard. But the notion that these rumblings aren’t worth following at all– whatever giant grains of salt may be required– or don’t provide any value or insight into the club’s plan of attack, or– worse still– should be taken prima facie as false, because of the ridiculous maxim that says nothing we hear could possibly have any basis in fact, is beyond wrongheaded.
It’s certainly not easy to navigate our way through the unyielding din of Jays rumours at this time of year, but that doesn’t mean it’s without value to try, or that we wouldn’t be robbing ourselves of one of the magnificent aspects of being a fan by assuming their intentions, or whatever interpretation we’re given of them, are completely impenetrable, and therefore unworthy of any consideration at all.
Before the next two weeks are up Anthopoulos may astound us with a deal that’s completely from left field, burnishing his “Ninja GM” reputation, but it’s very possible that the seeds of it are already out there.
Image via Stephen Dunn/Getty.