Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos made his way over to whichever far corner of the Opryland facility is hosting “radio row” and hopped onto the air with Jeff Blair and Dirk Hayhurst this morning on the Fan 590, discussing with them the dog and pony show that is the Winter Meetings, all the rumours surrounding his club, the likelihood of deals getting done, JP Arencibia’s bizarre confidence, and– as is always most important for fans of the Rogers-owned club– payroll.
Typically, he doesn’t say a whole lot. And what he does say leaves more than enough room for him to wriggle his way out of the statement, if somehow needed– he has indeed learned well from Paul Beeston– but that surely doesn’t mean it’s not still worthy of our scrutiny.
The big payroll discussion comes at the end of the club, specifically when Blair asks whether Anthopoulos would rule out his club getting into a ‘bidding war’ for one of the remaining free agent pitchers.
“Probably,” he explains, unsurprisingly opting not to overheat the salivary glands of every agent in the place. “Just with where we’re at, with what the prices seem to be, with the commitments we’ve already made from a payroll standpoint, we’d have to shuffle some things around to get into a ‘bidding war.’ I think otherwise it would have to be the right deal– it’s the right deal, the right price, and I go to Paul– but we’re pretty up there in terms of payroll right now. And again, it’s not to say it can’t be done, but being candid: unlikely.”
So you’re tellin’ me there’s a chance!
As is his style, Anthopoulos leaves the statement open enough for it to be read whichever way one pleases– provided you’re willing to try hard enough to be positive about the chances of a big signing still to come. Is he ultimately pessimistic but not quite ready to rule out a minute chance? Is he playing a PR game, merely trying to give the impression that more dollars won’t likely be squeezed out of him? Are we all working from the same definition of ‘bidding war’?
We’ve been down the road marked “payroll parameters” before, and from that experience should understand that it probably doesn’t serve to read so much into the few cracks of daylight in his words as to power our big-spending fantasies. But last month’s trade was a bit of a game changer, and I think it’s changed our expectations not just of the team on the field, but of how the club operates off of it. Fairly or not– warped to say so this soon after such a major commitment– it’s not enough for that to have been a one time thing.
And there doesn’t appear to be a major trade on the horizon either.
Again, AA’s posture here could simply be gamesmanship, but that increasingly feels like the kind of thing we’re forced to resort to when we don’t want to believe what he’s plainly saying.
“We really have not had any significant trade talks since we’ve been here– anything longer than three, four minutes over the phone,” he tells Blair, noting during another part of the interview that a big event like the Winter Meetings really isn’t needed to elicit trade talks, as they’ve been ongoing for several weeks and then some.
With that in mind, his answer is unsurprising when he’s asked if there’s any sort of makeup-changing deal out there for his club, explaining, “I don’t see a deal. I mean there’s a lot of players out there that certainly can, but I don’t see a deal. We’re not close to doing any deals at all. Right now we like the core of the team, the concern is always the depth of the team.”
Speaking of core pieces, Anthopoulos speaks to– though mostly skirts, and certainly does not confirm– the notion coming from JP Arencibia that the incumbent catcher has been told that he isn’t going to be traded.
“I can tell you that I normally don’t look to trade players that are part of our core,” the GM explains in general terms, “or certainly who we’ve signed long term. But if we do, you’re certainly going to look back and say, ‘you know what, it sucks that I have to go, but I understand why he did that deal, it’s probably going to make sense to the club.’ ”
Specifically asked why he thinks Arencibia is saying the things he’s been saying, Anthopoulos offers this:
“I think it’s a combination of things. When we made the trade– the same way as when we signed Cordero last year, and he was coming off 30 saves and 2.2 ERA with the Reds. I called Santos right away and I told him, ‘Look, it’s not changing your role on the team, you’re the projected closer, Cordero knows that as well.’ So when the trade was made, I let JP know that– John Buck and him have a relationship, but John Buck is coming in to be the backup, you’re still the starter. I just do that out of courtesy, not because people call me or are concerned. But I know that trades happen– it’s going through someone’s mind, they’re getting emails and texts and they’re getting hit up by media, so you just do it right away. Way back when David Eckstein was signed, John McDonald was called, because he was projected to be the starter. I just think it’s the right way to do things. Beyond that, I don’t promise anybody anything, but yeah, JP is our every day starter, he’s the guy that we plan on starting.”
Plans can change, of course, which is precisely why Anthopoulos says here that he doesn’t “promise anybody anything,’ and precisely why it’s never made sense to me that Arencibia thinks for certain that he’s staying. I wouldn’t bet against it– the odds that any particular player gets dealt in a given off-season are pretty low– but I still insist I won’t be shy about taking rumours he’s involved in seriously. Or… at least as seriously as I do all the other rumours that are floating around out there. Which is to say, not very seriously at all, frankly.
So… there’s that.