Alex Anthopoulos showed up on the Fan 590′s Prime Time Sports this afternoon (audio here), as well as on TSN 1050′s TSN Drive (though I’ll be citing the Sportsnet interview in this post, unless otherwise noted), and he offered up all kinds of interesting unicorn dust for the ol’ rumour mill, some of which actually sounded quite hopeful. Aaaaaand some of which that… well… didn’t so much.
At the very least it was intriguing, mostly because he offered a little more insight than usual into where the market is at and– at least as much as he is able to reveal– what his plans are. It’s a little disappointing, however, that despite his initial facade of insistence that they could involve any type of transaction, those plans would appear to revolve quite heavily around trades:
I would say that there’s a lot of variations to what we’d like to do, but there is definitely a short list of players that we’d like to get, and there are priorities; whether some are in trade, some are in free agency, those are the players we’d like to get– they’re the ones we’d like to acquire. And at the same time you have backup plans or other scenarios to protect yourself, but from our standpoint it’s a very focussed group, and a very focussed list, and some– I’d say actually a lot of them– are not out there in the media and not on the internet, and they’re harder to acquire, and the likelihood you acquire them is probably not high, but that’s what we’re trying to do. From there you have a backup list of free agency, and some other trade options that you still feel can make your club better. So, you really have to be flexible, and I think that’s why it’s so important to have the information of what the free agent market is doing, what the agents are going to ask for, where the dollars are going, and what other clubs needs are. Keeping your finger on the pulse at this time of year, I think, is very important.
Obviously we need to take anything that a GM says at this time of year with some giant grains of salt, but… if “a lot of them” aren’t in the media, and the contingencies are “other” trades, my suspicion is that we’re probably not talking about free agents here.
This isn’t shocking, though. What he says here fits quite entirely with everything we’ve ever heard about how the Jays are approaching the winter. It’s just, unfortunately, it maybe doesn’t quite fit our fantasies, in which the club looks to spend first and trade on-field assets later.
That would be doubly unfortunate because it’s not like Anthopoulos doesn’t understand the preferred route.
“In a perfect scenario you’d rather sign a free agent, if you can find the right value, and keep the assets you have, rather than make the trade,” he explained. “So, I know that for some trades that we’re trying to make, we’re being slowed up by teams waiting on free agents.”
OK, but… Alex, are you waiting on any free agents that are slowing up your own trades that are contingent on them?
I’d like to believe that could be the case, but it certainly sounded like he’s firmly on the other side of the equation. Interestingly, though, it also almost sounded– particularly in the TSN hit– as though he’s got some things that are essentially agreed to in principle and will go through as soon as a particular domino falls.
During the Fan 590 hit, he explained:
I was just having a conversation with a team last night; they have some interest in our players, but they basically said the interest is predicated on whether they lose out on some free agents, and those free agents are going to take a little bit of time. So I think this is going to be a very late-developing market. I think you’re going to have it going to the Winter Meetings, and absolutely you’re going to see a bunch of signings, potentially, off of the way to read it right now, going to January.
At least that leaves plenty of time for other things to develop. And just because nothing is imminent today doesn’t mean that things can’t change– “all of a sudden, you don’t think you have a need at a certain spot, but someone has interest in one of your players, and you may need to replace that player,” as Anthopoulos explained.
It’s still quite early in the process, in other words, even though that process is behind schedule as compared to last year.
“I can’t speak for clubs to say that they’re nervous about setting the bar,” he continued, trying to explain the slow-moving market. “Right now there’s so many options out there, you’ve got 30 clubs looking to trade, you’ve got a tonne of free agents out there, and you know that once you make a decision one way it really sets your whole off-season up, so I think everyone’s really careful before they jump in and they make that first move because of the chain reaction.”
One thing that could set off that kind of chain reaction is some kind of gigantic deal, and Anthopoulos has at least been kicking a couple of them around, even though whatever he has in his sights may mean having to part with some of the prospects that so many of us are terrified he’ll end up feeling he has no choice but to deal:
“I think you’d always prefer to keep your prospects if you can, but it comes down to what kind of value you’re going to get, the control you’re going to get back, how you value those players. So I think in the right circumstance, you can talk about anything. And I can tell you, there’s a player or two out there on the market that we’d have no problem surrendering our top guys [for]. I just don’t know that we’ll be able to make those deals, or those clubs will be motivated to move those players, or we’ll have the right fit. In a perfect world you’d always like to keep your young players– your young assets– but we definitely haven’t ruled it out in the right scenario.”
That’s… scary– unless he’s being far less evasive that we suspect, and is talking about someone like David Price– but at least it’s all theoretical for the moment.
Also theoretical: the notion that the club could end up keeping J.P. Arencibia– another scary idea that especially took hold among a few fans thanks to a tweet from Ben Nicholson-Smith that, in my view, didn’t quite have enough space in which to fully convey what was actually said during the chat.
Yes, as the tweet says, Anthopoulos admitted, “I don’t think we’ve ever looked at a scenario where J.P. would be a backup for us, or something like that. We’ve never talked about that as an option.”
And yes, he also said that he thinks Arencibia can bounce back, while also hinting that there may not be much on the horizon when it comes to the position. But that doesn’t mean we have to take such posturing seriously, or that he wasn’t actually damning his catcher with some seriously faint praise.
“Do we believe he’s the player he was last year? I would say no, at least from an offensive standpoint,” Anthopoulos explained. Meaning… uh… they think he is the guy that we saw on defence? That’s… uh… that’s not good.
He also added that he thinks Arencibia can hit more like the guy we saw in 2011 and 2012, which… uh… is also not good, since those would be seasons of 91 and 88 wRC+, and on-base percentages of .282 and .275.
Referring to internal metrics [note: swoon!] the GM also explained that Arencibia “hit the ball a lot harder than the results show,” which… I mean, obviously Arencibia hit the ball hard when his flailing, futile swings actually managed to square it up, it’s just that wasn’t remotely the issue. Nice item to bring up, though, if you’re trying to find whatever tiny speck of good you can in a still-movable players a-fucking-bysmal 2013.
So… yes, once again Anthopoulos failed to throw an asset he’s hoping to move under the bus as thoroughly as fans inexplicably expect, and failed to admit that a deal to land a replacement was imminent, but why the hell would he???
It’s funny that fans seem to want so badly to torture themselves with thoughts of Arencibia coming back when it is just so screamingly bloody obvious that a return is completely untenable. Especially given AA’s comments about Carlos Ruiz earlier in the interview; playing a little coy (not that coy, mind you, but a little) as he admitted that he had “ touched base with him– I don’t know that I’d get into anything more specific than that, but we had dialogue with the agent and we liked the player.”
Frankly, given the fact Anthopoulos admitted that Arencibia isn’t considered a possible backup for the club– which, let’s be honest, is precisely what he fucking is at this point– I’d actually think he’d almost have to be gone. No?
Personally, I find no need to worry in that. Nor do I find any need to worry that Anthopoulos won’t be able to do something that at least tries– and probably tries hard– to set up the 2014 season to be better than the last.
What’s still worrisome, however, is what it will look like if he once again ends up trying a little too hard, especially since it’s no longer clear whether the GM’s long-term interests line up with ours as fans, or whether parting with major prospects– in lieu of deeper financial reinforcements from Rogers– will end up becoming necessary in order to put together a 2014 roster that gives him the best possible chance of keeping his job. Ricciardi Redux.
Ultimately that’s what he’s playing for, and we don’t have much of a choice but to sit back and wait to see whether our possibly-diverging interests meet.
A GM with job security could play this off-season quite conservatively, banking on his prior acquisitions to rebound, looking to bridge to the future while hoping for the best for 2014, but quietly wondering what sorts of assets he might be able to get come July, should everything fall apart again. That, I’d say, is pretty close to where Ben Cherington was at last year, after saving his bosses so much money in his deal with the Dodgers, and where Anthopoulos once was too. No more, though. And while we’d all like to see a 2014 season that goes as well as it possibly can, shooting for the moon and missing again, and doing further damage to the years to follow, would be very troubling thing to see done ostensibly in the name of saving the GM’s job.
I’m not saying I necessarily think it’s going to end up that way, but the potential is hanging there, and Anthopoulos certainly didn’t do a whole lot today to dissuade anyone from thinking that trades– possibly big ones– are his main focus, even as he acknowledged that they’re not ideal in terms of maintaining his on-field assets. Ugh.
Then again, it’s all a P.R. game anyway, innit? I mean, why would he announce his intentions to spend big, or wink at the camera while telling us about the “big prospects” he’s unafraid to move, or the greatness he still sees in J.P. Arencibia? We can’t very well start cursing the franchise now, with everything this off-season still left to do, right?
We can, however, get bad feelings about what may be about to transpire, and I guess I’d be lying if I said Anthopoulos had done much today to prevent me from having one. But shit, this is always the worst part of the roller coaster ride and it usually ends up being a fuckin’ king hell of a blast. Hold on tight!
- Anthopoulos addressed the phony Bautista rumours again, “sometimes there’s rumours, and there might be 20% truth to them,” but the Domonic Brown one was like someone literally decided to make it up. “Sometimes when it’s so far off base you almost want to out the person who just makes stuff up,” he added.
- The basic principle of the phony deal, though, wasn’t necessarily so off-base. “If the right guy’s out there, and it’s a five-year deal, or a four-year deal, we wouldn’t be afraid to do that,” he said. “And in trade, obviously you’re going to target someone, most likely, who’s got some control and who’s young– the more the control and the better the contract, the more we’d be willing to surrender in young players.”
- Still, three years obviously was too much for Ruiz– though he praised the agent for the Phillies’ catcher, and noted that they were pretty clear that last year’s Russell Martin deal (two-years, $17-million) was the comp used. Ruiz wanted to come in north of that number, and waited on a three-year offer, Anthopoulos explained, because they were very confident they’d receive two. Doesn’t necessarily sound like just “touching base,” does it?
- The GM continued to be as non-committal on the Masahiro Tanaka issue as ever. “I think everyone would acknowledge that he’s talented and he can help a lot of teams,” he explained.
- Robinson Cano was briefly touched on, though not with respect to any interest the Jays might have. “I think he’s an outlier,” Anthopoulos said, referring to the fact that he didn’t think teams were waiting on a Cano deal to set the market.
- Even though it was much ballyhooed last year– mistakenly, it turns out– Alex says that he’s happier now than he was last year with his rotation depth, suggesting that they’re ten or eleven arms deep. “To put it into context, last off-season we had to sign a whole Triple-A rotation for the minor leagues, because we knew didn’t have the upper level depth because of guys coming back off of Tommy John. This off-season we haven’t targeted any minor league free agents for the starting rotation.”
- The door has essentially been closed on Josh Johnson. “Not to say that we won’t take some risk or some chances but, again, it comes down to, how much are you going to be paying for that risk? What’s the opportunity cost? There are obviously a lot of other guys still out there who we could get. So I think that the door’s still open, the conversation’s still there, but I would say that there might be better options for him in some other spots.”
- Another hollow point brought up by Anthopoulos in tepid defence of Arencibia was the fact that the only starter he’d caught all year was Mark Buehrle, who pitched pretty much exactly as expected. I’d bother quibbling with that if I thought it was a remotely reasonable way in which to evaluate a catcher.
- Extra tidbits from the TSN clip include the fact that AA said he’d spoken to Tim Hudson’s agent before the pitcher signed with San Francisco, his admission that Marcus Stroman is a guy who could compete for a job in Spring Training, and that, even though much may not be happening just yet, he has had plenty of dialogue and has all kinds of balls in the air.