Alex Anthopoulos hit the radio waves here in the Centre of the Universe this evening, jumping on the Fan 590 with Bob McCown and Stephen Brunt to… um… well, not for any particular reason, it would seem, but that doesn’t mean that he didn’t have a few interesting things to say. Of course, with Anthopoulos, what’s important can often be about what wasn’t said… I think. Maybe I just made that up. But for today, at least, if you’re like me and want to keep on pipe dreamin’ for at least another week about the possibility of Masahiro Tanaka, it was definitely probably true.
Meaning: he certainly didn’t indicate that they’re out of the running for the Japanese ace. Because I’m not delusional I expect that they eventually will be, but he didn’t deny a thing. Not even in the “Hello, Mr. Thompson” kind of way that he’ll often use to prod us to read between the lines.
That said, he didn’t offer a whole lot of anything concrete, speaking, as he often does, in the strictest of general terms. But that’s not to say he didn’t provide us with plenty of food for thought.
“We have had conversations on every available — via free agency and even trade — starter that we believe to be mid- to front of the rotation,” he explained. “We’ve had dialogue. I know how you love how I’m so vague on this stuff, but we’ve had dialogue, and to go any further than that, I wouldn’t. But safe to say that, without being specific about the player, anyone that we think is mid- to upper rotation, we’ve had dialogue with the agents, and done our work on it, and we’re going to see if we can get something to fit.”
He has referred to Tanaka as a front line starter before, so I think it’s safe to say there has at least been contact. And clearly he has thought about him, as a good chunk of the conversation focused on how to evaluate him.
“You did mention that he’s not a 98-mile-per-hour fastball guy,” he said at one point to McCown, “and he certainly doesn’t pitch there. He’s more of — at least in our reports — more of a guy that will sit 93, but we actually had him touch 98 twice at the end of the year — just touch it.”
He then spoke about looking at comparables, looking at how he’s getting hitters out, and added a couple more things that made it sound quite clearly as thought the club has done their due diligence on Tanaka, at the very least. For one, he noted that the balls used in the Japanese league this year had been altered to increase offence, which provides even more context for some of the numbers Tanaka put up. For two, he explained that, to top it all off, “obviously you’re getting medical information on a player, and you put that all in a pot and come up with a value you think the guy has.”
Again, all of that stuff was spoken in general terms, but add it all up and it doesn’t sound like a GM who isn’t interested. Even the fact that it’s reported Anthopoulos didn’t go to see Tanaka himself — as he did with Darvish — doesn’t necessarily suggest a mere perfunctory interest. It may be that Anthopoulos didn’t go himself in order to help throw reporters off the scent and better manage expectations, give the P.R. bomb the club dropped on itself when Yu Darvish went to the Rangers. It also has been reported that one of the club representatives that went to see him was trusted advisor Dan Evans, the former assistant GM and Director of Baseball Operations for the White Sox, and the GM of the Dodgers. Evans, for what little it may be worth, held the position in Los Angeles from 2001 to 2004, bringing Kaz Ishii to the club from Japan, and bringing back Hideo Nomo from the exile you probably don’t remember (from mid-1998 to 2001 Nomo played for the Mets, Brewers, Tigers and Red Sox).
If you think that’s grasping at straws in light of the fact that Tanaka’s agent, Casey Close, represents Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke, and Derek Jeter, you’d be right! But still, there are still positives to be taken from where the Jays are at — even if it’s a stretch to be dreaming on Tanaka, and even if it’s undeniable that they’re not doing much.
“Just judging from the first of January to now, the prices have changed over a two week period,” Anthopoulos explained, referring to the free agent market for top starters, “and I would expect — and we’ll obviously find out over the next week to two weeks — that they’ll continue to change, both up and down.”
“There’s a few free agents that we have the ability to sign them tonight,” he said, reiterating a line we’ve heard through much of the winter. “We know what the asking price is, and if I call the agent up and say, ‘Look, we’ll do that deal,’ pending, obviously, and examination, they would be Toronto Blue Jays.”
At the very least, it’s positive to know that these guys supposedly wouldn’t bat an eyelash at coming north of the border if the team was willing to overpay right into their hands, but I’m skeptical about how quickly they’d actually be able to get one of their names on a contract. After all, if an agent is willing to give the Jays the chance to counter any formal offer that comes in on their client — as is the case with at least one player, according to earlier comments from Anthopoulos — why wouldn’t they have the same sort of agreement with any number of teams? And with the Yankees and Dodgers still in the mix for starting pitching, and one of them — if not both! — bound to lose out on Tanaka, do we really believe an agent is going to give up his ability to use their resources to, at the very least, drive up the price, unless the asking price is bonkers enough that they know neither of those team would even touch it? Y’know, kind of like Anthopoulos is trying to tell us?
Shi Davidi’s latest at Sportsnet, despite a title somewhat incongruous to what he’s reporting — it refers to AA’s “risky tactics,” though the (legitimate) possibility of the club coming up empty is barely mentioned in the piece — is even more blunt about this obvious point of fact. “Industry chatter is that the market for the other three will remain on hold until Tanaka signs,” he says, which… totally, right? Some fans seem aghast that Anthopoulos would dare risk a win or two by not bending over for an agent and asking to be fucked here, but those are the types who are going to get hysterical about just about everything.
It’s especially bizarre since Alex makes clear that it’s not just the free agent market where he’s looking. Trades are possible too, and if he really gets desperate, there’s apparently one in particular he’s zeroed in on:
I think that the player that we’ve talked about in trade will be available come Spring Training, will be available during the year, and I wouldn’t expect that to change. Of course, it can, but I don’t expect it to.
Besides, he tries to tell us, maybe you don’t want those stinky free agent guys anyway!
And free agency wise, there’s a lot of other information on some these players that not everyone has– health concerns, obviously there’s different things involving make up, and so on, and that factors into your price point and your value of the player.
Of course, those kinds of things could all just be on Matt Garza, who is known to have had trouble with his temper, trouble with Eric Sogard (and his wife) on Twitter, and may well have some scary medicals, too, but… who knows?
At least Anthopoulos is being pretty reasonable about it all:
So, we do have a value on the player, and if we can get those players at that price, yeah, we’ll do it, but we’re not going to force a move and do what we deem to be a bad move or a significant overpay just for the sake of doing it.
Sometimes you do have to overpay just to make sure you get the player, but it’s not like Anthopoulos hasn’t done that, either. It’s just not usually in terms of money, but let’s not forget the price paid for R.A. Dickey last winter. Some might even tell you that J.A. Happ was a pretty big overpay, too. At least one of them was, and for sensible enough reason, too. It’s very, very easy to get cynical with this club sometimes, and maybe Anthopoulos has put himself in a place where he needs to pull one out right at the death, but maybe let’s not all rush for the exits just because he’s got one strike on him and is down to his last out, eh?
He put together a team that a lot of people thought would be excellent last year. For whatever reason — no, not the manger, dipshit — it didn’t work out. But maybe he’s still got a little magic left in him for this off-season yet…
AA: “Too hard to tell” if he’ll be on the phone re: Tanaka at the 11th hour, but he thinks some might. Him? “I have no idea. We’ll see.”
— Andrew Stoeten (@AndrewStoeten) January 16, 2014
If he’s saving it for something, he’s at least picked the right thing to save it for.