Alex Anthopoulos hit the radio airwaves last night, chatting with Bob McCown and Stephen Brunt of Prime Time Sports on the Fan 590, and while he didn’t reveal too much — as is his usual style — he did actually give us quite a bit of food for thought, as he wandered into some territories where he normally wouldn’t go.
Specifically, he said all this:
On the future of Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion:
With some of our core players — everybody always points to and asks about Bautista and Encarnacion — you look at a guy like Bautista: he’s 33-years-old right now, he’s someone that if you look his body type and his work ethic and the way he takes care of himself, I expect him to be a productive player until his late thirties or even forty. I certainly know he’s going to have the desire to do that. And you look at whether it’s the Raul Ibanezes, or Edgar Martinezes, or even a guy like Carlos Beltran or a guy like Ortiz — those guys into their mid-to-late thirties are highly productive. And Encarnacion is, I believe, 31, and because they have two years left on their contracts — a year and an option — that certainly doesn’t eliminate the possibility that we don’t sit down with those guys at some point and start adding on some years. So it’s not strictly a two-year window with those guys. they have two years currently, but we think they’re going to be productive for a long time and they absolutely can be part of another wave here, another core for four or five years beyond that.
As much as some fans are ready to tear the entire team apart, I think he’s absolutely right here, and the more you think of it, why the hell shouldn’t this be the winter where something gets done — before these guys get too close to free agency. The club only has the $22-million for Jose Reyes on the books for 2017, and nothing beyond that, so deals where you make Edwin and Jose’s club options for 2016 official, and then buy out a couple more free agent years after that? Even if you’re doing so at some pretty hefty prices, the security might absolutely be worth it, and it shouldn’t kill your payroll.
That last bit is especially true because the club has so much young talent coming up, which Anthopoulos also addressed…
On 2015 roster construction, and his club’s odd mix of youth and veterans:
Normally I think if you were going completely young next year you’d have to make some decisions there, but we think some of the young guys who’ve come up and started to establish themselves — they’re performing at a high level, so it’s that much more exciting, like you said, with the fact that they are young, that they’re under control for a long time, that they add payroll flexibility going forward. But the fact that Stroman’s got less than a year of service at this point, and we control him for six more years beyond this year, and so on, he fits in great with Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion, and Buehrle and Dickey, because he’s performing at a high level right now.
Even a guy like Aaron Sanchez — we haven’t had a chance to see him in the rotation, but we think he can hit the ground running. In a perfect world, you actually have a roster that’s composed of both [youth and experience] and you get to mix it a little bit and you get to integrate some guys.
Now, if you’d told me banking on guys like Dalton Pompey that are just making their way through the minor leagues, and have had a quick[-moving] season, and you have a lot of guys like that that you’re trying to hit — to integrate — it would be totally different. But we think the young players we have are ready to contribute and are ready to be above average players right now. And if anything, we’re just going to look to continue to add to that.
Sitting here, it sure looks like you could do a whole lot worse in 2017 and 2018 than having Bautista, Encarnacion, and (at least for the first year) Reyes as your really big ticket guys, and a rotation built on guy just barely hitting arbitration for the first time. Then again, it wasn’t long ago that we were looking at years of rotations headlined by Ricky Romero and Brandon Morrow, so maybe we shouldn’t get too ahead of ourselves, but still, to me that’s a better long-term vision than the silliness I hear sometimes like, “let’s just blow it up, get whatever prospects we can, and hope some of them end up good enough that we don’t end up wasting the best cheap years of guys like Stroman, Sanchez, Norris, and Hutchison.”
On priorities for the 2015 off-season:
Anthopoulos continued addressing the balance of youth and experience on his roster, before taking us on a whirlwind tour of vacillating opinion about what his top priority will be going into the winter…
We certainly have some outfield depth with some of the young guys, but I certainly can’t sit here and say that I know for certain that any of our younger outfielders are prepared to be everyday players, or to have success. We talked about the Red Sox earlier — they have a bunch of really talented young players, but you just don’t know when you’re turning it over to too many young players, how they’re going to react to a full season. So, I’d say the outfield, one way or the other [is a priority] — two of three spots [being occupied by impending free agents] is significant, and we’re going to need to address that as well. [However,] I think internally, because we have outfield depth, and we think it’s — we’re a little bit maybe in a better position to take our time on it.
That’s not to say that we’re not interested in bringing those guys back, but I’d say more, we’d love to try to get an established second or third baseman. It’s been a revolving door now for a few years. Just to have someone who can be a mainstay. Now, obviously Brett’s going to be playing one of those two spots, but to have somebody else — I know whether we’ve had Kawasaki and Goins and whether we’ve mixed and matched with Tolleson and Valencia and Francisco and so on. To have someone that’s more of an established guy there, that would be ideal. But, to answer the question, probably, two thirds of the outfield is significant one way or the other — that would probably be the priority off the top of my head, and that might change a month from now, depending on how guys play.
Lots going on here: we’ve got interesting stuff on how he’s not entirely sold on the youth in his outfield — something that I think was obvious based on the John Mayberry Jr. trade, as Mayberry is a relatively similar piece to Kevin Pillar, only with actual big league success on his resume — and how Brett Lawrie’s days as a second baseman may be far from over. We’ve, sadly, got absolutely no acknowledgement of the fact that Jose Reyes ought to be moved off of shortstop, or that fact that his pride isn’t worth the defensive hit the club will take by continuing to run him out there. And, almost as frustratingly, we have Alex talking as though he has zero concept of an appropriate sample size to make an evaluation in, suggesting that some outfielder might be able to Eric Thames his way into seizing a role on next year’s club with a solid month of September — and perhaps, if we want to be cynical about it, planting the seed of an excuse for not doing what a lot of fans see as the club’s most important piece of business this winter. That is, of course…
On extending Melky Cabrera:
We love him, he’s been great. He’s had a great year, and I think he enjoys being here and I think he wants to be back here. Beyond that, I probably wouldn’t say a whole lot more. But I think everybody we have here that’s a free agent is very willing to come back. Obviously it has to make sense for them, especially as they get close to free agency, they have options. And it’s more challenging when you get to this point, because there’s a lot of incentive for those players to test the market, being as close as they are. And that’s not saying that’s going to rule us out, but I think all these guys — I think every free agent we have — there’s a level of interest we would have to bring them back. Whether we can agree on years and dollars is a separate factor. And for some players we’ve got the qualifying offer component that we can certainly place on them, and we’ll make that decision when the time comes, but I’d say every free agent, at the right price, they all have a value to us, they’re all guys we’d like to have back.
Well, alright, so that’s not a whole lot that’s specifically about Cabrera — or anybody, frankly. But… well… just fucking sign Melky, OK?
Though the fact that he brought up the qualifying offer is at least something. The Jays will undoubtedly extend one to him, and that — along with the previous P.E.D. suspension, most likely — will certainly depress the market for Cabrera. The Jays may end up having to let this one play out for a long time before they get something done — and the fact that Alex spoke about at least having some young outfield depth is maybe telling — but that all depends on where the market’s at.
Hopefully he takes the same approach as he spoke about with reference to one of his other sure-to-be free agents:
On Brandon Morrow:
Anthopoulos said he was open to the possibility of bringing Morrow back while, hypothetically, not picking up his $10-million club option:
We did it with Edwin Encarnacion years ago — when we wanted to bring him back, he was eligible for arbitration and was probably scheduled to earn about $7-million, and we weren’t prepared to pay that, but we had interest in bringing him back, and he had interest in coming back here, so we worked something out that he could test the market and see what was out there. And we agreed that we would talk again once he felt that his value was clearly defined — and this isn’t specific to Brandon, but with anybody that has an option, you always have that ability, as long as there’s dialogue and communication and desire on both sides. You’re not married to that option, I mean, it gives you some kind of starting point, but if you can’t come to terms you still can decline that option and renegotiate some other deal.
That same stuff applies, I think, to Melky, and hopefully the Jays can find a way to make it happen there. As for Morrow, the $10-million is pretty clearly out of the question (shit, Dustin McGowan’s $4-million option might be!), but he’s certainly an intriguing relief possibility, as Alex admits:
Velocity was great, he had a lot of angle and downhill plane, and an explosive fastball. I never seemed to see a plus slider that we know is in there, but that can come tonight if he gets a chance to pitch — and getting back to the big league level, that just would have been reps to get that slider back. I have every confidence in the world with how he looks right now that Brandon — it would not surprise me if he looks like an elite level reliever when he comes out there.
That all said, he was non-committal on how he saw Morrow’s future role, saying that it’s largely up to the player himself. If Morrow wants another chance to start — and you could hardly blame him for taking that more lucrative route if he wanted to — there’s probably not going to be a place for him here any longer. He’s certainly an intriguing relief option though.
How much can the club even afford to allocate to the bullpen, though? Anthopoulos himself doesn’t yet seem to know…
Inevitably, Alex was asked about where payroll is going to be next year — or, at the very least, when he’ll have an idea of where it will be — and inevitably he was unable to say much:
At some point once the season’s over we start to get together and have some meetings and we start to formalize and get some direction as to where we’d like the payroll area to be, and then we move forward with our off-season, and that can adjust here and there, as we move along.
Prodded to elaborate on the process, he spoke a little to whose ass at Rogers the club’s payroll number will be pulled from:
Paul is more the one to ask on that. I would assume — and I’m talking a little bit out of turn here because I’m not involved in the decision-making with respect to how they get to the number. Paul will ask me specifically who are some free agents we’d like to go after, who might we be looking at in trade, are we looking to do anything with our internal players’ extension. But he’s the one that looks at what we’re generating from TV dollars, and what we’re going to generate from an attendance standpoint. There’s clearly a revenue-generating component to that number and what the projections are, but what completely goes into it I don’t know. I don’t get involved in our TV deals, I don’t get involved in our sales, attendance, suites, corporate partnerships — all those type of things, I’m not in those meetings, I’m not involved in that side of things. But I would think that those are all things that, for lack of a better analogy, get put into a stew and then they come up with a number at that point.
Here’s an idea for you, Rogers: once you come up with whatever number out of this magic stew, how about you add another ten or twenty million to it and actually not waste another fucking year of this team sitting on the cusp of being a real contender — and a ratings and box office juggernaut, FY fucking I — while falling barely, achingly short of having the resources needed to actually put them into that position? Huh, ya assholes?
On whether he believes the team is currently playing meaningful games:
Yes, but I also am a realist and understand that we need to have a great month — we need to have a month like we had in May. And clearly, as I say that I’m going to talk about [Cleveland] going 21-6 last September to get in. We need have one of those types of months, where we have a 20-win month or whatnot, and get really hot. I think we’re capable of doing that, but I understand it’s not easy. Certainly it’s going to be challenging, but that was a lot of the decision-making with some of the call-ups. We wanted to bring everybody up who we thought could help us win games, because crazier things have happened. We’ve seen Tampa do it a few years back, and we’re certainly capable.
This seems pretty damn fair to me. Not a lot of false hope being sold, which is pretty much all we can ask for. I’d add something like “not that anyone would be crazy enough to paint a rosier picture anyway,” but… uh… I seem to remember something about his predecessor and the idea of being “in it” if you’re within ten games back by September first. Or something like that. I’m always quick to defend front office folks when fans lose their heads because of their filthy fucking lying, because that’s a huge part of their job, but I must admit… this sort of honesty is definitely better.