Archive for the ‘Anthopoulos Speaks!’ Category

07-BigAnthopoulos

The Blue Jays aren’t planning on moving their core players this winter.

Those aren’t exactly the words of Alex Anthopoulos, and I’d feel better seeing a direct quote — though I probably wouldn’t look any less crooked at the word “planning” if it were — but that’s what it says, clearly and unambiguously, in Bruce Arthur’s piece from Friday morning’s Toronto Star.

People can throw up trial balloons about trading Jose Bautista while he’s still dominant or trading Mark Buehrle or Jose Reyes to shed the salaries, but that’s not the plan. The Blue Jays aren’t planning to disassemble this group, failures and all. Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion are under contract for two more seasons, for a preposterous combined cost of $24 million. The consensus is Anthopoulos is safe for now, so he thinks the window stretches that long, at least.

It’s at that point in the piece that we pick up Anthopoulos, speaking — as we’ve heard before — about wanting to continue to build around his superstar, middle-of-the-order bats, and doing so beyond the end of their contracts.

That’s all well and good, but for me what doesn’t quite compute is what happens next: Arthur talks about the money, and how there essentially is nowhere to go.

We all know that story, of course, though the piece does introduce a couple interesting side notes — there’s the one about Bob Elliott’s mid-summer reporting of eight players who said Edward Rogers himself told the team money would be there if the club was in contention at the trade deadline, which of course didn’t happen, and the somewhat terrifying thought that “Rogers allowed the Marlins trade two years ago because team president Paul Beeston [noted math whiz, presumably wearing a green eyeshade] ran the numbers and told them the team wouldn’t lose money on it.” But what’s gets me is how Anthopoulos intends now to pull the magic trick he was unable to last winter or at this year’s deadline. Because he certainly is itching to do something.

“Do I think we’re close? Yes. Am I excited about this off-season, which is maybe the first time that I’ve said that? Yes I am. I’m excited,” he tells Bruce. “And maybe I’m excited about it because . . . there’s a good chance there’s going to be some turnover, and I’m excited about the core we have, and we have a blend of young and older players, and it could make for a really interesting off-season. Exciting.”

Yes, exciting. And it’s great to hear that at least the public intention is there to have some much-needed turnover at the back end of the roster. But can it be enough? Can several Kratz-and-Hendriks-for-Valencia-type deals end up consolidating a lot of this club’s dreck into the one or two (or three or four) quality pieces they’ll need?

It would be great if it could work, and I can completely envision a person like Anthopoulos champing at the bit to do his best impression of a kid baseball card collector trading doubles to try and complete his set. He might even have a couple of nice chips to be moved — J.A. Happ springs immediately to mind. But is that really a more effective strategy than, say, eating enough of Mark Buehrle’s salary to move him for a small piece and enough financial relief to ensure the team can pay Melky what they have to and still have enough to fill holes in other areas?

Maybe that’s where the word “planning” comes in. Well, we weren’t planning on doing this, but someone came along and blew our doors off, as they say.

But maybe not. Arthur points out the preposterously low amount being paid to Bautista and Encarnacion over the final two years of their contracts. By extension, their bargain basement salaries (relatively speaking) mean that, as a group, the Jays’ veteran core of Bautista, Encarnacion, Reyes, Buehrle, and Dickey will each average just $15.6-million in 2015 — not great, but hardly terrible for the 3.75 fWAR per player output the group averaged this season. And there’s also the fact that, with just $27-million committed for 2016, $22-million for 2017, and none beyond that, the Jays may be able to be players for Melky regardless of this year’s likely financial crunch by offering him a backloaded deal.

And, as should always be noted when discussing these matters, we also need to remember that Anthopoulos may have something of an agenda here, too — or at the very least a keen awareness of the power of his words. He’s certainly not going to tell the fans and tell his fellow general managers that he’s going to try to trade away his key guys. He’s not going to run down his players’ value by admitting certain guys aren’t worth being in the plans at their salaries.

But my sense is he really is just being honest — at least on the stuff that doesn’t reflect one way or the other on his bosses — and that’s Bruce’s too. “Maybe Anthopoulos has no choice but to be upbeat, but he’s never been a liar,” he writes.

If that means Bautista and Encarnacion are coming back, terrific. But beyond that… well… cling tight to your righteous indignation, children, because we may be in “for an interesting off-season. Exciting.”

AAscrum

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.”

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morrowhand

According to my Twitter feed, and the various Jays beat grunts who populate it, Alex Anthopoulos spoke to the media ahead of tonight’s game in Philadelphia, and offered a few interesting updates…

Brandon Morrow

Well… sure, OK. Obviously there are some huge grains of salt needed here — nobody knows precisely how Morrow is going to recover (and his diabetes complicates things), plus Anthopoulos may not want to indicate that he’s more desperate for pitching than he really is, and he may simply be putting on an optimistic face — but that’s better news than bad news.

No, really. I know that when word arrived over the weekend that Morrow might be out for the year, a lot of fans seemed oddly relieved and glad to hear that the experimenting was over and of the possibility that the club won’t be hanging their hope on him for yet another season next year (given the unlikelihood of their picking up his $10-million option for 2015 if he were to miss the rest of the year). I do entirely get why, on a visceral level, knowing full well how frustrating he can be to watch pitch when he’s not going right (and how often that happens to be), people might tend to think that way. But it’s also ridiculous. Having a Morrow healthy and on the roster is a much better thing than not, and if your personal best case scenario is that, when he gets back, the rotation is rolling with Stroman and McGowan, and everybody’s healthy, so they just slide Morrow to the bullpen, that’s totally fine.

Shit, it’s probably my best case scenario, too.

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keripodcast

Yesterday over at Grantland, Jonah Keri has relaunched his podcast for 2014, and — lo and behold! — Alex Anthopoulos was the lead guest, offering much of the same kind of stuff that we’ve heard from him over the past year, but with enough twists to keep it fresh and interesting — and, at times, somewhat maddening.

Actually it probably doesn’t even reach quite the level of “maddening” — what he offers us is quite a bit more good than bad, I’d say — but in there we still manage to find a little bit of revisionist history, a little bit of dancing around Jonah asking the crucial question when it comes to the idea that pitchers are afraid to sign here, a little bit of goalpost pushing, and a little bit of hollowly saying exactly what you’d expect him to about Colby Rasmus.

Some highlights!

On the off-season…

Asked to give an overview of how the Jays got to where they are, and failed to make a splash this winter, Anthopoulos an excellent of walking the tightrope between pure honesty and putting as positive a spin on things as he could. To wit:

When the season was over we didn’t know the status of Brandon Morrow. He was going to throw, basically, a simulated game early- to mid-November, and we were going to have to wait to find out how he was going to do, and if he was going to be ready for Spring Training. That was going to dictate some of the factors in the off-season. A guy like Drew Hutchison, that we were really high on in 2012 before he got hurt — as a 21-year-old and really started to turn the corner — he was going to go out and pitch in the fall league and we wanted to go out and see him and evaluate him. I got a chance to see him in November as well, and he really turned the corner. So, once Morrow had come out of his simulated games and had a clean bill of health, and we had full expectations for him in Spring Training, and seeing Drew’s progress in the fall league, we felt that was two starters that we didn’t have that we were going to add to the rotation.

We still wanted to be able to add one more starter if we could, via free agency or trade, but we didn’t want to force anything. There were some trade talks that we had that ultimately didn’t materialize — we would have had to force a move, and we obviously didn’t believe in doing that.

That’s not an incorrect chronology of events, and the stuff about how good they ended up feeling about Morrow and Hutchison isn’t new either, it’s just… really? I mean, where was this “if Morrow’s OK and Hutchison looks great, we really only want to add one starter — but only at the right price” stuff back in September, when pitching was the number one priority and they were bound and determined to find a way to improve? Because I didn’t hear it, and I certainly don’t think that it was by design that the Blue Jays’ rotation looks the way it does today.

Maybe I’m overdue for a tinfoil hat, but that spin on things sure seems exactly to me like the cheap veneer the Jays prefer to use when covering over whatever strangeness went on behind the scenes this winter.

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santanawren

Alex Anthopoulos met with Jeff Blair on his Fan 590 radio show this morning in an uncomfortable, fascinating interview that curiously didn’t begin when it was originally scheduled, and featured the GM, at one point, holding himself back from speaking, because he didn’t want to “spark something.”

The subject matter was, of course, the freshly-announced signing of Ervin Santana by the Atlanta Braves, and while Anthopoulos danced around saying anything terribly concrete how his team factored into the deal, he did all he could to make clear that the Jays thought the had a deal with the pitcher, presumably on Saturday when it was being reported a deal was imminent.

Of course, if Alex’s aim was to say that but not say it, he could have briefed ol’ Gibbers on it first:

I guess Gibbons was just hinting it, too, but clearly that’s what happened. Or… at least… that’s the story.

Or, actually it’s the unofficial, wink-wink, nudge-nudge, story.

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AAst

Alex Anthopoulos met with the media yeterday morning in Dunedin and said exactly what anybody who’d given it two thoughts ought to have expected him to say about his club’s stand pat off-season, giving fans one final opportunity to vomit up as much winter negativity as their innards could summon before spring officially began. Even the calling of the session itself and its live broadcast online (on TSN only, as the Sportsnet feed of their parent company’s club’s GM’s potential self-immolation mysteriously succumbed to technical difficulties at the last minute) proved contentious among some fans, underlining the utter loss of perspective that seems to me to be characterizing this tail end of the off-season. After all, the media availability was almost certainly just a rote exercise on the first day in which all players are required to be at camp.

Negativity and disappointment directed at this club is, of course, justified, but some fans seem to believe that grants them license to act like spoiled children incapable of acknowledging nuance or any speck of thought that doesn’t enable them to piss and shit that negativity anywhere, and as though anyone who isn’t satiating their blind, deaf, and dumb thirst for acknowledgement of their supposed victimhood is a weaselly apologist with some kind of agenda hidden behind incomprehensible logic.

It’s not a monolith, of course. Many fans are able to swallow the bitter pills this club has been asking us to swallow this winter — the wholly disingenuous posturing as though they have no concept of realistic expectations on the free agent market; the bizarre acknowledgement that Ryan Goins isn’t a permanent second base solution, but that he is somehow the best they’re willing to do in what seems like it ought to be a crucial few months in early 2014; the sudden finding of religion on notions of the quality of their internal pitching options — with the understanding that this isn’t the end of the world. Unfortunately, as is usually the case, their voices aren’t nearly as loud as their whiny counterparts.

That’s because it’s hard to say in this climate of negativity that Anthopoulos is right when he points to health as the major factor behind last season’s disaster, but he is. It’s hard to look at the  projections with enough perspective to wrap your head around how they’re fluid, imperfect, and hardly a substitute for actually playing the games.

And it’s easy as fuck to fake pity everyone who won’t goose-step along with you in the moronic doom and gloom brigade and pretend like it takes some measure of wit to regurgitate irrelevant noise like a club history that has zero bearing the here and now, to feign expertise on matters of health, or to narrowly pick at a single statement or inaction as though it’s all that’s needed to prove the club’s entire existence is an affront to everything good and true and that doesn’t smother puppies to death.

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aasquest2

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.

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