6:20 PM Central

When the team you’re covering doesn’t transact any business on a given day at the Winter Meetings, the highlight of that day is the evening sit-down with the General Manager.

Alex Anthopoulos met with the Toronto media for close to 45 minutes after a productive, but ultimately fruitless Day One here in Dallas, and he feels as though it’s unlikely the Blue Jays will wind up getting anything done before they leave the lovely Hilton Anatole.

Things can heat up in a hurry, no question, and a deal that was simmering on the back burner can get moved up front and then get done in a heartbeat, but right now Anthopoulos says his sense is that things are moving slowly.  He wasn’t sure whether it was because everyone had to wait for the Collective Bargaining Agreement or for some other reason, but he said it’s as though things are about two weeks behind where they were at this point last season.  And last season it was the night before the Winter Meetings began that the Jays traded Shaun Marcum to the Brewers for Brett Lawrie.

The famous quote from Anthopoulos Sunday night that he was on the five-yard line with a bunch of deals didn’t quite mean that he was about to punch the metaphorical ball into the end zone anytime soon.  What he meant was that there are trades and free agent signings that are available to him, that he could get done with only a “yes”, but that he hasn’t been able to talk himself into doing any of them yet.  He said that sometimes it takes a while to convince yourself that a move is the right one to make, and sometimes you’re never able to convince yourself.  We’re very familiar with the line Alex often uses when discussing a trade, that he “agonized” over it for a long time.  He may well be in the process of agonizing over something (or things) even as you read this.

Anthopoulos did say that he wasn’t going to make a move to address second base until Kelly Johnson decides whether or not to accept the Blue Jays’ offer of arbitration.  I got the sense that he thinks Johnson will accept, but only the sense.  For me, it would be the right move for Johnson to make – he’d get at least $6 million in arbitration, if not more, and if he goes out and has a year like his 2010 (or 2007 or 2008), he would hit the market as a highly sought-after free agent at the tender age of 30.  The deadline for Johnson to accept or decline the Jays’ arbitration offer is 11:59pm Eastern on Wednesday – if he declines, he would still be available for the Blue Jays to sign.

So that leaves the pitching staff as the major area of concern for the Blue Jays, and while Anthopoulos did say that he could see the team leaving Dallas with a closer in hand, he thought it was far more likely that any move would come after the meetings break up.

Anthopoulos again reiterated that he prefers to acquire players by trade rather than through free agency.  He addressed the apparent contradiction – trades cost you assets but adding free agents only costs you money – by saying that he feels it’s easier to get true value back in trade.  You have to tend to overpay for free agents, and often get yourself stuck with a contract you don’t want.

It would appear, though, that the free agency route is the way to go for the Blue Jays to pick up a closer for 2012.  Candidates on the market include the Franciscos – Cordero, Rodriguez and Frank – as well as Ryan Madson, David Aardsma, Jason Isringhausen, Kerry Wood and maybe Michael Wuertz, LaTroy Hawkins and Todd Coffey.  OK, well, maybe there are only four strong free agent candidates, in looking over that list (and at least Madson wants too much money and term), so I guess Alex’s resolve to avoid the free agent market won’t be tested too terribly much even in looking for a closer.

I asked him if he thought there might be a couple of closers left without a contract when the music stops, and if he would then be able to swoop in and take his pick, and he said he was having a hard time handicapping the closer market because so many teams have the opportunity to choose between staying in-house and going out and signing somebody.  I got the feeling he doesn’t really have his eye on anyone in particular and, though he’d prefer to have the draft pick, he wouldn’t really mind if Frank Francisco accepted arbitration and came back to close again next year (no blown saves after the all-star break, remember, and a WHIP under 1.00 with an ERA under 2.00).

Francisco Cordero will be looked at as an attractive solution in some corners – he won’t be looking for a long-term deal, since he’ll turn 37 early next season, and he’s coming off a very strong season in Cincinnati in which he racked up 37 saves, his fifth straight season with at least 34, and posted a terrific WHIP of 1.019.  But Cordero scares me.  For one thing, his strikeout rate dipped all the way to 5.4 per nine innings, by far the lowest in his career outside his rookie season (it had been 9.1 going into 2011).  For another, 2011 was the first year Cordero’s WHIP has been under 1.3 since 2007, and only the third time since 2002.  Not the guy I would want.

Finally, Anthopoulos quashed the crazy rumour out of Cleveland that had the Blue Jays as one of the three finalists – and even the front-runners – for the services of free agent first baseman Prince Fielder.  Alex wouldn’t say the Jays won’t be singing Prince, but that’s because he never speaks on the record about specific players or specific rumours.  He did, however, say that he feels that the Blue Jays are being used by some reporters and some agents because of that stance – because they know the Jays will never deny reported interest in a player – and he said that the Jays are “pretty averse ” to signing players who would require seven- or eight-year contracts (like Fielder and Albert Pujols) and that they probably wouldn’t be getting involved with any of those players.

Obviously, that’s as far as Anthopoulos will go in closing the door – he would never say something absolute that would tie his hands just in case the situation changes – but I feel comfortable in slamming it shut and saying that there’s no way the Blue Jays will sign either Fielder or Pujols.  I’m as confident about that as I am that the Jays will continue to be rumoured to be involved with Fielder and Pujols until such time as they sign elsewhere.

Day One of the Winter Meetings also brought us the news that Ron Santo has been elected to the Hall of Fame by the Golden Era committee.  Funny, his career doesn’t look any better now than it did two and three years ago, and he was alive then, so it probably would have meant quite a bit more had it been done back then.

Day Two will feature, among other things, a half-hour afternoon sitdown with Jays’ manager John Farrell (the highlights of which we’ll have for you right here) and the announcement of the winner of the J.G. Taylor Spink Award – induction into the writers’ wing of the Hall of Fame.  Once again, Bob Elliott of the Toronto Sun (and frequent guest on Prime Time Sports) is up for the award, and he remains incredibly well-deserving.  On Wednesday, we find out whether or not the voters have smartened up enough to give  Tom Cheek the Ford C. Frick Award.

Please follow me on Twitter, you can find me @wilnerness590.  Be forewarned, though, I’m not going to tell you what you want to hear if what you want to hear isn’t true.

Rational, reasonable comments are always welcome!

20 Responses to “Anthopoulos Speaks! Day One”
  1. 1.

    Mike…Tell the folks who run this blog that they still have the old logo at the top. I hate that logo now that they have new one.

    - DaveyD
  2. 2.

    Haha agreed, ESPN too, very annoying.

    - Brandon
  3. 3.

    Mike…a lot has been made of not giving a long term deal to a “body type” such as Prince Fielder’s. It doesn’t seem to have been a hindrance for CC Sabathia, who will never be a poster boy for any health club.

    MW: Sabathia only plays once every five days, for one thing. For another, he’s still only 31. Also, his WHIP has gone up each of the last three years.

    - chris m.
  4. 4.

    I’m loving the three-a-day blogging Mike!! Great work and thanks for keeping us informed!

    MW: That’s what I’m here for!

    - CY
  5. 5.

    Just looking for your take on Olney’s comments today regarding the new CBA and the Jays. He tweeted this:

    “View of some officials: Blue Jays will be among teams taking biggest hit with new labor agreement, because of shift in revenue sharing. If TOR concurs with the read that they are impacted by reduction in their revenue sharing checks, it could impact their aggressiveness. Quite simply, an early read on details of labor agreement is that Jays’ revenue-sharing checks are being reduced. It’s lost income for them.”

    Do you see this as impacting the Jays moves/plans and have you heard any reaction from AA or Beeston on this topic.

    Thanks

    MW: There’s been no public reaction yet, but Olney is right – it will be lost revenue for the Blue Jays. The revenue was minimal, though, and they should be able to recoup it simply by having a winning team.

    - Clint
  6. 6.

    They don’t need to sign fielder but talent needs to aquired. If Rogers spends no money and this team slips back this year then Rogers can kiss attendance in 2013 goodbye

    MW: The sky is falling.

    - Anonymous
  7. 7.

    I wonder if AA will kick the tires on Neil Walker of the Pirates. He’s a young second baseman (26) with a decently high average and OBP. Might take a strong package to snag him, but if AA prefers the trade route Walker has to be on his list somewhere.

    What about bringing Scutaro back to play second? He’s a great bottom third of the lineup hitter with leadership and he takes a lot of pitches, plays Farrel’s game.

    P.S. You guys should do a Jays Talk while you’re down there. We’re deprived…

    MW: Walker is an interesting guy, though I wouldn’t call a career .338 OBP decently high. Not sure why the Pirates would be interested in moving him, though, they’ve invested a lot of time in him and he’s finally starting to pay off. The Red Sox picked up Scutaro’s option for 2012.

    - JP
  8. 8.

    Why can’t Casey Janssen close? Indeed, he had a fantastic 2011 season: 2.3 BB/9, 0.3 HR/9, 1.096 WHIP, and .594 OPS against. Moreover, he also ran into some bad luck, as his .296 BABIP indicates.

    MW: I think he can close, but John Farrell prefers him in the set-up role. Farrell has said that he likes the strike-throwers before the 9th inning and the big arms late, that you can get away with not being pinpoint in the 9th because hitters expand their strike zones.

    - Jake Roth
  9. 9.

    Hey Mike, get the fan590 crew to remove the old logo at the top of your blog. It makes a poor 1st impression.

    - FixTheLogo
  10. 10.

    If the Anthopoulos brings back Francisco as the closer for the BlueJays in 2012 what message does that send to fans about his committment to putting the BlueJays in the best situation to win games? I’m very aware that Francisco was good post all-star break for the BlueJays but by then the pressure was off for him to perform. If Francisco is brought back to close, than a lot of BlueJays fans just might lose faith in Anthopoulos

    MW: Why was there less pressure on Francisco after the all-star break than before? The Jays were never in a pennant race. Francisco was hurt in Spring Training and once he finally got healthy he was awesome. He made a very poor first impression, but if he’d reversed his first and second halves, fans would think he was great.

    - Mike Fahmy
  11. 11.

    Cordero scares me even more than Bell did. Bailey is the best option at this point but at what cost? Hey Mike do the Jays have any interest in Tyler Clippard?

    - MarkP
  12. 12.

    I’m with you Mike, Cordero is another Rauch

    MW: There’s nothing wrong with Rauch. He just happened to give up a bucketload of home runs last year – very unusual for him.

    - the professor
  13. 13.

    Three long posts in one day.

    Mr Wilner, with these posts you are spoiling us!

    - Ben
  14. 14.

    When are the jays going to get a DH with some pop. They say they have the money but appear not to be willing to spend it

    - Frank Swain
  15. 15.

    Can you please clarify as to what the Braves’ problem is with Jason Heyward.

    Also, what is your impression in a nutshell about the Reyes contract with Florida? (Good value/horrible value). I have a feeling he will not be able to play even 135+ games/season as that contract progresses – history of quadriceps injuries, etc.

    Enjoy Day 2 of the Winter Meetings! Remember to start the day off right with a solid continental breakfast and fresh fruit indigenous to the Texas region.

    MW: I had a bagel with peanut butter and honey, but thanks. Not paying $18 for a continental breakfast. I really have no idea what the Braves’ problem with Heyward is, only that they seem to have one. And I think the Marlins took a huge gamble on Reyes. If he can stay healthy, it’s a good deal, but he hasn’t exactly shown a propensity to do so.

    - Adrian, co-alumnus
  16. 16.

    I agree with Davey, the new Jays logo is way better! Out with the old and in with the New/Traditional/Original. On a side note, when it is baseball season I respectfully ask that the web master place your blog at the top of the page. None of this scrolling to the bottom stuff to access your blog.

    - Chris C
  17. 17.

    Mike:

    Thanks for the reports from he “lovely” Hotel Anatole.

    Could you explain why AA would want to wait on Kelly Johnson decision? I don’t see the upside here. Should Johnson agree to arbitration and have a great year then he will want to test the free agent market I’m sure. He earned it as the GM’s often say. If he has a disappointing year then the Jays will need to find an alternative. At best, this is a one year plug ‘n play with Johnson. Would be the right strategy if the Jays were World Series contenders in 2012 but they’re not … are they? Does AA see something different than McCown et al?

    Second, this may be venturing into “confidential” matters, but when your speaking with John Farrell could you carefully get an update re his son’s medical condition for those of us who read of the young fellow’s operation. Hoping everything is OK and the Farrell family has a healthy holiday season.

    Cheers

    MW: At best it does seem as though Kelly Johnson is a one-year fix for the Blue Jays, if he accepts the arbitration offer, but I don’t see how that’s a bad thing. They would have all season to negotiate an extension, and exclusive rights to do so, and if the situation was right they could trade him in July for assets. As it stands, he’s the best second baseman on the market. As for John Farrell’s son, it is a personal matter to be sure, but at the moment everything seems to be going very, very well.

    - Grant Carter
  18. 18.

    Mike will the Jays receive a 1st round pick if Johnson signs with a top 15 team

    MW: Top 15 in the draft? No. They’d get a second-rounder and a sandwich pick.

    - David
  19. 19.

    michael,
    true. no doubt whatsoever that the blue jays are even at all in the mix for the services of this fa pujols fella. nada.
    but fielder? not so fast…
    they may not be backing up the truck with a boatload of $ and term for the still youngish slugger but there’s definitely more than 1 way to skin a cat (politically incorrect? not sure) to get that deal done my friend.
    especially with the seemingly lack of typical strong suiters as is usually the norm (ie. yanks, bosox, phils etc..)
    better to let this one play itself out just in case……..
    of course, i could be full of baloney on this one as well. i usually am……

    MW: The Blue Jays are not going to sign Prince Fielder. Not sure how I can make it any more clear.

    - darrell bishop
  20. 20.

    michael,
    so… one of the possible strongly rumoured suitors for prince f. (the cubs) has apparently made it clear today that they’re interested but not at all based on a long term deal of any significance. certainly not based on a 7-8 yr deal or beyond.
    shorter term, bigger $.
    looks like the perimeters for this particular pending fa deal is starting to play right into the hands of aa and his group now it seems.
    not looking like i’m so full of baloney now does it bucko???
    that’s right…..

    - darrell bishop
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