6:10 PM Central
Part of every Winter Meetings is a half-hour media sit-down with every big-league manager – the Yankees even participate in this now! – and John Farrell sat down to discuss all things Blue Jayic (and some things Red Soxal).
Before I get to the highlights of our conversation with him, though, I want to touch on something Alex Anthopoulos said at least half a dozen times this afternoon while we were talking to him about the Molina-Santos trade (see previous blog post). For the first time ever in his career as the Jays’ G.M., Anthopoulos mentioned payroll parameters. He talked about the fact that he has a budget within which he has to work, and this was a bit of a surprise.
We had always thought that the Blue Jays’ payroll was a fluid thing – that they spent what they spent and if they needed to spend more, that was fine. We know now that this isn’t the case. Anthopoulos was very clear that there are parameters within which he has to work, though if the right opportunity presents itself, he can go to Paul Beeston and request the additional funds and Beeston would go to ownership on his behalf. Apparently, Alex wanted to quiet the voices that are screaming that the Jays have no ceiling on their payroll and that they could go to $120 or $150 million this winter. They can’t. I can’t think of any other reason that Alex would bring this up, there was no need for it, no question asked. It remains, as Paul Beeston has always said, that the payroll will rise as the revenues rise. Maybe that will finally stop the Prince Fielder talk, but somehow I doubt it.
On to the skipper! Farrell touched on a wide range of topics, and the audio of the full session is presented below for your listening pleasure.
-Farrell was thrilled by this afternoon’s acquisition of Sergio Santos. He loves the dominating stuff, the power arm with a well above-average slider. He added that if one was to try to draw up a profile of what you would want in the 9th inning, this is the kind of stuff you would have.
-Farrell wants to add some left-handed depth in the bullpen, though he appreciates Casey Janssen’s ability to get left-handed hitters out.
-There are two keys that Farrell mentioned specifically as far as helping the Blue Jays move from a .500 team to a playoff contender: An increase in the number of quality innings provided by the rotation, and an improvement in outfield defence. To me, that means that Travis Snider has a slight edge on Eric Thames in what’s being called an open competition for the left field job.
-Farrell said that he believes both Snider and Thames have every ability to be regular major-league players. He noted Thames’ natural confidence at the plate and said he did a very good job for his first year, and he talked about Snider’s polish as a defender and baserunner, but said he needs to let his talent and ability play out. The two of them had 2011′s that are comparable, which makes Spring Training that much more important for them.
-As far as the rotation goes, Henderson Alvarez comes to camp with a spot to lose, and Dustin McGowan comes to camp as a member of the rotation, with the Jays watching his progress to see if he can be healthy and ready for Opening Day. A normal, healthy off-season is key for McGowan. Kyle Drabek will also come to Spring Training to compete for a spot in the rotation – he has to learn to trust in his fastball when he gets in hitters’ counts, not to overthrow it, and to get some contact. Farrell said that the Jays have to remain patient and objective when evaluating their young pitchers, because they all develop at different rates.
-Farrell believes Brett Cecil will be a key part of the rotation improving in ’12. He’s very impressed with Cecil’s off-season work so far; he’s lost weight and seems committed to getting into much better shape.
-Farrell wants his hitters to be more committed to getting on base. He said they need to value the base on balls more – not to go up to the plate looking to take a walk, but to “understand that there’s a relentless approach towards a strike zone discipline that we’re all striving for.” He wants to develop the kind of offense that forces pitchers into high pitch counts early and, therefore, get to the soft underbelly of middle relief more often.
-On Adam Lind, Farrell believes that next year, he’ll have a better understanding of the volume of work there is in Spring Training. He was trying to play catch-up with groundball work early in spring last year and it likely taxed him physically. Farrell believes that there’s still another step forward in Lind’s overall production at the plate, pointing to the fact that Lind missed over a month on the DL and had a lengthy slump in the second half, but still hit 25 home runs. When asked if Lind was still his clean-up hitter, Farrell answered in the affirmative, but without enthusiasm: ”Yeah, Yeah. Unless something….somebody else comes along.”
-Farrell is very happy to have Jeff Mathis, an athletic, aggressive catcher. He loves the way Mathis throws and how he takes charge behind the plate. Farrell believes that there’s something to Mathis’ relatively low catcher’s ERA and the fact that the Angels had a better winning percentage with him behind the plate. He said that when a pitcher has confidence in the game that’s being called, he can move into a mindless state where he just throws what the catcher puts down, almost robotically, and when that happens, a better game is often thrown.
-Farrell made sure to note that the acquisition of Mathis doesn’t indicate that the Blue Jays are displeased with J.P. Arencibia in any way. Not only would he sign up for 23 homers and 78 RBIs out of his catcher in 2012 right now, but he believes that Arencibia will develop into an all-star catcher.
-Lastly, he addressed the relentless October speculation that the Red Sox wanted him to be their manager and he wanted the job by saying “I’m a Toronto Blue Jay. It’s humbling when your name is associated with any potential opening, but I’m completely happy here and committed to the Blue Jays. To think about any other place or position while you’re doing your own is a disservice to where you are. I’m excited about being here and look forward to putting this team together and winning a World Series here. I’m happy to be doing it here.”
The full audio of the Farrell session is right here, for your listening pleasure:
That should be it for tonight, though I’ll be on the Twitter on and off, you can find me @wilnerness590. And of course, if any other Blue Jays news breaks, I’ll try to put the pieces together for you here.
Rational, reasonable comments are always welcome!