Blue Jays’ Alex Anthopoulos’ Conference


Today, the last day of the 2014 season, Alex Anthopoulos addressed the media. Once again, the Blue Jays will miss the post season. They now hold the longest post season drought in MLB. So, what is AA going to do about it? Here’s a brief account of what he had to say:

On the 2014 Season:

– This season was more disheartening. Probably the last road trip (through New York and Baltimore) was the final nail in the coffin.

-When you compare the differences between the Orioles and Blue Jays, they look pretty similar. The rotations produced similarly, the offenses were both productive. One questioner said the area of difference lies in defense. He wondered what AA would do to fix that. Interestingly enough, he shifted the focus to a comparison of bullpens. According to Anthopoulos, the bullpen was an area that had high expectations and didn’t live up to them. He pointed to several examples, but ultimately, it would appear that he feels the bullpen was a major culprit in the disappointing season. He did say defense is important and a lot of it hinges on the health of Brett Lawrie. He insists that Lawrie is the club’s third baseman. But, if something comes up via trade or free agency, they will not close the door to moving Brett to 2nd.

-Speaking of which…I thought this bit was really interesting. When talking about depth and injuries, AA talked about mental toughness. He harkened on the days of Cal Ripken when guys played through pain. He said they will be looking into the mental side of the game in order to figure out how to keep guys on the field more. Doing so allows the team to avoid having players like Juan Francisco play so many games. To take this issue further, AA went on to say the club will be looking into oblique/ rib cage injuries. There are injuries that cannot be avoided, like getting hit by a pitch in the hand, but there are others that may come down to a player (Brett Lawrie) needing to adjust their training or mental toughness.

The Brutal August– AA says you cannot take one month of the season and put a lot of stock into it. He then takes an opportunity to call out the bullpen. But, mostly, he refers to the number of games missed by the likes of Lawrie, Edwin Encarnacion and Adam Lind to reasons why August was so bad. Again, the injuries meant that at bats had to go to players who should never see so many. Because the team’s offense is its bread and butter, you can’t lose 3 productive players like that without suffering. He says they need to do a better job of getting players that are more durable.

May– One reporter asked exactly what I was thinking. If you can’t believe in August (being that is just one month) how can you buy into May? Are the Blue Jays really that close to contending? AA responds with: ‘We look at the roster as a whole. J.A. Happ (who has an option) has done a great job. Stroman is good (although it would be difficult to expect him to maintain this performance). Drew Hutchison is a better pitcher than he was this year. He’s not a 4+ ERA guy. He’s more of a mid 3. The arrow is pointing up on a lot of our pitchers. Edwin Encarnacion and Jose Bautista are already among the top hitters in baseball. We have players that will not regress, but will improve. I’m excited to get to work to add to this club. We have a great opportunity to do some things.’ His faith is inspiring. He may not be wrong, either.

On the Off Season:

Using SP Depth in Trade(s)– When asked if he was happy with the amount of apparent depth at starting pitcher to the point where he could afford to lose some of it via trade, AA seemed very cautious. He expects to be asked about his starters, but he doesn’t feel they have depth enough to start trading it all away. He cites the examples of previous years when the club had to use upwards of 13 different starters. He does not want to repeat the lack of depth exposed by injuries. He says that he’d like to hoard pitching because it is the hardest thing to get mid season. But, he does not rule out using the depth if the right deal comes along. He later states that having guys who have options is a nice thing to have so they can hide them away in AAA. There is no need to force them onto the roster.

Money Restrictions– There is no set amount right now. When the season ends, the club will sit down and figure out. They will formulate a plan. Anthopoulos is excited that there is going to be some roster turnover, which will allow him to make some moves. Is AA confident there will be money to pursue to flight free agents? Does he have to be open with agents about not having money? Apparently, AA feels very good about being able to possibly go out and get a big fish. Apparently, Rogers will put the bait on his hook. If the club wishes to go out and get a Max Scherzer, AA feels good about being able to do it. But, he says he will not deviate from his 5 year policy.

Wait, what? I thought he said that wasn’t a hard policy, but a guideline. Now, he’s saying it is solid. Granted, he does say that he will bend on years if the AAV (average Annual Value) is palatable. How goes on to say that he does not have to sell Toronto to free agents. The club is close to contending, has a healthy commitment from ownership and has well respected players like Mark Buehrle. Players can call him and he can vouch for the city and the club. When targeting bench players, though, the club will probably go the trade route. Players will go where they can get the most at bats. The club targeted Danny Valencia and John Mayberry Jr last winter but couldn’t pull of a deal.

The Closer Role– AA nodded when a reporter said that Casey Janssen is leaving. So, it looks like they’ll need to find a new closer. But, AA says that he is not narrowing his search down (via trade or free agency) to a proven closer. He’ll look for relievers who can be effective. Period. They can always fill the role by naming someone a closer. It is too difficult a search if you narrow it down to guys who’ve done it before. But, if you open it up to relievers who COULD do it, it makes your search easier. Either way, the Blue Jays see Aaron Sanchez as a starter, a front end starter. They will bring him in to Spring Training to be stretched out as a starter. Anthopoulos leaves it open that Sanchez could get moved to the bullpen, but he doesn’t seem to keen on the idea.

Melky Cabrera– The player wants to come back, making Toronto his first choice. The club wants him to come back. It would appear that everything is lined up nicely. But, what happens of another team sneaks in and offer more years than the 5 the Blue Jays are firmly attached to? AA says that there is no way of knowing what other clubs will do. But, he cites history to point out the minimal long contract success rate. He says that Melky and his agent know the team’s policies and doesn’t get the sense that the policy will hinder their ability to sign Melky or anyone else.

Moving Jose Reyes Could the team be better by moving eyes to 2B? AA acknowledges that something needs to be done with Reyes. He thinks that giving him less playing time is the key. There really wasn’t anyone the team felt comfortable with using to give Reyes some rest. By targeting depth, the team will be able to give him more days off. But, there are some issues. The current roster does not lend itself to DHing Reyes. There are too many of those guys. And, Reyes WANTS to play. AA let us in on a little secret: When Moises Sierra rolled his ankle early on in the year, he wasn’t sure he wanted to play through it. Reyes got in his face and demanded him to play. Reyes thinks he should be playing every day. We can’t fault him for that…I guess.

Light Hitters– Can the team afford to carry guys like Anthony Gose who haven’t shown they can handle the bat at this level on a consistent basis? AA thinks that the Blue Jays offense is such that the team CAN carry Gose. He says that one light bat that provides a great glove and base stealing capabilities is worth keeping. But then the question was posed about having 2 or 3 of these guys. AA acknowledges that that is exactly what happened this year. When players get hurt and you have to go to your bench, your offense suffers. So, he wants to shore up his bench. He refers to a guy like Dalton Pompey. He says he may go with guys who don’t have a track record, but someone they believe in.

Pompey has a chance to make the club out of spring (he’ll be given a shot to compete for the CF position) because of his plate discipline and approach to at bats. The club doesn’t want guys who are over matched (Goodbye, Juan Francisco). They don’t want the guys who swing and miss. This confuses me, because AA says he could carry Gose. Regardless, AA points out that he wants to see more from Pompey. The recent highlights have been nice, but he wants to see what he does in the Arizona Fall League.

Alex Anthopoulos has paved the way for a very interesting off season. I for one, can’t wait to see how it plays out.