Before Ricky Romero re-joined the Toronto Blue Jays, general manager Alex Anthopoulos called the left-hander and asked him how he was doing.
“What do you need?,” Anthopoulos asked Romero. “Do you think you need to get away, do you think you need to go home and just get away from the grind of the season and everything that’s gone on, or do you think it would do you some good to come up, just to be back with the team, even with no promises?”
Anthopoulos joined Greg Brady and Jim Lang on Sportsnet 590 The FAN Thursday, explaining that Romero sounded ready to return to the MLB level. The GM spoke with Romero for most of an hour before determining that another chance with the Blue Jays would do the 28-year-old some good.
Even so, he will likely be removed from Toronto’s 40-man roster again this winter, and he doesn’t have guarantees going forward.
“He’s going to get a clean slate again next spring,” Anthopoulos said. “Very good chance he comes off of the roster in the off-season. I told him that ahead of time, just for the 40-man spot. He’ll come in next spring, he’ll come in and compete and hopefully he’ll start fresh and he can get it turned around.”
The Blue Jays are paying Romero $7.5 million per season in 2014-15, so the chance of another team claiming him off of waivers seems remote.
Romero, who has yet to pitch since re-joining the Blue Jays, posted a 5.78 ERA in 22 starts with the triple-A Buffalo Bisons this year.
ANY TRADE POSSIBLE: While the Blue Jays prefer to keep stars such as Jose Bautista, they stop short of saying their top players are untouchable in trade talks. The team declines to issue no-trade clauses for a reason.
“You never know where discussions will lead, but we’re very reluctant to move our better players and you would do everything you can to make deals without having to talk about those guys,” Anthopoulos said.
He went on to explain that trading a star player such as Bautista would solve one problem while creating another.
JOHNSON DECISION BY OCTOBER: Anthopoulos expects to make a decision on whether to extend Josh Johnson a qualifying offer by early to mid-October. By then the Blue Jays will have more information about the prospective free agent’s health.
“Once he’s had his full rest and we get to talk to our doctors and our trainers and so on, just to get a sense of how they feel he’s progressing,” Anthopoulos said. “That would be the final piece of information that we need.”
“We all know Josh has got so much more ability than that, and he’s been in the league long enough that it’s just one of those things we didn’t expect.”
Teams can extend qualifying offers of approximately $14 million to departing free agents in order to obtain draft pick compensation should the players sign elsewhere.
While Johnson and Brandon Morrow disappointed in 2013, Mark Buehrle and R.A. Dickey have recovered from slow starts to provide steady innings.
“That’s the type of stuff Roy Halladay was doing for us and you took it for granted how hard it was to get to 200, let alone 220 innings,” Anthopoulos said.
He repeated that the Blue Jays hope to add a starter “via free agency or trade” this coming off-season.
DEFENCE MATTERS: Asked to cite a lesson learned from the Blue Jays’ disappointing season, Anthopoulos pointed to the importance of defence.
“I think there are just certain things we probably didn’t discuss enough,” he said. “We were focused on the rotation, and talked about adding a lot of innings, which was important, but I don’t know that we talked enough about the defence.”
Anthopoulos has been impressed by what he has seen from rookie second baseman Ryan Goins. The GM said Goins is the best defensive second baseman Toronto has seen in a while.
“The last guy that has been as good as he is defensively that I’ve seen is Orlando Hudson,” Anthopoulos said after citing Aaron Hill as another strong defensive second baseman. “I don’t think we’re going to start dropping Roberto Alomar comparisons because I don’t think anybody can match him, but defensively he’s been outstanding.”
Similarly, Brett Lawrie continues to impress the Blue Jays with his glove.
“This is as locked in as I’ve ever seen him defensively over one period of time,” Anthopoulos said. ”Brett’s such a good athlete and he’s still very young, I do believe you could put him at any position on the diamond and he’s going to excel — especially if you tell him that he can’t do it.”
However, Anthopoulos is tempering expectations regarding Goins’ offence.
“I know he’s done fairly well with the bat in a limited sample size, but I don’t know that I would put a whole lot of stock in it, because we have a whole lot of minor league time with him and we have a sense of what type of hitter he is,” Anthopoulos said.
Goins, who has a .652 OPS with Toronto, posted a .706 OPS in five minor-league seasons.