Throughout the off-season, I’ll provide commentary and links related to the Toronto Blue Jays and MLB every weekend.
When the Toronto Blue Jays’ disappointing 2013 season came to an end, general manager Alex Anthopoulos made it clear that he intended to bolster his rotation, but four months later the starting staff consists of the same pitchers.
There aren’t as many options now that Masahiro Tanaka has signed and Matt Garza appears to be nearing a deal with the Brewers, but Anthopoulos hasn’t run out of time or options. Speaking to reporters in Vancouver Friday, he suggested that the Blue Jays are ‘not done yet.’
“We’ve had a lot of dialogue, there are still a lot of players out there,” he said. “We just haven’t been able to line up with respect to a price whether it’s trade or free agent costs. We do have the ability on some trade fronts to just say ‘yes.’ We do know what the asking prices are, we’re just not ready to pay the price.
“From a free agent standpoint with some of the remaining free agents that are out there, we have been given a price and we just don’t necessarily see the value right now. We’re going to continue to have dialogue. We’re certainly not done yet. Hopefully we’ll be able to add a little bit more, but at the same time we’re not going to force anything.”
If the season were to open today, R.A. Dickey, Mark Buehrle, Brandon Morrow and J.A. Happ would likely form four fifths of the Toronto rotation. Esmil Rogers, Todd Redmond, Drew Hutchison, Sean Nolin and Marcus Stroman would be among the candidates in competition to become the club’s fifth starter. With Hutchison, Morrow and Kyle Drabek returning from various injuries, the Blue Jays have more depth than they did a year ago.
“We’re still having dialogue and trying to upgrade, but we do have some upside to some of the guys that are coming back,” Anthopoulos said, noting that Morrow could give the team a particularly “huge boost.”
With Tanaka and Garza off of the market, Ervin Santana and Ubaldo Jimenez are the top available starters. While both Santana and Jimenez are attached to draft pick compensation after declining qualifying offers, there’s reason to believe they’ll both draw plenty of interest. Though many expect the free agents to sign soon, Anthopoulos isn’t counting on quick resolution.
“Some of these players that have draft pick compensation attached to them, it would not surprise me to see them go into February and even into March,” he said.
That means Blue Jays fans could have their patience tested for just a little longer.
FIVE-YEAR POLICY FLEXIBLE: While the Blue Jays have a policy of limiting free agent offers to five years, Anthopoulos suggested that dollars concern the club as much as years.
“It all depends on what your total dollars are, but I think five years is more of a guideline for us and we just haven’t seen a deal that makes sense for us with those type of years,” the GM said. “Again, things can change fast whether you’re young, old, seven, eight, nine years is a long time for some of these deals and not all of them have all that much success.”
JAYS CAME CLOSE TO A DEAL: Anthopoulos is nothing if not thorough, which means he spends lots of time weighing various options that could improve the Blue Jays. While he hasn’t completed any major deals this winter, he came close to doing so at times.
“We’ve had a ton of dialogue,” he said. “We’ve come close on some things.”
The GM noted that he has had dialogue about every starter available in trades.
TANAKA MONEY: No one was surprised to see the New York Yankees land Masahiro Tanaka, including Anthopoulos. But the GM didn’t necessarily anticipate that the bidding would reach $155 million in addition to the right-hander’s $20 million release fee.
“Just based on the previous Japanese starters with Daisuke [Matsuzaka] and [Yu] Darvish, they were over $100 million each in a non-free agent market, so having a guy like Tanaka as a free agent I think it was expected that he would go north of that,” Anthopoulos said. “$175 million, I don’t know that anybody predicted that, but he’s very talented and the Yankees certainly got better.”
The Blue Jays were in on Tanaka, but pulled back when the bidding extended beyond five years, Shi Davidi reported.