Anthopoulos: Jays trade targets still in play

Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos discusses his reason for signing veteran pitcher Tomo Ohka, who’s now developed a knuckleball, also Shi Davidi discusses possible bigger picture reasons for this pecular move.

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – Barring an unexpected turn, the Toronto Blue Jays will leave the Swan and Dolphin Hotel without having made any significant additions. They’ll return to Toronto, get some rest and review their options before resuming trade talks and free agent negotiations. As of Thursday morning, general manager Alex Anthopoulos remains focused on at least three starting pitching targets.

“We’re not going to close the door on the fourth,” he said. “The fourth is a little more challenging, but I think there could be a domino effect with the fourth if we do some other things.”

The Blue Jays will continue being proactive in trade talks, reaching out to teams in the hopes of striking a deal. But once they return to Toronto it’ll be time to focus on moves that could realistically be completed.

“Sometimes you have too many balls in the air and you need to start making some decisions,” Anthopoulos said. “There’s a home run scenario where you walk away with four or five things, and there’s just a lot of moving parts.”

All of those possibilities can actually start to impede deal-making after a certain point. While the Blue Jays have laid the groundwork for deals at the Winter Meetings, it doesn’t sound as though they’ll miss the Swan and Dolphin.

“I actually get relieved when we leave the Winter Meetings,” Anthopoulos said. “I find we can get back to work a little bit. There’s too much going on here with every team. They’ve got agent meetings, clubs and I think people — including us — you can just get paralyzed.”

While the Blue Jays still have deals available to them, they aren’t comfortable with the current asking prices they’re hearing from other teams. Will that change soon? Not necessarily. The Blue Jays don’t feel that they need to make a move this month, and Anthopoulos expects a busy January around baseball.

“There’s no timeline of December or January,” he said. “Whenever it happens it happens.”

JAYS’ NEXT KNUCKLER: With R.A. Dickey in the starting rotation and Tomo Ohka in the organization on a minor-league deal, the Blue Jays have more knuckleball pitchers than most. But they might not be done adding knuckleballers yet.

“To be honest, we’ll look to add some more guys if we can. We’re looking to see if we can delve into that area a bit,” Anthopoulos said. “We may look to get some other guys that we think can be guys to convert.”

Ohka, who agreed to terms on a minor-league contract with Toronto, appealed to the Blue Jays partly because he can provide catchers Dioner Navarro, Josh Thole, Mike Nickeas and A.J. Jimenez with extra repetitions catching the knuckler. The Blue Jays view Ohka as a good athlete with a repeatable delivery who throws strikes. If he can harness the knuckler, he could even help the Blue Jays at the MLB level.

“He does have some of the ingredients and he has the will,” Anthopoulos said.

Ohka, who spent the 2013 season playing independent ball, appears to be on track to open the 2014 campaign at double-A New Hampshire. Though the Blue Jays haven’t seen him pitch much, he joins the organization on a low-risk contract.

“There’s no such thing as a bad minor-league deal,” Anthopoulos said. “We don’t have anything to lose.”

RULE 5 DEAL: The Blue Jays’ interest in international free agency prompted them to make a selection in the Rule 5 draft. Toronto selected left-hander Brian Moran from the Seattle Mariners and then flipped him to the Los Angeles Angels for $244,000 in international cap space, as Sportsnet’s Shi Davidi reported.

“We weren’t so compelled by what was out there and didn’t think it was an upgrade over what we had, so we just tried to turn the asset of having a spot to convert it into something,” Anthopoulos said.

The Blue Jays are eyeing an available international free agent and they could use their newly-acquired flexibility to pursue him. Earlier in the off-season the Blue Jays tried unsuccessfully to get cap space from the Philadelphia Phillies.

Teams have an annual budget for international player acquisitions, but they can increase their spending threshold by trading for cap space.

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