Anthopoulos: Blue Jays interested in Toritani

GM Alex Anthopoulos says there is truth to the rumours that the club has had talks with veteran Japanese infielder Takashi Toritani.

The Toronto Blue Jays already have a number of players capable of filling in at second base, but they continue looking for potential upgrades. One of the players who has caught the attention of GM Alex Anthopoulos is Japanese infielder Takashi Toritani.

“We’ve scouted him quite a bit,” Anthopoulos told Jeff Blair on Sportsnet 590 The FAN Wednesday. “We have some scouts that like him and he’s someone that we’ve certainly talked about internally. Beyond that I probably wouldn’t get into anything else, but certainly a guy like that would fit.”

LISTEN: Alex Anthopoulos on Sportsnet 590 The FAN

Toritani, 33, has 11 seasons of experience as the starting shortstop for the Hanshin Tigers. The left-handed hitter has a lifetime .285/.372/.412 batting line and he hit .313/.406/.415 with eight home runs for the Tigers in 2014.

While the Blue Jays currently have in-house second base options including Maicer Izturis, Ryan Goins, Devon Travis and Steve Tolleson, they’re considering players who could compete for playing time or win the job outright. Toritani appears to be one of the options on the club’s radar.

“There’s certainly truth to the fact that we’ve had talks,” Anthopoulos said.

Toritani is a client of agent Scott Boras, who confirmed the Blue Jays’ interest during the MLB Winter Meetings.

BULLPEN TRADES: The Blue Jays remain hopeful that they’ll be able to trade for a reliever.

“We’re currently trying to do that,” Anthopoulos said. “We’re not close, but we are in talks with teams, trying to get some things done. Hopefully something will break for us and we’ll be able to make a deal.”

The Blue Jays liked some of the free agent relievers who recently signed deals, but weren’t comfortable out-bidding the competition.

“We don’t want to force anything,” Anthopoulos said. “We don’t want to make a move that we don’t believe in.”

Brandon Morrow, who pitched in relief for the Blue Jays during the final month of the 2014 season, signed with the San Diego Padres Tuesday. Anthopoulos said the Blue Jays liked the right-hander, but weren’t able to guarantee him a starting job. Aaron Sanchez, Daniel Norris and Marco Estrada are all expected to compete for Toronto’s final rotation spot in spring training.

MELKY TO CHICAGO: Once the Blue Jays acquired Michael Saunders, they called Melky Cabrera’s agents to tell them that they were essentially out of the bidding for the switch-hitting 30-year-old. While Anthopoulos will miss Cabrera’s production, he understands the decision to sign with the White Sox.

“Chicago’s a very desirable place to play,” Anthopoulos said. “It’s a great city. From an offensive standpoint, it’s a great ballpark.”

Anthopoulos expected Cabrera to slot in below Nelson Cruz’s four-year, $57 million deal given that Cruz led MLB in home runs in 2014 and power typically generates plenty of interest in free agency.

TOP 10 PAYROLL: Anthopoulos expects the 2015 Blue Jays to have a payroll “right in that top 10 range, or at least close to the top 10.”

The Blue Jays spent approximately $137 million in 2014 and have said their payroll will increase in 2015. They have approximately $119 million committed to the 2015 team, counting projected salaries for arbitration-eligible players.

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