Anthopoulos: Jays not selling veteran players

The Toronto Blue Jays aren't looking to sell established players for prospects right now.

Alex Anthopoulos says the Toronto Blue Jays won’t be trading players off the big league roster for prospects leading up to the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline.

“We’re definitely not going to look to take away from the team,” the Toronto Blue Jays GM told Brady & Lang Friday on Sportsnet 590 The Fan. “If there’s a deal out there that can improve the current club and improve the club going forward, we would look to do that. I don’t see any scenario where we’d trade established players for a prospect at all.”

With Josh Johnson in the final year of his contract, some have speculated he could be a logical trade candidate for the Blue Jays but Anthopoulos does not see that as a realistic scenario.

“This isn’t about any specific player but if a player is not performing that well, there’s no upside to that. If you see us do anything, it’ll be to add rather than to subtract. There’s as lot of rumours about us shopping players and us actively trying to trade for certain players. All of it is false ”

Johnson spent time earlier this year on the DL, and has struggled with the adjustment to pitching in the American League in his first year with Toronto.

In 66.1 innings in 2013, Johnson has an ERA of 5.16, a 1.492 WHIP and his home run rate has doubled from a year ago.

Anthopoulos admitted Johnson’s consistency has been concerning, but he expects to see his numbers improve in the second half of the year.

“It’s tough for us,” he said. “He’s obviously missed a bit of time. The one thing if you look at him statistically, the outlier that I wouldn’t expect to sustain itself is the home run rate. There’s an element of luck there and it’s not to say balls aren’t being hit hard but if you look at his career – even (Mark) Buehrle’s ERA was up in the sevens and eights and he was on pace to give up a lot of home runs until that rate finally normalized a bit and he pitched a lot better.

“When it comes to Josh, if he’d be on pace for 200 innings, he’d be on pace to give up about 30 home runs or more when he gave up just 14 all of last year in about 200 innings. His walks are pretty good. He’s still striking out a guy per inning. He’s had starts where he’s been dominant but I think you’ll see a stretch where the home runs come down a bit and you’ll see him have some good performances.”

With the Blue Jays standing pat with their veteran players, they’ll need a drastic improvement from the starting rotation if they want any chance of getting back in the playoff race.

“We haven’t done ourselves any favours in the first half,” Anthopoulos said. There’s so much room for improvement. The (all-star) break will be good for all of us. The first month was really rough. It’s going to start with the rotation. They’re going to set the tone for us. When we won those 11 games, we pitched incredibly well. I think the offence and bullpen are good enough. Really, the rotation will be key for us to turn it around here.”

Anthopoulos overhauled the group in the off-season with two major trades to bring in R.A. Dickey, Johnson, and Buehrle but the three highly-touted additions have so far failed to live up to expectations.

The group looked like it had elite potential on paper, but they’ve been nothing close to that. Heading into Friday’s action Toronto ranks 14th in starting pitching ERA, 13th in strikeouts, 14th in opponents’ slugging percentage, 13th in WHIP, and 13th in strikeout-to-walk ratio.

The good news for the Blue Jays is that they expect to have some reinforcements on the way in the second half.

Anthopoulos was very pleased with J.A. Happ’s start Thursday night for single-A Dunedin.

“J.A. Happ will be up there very soon. He had a good start for Dunedin last night and he is getting closer,” he explained. “I believe his next start will be for New Hampshire and he should be back soon.”

The Blue Jays GM has also been very pleased with the progress of Ricky Romero with triple-A Buffalo, but don’t expect to see the left-hander back in the big-leagues in the near future.

“He’s certainly getting closer,” Anthopoulos said. “The last outing was very exciting. You see the number of strikes. He went eight innings with a total of 93 pitches. That’s outstanding for him. His change-up was as good as it’s been. We need to see that happen multiple times – a few times in a row and really dominant performances like that. That’s the type of ability he has and that’s when we’ll know he’s back.

“If he can really get in a roll and really do it start-after-start, then we can know he’s found it and he’s really back. There’s no question he’s headed in the right direction. With Romero, it’s good news and we just need to see a few more of those starts.”

The Blue Jays sit in last place in the American League and begin the second half of the season Friday with a three-game series against the Tampa Bay Rays at the Rogers Centre.

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