The Blue Jays may be done but where are the Yankees: Griffin
Day 3 of the Baseball Winter Meetings and where are the Yankees. That's the big question right now. Their money stays in their pocket. The team everyone is now looking at is the Dodgers, lurking on Zack Greinke, while the Red Sox have already added Mike Napoli, Jonny Gomes and Shane Victorino. As for the Jays, they have already made their big moves, headlined by the 12-player deal with the Marlins and signing Melky Caberera to play left field. GM Alex Anthopoulos feels, at least at these meetings, he is likely done.
"We don't have any traction, or anything that's starting to move," Anthopoulos said of further moves. "I feel very confident that we won't make any deals here. Hopefully it changes. If I had to bet right now, I'd feel really confident we aren't going to do anything."
That means the GM is saying that out of the question, at the moment, are decisions to add starting pitching, a second baseman or to move one of his catchers -- in particular J.P. Arencibia. In fact, the very-sensitive-to-the-feelings of his player Anthopoulos feels emotionally for his men who are the subject of unsubstantiated trade rumours, Arencibia in particular.
“I got asked about J.P. earlier and I know he got bombarded with questions (when he came to the Opryland Hotel) and everyone’s asking about it." Anthopoulos said. "There’s just a lot of things out there and it’s not right, I think at times, that one player’s name gets thrown out there and the fact is we don’t shop players. I think he understands. I believe almost every trade we’ve ever made hasn’t really leaked or been rumoured for weeks or things like that have gone on, so I think from that perspective, that’s pretty telling."
Anthopoulos is certainly a man of his word when it comes to his dealings with players. It's why he explained to Carlos Villanueva that he could not publicly commit to him as a starting pitcher last summer or else he would have been painted into a corner. It's why Vernon Wells sent him an expensive gift and an emotional personal note after the under-the-radar trade to the Angels two years ago. Maybe it's why Arencibia is so confident he will be the Blue Jays' opening day catcher as they strive for a division title in 2013.
"When things are out there for weeks and days at a time, I have yet to see it where we’ve actually made a trade," Anthopoulos said. "There’s times, like anything, that our team will get used, to try to get another team to move or up the price for somebody else.
"Actually, I had an agent tell me that a GM tends to use us all the time on the phone, 'Me and Alex are talking about this,' when I’m not talking to that team at all. That’s fine. Just for me, J.P. just seemed like he got bombarded a little bit. I understand that’s part of it.”
Anthopoulos so despises negotiations that have become public, it is to the point that he tells GMs to come to a meeting alone, or with just one assistant so that tracing any leaks is easier. But if a leak does happen, it does not mean that he cuts off the talks because of it.
“No, you never bite your nose off to spite your face if it’s a good deal for the club and it’s the right deal," he explained. "I think what happens is if there’s leaks, you try to work a little faster, you try to accelerate things because things can fall apart.
"One time I remember really accelerating things was the (Roy) Halladay trade. It was on the weekend, and I think FOX Sports had talked about the three-way with Cliff Lee and it had never been talked about before, so I accelerated things that day and completed the deal that night because I had the sense things could fall apart. It’ll force you to not work at your own pace and potentially do some things you don’t necessarily want to do, so to make the best deal that you can I think you’re better off to keep things quiet on both sides."
But right now Anthopoulos is looking forward to 2013 and has no fear or trepidation concerning a potential tete-a-tete confrontation between his manager John Gibbons and his headstrong third-baseman Brett Lawrie, the master of baserunning mayhem.
"I think as a baserunner, yes, he'll get better," Anthopoulos insisted. "I think if you're a free swinging guy and you don't walk, you might slightly improve. Players make adjustments to baserunning. Will players make mistakes? Sure. That's my belief, we can get into a scouting debate and no one's right or wrong. I'm a believer that base running players improve. He was spoken to. It doesn't mean as a 22-year-old kid he's not going to get better as a base runner. I'm not worried about him.
"That's the least of our concerns. Brett's going to get better as a player. He's 22, so many expectations on him, so much hype. Being Canadian certainly adds to that. He has a chance to be a star and he's going to be under the microscope. But there's a lot of times with the high energy and how he plays that he makes exciting plays and he does some great things. That's part of the growing pains.
"I remember (Vlad) Guerrero seemed like he was a little bit more wild early in his career and over time he got a little better. But people said he was a little bit reckless. Now, if you're talking about a guy having a better on-base percentage, if a guy is always swinging at everything, I'm not betting on his on-base percentage climbing. That one, I don't think a hitting coach is going to change that. You might slightly, slightly improve."
Last season, Lawrie batted near the top of the Jays' order, but with the additions of Jose Reyes and Melky Cabrera, Lawrie will drop to an RBI spot, either fifth, or more likely sixth in the Jays' lineup. That's always more of a power spot, but Lawrie has not shown that.
"He's got raw power, but I see him being more gap-to-gap," Anthopoulos said. "If you told Brett go hit home runs, he'll hit home runs, sure, go watch batting practice. I don't think his swing is such that it's going to be a big home run swing, 30, 40 home runs. Brett, with his legs, is going to be able to drive balls to the gaps, a lot of extra-base hits.
"Even the year we got him from the Brewers, he led that league in extra-base hits. If you watch his swing, lower half, he's going to drive balls to the alleys and he's going to hit some balls out. I just don't see it being a big power bat, I see it being an extra-base bat, with his legs allowing him to do a lot of things because he'll hit for a high average because of his legs. I can be wrong, but he's got the raw power to (hit a lot of home runs), I just don't see the swing translating that way."
Anthopoulos already has a pretty good team put together and is not actively pursuing anything else at the moment. But if he gets the right phone call, that could all change. It's been a good off-season for the Jays as an organization with the latest feel-good being that the late legend Tom Cheek has won the Ford C. Frick Award for broadcasting excellence.