Jays not likely to make free-agent splash: GM
TORONTO — It is hard to know at this point what Alex Anthopoulos wants to do this off-season. It is a lot easier to gauge what the Toronto Blue Jays general manager does not want to do with his team.
Although he does not rule it out, he does not want to give out an incentivebased contract that emphasizes the player over the team. He does not want to be over-aggressive in the market at any one position, as that mentality can often lead to bad deals. Then there is this: “Most times in free agency, the minute you sign that player to a large contract, he’s probably an untradeable player anyway because you paid more than anyone else would,” Anthopoulos said during a conference call to discuss the fates of Edwin Encarnacion and Jon Rauch.
“Again, I don’t know that you’ll ever see us, at this stage, delving into extremely long contracts — seven, eight years, anything like that.”
That is likely what it would take to sign freeagent sluggers Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder, or starter C.J. Wilson. So for those Jays fans hoping for Anthopoulos to delve deeply into the Rogers coffers, this, once more, figures to be a disappointing winter.
Designated hitter David Ortiz has been mentioned as a possible target, but that, too, seems unlikely. The Blue Jays are bringing back Encarnacion, picking up his $3.5-million US option. Encarnacion recovered from a brutal start to the season to hit .272 with 17 home runs and 55 RBIS.
A lot could happen between now and spring training but, at this moment, Encarnacion occupies the designated hitter’s spot.
“We still have the flexibility, if the DH spot comes open or someone becomes available, to go down that path,” said Anthopoulos, who noted Encarnacion can play first and third base, and is trying to add left field to his repertoire in winter ball. “I will say it’s very low on the priority list and we have a lot of other areas we want to address first.”
In terms of roster spots, the bullpen is the most glaring area of concern entering free agency. Toronto declined to pick up the $3.75-million option on Jon Rauch, making him a Type B free agent along with Frank Francisco and Shawn Camp.
Type B free agents allow teams to recover a sandwich-round draft pick if such a player signs with another club after being offered arbitration. Type A free agents allow teams to recover both a first-round draft pick and a sandwichround pick in the same scenario. Second baseman Kelly Johnson is the Blue Jays’ only Type A free agent, while catcher Jose Molina joins the three relievers as a Type B free agent.
As of now, right-hander Casey Janssen is the only reliever with any kind of credentials who is under the Blue Jays’ control next year. After that, only question marks.
Rauch had five saves in April while serving as the team’s closer, but finished the year with 11 saves, a 4.85 earned-run average and a reduced role.
“We haven’t closed the door on Jon being part of this club, because there are a lot of things he does that we like: the strike-throwing ability, the makeup of the player and all of those things,” Anthopoulos said. “But right now, at that option price, we didn’t want to lock ourselves into that contract at this stage.”
The Blue Jays could address their bullpen issues by assigning some of their minor-league starters to relief duty, making a few trades and, yes, exploring free agency.
“It’s very fluid,” Anthopoulos said.