Toronto's inactivity at the deadline wasn't such a bad thing
There's a first for everything. For Alex Anthopoulos, failing to make a move at Wednesday's non-waiver trade deadline marked the first time the Blue Jays' general manager has not pulled the trigger by the much-anticipated July 31 date since taking over as Toronto's GM.
In 2010, Anthopoulos brought in shortstop Yunel Escobar from the Braves and outfield prospect Anthony Gose from Houston. A year later, a three-team deal with the Cardinals and White Sox netted the Blue Jays center fielder Colby Rasmus. And a year ago, Anthopoulos made a 10-player swap with the Astros in addition to turning outfielders Eric Thames and Travis Snider into relievers Steve Delabar and Brad Lincoln.
This is usually a busy time of year for Anthopoulos, but the 2013 deadline passed without the Blue Jays making a single move. Entering the year, the expectation was that Toronto would be adding pieces to a World Series-caliber team. But after a dismal four months, it was believed that the Blue Jays would unload some chips and potentially cash in on some relief parts by tapping into what was perceived to be a seller's market.
Instead, nothing, which Anthopoulos insists was not for a lack of effort. The Blue Jays received plenty of calls, had some traction on a couple deals -- one which apparently had legs as late as Tuesday morning -- but, ultimately, Anthopoulos felt the offseason was a better time to do business. And there's absolutely nothing wrong with that.
"You don't want to make a deal for the sake of making a deal," he said. "You can trade anybody at any time."
Anthopoulos found most of the offers to be underwhelming, discovering that the market for left-handed relievers -- the one Darren Oliver and Brett Cecil were supposed to be attractive in -- was large on supply but short on demand. There were even some "larger concept" deals discussed with other teams, but Anthopoulos didn't feel the time was right to pull the trigger on one of those, either.
Toronto also wasn't about to acquire rentals while sitting in last place in the American League East. And it wasn't about to start unloading its stars and alter the team's course of direction after four lousy months.
So if you got your hopes up about potential prospect-loaded returns for stars Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion, chances are you misinterpreted Anthopoulous' plan. This wasn't a one-and-done year. Bautista and Encarnacion aren't going anywhere, nor should they be. Busting up the middle-of-the-order duo at this point in time would be counter-productive.
"There were a lot of things out there about us shopping players, being asked about players, engaging in players that were completely false," Anthopoulos said. "The things we worked the hardest and longest on were not out there. The things that were out there from a media perspective, I would say almost all of them were completely false."
Expect Anthopoulos, who is now being met with his first real test as GM, to do more adding than subtracting this upcoming offseason. And don't expect the subtraction to involve any of his core players.
"There’s no question we need to make improvements, we need to get better and the results in the standings speak for themselves," Anthopoulos said. "We certainly are going to need to improve, I think that goes without saying.
"There weren’t those opportunities for us in terms of deals that made sense right now."
Anthopoulos was not about to move someone of value for pennies on the dollar. He didn't like what was being offered, which is why the glutton of relievers who looked like movable pieces remain in Toronto today. Relievers are a volatile commodity -- everyone knows that -- but knowing when to cash in on them is the tougher part. And Anthopoulos certainly wasn't going to hand away some controllable arms who will still look good in a Blue Jays uniform in 2014.
Saving some money and getting out of Mark Buehrle's back-loaded deal was never a realistic option, either. Some fans and pundits were also advocating moving disappointing right-hander Josh Johnson, but trading a player with no value who can possibly be retained on a one-year qualifying deal or net the Blue Jays draft-pick compensation, should he decline, never made sense.
The GM still has until the waiver deadline on August 31 to shakeup the roster, and then an entire winter to repair the areas of biggest need, which he identified as starting pitching and the middle infield. With shortstop Jose Reyes under contract for another four years plus a club option for 2018, that means second base.
"We are always in the market to add a starter, especially with the way the rotation has been for us," Anthopoulos said. "And we are still looking to acquire some middle infield help. Those are probably the two areas we were the most active in overall."
Moves will be made, this is not a GM who is afraid to make them. This is a team with the majority of its players under contract for 2014, and some with big price tags, so unless ownership has budget concerns, it's fair to assume the team is all-in for next season as well.
Let's also keep in mind how successful Anthopoulos has been in acquiring talent.
Trading for Rasmus, Delabar, Johnson, Buehrle, Reyes, Brandon Morrow, Brett Lawrie, and R.A. Dickey proved as much. He has also shown the ability to make some shrewd signings by locking up Bautista and Encarnacion at bargain prices, and betting on their futures over their track records at the time of the extensions. That appears to have worked out pretty well.
What didn't work out well was year one of the big-spending, big-name Blue Jays, which has ended up being a big-time mess. But to sit here and fault Anthopoulos for injuries and underachievement would be akin to calling for manager John Gibbons' head. Neither can prevent Reyes, Morrow, Lawrie or J.A. Happ from getting injured. Just like they have no control over the movement of Dickey's knuckleball or Johnson's ability to pitch well from the stretch.
They can only put their team in the best position to succeed and, for 2013, they did that. And there is a lot of time left, starting with the month of August, for Anthopoulos to prove he can do the same again for 2014. This time, of course, the results must be different. With a large payroll comes big expectations, and Anthopoulos knows that. Things will not go over well if the Blue Jays fall flat on their face for a second consecutive season.
While Anthopoulos has his work cut out, there is little reason not to trust him. Don't judge him on his team's wins and losses, judge him on the moves he has made. And if you do that, you should feel comfortable with the man in charge of getting Toronto back to the promised land.