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Toronto Blue Jays manager John Farrell (R) talks with first base coach Torey Lovullo (7) in the dugout before the start of a MLB spring training game in Dunedin, Florida, March 28, 2011. REUTERS/Steve Nesius (Steve Nesius/Reuters)
Toronto Blue Jays manager John Farrell (R) talks with first base coach Torey Lovullo (7) in the dugout before the start of a MLB spring training game in Dunedin, Florida, March 28, 2011. REUTERS/Steve Nesius (Steve Nesius/Reuters)

Jeff Blair

A time of turmoil in the AL East Add to ...

However it all shakes out, the Boston Red Sox’ reported interest in Toronto Blue Jays manager John Farrell is a not too subtle reminder to Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos that time’s a wastin’.

The American League East has gone all tectonic. Terry Francona and Theo Epstein are out and who knows how many bodies will follow them out the door on Yawkey Way. Sox slugger David Ortiz has mused about the Y word – Yankees – then pulled back. New York Yankees ace CC Sabathia might opt out and the Tampa Bay Rays might lose their boy-genius general manager and, if that happens, manager Joe Maddon will be in the cross-hairs, too. The two franchise hitters expected to be on the free-agent market, Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder, would not appear to be a fit for either the Yankees or Red Sox.

So there is an all-bets-are-off feel about the AL East heading into this off-season, with the next marker thrown down on Tuesday afternoon when the Red Sox announce that Ben Cherington is their new GM and the Chicago Cubs finally trot out Epstein as their new president of baseball operations.

Farrell sent out an e-mail to various media outlets – including The Globe and Mail – Monday morning saying that his focus remains on 2012 and the Blue Jays and that he would not comment on a Boston Globe story that the Red Sox have had internal discussions about trying to bring him in to replace Francona. That says nothing about whether he’d want the Red Sox job if it was offered – and that is the nub of the story, since Anthopoulos has said any of his employees can be approached without permission being asked or compensation expected, and since the Blue Jays have been extremely vague about the actual terms of Farrell’s contract. (The same holds true with Anthopoulos’s contract, by the way, but that’s a story for another day.)

The New York Post's Joel Sherman added a new wrinkle when he tweeted from Game 5 of the World Series that sources said Farrell would also be coveted by the Cubs.

But let’s get real, here: Nothing in baseball happens in a vacuum; a great deal happens sotto voce. Farrell knows enough people with the Red Sox that he’d be aware if there was any level of interest – formal or otherwise – and so does Anthopoulos. Cardinal rule: The more scouts you have the more feelers and avenues of due diligence available to a team, and the Blue Jays have scouts coming out of the wazoo.

Blue Jays president Paul Beeston, meanwhile, is in frequent contact with Red Sox counterpart Larry Lucchino on a variety of personal and business matters. If the Red Sox are interested, the Blue Jays know about it.

For some, Anthopoulos’s position regarding compensation seems wishy-washy, an unnecessary moral caveat that is something Toronto Maple Leafs GM Brian Burke would dream up. Others see it as the exact opposite: a sense that working for the Blue Jays ought to stand on its own, and the if-you-don’t-want-us, we-don’t-want-you approach speaks to a sense of self-assuredness, or at least it would any place other than a city like Toronto that has seen several high-profile athletes leave in recent years and hasn’t won a damned thing along the way. We’re hurting here, you know?

Given how the Red Sox have imploded and given the level of toxicity surrounding the smear campaign against Francona, I’m not entirely certain it’s a slam dunk that Farrell would see Boston as an improvement over what he has here, especially if his friendship with Francona is as deep as people have been led to believe. Given what’s going on with the aging Yankees and with the possibility of another wild-card berth, it’s hard not to see the Blue Jays as presenting an opportunity for the right guy. Farrell has already said publicly he’d like Anthopoulos to give him another big arm for the rotation in 2012, and if the result of this is a contract extension for Farrell and a gentle poking of Anthopoulos into making this team’s ETA 2012 and not 2013, it will all have been to the good.

Time to be bold, Alex. Time to be bold. And if the Red Sox want Farrell, screw your moral principles: Make the bastards pay.

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