It has been a heck of a successful run in the month of May for the Toronto Blue Jays, one that has – somewhat surprisingly to some – vaulted them into first place in the suddenly suspect American League East.
So it came as a bit of a shock to many in Blue Jays nation earlier this week when a report authored by respected U.S.-based baseball scribe Peter Gammons quoted general manager Alex Anthopoulos as saying the team is “pretty maxed out” in terms of payroll.
This sent a collective shudder throughout the fan base, as it seemed to suggest that the Blue Jays would not have the resources to add a player or two before the trade deadline to beef up their chances of making the playoffs for the first time since 1993.
Before the incensed baseball rabble started cancelling their cell phone plans out of frustration with Rogers Communications Inc., the massive telecommunications company that owns the American League club, Anthopoulos is directing people to instead take a deep breath.
During a hastily convened briefing with reporters prior to Toronto’s game Thursday night against the Kansas City Royals at Rogers Centre, Anthopoulos was offering assurances that if he feels he has to add to the roster to put the team over the top this season the finances will be there.
“I have every confidence that, if we have a need, come trade deadline … we’ll have the resources to do that,” Anthopoulos said. “I don’t have any doubts about that at all.”
Anthopoulos did not say that what was reported by Gammons was inaccurate, but suggested that it did not reflect the entire picture.
He said that when the Blue Jays entered the current season, the club had a certain dollar value in mind when it came to player payroll, believed (but never publicly confirmed by the team) to be around $130-million (U.S.).
Anthopoulos said the Blue Jays hit that number, hence his “maxed out” quote that Gammons reported.
That doesn’t mean that additional money would not be freed up, said Anthopoulos, if the argument could be made that a trade deadline deal would be worthwhile for the team’s playoff chances.
The MLB non-waiver trade deadline date is July 31.
Anthopoulos said it is far too early in the season to take full measure of his team, despite Toronto’s nine-game winning streak that came to an abrasive end on Thursday.
Omar Infante drove in two runs in the 10th inning with a line-drive single into left field off Toronto reliever Todd Redmond that provided the Royals (25-28) with an 8-6 win over the Blue Jays (32-23).
The Blue Jays lost despite another incredible power display from Edwin Encarnacion, who clubbed two more home runs in what has been an unforgettable month of May for the Toronto first baseman.
The Blue Jays seemingly had this one wrapped up in regulation, leading 6-5 in the bottom of the ninth with two out and closer Casey Janssen on the mound.
But a throwing error by Toronto shortstop Jose Reyes on a grounder struck by Salvador Perez allowed Jarrod Dyson to score all the way from second base to send the game into extras.
It was the fifth multi-home run game this month for Encarnacion, who accounted or four of the Toronto runs. He has now totalled 16 homers in May, the most hit by any player in any month in club history.
And Encarnacion, with two more games to go, is just one dinger shy of tying the MLB record for most home runs hit in May, set by Barry Bonds in 2007.
The names of pitchers Jeff Samardzija of the Chicago Cubs and David Price of the Tampa Bay Rays have already been creeping into media reports surrounding possible trade deadline deals.
Anthopoulos said at the moment the Blue Jays are not involved in any trade talk whatsoever.
To add some ballast to his claim that Rogers has his back when it comes to the good of the baseball team, Anthopoulos said that Guy Laurence, the company’s new chief operating officer, attended a game over the weekend and they had a chance to chat.
“The directive and the mandate was keep winning,” Anthopoulos said. “And I got a slap on the shoulder when he left.
“So it seems pretty straightforward to me.”
It was a rough outing by R.A. Dickey, the Toronto starting pitcher whose knuckleball proved to be an easy target for the Kansas City batters on this night.
Dickey (5-4) barely scraped his way into the sixth inning and departed after surrendering five of the Royals runs off a season-high 10 hits, including a home run to Salvador Perez in the second inning.
Jose Bautista also homered for the Blue Jays, No. 13 on the year, a two-run shot in the second.