Toronto Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos has said he was looking forward to an off-season where his primary focus was to beef up the team’s starting pitching.
With the Boston Red Sox’s behind-the-scenes courtship of John Farrell continuing to flourish it is becoming apparent that Anthopoulos may also be involved in the search for a new manager.
As of right now one of the leading candidates would have to be Sandy Alomar Jr., who has told the Cleveland Indians he is prepared to return as their bench coach for 2013 and work with new manager Terry Francona.
Alomar was a finalist for manager with the Blue Jays two years ago when the team opted to go with Farrell, who had been the pitching coach for the Red Sox.
There is no doubt that Alomar would be able to leave his job in Cleveland if it meant a promotion to manager in Toronto.
A little closer to home, the Blue Jays could also decide to promote Don Wakamatsu to the job from his current position as the Toronto bench coach.
Should Farrell jump ship and join the Red Sox, the thinking is he would take Torey Lovullo, the Blue Jays first base coach and his trusted ally, along with him.
Lovullo was the manager for the Red Sox Triple-A affiliate in Pawtucket before Farrell brought him to Toronto in 2011 when he was given the manager’s portfolio.
Wakamatsu, the Blue Jays bench coach, has previous managerial experience with the Seattle Mariners, leading them to an 85-77 record in 2009 in his first season there. The 24-game improvement from the previous season was the best in the Majors.
Wakamatsu didn’t fare as well in his second year, getting fired after the Mariners lost 70 of their first 112 games.
Wakamatsu is liked and respected by the Blue Jay players and he has done a good job working with the Toronto catchers, especially J.P. Arencibia, whose defence was considerably sharper this season.
Although he doesn’t have any prior managing experience, the name of Pat Hentgen, a former pitcher in the Blue Jays organization, keeps getting whispered.
Wednesday will mark the 20th anniversary of Toronto’s first World Series triumph over the Atlanta Braves with Cito Gaston at the helm. Since that time the Blue Jays have hired eight managers to run the team, including Farrell.
A report out of Boston on Thursday said that both the Red Sox and Blue Jays were deep into talks about the compensation the Blue Jays would want in return for Farrell, who still has a year left on his contract to manage in Toronto.
According to The Associated Press a baseball official familiar with the discussions says the Red Sox have asked the Jays for permission to talk with Farrell about the opening in Boston.
The official, speaking on the condition of anonymity because the talks are ongoing, confirmed the request to AP on Friday night.
The official also said the teams are discussing compensation if Farrell is eventually hired.
Neither Anthopoulos or Paul Beeston, the Blue Jays president and chief executive officer, responded to interview requests on Friday.
One way or another, the soap opera should not stretch out much longer.
With the World Series slated to start on Oct. 24, Major League Baseball commissioner Bud Selig does not want any outside distractions to detract from that event.
So you can expect this matter to be tied up by Monday or Tuesday of next week, if not sooner.
Ken Rosenthal, the baseball analyst on Fox Sports, told Sportsnet on Friday that he anticipates Farrell has managed his last game as a Blue Jay.
“There’s a growing sentiment in baseball that he has,” Rosenthal said.
Rosenthal added that a lot of ways that it could all fall apart, namely surrounding the compensation the Blue Jays would want back from Boston in exchange for releasing Farrell from his contractual obligations in Toronto. Strengthening Toronto’s starting pitching is Anthopoulos’s stated goal heading into the off-season and reports out of Boston suggest the Red Sox might be willing to part with Daniel Bard.
Bard, who was decent out of the bullpen in 2011 but a disaster as a starter this past season, might not be everybody’s first choice as adequate compensation for losing a manager, but it is a starting point.
With files from The Associated Press