Whether he was a serious suitor in the Yu Darvish sweepstake or not, Toronto Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos said he can’t let public opinion sway him in doing what he thinks is best for the long-term health of the baseball franchise.
While the antics of the NHL’s Toronto Maple Leafs normally hog much of the local media attention this time of year, it was the Blue Jays, and their reported interest in the Japanese pitching sensation, that had been capturing most of the headlines.
Alas, just as Canadian baseball fans were getting all ramped up about the Toronto GM finally dipping his toe in the big-time free-agent pool, the excitement gets squashed by a big Texan cowboy boot.
The Texas Rangers, the two-time defending American League champions, with a top bid of $51.7-million (U.S.), have earned the right to an exclusive 30-day bargaining window with the 25-year-old right-hander who has spent the last seven seasons with the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters.
And Blue Jays fans don’t even get the satisfaction of knowing if the team was even in the race, as Anthopoulos isn’t tipping his hand.
Asked during a telephone conference call Tuesday just how much the Blue Jays posted in their bid for the unproven pitcher, Anthopoulos declined to answer. The GM wouldn’t even confirm the club had made a bid, as had been widely reported.
“We don’t ever comment on what free agents we’re in on. We don’t comment on if we make offers, if we didn’t make offers, what they were or weren’t,” he said.
Anthopoulos is of the belief information is power other GMs can use against him in the future.
“From our standpoint, I try to operate close to the vest when it comes to free agency and things like that,” he said. “I think it’s worked to our advantage in a lot of ways to be able to make trades and so on.
“I think I’ve been consistent with what our plans have been. Our desire first and foremost is to try to explore the trade market. We won’t rule out the free-agent market but, right now, with where we’re at and what we have to work with, the trade market makes more sense for us.”
Anthopoulos said he fully understands speculation had been building and Blue Jays fans were starting to get excited over reports Darvish was on the team’s radar.
The whole affair took on a life of its own, he said, fed by an insatiable media thirst to publish any tidbit of information relating to the story, accurate or not.
And the long-suffering Blue Jays fan base lapped it up – a sure sign of a growing frustration brought on by an 18-year absence from the postseason.
“I see it, I feel in on the street, people come up to me,” he said. “There’s no question, the passion, the excitement for this team is building and growing. And it’s on us as a front office, and on me specifically, to provide a winning product and put that winning product out on the field.”
The Blue Jays operated last season on a payroll believed to be around $62-million, and Anthopoulos was asked if an extra $25-million might make his job any easier.
“I think we have plenty to work with,” the GM said, noting that team owner Rogers Communications Inc. has been more than generous when signing draft choices and beefing up the scouting ranks.
“Again, is it a limitless amount of money? No. But do we have enough? Absolutely.”