Alex Anthopoulos left the winter meetings Thursday with a closer he considers a core piece and a firm resolve to stay a course some suspect has been altered in the past 72 hours.
In his only transaction, the Toronto Blue Jays general manager acquired cost-effective closer Sergio Santos from the Chicago White Sox in return for pitching prospect Nestor Molina. Anthopoulos made clear when he came to Dallas that the week would be spent laying the groundwork for future deals, and that he was more likely to move prospects than players on the major-league roster. What did Anthopoulos accomplish?
Several teams – such as the Oakland Athletics, who are looking for a massive package of four minor-league prospects for Gio Gonzalez – leaving the Hilton Anatole under the impression they had attracted Anthopoulos's interest. Among the prospects the Athletics must have in any deal is pitcher Noah Snydergaard, a 6-foot-5 right-hander chosen 38th overall in 2010;
The Blue Jays are looking for what Anthopoulos describes as "a front- to the middle-of-the-rotation starter," but appear to be only on the periphery of potential trades involving the likes of Matt Garza. Manager John Farrell stressed this week the need for an "increase in quality innings," from his starters, and that increase cannot all come from within.
Japanese free agent Yu Darvish, 25, filed to begin the posting process, meaning it will likely cost close to $120-million ($50-million for the posting fee, plus a contract estimated between $60-million and $70-million, which would exceed Daisuke Matsuzaka's) to secure his services. Anthopoulos, who travelled to Japan to watch Darvish pitch, made clear that he considers him "a free agent, a big free agent," as opposed to a young, controllable pitcher.
Second baseman Kelly Johnson accepted salary arbitration instead of pursuing free agency, and means he will likely make in the neighbourhood of $7-million. He will be on a one-year, non-guaranteed contract at a minimum. Yet Anthopoulos continues to tout Johnson's abilities in left field – Johnson played 73 games in left field in 2005 with the Atlanta Braves – which is where two other left-handed hitters, Travis Snider and Eric Thames, are installed. Translation: despite Johnson's return, the opening-day lineup will likely have at least one more change. The Blue Jays cleared room on the 40-man roster for Johnson by designating Brian Jeroloman for assignment;
Anthopoulos loves those draft picks, and he collected two more when the New York Mets signed free-agents Frank Francisco and Jon Rauch. The Blue Jays now have five of the first 50 picks in next June's draft.