Anthopoulos unfazed by murky contract status
TORONTO (AP) Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos didn’t want to talk about signing a new contract while his team was in the midst of its first playoff run since 1993.
With Toronto’s postseason over and incoming president Mark Shapiro about to take office, Anthopoulos still isn’t eager to embrace the subject – at least, not publicly.
Instead, he’d rather talk about plans to improve a Blue Jays team he felt was ”World Series caliber,” and a new approach to acquisitions that has helped the six-year GM ”hit my stride.”
During his season-ending news conference Monday, Anthopoulos said he’s had ”great discussions” with Shapiro since Aug. 31, when the longtime Indians executive was announced as Toronto’s new hire, effective Nov. 1. But so far, there’s no timeline for contract talks, even though Anthopoulos has a contract set to expire on Saturday.
”It’s been my choice to put things off `till the postseason was over,” he said. ”It’ll be addressed. I’ve been very adamant and clear, I love Toronto.”
Toronto has a lot of love for Anthopoulos, too, after he assembled the team that ended baseball’s longest active playoff drought. When the Blue Jays beat Baltimore to clinch the AL East on Sept. 30, visiting fans at Camden Yards chanted, ”Thank you, Alex” as he sat behind the dugout.
”I feel confident this is sustainable,” Anthopoulos said. ”This city is going to continue to have a team a team that they’re proud of.”
To make sure, he’s already had meetings to address offseason priorities and identify potential targets.
”The one thing we won’t do is get complacent,” he said. ”You can always get better.”
The Blue Jays can choose to bring back all nine everyday players from an offense that led baseball with 891 runs, though backup catcher Dioner Navarro is a free agent. While he’s not concerned about production, Anthopoulos said he wouldn’t rule out changes if he sees an opportunity to improve.
There are options in the outfield, with Michael Saunders returning from injury and top prospect Dalton Pompey pushing for a place alongside starters Jose Bautista, Kevin Pillar and Ben Revere. The Blue Jays also have rookie Devon Travis returning from injury at second base, where Ryan Goins took over down the stretch.
Fortifying the pitching staff will present a bigger challenge, particularly the starting rotation, where left-hander David Price and right-hander Marco Estrada are both free agents.
”We have strong interest in David being back,” Anthopoulos said. ”I know he’s very open to being back here. We’ll certainly be in the game.”
Anthopoulos is optimistic of a new deal for Estrada, who set career-highs in wins with 13, innings pitched with 181, and had a career-best 3.13 ERA.
”We’re going to do everything we can to get him back here,” he said.
Anthopoulos said knuckleballer R.A. Dickey has put himself in position to have his $12 million option picked up for 2016, but didn’t specify whether young right-handers Aaron Sanchez and Roberto Osuna – who have thrived out of the bullpen – would be stretched out to start next spring.
”Long-term, we do view both of them as starters,” Anthopoulos said, ”but at the same time, we’re in a position where we have a chance to win.”
Whatever moves he makes this winter, Anthopoulos will continue to keep character high on his list of key attributes. He first used that approach last winter, when he landed free-agent catcher Russell Martin and traded for third baseman Josh Donaldson, an AL MVP candidate, then followed the same theory with deadline deals for Price and shortstop Troy Tulowitzki.
”I do think we’ve established ourselves,” Anthopoulos said. ”There’s an identity for this team right now, an identity for this organization. It paid off to stick with our approach.”