Batters Box recently caught up with Alex Anthopoulos as he returned from the general manager meetings in Orlando. As Alex has mentioned in other interviews, and specifically around the Rajai Davis trade, he is still working on the roster for 2011 and he doesn't yet know how it will all come together and who will play where. So given that, I did not ask Alex about things such as playing time for JP Arencibia, who plays third, who plays first, etc. Alex either doesn't yet know the answer to these questions or, if he does, he doesn't want to share it with us yet.
So given that Alex has just finished his first year on the job I asked him to answer more philosophical type questions so that we, as fans, know where the team is headed and what we should expect over the upcoming winter.
As mentioned the interview was conducted last week before news broke about Emaus and Loewen. If I did ask about Emaus or Loewen I am sure the answer would be that the Jays value both players but they have too many players they need to protect and they have to protect players they think have the best chance to be drafted by other clubs. I am sure he wouldn't get into comparing players like why keep Mike McCoy but not Brad Emaus? The most I would get out of that is that they like McCoy a little better and he has more flexibility than Emaus.
So here are those more general questions........................
BB: You have said you look at progress from an organizational perspective. Fans look at progress from a wins perspective. What do you say to fans who expect more wins in 2011 based on the teams progress in 2010? Are you worried that 2010 has set the bar too high for 2011?
AA: I think as long as we- as an organization- stay consistent and transparent with our fan base, we'll be fine. I don't think you can ever be "worried" about having too many wins. From an organizational standpoint we have to continue to stay the course, do what we feel is best and the rest will take care of itself.
BB: How do you move from 85 wins to 95 wins from an on the major league field perspective? Is it as simple as saying get some better players?
AA: I don't think there's any way to really answer this. So many things need to go right to win at the major league level, that's why depth is so important. I guess in a way it is as simple as just trying to continue adding quality players. If we focus solely on that, the wins should follow eventually.
BB: Assuming you are looking for better players, and leaving aside the farm system for a moment, are you therefore trying to essentially get a better player than you one you have today in every trade?
AA: Not necessarily. From my standpoint, you're just trying to constantly improve your talent base. Improve your inventory of assets. Even if that means having some duplication, that gives you more flexibility to continue to try and improve your team. We need to exhaust all avenues in our roster construction. If we think it can be done solely through the draft, the process will be never ending because you won't be able to "time" all of your players arriving and performing at the major league level at the same time for a sustained period.
BB: You have to give up something to get something. You have said, and shown, you are willing to trade prospects. Are you willing to trade starting pitchers or can you never have enough starting pitching?
AA: We have to be willing to trade anyone if it makes sense for us. That being said, there's no doubt that you can never have enough pitching but at the same time, we have to be open minded to anything that can make us better.
BB: This years team had good pitching and power but was below average in hitting for average and on base percentage. You and your new manager have said you would like the team to be more unpredictable, and to add more speed and athleticism to the line-up. As you look at changes to the line-up are you looking to add better players period, or do you focus on skills such as on base percentage?
AA: Ideally, we focus on those things, but it's imperative that we don't try to "force" it. Though it's clear we need to improve in our batting average, on base percentage and team speed, we still have to stay disciplined enough to do the right deals- whether they're free agents or trades.
BB: If you want better players, and if one is available on the free-agent market but he requires a three year contract, why not sign him? I had read that you were reluctant to sign free agents to longer term deals this winter.
AA: Completely agree. If it's the right player for the right dollars and the right years, we won't hesitate. Unfortunately, in free agency it doesn't always work out that way. Last off season we were very particular about who we signed. It all came down to value and potential upside. It continues to be the model for us today.
BB: At what stage is it a good idea to sign a free agent to a longer term deal?
AA: Hard to say. There are so many variables. Current Major League roster, years of control of those players, depth in the minor league system, trade alternatives, and ultimately what the contract terms need to be to get the deal done.
BB: While developing the organization is important, at some stage do you not have to say I will sacrifice the long term for the short term so I can compete this year? Or do you want to be a strong team every year and if the playoffs happen they happen because enough players have career type years?
AA: There's no question that you always weigh the short and the long term. That's what makes trades, free agent signings, etc so challenging. There really isn't a specific template or formula to follow. By the same token, the goal is to build the organization up to the point that we can be competitive year in and year out.
BB: Is there anything we haven’t touched on that you would like to say directly to the fans of the Blue Jays?
AA: I'd say thank you for your passion and thank you for your belief in what we're doing as an organization. It's energizing to know how much people care about this organization and the excitement that exists in this city and country for the Blue Jays. It's a huge responsibility for all of the employees of the organization and one that no one takes lightly.
Batters Box thanks Alex Anthopoulos for taking some time out of his very busy schedule to talk with us.