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Despite quiet off-season, Anthopoulos still looking to upgrade Blue Jays

Toronto Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos speaks to the media during baseball spring training in Dunedin, Fla., on Friday, Feb. 15, 2013. Anthopoulos was a busy man last off-season. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
January 24, 2014 - 3:37 PM

VANCOUVER - Alex Anthopoulos was a busy man last off-season.

The Toronto Blue Jays general manager made a series of bold moves that reshaped the club ahead of what would turn out to be a disastrous 2013 campaign.

The lead-up to the 2014 season has been relatively quiet in comparison, with the Blue Jays' biggest splash coming when they cut ties with catcher J.P Arencibia and replaced him with free-agent Dioner Navarro.

While that deal wasn't not on the same level as the headline-grabbing acquisitions of Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle and R.A. Dickey, Anthopoulos says he won't be adding any pieces through trade or free agency unless it fits into the team's model.

"We made a lot of big moves early last off-season. It wasn't by design, it just worked out that way," Anthopoulos said Friday. "We've had a lot of dialogue. There's still a lot of players out there, just haven't been able to line up with respect to a price, whether it's trade or free-agent cost.

"We do have the ability on some trade fronts to just say 'Yes'. We know what the asking prices are — just not willing to pay that price. From a free-agent standpoint ... we have been given a price and we just don't necessarily see the value right now."

The starting rotation continues to be a point of emphasis after a miserable 2013 that saw Toronto finish last in the American League East after starting the season as World Series favourites.

Free agent starters Ervin Santana or Ubaldo Jimenez are still on the open market, but Anthopoulos said there's a chance that the rotation could be filled out from within.

"We have a lot of candidates and a lot of options. Someone like Brandon Morrow coming back (from injury) is a huge boost for us, some of our young kids that are coming back are certainly going help," he said. "We still have dialogue and try to upgrade but we do have some upside to some of the guys that are coming back."

Anthopoulos, who was in town for a luncheon with the single-A Vancouver Canadians, also touched on the New York Yankees' signing of Japanese starter Masahiro Tanaka earlier this week.

The 25-year-old right-hander inked a seven-year deal worth $155 million dollars with Toronto's AL East rivals that also includes a $20-million dollar payment to his club team.

The Blue Jays, who have an internal policy of not signing player contracts longer than five years, were rumoured to be in the running for Tanaka's services early on in the process.

"Obviously he's a great starter and there was a lot speculation on where the dollars would go just based on the previous two Japanese starters (Daisuke Matsuzaka and Yu Darvish)," said Anthopoulos. "I think it was expected that he would go north of (their price tags) — $175 million, I don't know if anybody predicted that.

"He's very talented and the Yankees certainly got better."

Anthopoulos said the Blue Jays use the five-year limit on contracts as "a guideline" but tend to shy away from longer-term deals because they offer clubs very little wiggle room.

"We've held firm on our five-year policy in terms of contracts. When free agents are signing for seven, eight years, then normally that's where we tap out," he said. "We definitely have the resources financially in terms of annual value and salaries and things like that. I think we've proven that with some of the players we have acquired. But just the length of term — very rarely do those seven-, eight-year deals work out."

Anthopoulos and manager John Gibbons will be feeling the heat if the Blue Jays stumble out of the gate as the they did in 2013. Fans flocked to Rogers Centre with dreams of a return to the team's glory years of the early 1990s that included two World Series titles, but were instead bitterly disappointed with the product on the field.

With pitchers and catchers set to report for spring training on Feb. 17, a repeat in 2014 surely won't fly.

"You're always anxious to try to improve the club and to add to it, but you don't necessarily have to guard against it when you know there's a deal that just doesn't make any sense," said Anthopoulos. "We just don't want to force a deal and do it for the sake of doing it.

"We want to make moves that we think are going to help the club. If we have to go more years and dollars than we believe in, people might get excited now but a few months into it we may be regretting that deal and be hamstrung with a contract that we don't want."

News from © The Canadian Press, 2014
The Canadian Press

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