An off season passes, no deals. A season is passing, no deals. Fans are getting frustrated. Whenever criticism has been thrown at Alex Anthopoulos for not making this deal, that trade, this signing, the response has always been: “It would have cost too much”. Either the free agent wanted too many years or too many dollars. Or, the potential trade partner wanted too much in return. Either way, AA was not comfortable making the deal. He would say: ‘We could have made this deal, but you wouldn’t like what we would have to give up’.
Why is it that virtually every team in baseball can make deals? Why does it always feel like the Blue Jays explore deals, but can never actually make them happen? They go to the dance, but then stand against the wall all night watching other teams slow dance with the prom queen. Why? In my last post, I mentioned that there might be a special tax applied by the 29 other teams in MLB. They charge the Toronto Blue Jays extra for having to deal with Alex Anthopoulos.
I can understand (sort of) Anthopoulos saying that spending X amount on certain free agents is not smart baseball. The Prince Fielder signing, let’s say, would have crippled the Blue Jays for years. AA was magically able to unload all of the Vernon Wells deal, so I’m sure we’re not too anxious to see another monster contract in these parts any time soon. So, the “it costs too much” argument makes sense.
It doesn’t make sense when we’re talking about making trades. It seems to me that there were a number of trades available this summer that Anthopoulos could have made. And should have. So, we have to ask: Why weren’t they? Again, we’re told that the price is too high. The Blue Jays would have to give up too much talent to bring in an impact player. We’d have to accept giving up Marcus Stroman AND Aaron Sanchez AND Dalton Pompey. Well, if that’s the price, I’d pull out of the deal too. But, when the deals get done and the dust settles, it seems like the teams involved did not have to give up as much. The Blue Jays could have made that deal.
Perhaps, it appears this way because we know Stroman, Sanchez and Pompey. We’re high on them. We see tremendous value. We do not know these other prospects, etc that were involved. So, it seems that not much was given up. Thus making us think we could have been involved.
Or, perhaps teams prefer to deal with other GMs. If they are going to deal with Alex Anthopoulos, they are going to ask for the moon. They know his track record. They know that he is good at using the system to get his team a better deal. Here are some examples of his dealings:
*Roy Halladay– Anthopoulos’ first task as GM was to trade one of the greatest Blue Jays ever. He was thrown right into the fire. And, he pulled off a deal that yielded Kyle Drabek, Travis d’Arnaud and Michael Taylor. AA wanted Anthony Gose from the Phillies, but it didn’t happen. But, that wasn’t where he stopped. The deal involved other teams as well. Philadelphia flipped Cliff Lee to Seattle to make room for Halladay. Once the Blue Jays had their return set, they were working on other deals. Michael Taylor was flipped to Oakland for Brett Wallace. Eventually, when Philly picked up Roy Oswalt from Houston for Anthony Gose, AA swooped in and sent Brett Wallace for the speedy outfielder. On the surface this deal looks like smart baseball. But, I can see how GMs would be left with a our taste. AA couldn’t get the players he wanted from each team, so he used others to get a return that would get him what he wanted. He had no intention of using the players he got. A pattern is born.
*Edwin Jackson– This pattern continued when he worked with the Chicago White Sox who were used to get Edwin Jackson (and Mark Teahan). The Blue Jays did not want Jackson. In fact, they were really getting him FOR the St Louis Cardinals. See, Alex wanted Colby Rasmus. St Louis didn’t see anything the Blue Jays had to pull Rasmus away from them. Then Alex says, “What if I can get you Edwin Jackson?” Boom. Deal done. So, The White Sox became just a formality in a deal that may have sent St Louis to the World Series, landed the Blue Jays a really good center fielder (yes, he is) and in return they got Jason Frasor and Zach Stewart. I think we know who won that deal.
*Vernon Wells– SOMEHOW, AA convinced the Angels to take Vernon Wells and his massive contract from them. The return? Juan Rivera and Mike Napoli. Again, Anthopoulos had no intention of keeping Mike Napoli. Just 4 days later, Napoli was flipped to the Texas Ranges for Frank Francisco. Napoli went on to have a break out season and Fransisco? Well, let’s not go there. Once again, though, Anthopoulos used another GM to get another team’s player while pulling off trades that weren’t really about on field performance at all. They were about finances and roster shaping.
*Miguel Olivo-Here is one of the most obvious examples of AA using the system and another GM to benefit his team. One might even use the word “greasy” to describe this move by Anthopoulos. The timeline is important, here. According to MLBTR.com, on Nov 4, 2010, the Blue Jays got Miguel Olivo from the Rockies for cash OR a player to be named later (9:15pm). Then, at 10:48pm, it was announced that the Blue Jays declined the option on Olivo, which netted them a draft pick in the upcoming draft. By declining his option, they offered him arbitration, he declined and, as a Type B free agent, the Blue Jays gained another draft pick. All of this took place in a couple hours. Obviously, AA had NO intention of using Olivo for anything other than a quick draft pick grab. If I were the Rockies, I would feel burned by this experience and think twice, even thrice, about dealing with AA again.
Has all of this sneaky dealing led to more than just a nickname for Alex Anthopolous? It would appear that the ‘Ninja GM’ has painted himself into a corner here.
*Doug Fister– Last December, the Detroit Tigers traded Doug Fister to the Washington Nationals. It had me scratching my head a bit. Why would the Tigers get rid of a solid starter? Not that it matters now, since they have added David Price to form one of the most fearsome rotations in MLB. But, what was interesting about this was that Anthopoulos seemed miffed that he didn’t even get a chance to be in the conversation to obtain a pitcher he clearly would have loved to have. He shed some light on the subject on Sportsnet’s Prime Time Sports. He said he contacted Detroit previously and said, ‘We’d love to talk starters if and when you’re ready.’ He went on to say, ‘There wasn’t even a deal to say “No” to.’ This tells me that AA contacted Detroit before the deal went down and said we’d love to talk trade. Dave Dombrowski chose to look elsewhere and didn’t even give the Blue Jays a chance to compete. It seems to me that it would be in his best interest to let as many clubs bid and compete to land his big righty. But, Dombrowski shut Anthopoulos out completely.
*Danny Valencia-In order to get Danny Valencia from the Kansas City Royals last month, AA had to give up Erik Kratz and Liam Hendriks. That is a bit of an overpay for a utility infielder, don’t you think? One has to wonder if every other GM would have had to fork over such a package to land Valencia. Or, is there now an ‘AA Tax’ in MLB?
None of these examples point to a definitive conclusion about Alex Anthopoulos. In isolation, each deal seems like a shrewd act on the part of a young, intelligent GM who is doing the best he can for his club. Yet, when you combine them, it looks like a pattern has emerged; a pattern of using other GMs to get what he wants. Using rules and GMs to sneak his way into getting deals done. When you add them all up, it is easy to see why other teams may not want to work with him on an even playing field. There are so many unwritten rules in baseball. There is a code among players. Do we really think that doesn’t extend to management? Alex Anthopoulos has a history of not really dealing on the up and up. I wouldn’t go so far as to call it dishonest, but it certainly is not open. Is it that unreasonable to think that other GMs might not want to deal with him?
Maybe Alex Anthopoulos is right. Maybe other teams are asking too much. I used to think that free agents and other teams ask for fair market value. It is the cost of doing business. Maybe it isn’t. Maybe it is the cost of doing business with Alex Anthopoulos.
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