TORONTO – General manager Alex Anthopoulos was evasive on the subject of the Blue Jays' budget parameters as baseball moves closer to the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline.
“We're having dialogue with teams,” said Anthopoulos. “Ultimately what we end up doing, if we do things or get things done, we'll never get into specifics. I don't think we've ever given out a number when it comes to payroll and things like that.”
Getting down to the nitty-gritty, the answer to the question on fans' minds: can the ballclub add salary? Can it take on an increase in payroll? Can it make a small dent in the bottom line in order to improve the team?
“We can add players,” said Anthopoulos. “We have the ability to have that dialogue at any time. I don't see any reason why we won't be able to add players and obviously players make money. No one plays for free.”
What about the belief that any deal must be dollar in-dollar out? Also known as revenue neutral?
“I would never get into the specifics of that in terms of how we would make things work and where things fit in our payroll projections. Those are things we keep in house,” said Anthopoulos. “I understand why you guys are asking. I totally respect it. It's just things that we keep that stuff internal.”
The proof will be in the actions of the ballclub, not just in the next 11 days leading up to the first trade deadline but also through August, when deals can still be made but not without the players involved first clearing waivers. In most cases that's a formality.
“I think you could see, this is just a feeling, I think there's potentially going to be more activity in August this year than in years past,” said Anthopoulos. “You saw last year guys like (Justin) Morneau and (Marlon) Byrd got moved, (Alex) Rios got moved after (July) 31, I think that's where, from a contractual standpoint and because of the extra wildcard, some clubs just need to wait a little while longer.”
According to baseball-reference.com, the Blue Jays have $135.4 million committed to player salary in 2014.
A quiet trade deadline will lead to finger pointing at Anthopoulos, which would be unfair. There will be blame to go around; ownership would be at the top of the list. The general manager is aware there are holes in his lineup. There's a need to acquire an infielder. There's a need to upgrade the bullpen, an attempt at which will be made internally with the likely promotion of top prospect Aaron Sanchez. There are few teams in baseball that wouldn't add an arm to the starting rotation.
Anthopoulos, with support of ownership, changed the course of the franchise in the offseason of 2012 when he made blockbuster trades with the Miami Marlins and New York Mets. The Blue Jays went from a franchise with a large haul of prospects building with youth to a win-now ballclub thanks to acquisitions of the likes of R.A. Dickey, Jose Reyes, Josh Johnson and Mark Buehrle.
Now, with a veteran laden lineup, the Blue Jays could use an acquisition or two to cement the club's footing in the pennant picture. But with ownership's new CEO, who inherited a multi-billion dollar investment in another sports property, the landscape has changed.
Anthopoulos finds himself with a win-now lineup. If his job's on the line, as has been suggested, it would be strange for ownership to fire the general manager if it stood in the way of moves Anthopoulos would and could have made.
Ownership needs to be win-now, too.
Some trade deadlines are interesting for their activity, some not so much due to inactivity.
For Blue Jays fans, the next five weeks, regardless of the degree to which the ballclub is active, will be quite intriguing.