One significant deal, a salary arbitration acceptance, Rule 5 minor league selection binge and bout with a flu virus later and Alex Anthopoulos’ Winter Meetings experience wrapped up as of last Friday.
It was certainly a productive week of work, even if it didn’t mean inking Prince Fielder or lavishing $254 million on Albert Pujols.
Of Anthopoulos’ three stated areas of need, he was able to fill two. He added Sergio Santos, a 30-save closer in 2011 who came over with an appealing contract and strikeout rate but at a steep rate of return (Nestor Molina), and filled his second base void by virtue of Kelly Johnson surprising observers by accepting the team’s qualifying offer in salary arbitration (likely somewhere in the $7-8 million range for one season).
My thoughts on Santos-Molina can be found here . As for the Johnson deal, I was taken aback by all the lamenting over the lost draft pick compensation. The Jays, effectively, acquired the best available second baseman (the true availability of Gordon Beckham was never a certainty) for two sandwich picks. Yes, it’s a one-year contract and yes, this represents the last season for clubs like the Jays to exploit the old free agent compensation model. However, an awful lot can happen in a year (who’s to say Toronto’s outlook at the position won’t differ drastically following the 2012 season?) and the compensation would have come down to a couple picks in the 30-45 range (personally, I’ll take Johnson).
The moves solidified the line-up (barring any other moves, Travis Snider or Eric Thames in leftfield is pretty much the only question that remains among offensive position players), the ninth-inning role and helped add depth (RHP Javier Avendano, 1B Gabe Jacobo and C Hector Alvarez) at the AAA level via the Rule 5 draft. So now what?
Pitching will remain the flu-ridden Anthopoulos’ focus for the remainder of the off-season – and there just so happens to be a market flush with young hurlers with starting experience. Those reportedly available for the right price include Gio Gonzalez, White Sox arms John Danks and Gavin Floyd, Ervin Santana, Jair Jurrjens and Matt Garza, with Yu Darvish’s pending arrival in the US looming large.
Of course, the ‘right price’ element is significant, and any of those names aside from Darvish (who would simply cost big money) would require parting with at least one or two high-level prospects and/or young major league-ready talents. Of the above-mentioned names, Gonzalez can’t reach free agency until 2016, making him the most appealing contract-wise. Danks can become a free agent next summer, Floyd and Santana both have expensive team options for 2013 and Jurrjens and Garza have two years of arbitration eligibility remaining.
Anthopoulos has also expressed an interest in continuing to bolster a bullpen that has gained Santos, but lost Frank Francisco, Jon Rauch and Shawn Camp from what was already an underwhelming and thin unit last season. Assuming Santos isn’t challenged for the closer role anytime soon and Casey Janssen takes over as the set-up guy, the team can look for other specialists, one-inning and situational guys to fill in around Jesse Litsch, Luis Perez, Carlos Villanueva and possibly Joel Carreno, Danny Farquhar and Trystan Magnuson.
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Written by Ben Fisher