Friday, December 2, 2011

Alex Anthopoulos’s Holiday Wishlist for the Winter (Wonderland) Meetings

For many GMs in baseball, Christmas comes twice a year: December 25th, and then the Baseball Winter Meetings, this year being held in Dallas on from December 5-8. And much likes Christmas, some get coal and some get diamonds. Anthopoulos has a knack for getting diamonds. In 2009, he traded away Roy Halladay for a trio of top prospects and managed to suppress many fans rage at losing the best pitcher in baseball, a very impressive first big trade. Last year at the winter meetings, he shipped off Shaun Marcum to the Brewer’s for everyone’s new favorite Blue Jay, Brett Lawrie. But its Christmas time again, what does Alex Anthopoulos want this year?

His most immediate needs are obvious. Fill the holes at second, backup catcher, and in the bullpen left by departing free agents. Those are the easy ones, but what does AA really want? Like a lot of what Alex Anthopoulos does, it’ll be hard to predict. Rumours have attached the Jays to just about every free agent available and every top trade target, which means either the Blue Jays have been very active (they have) and/or agents have caught on to the Blue Jays new policy of not commenting on any deal and not denying any rumours attributed to them. Every agent can use the Blue Jays to drive up prices now, and I would expect all of them will. As a fan, this can be frustrating, even frightening at times (thank you Marlins – saved from the Bell) but it certainly hasn’t been boring. So digging through the rumours, what should we believe he’s after? It’s obvious. Alex Anthopoulos covets young, controllable, high-ceiling talent, so there is little doubt that is what he’s pursuing, but which trade targets and free agents does that include?

The Unrealistic

As everyone knows, Alex has blown the baseball world away with the deals he has pulled off, and it isn’t impossible he blows us away again. He doesn’t have any more “untradeable” contracts to shed, and doesn’t have to find the best deal for the best pitcher in baseball, so the best way to blow away the baseball world this year is to acquire someone believed to be untouchable. The early rumours said that Joey Votto was available, but lately Reds’ GM Walt Jocketty has said the Reds will not trade away their best player. Votto grew up a fan of Toronto, and as a native Ontarian, he would likely welcome a chance to “come home.” He fits the mold of Anthopoulos’s dream player: Young, under control for 2 more years, and a proven high-ceiling talent who can still improve. What’s more is that the Jays should have the stuff to get a deal done, but I believe that Walt Jocketty would have a tough time selling this trade to the fans, and I can’t see it getting done. Sorry guys, but Votto really just isn’t going to land in Toronto this year.

The Unexpected

There are a host of new GMs coming to this year’s Winter Meetings who are looking to make an impact with their new clubs and could provide an unexpected option for Alex Anthopoulos via his preferred trade route. Alex Anthopoulos has acted very quickly before when the right deal has been presented, and if an unexpected deal that lines up with what AA is looking for, we could all be blown away with another patented Alex Anthopoulos announcement from the Winter Meetings. Keep in mind that the Chicago Cubs, Boston Red Sox, San Diego Padres, Baltimore Orioles, Los Angeles Angels, Minnesota Twins, and the Houston Astros all have new guys in charge, and everybody wants to make an impact in one way or another. All of them have been charged with taking a team that missed the playoffs and turning them into a winner. Deals will need to be made and things can happy real fast when everyone is gathered together.

The Rumoured

According to Shi Davidi, the search for bullpen arms has become more real than ever after Anthopoulos was prodded by Paul Beeston and confessed to examining free agent closers and closers available through trade, stating “We’re looking at free agents and trades. We’re legitimately looking at both options.” Although he gives nothing away, one can extend this to believe that they likely have been discussing options such as Papelbon, Madson, and Bell, but that options like Andrew Bailey or Huston Street are most likely. Another popular rumour is the Jays looking to acquire front-end starters, and names like Gio Gonzalez, John Danks, and Wade Davis have all been floated around, but I have to believe that Gio Gonzalez likely tops Anthopoulos’s wishlist and I could see a deal involving both Andrew Bailey and Gio Gonzalez commanding a high price, but one that AA and Billy Beane would both walk away from happy.

The UnRumoured

What has probably surprised me most is the names that haven’t been attached to the Blue Jays yet. There are free agents out there right now that would be fantastic additions to the Blue Jays, at a reasonable price and would help the Blue Jays win now, but the biggest one of all is Mark Buehrle. His resume speaks for itself in how he could help the Blue Jays. Every season since 2001 he has logged over 200 innings, he has a career ERA of 3.83 to go along with a WHIP of 1.282, he is an incredible defensive pitcher, and is the veteran the Blue Jays could use to mentor a young rotation, while saving innings from a bullpen that was really overworked last year. Not to mention he has averaged 15 wins a season over his career with the Chicago White Sox. I could go on. The question that needs to be asked is: How much does Buehrle want? He made $14 million a year the last three seasons with the White Sox and is likely due a raise from there, but how much and for how long? If I’m Anthopoulos, I’m buying Buehrle’s agent (Jeff Berry of CAA Sports) dinner at the Winter Meetings and finding out. I would imagine that a 3 year deal at $16-$18 Million should get it done. Throw in an option year, and I think Buehrle is a great addition to the rotation. But there are reasons the deal probably won’t happen. As a veteran, Buehrle would likely want to go to a team that can compete for a World Series now, (which the Blue Jays could) and would likely ask for a full no-trade clause, and I doubt AA wants his options limited. However, the biggest drawback and really the only negative is that the rotation is already one of the Blue Jays strong points, and they have even more talent waiting in the minors, not to mention that Yu Darvish (if he is EVER posted) is probably the preferred target (young, controllable, HIGH-potential).

The Waiting Game

Anthopoulos also has to fill the gap at second base, and there is a big question mark beside Kelly Johnson’s name. He has until December 7 to decide on whether or not to accept arbitration from the Blue Jays, and until then, the Blue Jays don’t fully know the situation they are in. I personally wouldn’t mind having Johnson back at second for one year contract with an option for a second year, but Anthopoulos probably would prefer the two draft picks, as they are more valuable than ever, but with such a thin pool of available high-quality second baseman, I think that AA should forego the draft picks and lock up Johnson now. This allows him to focus on other opportunities that may not be around for long, and jump during an opportune time at the Winter Meetings.

This offseason is flying by, and pretty soon we will all find out what the Blue Jays got in their stockings, but I’m willing to bet that it’s not a lump of coal. Sorry about that Angels fans. What do you all think? What does your wishlist look like? Let's hear what everyone thinks in the comments or let me know on Twitter.

You can follow Brandon on Twitter - @Bam_86

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