The GM's Office: Toronto Blue Jays

A Blue Jays rebuilding plan 

April, 2, 2014
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videoWe are only few days into the 2014 season and there is no reason for a team to panic if it gets off to a slow start -- unless you’re the Toronto Blue Jays. For the Jays, it's time to accept the fact that they are not going to make the playoffs this year.

The four other teams in their division are well-equipped to make a playoff run, while the Jays are plagued by a lack of pitching depth and have already seen Jose Reyes -- the key to any 2014 revival -- hit the DL again with a hamstring injury.

Now, I'm not going to blame general manager Alex Anthopoulos for this predicament. Back in the fall of 2012, he sensed that the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox might be poised to drop off -- a sentiment shared around the league at the time -- and decided to see if he could capitalize by trading a number of elite prospects, such as Noah Syndergaard, Travis d'Arnaud, Jake Marisnick and Justin Nicolino, in two separate deals with the Mets and Marlins that netted him R.A. Dickey, Mark Buehrle, Josh Johnson and Reyes.

Everyone in baseball believed the Blue Jays were headed for October -- and many thought Anthopoulos would win executive of the year -- but their playoff hopes were dashed by injuries and underperformance.

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Matt KempLisa Blumenfeld/Getty ImagesIs it possible Matt Kemp might miss all of spring training? Could be.
It was in March 2013 that I predicted that some time during the season, Yasiel Puig would become a star on the level of past star rookies such as Fernando Valenzuela and Hideo Nomo and create his own mania -- "Puigmania."

Well, it's time for more bold predictions, and I'm beginning with spring training. Let's take a look at my 10 bold predictions for 2014 spring training. (Don't worry, I'll make more bold predictions for the regular season.)

1. Matt Kemp doesn't play in a single major league spring training game.

Kemp is still recovering from microfracture surgery on his left talus bone (a major weight-bearing bone in his ankle), and I think he will begin the season on the disabled list.

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GM buzz: Latest on free agents 

February, 3, 2014
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Nelson Cruz Matthew Emmons/USA TODAY SportsNelson Cruz is still looking for a home. Will he find one in Seattle?
With pitchers and catchers due to report to spring training in a couple of weeks, the rumor mill continues to churn because many quality free agents are still on the market, including: Ubaldo Jimenez, Ervin Santana, A.J. Burnett, Bronson Arroyo, Paul Maholm, Stephen Drew and Nelson Cruz.

Why are so many players still on the market? Well, the agents and union have their theory, while the clubs have a different view. Multiple agents representing free agents who are still on the market told me over the weekend that they, as well as the players' union, are concerned that social networking and the media’s advanced coverage of the sport are hurting the market value of their clients.

Some even went so far as to suggest that teams are possibly violating the clause in the collective bargaining agreement that prevents clubs from influencing a free agent's market value by relaying to the media the offers they’ve made to free agents, and whether clubs plan to make an offer or decline to make an offer. Certainly media coverage of baseball’s offseason is the best it’s ever been, but these conclusions have very little merit when you look at the enormous contracts that were given out this offseason to the likes of Robinson Cano, Clayton Kershaw and Masahiro Tanaka, among others.

On the other hand, general managers and assistant GMs have a different opinion. The majority believe the main reason so many free agents remain on the market is that all have some type of negative issue surrounding them, whether that's injury history, a performance-enhancing drug suspension, career inconsistency or draft-pick compensation. GMs also point to the agents’ inflated expectations in terms of years and dollars considering the risks associated with these players.

With that in mind, here’s the latest scuttlebutt from the front offices around the league.

Where will they land?

David Price is staying in Tampa. Rays GM Andrew Friedman has listened to every club that had a trade proposal for Price and came away knowing his best decision is to keep him and try to win this year.

The Rays know that trading Price at the deadline probably won’t be an option because the team will be in a pennant race, so it will be next offseason when he’s finally traded.

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Post-Tanaka moves that will happen 

January, 22, 2014
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As you have probably heard by now, Masahiro Tanaka has agreed to a seven-year, $155 million contract with the New York Yankees. As Buster Olney noted Wednesday morning, this won’t necessarily set off the free-agent dominoes, but the deal does have serious implications for the suitors that missed out on Tanaka -- the Los Angeles Dodgers, Arizona Diamondbacks, Chicago Cubs and Los Angeles Angels -- as well as the remaining free-agent pitchers.

Here’s how I see things playing out from here.

1. Angels and D-backs will battle for Garza

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The missing link for every AL team 

January, 15, 2014
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Matt Garza AP Photo/Colin E. BraleyIf the Los Angeles Angels lose out on Masahiro Tanaka, they should go after Matt Garza.
On Tuesday, I focused on the missing piece for every National League team heading in to spring training, and today we turn our attention to the American League.

AMERICAN LEAGUE WEST

Houston Astros

Missing link: Pitching prospects
Solution: Trade 3B Matt Dominguez for prospects
The Astros are doing a masterful job of following the blueprint of general manager Jeff Luhnow, building through the draft and player development while mixing in a few veteran free agents who will have some trade value at the deadline.

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BeltranAP Photo/John MinchilloWith FAs like Carlos Beltran, it will be tough for the Yankees to stay below the tax threshold.
Some big free-agent names were signed over the holiday season, but that doesn't mean the market is dried up. With many teams waiting on the final destination of Japanese free agent Masahiro Tanaka, several quality free-agent pitchers remain, as well as some trade possibilities.

Plenty of big moves are still likely to come. So, here are my 10 bold predictions of the rest of the offseason. Not all are personnel related, but most will have significant impact on teams or the game itself.

1. New York Yankees, Los Angeles Angels go over the luxury-tax threshold
The Yankees have worked hard over the last couple of seasons to try and keep their payroll below $189 million dollars for this season, and the Angels have worked diligently this offseason to do the same.

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2015 FAs who should be traded now 

December, 20, 2013
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Chase Headley Mike McGinnis/Getty ImageThe tough competition in the NL West should force the Padres to trade Chase Headley.
Next year’s free-agent class is top-heavy, and features three of baseball’s best starting pitchers in Clayton Kershaw, Max Scherzer and Jon Lester. While seen some big-name players traded a year before free agency, that won't happen with any of these guys because their teams have a shot at the World Series and they all play for big-market clubs that can afford to re-sign them.

In fact, don't be surprised if these guys get contract extensions before hitting the market next winter, with Kershaw being the most likely of the three to get a new deal.

However, there are five players who will be eligible for free agency next fall who probably should have already been traded since they haven’t been locked up to multiyear deals. Some of these players are on contending teams, but none of which are large markets and really can’t afford to let them walk as a free agent and receive only a draft pick as compensation.

Here is the breakdown of the five players I think should be traded by Opening Day if they are not given a contract extension.

1. Chase Headley, 3B | San Diego Padres
Headley, 29, had 31 doubles and 31 homers in 2012 and finished in the top five in NL MVP voting. His power numbers were down this year (.400 slugging), but he still plays a position where there is a lot more demand than supply and could fetch a lot in a trade.

The Angels, Dodgers, Marlins and Yankees all started the offseason with needs at third base and could have matched up well in a deal for the Padres, though the Angels and Dodgers have patched that hole for at least the next couple of years with David Freese and Juan Uribe, respectively.

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10 moves that still need to happen 

December, 17, 2013
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Matt Garza, C.J. WilsonGetty ImagesMatt Garza might look pretty good in the Angels' rotation with C.J. Wilson.
This has been a wild offseason so far, with blockbuster trades and free-agent signings taking place even before we got to Orlando for the Winter Meetings. Yet, with two weeks left in 2013, the free-agent and trade markets still have a lot of unfinished business.

As I look around the league, I can see 10 more moves that make a lot of sense and should to get done for their teams to remain viable contenders for 2014. Let's take a look:

1. Los Angeles Angels | Move: Sign free-agent RHP Matt Garza

The Angels have worked hard

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Eight big names who could be traded 

December, 7, 2013
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David Price, Jeff Samardzija and Matt KempGetty ImagesDavid Price, Jeff Samardzija and Matt Kemp will keep the rumor mill churning.
General managers have been feasting this offseason on blockbuster trades and huge free-agent acquisitions. Some of the game’s biggest names -- Prince Fielder, Ian Kinsler, Jacoby Ellsbury, and Brian McCann -- have new homes, as do major players such as Jim Johnson, David Freese, Doug Fister, Ricky Nolasco, Phil Hughes and Joe Nathan.

However, consider that the appetizer. The main course awaits at baseball’s annual winter meetings in Orlando. Expect to see another slew of big names swap teams. Here are eight players who are most likely to be on the move.

1. David Price | LHP | Tampa Bay Rays

I think the Rays most likely will trade Price during the winter meetings. While they have the option of waiting until next July’s trade deadline or even next offseason if they don’t get the prospect package they’re looking for, their history says he’s gone.

The Rays will likely be in the pennant race by July so it will be difficult to trade Price at that point. The 2014 offseason is just too late to trade him considering Price’s value would be much lower because his new club would only control him for one season and thus net a correspondingly lower trade package. And an extension simply is cost prohibitive based on the present market.

But where will he go? After acquiring Wil Myers in the deal for James Shields last year, executive vice president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman will insist on a prospect of at least the same caliber, but this time around will prefer a starting pitching prospect who could develop into a No. 1 starter.

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Four trades for Jeff Samardzija 

December, 3, 2013
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Jeff SamardzijaJonathan Daniel/Getty ImagesJeff Samardzija's trade value is at its peak right now. Should the Cubs trade him?
Should the Chicago Cubs trade Jeff Samardzija?

Certainly their priority is to re-sign their ace right-hander to a long-term contract. However, if they enter the winter meetings without closure to negotiations with Samardzija, don’t be surprised if they deal him. As the rumor mill has probably told you by now, Cubs president Theo Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer also have been checking the trade market to find out which avenue is best for their long-term goals.

With a free-agent market thin on top-of-the-rotation starters, Samardzija is arguably better than what’s available, including Matt Garza, Ervin Santana, Hiroki Kuroda, Ubaldo Jimenez and Bronson Arroyo. After Japan and MLB agree on a posting system, you possibly can add even Masahiro Tanaka to that list.

However, the Cubs don’t have to trade Samardzija -- they control him for two more seasons and have the ability to move him at the July trade deadline or next offseason. However, as we discussed with Tampa Bay Rays left-hander David Price, the 28-year-old Samardzija is entering his prime, as his trade value will likely never be higher.

Samardzija pitched a career-high 213 2/3 innings this season, finishing with a 4.34 ERA and 1.24 WHIP. He has a nasty fastball in the 93-96 mph range, which he also cuts in the low 90s, with a hard slider (84 mph) and nasty split-finger fastball (also 84 mph). The repertoire says he should be a top-of-the-rotation type starter and in a new environment should reach that potential this upcoming season.

To deal him, however, the Cubs have to receive a significant package in return. And since their system is flush with elite hitting prospects but few pitchers, they would be looking to add elite arms in any major deal. So here are four trades for Samardzija that would make sense for the Cubs. If they can’t get this type of return, they should just hold on to him.

1. Baltimore Orioles trade RHP Kevin Gausman straight up

The Orioles’ window to win a World Series title with their present corps of stars will close over the next two seasons. And without a top-of-the-rotation starter, that’s going to be difficult.

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One deal for every AL team 

November, 19, 2013
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On Monday I offered up one move I'd like to see for every team in the National League, and today we will cover the AL clubs.


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FAs who could cash in this October 

October, 4, 2013
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Jacoby Ellsbury John Rieger/USA TODAY SportsWith a great postseason, Jacoby Ellsbury could see his free agent value rise.

Just a season ago, Detroit Tigers right-handed pitcher Anibal Sanchez entered the postseason with a 9-13 record, a 3.86 ERA and a track record that saw him post double-digit wins just twice in six previous seasons, all with the Marlins. At best, he was considered a middle-of-the-rotation, innings-eater type of pitcher. His market value going into the postseason was perhaps four years at $12 million per season.

However, after three big starts, a 1.77 ERA and 0.984 WHIP in the 2012 postseason, his value skyrocketed, allowing him to land a five-year, $88 million deal. In turn, the 29-year-old rewarded with a league-leading 2.57 ERA in the first year of a deal he wouldn’t have gotten if it weren’t for his stellar postseason performance.

Indeed, postseason performances can change the value of a potential free agent. Here are seven players from this postseason who could see their value improve.

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Managers, GMs who must finish strong 

August, 16, 2013
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Jerry Dipoto and Mike SciosciaKyle Terada/US PresswireCould Angels general manager Jerry Dipoto, right, be on his way out in L.A.?

Stability and continuity in the general manager and field manager positions are how an organization wins championships.

In the early 1990s, the Atlanta Braves’ combination of general manager John Schuerholz and manager Bobby Cox set the bar. After Schuerholz and Cox retired, the Braves’ torch was passed on to GM Frank Wren and manager Fredi Gonzalez, but the Detroit Tigers’ Dave Dombrowski and Jim Leyland might be the closest parallel to the Schuerholz-Cox dynamic.

Up until Friday, when Phillies manager Charlie Manuel was fired, the 2013 season had been kind to both general managers and field managers as there hadn’t been a single firing -- which was good for baseball and its teams. Such stability underscores the success of competitive balance in the sport.

As was the case in Philadelphia, the lack of management upheaval elsewhere won’t last forever as there inevitably will be some changes this offseason. It’s simply the nature of the business. After polling executives in both leagues, here are four general managers or field managers who might have to finish this season strong in order to retain their jobs in 2014:


Jerry Dipoto | general manager | Los Angeles Angels

Dipoto is one of the bright young minds in the game. The problem is that he hasn’t been able to carry out his vision for the Angels because most of his moves have backfired. The decision to include shortstop Jean Segura in the Zack Greinke trade would have been justified had the Angels either won the World Series or re-signed Greinke. However, they didn’t win and Dipoto chose to sign free-agent Josh Hamilton instead of Greinke.

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Grading the GMs at the deadline 

July, 31, 2013
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While many people are going to say this year's trade deadline was a bit of a dud, there were still plenty of deals made. Here's the way I would grade how every GM did leading up to the deadline, but please keep in mind that sometimes standing pat is the best course of action, and some GMs who did very little still received good grades.

So here are the grades for every GM, with the teams listed in alphabetical order.

Kevin Towers, Arizona Diamondbacks

This was a team that I thought should stand pat, but they did make one notable move, shipping Ian Kennedy to San Diego for Joe Thatcher, pitching prospect Matt Stites and a competitive balance draft pick. Kennedy once looked like a potential No. 2 starter, but he's had a terrible year and would have been the odd man out in Arizona's deep rotation next year. Thatcher is one of the best situational lefties in the game, and he will come in handy against Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford and Andre Ethier in September, when the D-backs face the Dodgers seven times.

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Five teams that should stand pat 

July, 29, 2013
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Chris ArcherAP Photo/Frank Franklin IIThe emergence of Chris Archer means the Rays don't need to make major moves.

One of my favorite trade deadline baseball clichés is "sometimes the best trades you make are the ones you don’t make." Indeed, fans and media clamor at this time of year for teams to make trades, but regardless of how compelling a trade proposal or rumor might be, doing nothing sometimes is a general manager’s strongest play.

I remember at the 2006 trade deadline, most of the media and the Washington Nationals’ fan base was calling for me to trade Alfonso Soriano. The best offers I had for Soriano were from the Seattle Mariners -- who offered me hard-throwing reliever Mark Lowe -- and the Minnesota Twins -- who offered right-handed starter Kevin Slowey.

In the end, I felt the best thing for the team was to hold on to Soriano, who eventually left via free agency and signed with the Chicago Cubs. Meanwhile, Lowe ended up blowing out his elbow and Slowey has been little more than a fringe starter. The draft pick compensation the Nationals received? It turned out to be the pick used to select right-hander Jordan Zimmermann, now one of Washington’s best pitchers.

Look, no fan wants to hear his/her team is going to just “stand pat,” but that’s exactly what these five teams should do in the next 72 hours.

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