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Interview with Alex Anthopoulos and Doug Melvin
12/06/2010 7:30 PM ET
MODERATOR: Thank you for joining us on short notice. The Toronto Blue Jays and Milwaukee Brewers have completed a deal that sees right-handed pitcher Shawn Marcum being traded from the Toronto Blue Jays to the Milwaukee Brewers in exchange for second baseman, Brett Lawrie. With us, Doug Melvin and Alex Anthopoulos.

DOUG MELVIN: As you know, the Brewers last year, we needed to find some pitching to improve our ballclub and this is a first step and hope we can add some more. But adding a competitive pitcher like Shaun Marcum to our ballclub, it was a deal for us giving up a talented prospect in Brett Lawrie. It's something that we felt we needed to do. We still feel we have a competitive team in our division to get to postseason again and Shaun has been very consistent over the past few years, and someone that can fit in the top of our rotation, along with Yovani Gallardo and Randy Wolf. And with Shaun we feel much better about our pitching staff today than we did yesterday. Having acquired him was the first move here when we come into the Winter Meetings trying to improve our overall pitching.

ALEX ANTHOPOULOS: I would like to start by thanking Shaun Marcum and the Toronto Blue Jays, as he alluded, terrific competitor, started Opening Day last year and did a terrific job and there's no question he will be missed.

At the same time, we would like to welcome Brett Lawrie to the organization. A player we have been after for quite some time now and we had been talking about internally and trying to acquire for the past year. So being able to consummate this trade, but giving up somebody of Shaun's ability and what he meant for the team was a deal that we felt was right for our organization. We feel we have depth with the starting rotation and some of the prospects and some of the current starters that we have and adding a young position player prospect with athleticism and the tools and upside that Lawrie has is something we felt we could not turn down. Seems likes one of those trades that certainly benefits both organizations. And we're excited to have Brett in the fold.

Q. How long has this trade been in the works? Was it something that came together here since the end of the season? Can you just dissect how this came together.

DOUG MELVIN: Alex has had a lot of interest in Brett for a long period of time.

And so he's pretty persistent in that, and we have talked about a number of players and that, and you know, in the end like he said, it's a trade that works well for both clubs. It gives us a pitcher here, 28 years of age, having to give up a young player, like Brett, was very difficult. It's tough.

But you're only going to do it if you feel that the individual you are getting is helping your ballclub currently. So with Alex, there's a lot of phone calls, and so we make a lot of phone calls. I can't tell you the exact date it started, but Shaun's name came in here later on. I think we were talking different players and that, but yeah, it took a while.

And then we talked about it a few days before we got down here.

Q. For Alex, what is it about Lawrie that enticed you, and second part of the question is, what position do you envision him playing at the Major League level?

ALEX ANTHOPOULOS: A lot of things about Lawrie enticed us. The package, the upside, the ceiling he has, in a lot of ways, essentially a five-tool player; can run, can throw, a lot of the scouts that have seen him talk about him playing the game harder than most players they have ever seen and how when he's on the field, he's all about winning.

With respect to Brett, looking at his age as a 20 year old and how fast he's moved through the Minor Leagues and what a great competitor he is, that's certainly a feeling and especially fitting into the young core of players we have and adding into the depth on the mound, from a position player standpoint, we are still light and we need to augment and add to that.

From a position standpoint, he's played second base. We looked at him potentially also playing third base because we think the tools are there to translate. But those are things that will be determined in Spring Training once we get to know him a little bit more and watch him on a day-to-day basis.

Q. You said Alex has been persistent, coming after Lawrie for a while, and how young prospects can be tough to deal; what is the tipping point? What made you say, this is worth giving this kid up.

DOUG MELVIN: Well, our need for pitching at the upper level of the rotation and someone that competes very well and can go out there and give us the innings. He didn't pitch in '09, but last year pitched 185 innings and pitched against very quality teams in the Eastern Division. You look at what is in the free-agent market and you see what is out there, I didn't feel it was a very strong market that we wanted to get involved with. I wanted to go out there and see if we can acquire someone that can be with us for a few years and help us immediately. Again, with Yovani Gallardo and Randy Wolf and now Shaun, I feel pretty good about going into the opening series. We still have work to do, but again we are a team that we have identified hitters and positional players very well, and have a lot of confidence in our pro scouting staff and a lot of confidence in our amateur scouting staff to continue to find positional players and good hitters. We have Casey McGehee and Corey Hart, but we have done a very good job of that.

And we have some young pitching coming along but we didn't have someone immediately. When Shaun became available, we felt that we have confidence in our scouting staff to find those kind of players, and then we were willing to give up Brett.

Q. Alex, I know you want to let players determine what they do. But realistically, how far along in the development process is Lawrie, how soon do you expect him to arrive?

ALEX ANTHOPOULOS: Hard to say. He had obviously a very good year in the Southern League last year. He's only 20 years old. And I know you mention it, we do let the players dictate that and I think it's unfair to start putting expectations and timelines on players -- and especially not having been around him. Right now, all we have are scouting reports and scouts that have gone in for a five-game series. Things like that over the last few years. We try to make a determination for us. If he can get there sooner than later, that means things are going well and he is playing well and deserves to be there. If it takes more time from a development standpoint and our staff feels that way, then that will ultimately be the position the organization takes?

Q. How much is this part of the plan to get young, controllable guys?

ALEX ANTHOPOULOS: Trading Shaun Marcum was not easy. He was our Opening Day starter in the American League East, with a corner of what we feel is a very strong young rotation. And to take away from that, is one I swallowed hard on and I agonized over this trade. Probably the most difficult trade I made, and you can point to the Halladay trade -- but the difference being that Doc was very adamant and clear that he felt it was time for a change and he wanted to make a change and move. Shaun was not one of those players. And the performance and production that he gave us, and also the camaraderie and what he brought to the rotation, is something we did not take lightly at all.

That being said, with that position of what we feel is depth in the organization from top to bottom, contrary to the Brewers, we are looking in position players and we have been able to identify good, young starters and some relievers over the past few years. So this is one of those times that we needed to deal from a position of strength. And as hard as it was to give up Shaun, it was a decision, I guess in a lot of ways, a risk, because it is a prospect, that we felt that we needed to take.

Q. In trading Lawrie, does this make it more difficult to negotiate with Weeks or put more emphasis on keeping him now that a possible successor to him has been traded?

DOUG MELVIN: I don't think so. Our goal is to sign Rickie long term. As Rickie has indicated, he would like to stay with us. And also, we have a very good second baseman, Eric Farris, behind him that played in the Fall League and performed very well there. And Brett is a very talented player and he was not really penciled in at second. He can play second, but Brett is athletic enough that, you know, we had the ability to move him to other positions, too. He was a catcher, he was an outfielder, he's played third base, and he's that athletic, he can move to fit your ballclub fairly quickly. He played second base last year, but that didn't necessarily mean that he was going to be penciled in.

Q. You traded your first-round draft pick from 2007 for CC Sabathia and now 2008, is it hard to trade first rounders? CC was a tremendous trade and sounds like this one is for you as well.

DOUG MELVIN: Yes, it's always hard to trade your top draft picks. They are never easy. But as long as you want to stay competitive, and we owe it to our fans, 2.8 million to 3 million fans over the last few years, we owe it to our fans to try to be as competitive and get back to the postseason like we did two years ago. And sometimes, your draft picks just don't allow you to do that at a certain period of time over the long haul; they are very valuable. But in this instance, we dealt from a position of strength to try to fill some holes in an area that we were not as strong.

Q. There seems to be this thought going through the inner webs that one of the reason that Marcum was traded is that he was not willing to sign long term; can you speak to that at all?

ALEX ANTHOPOULOS: I could never get into contract negotiations from start to finish, but Shaun is someone that I think was adamant and came out publicly -- who said he loved his time in Toronto and wanted to be in Toronto long term. That's part of what kind of teammate he was and being with the guys, and so on.

At the same time, after talking to him, I think it shook him a little bit, the news of the trade. But after he thought about the Brewers and where they are headed, and the players that they have; Shaun is about winning. He talks about it all the time and all of the media that's been around him knows that's all he talks about. And he knows he has a tremendous opportunity to win.

Q. Along those lines, is that something you would be interested in talking to him about -- or do you have to like actually meet him first?

DOUG MELVIN: I'd like to meet him first. But you know, we are always open to extensions -- and that and long term deals. But sometimes they don't happen. It's obvious, we have some players now that it has not happened with. But we will wait and see.

Q. That aspect of it was not a part of this negotiation, though, was it?

DOUG MELVIN: Not necessarily, no.

Q. Have you spoken to Brett since the trade and what did he say?

ALEX ANTHOPOULOS: I spoke to him ten minutes before I came down and he's very excited. He is a very driven, focused, confident young man. And I think when you combine that with his ability, that is what makes him a great player. On the upside, the ceiling, he is an All Star caliber player, at least the way the scouts talk about it. He's excited to be part of the organization and excited to move forward, and excited to continue his career and help the Toronto Blue Jays.

Q. Given the address that you guys have, the division that you are in, how realistic do you think it is for you guys to contend next year?

ALEX ANTHOPOULOS: Great question, and with the teams in our division, and I always point to the front offices in our division, you look at all of the other general managers and they have all been to the World Series -- and that's our greatest challenge. We took great strides last year with an 85-win season and had players with remarkable years. But for us, it's not about one year. It's about trying to build a sustainable winner -- and truly that's because of the upside of our marketing across Canada and our ownership. The upside of the ceiling, if we build it correctly, we should be able to build a sustainable winner for the long term and it will take a patient approach. It will require taking some chances and gambling a little bit on prospects and players like Brett Lawrie, who have high ceilings but haven't done it yet.

Q. You mentioned across Canada; Canadian GM, Canadian player, have you ever done that before?

DOUG MELVIN: No, but I still have some Justin Bieber posters on my walls. (Laughter.)

MODERATOR: That was a good way to finish. Thank you very much, gentlemen.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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