Promise to Buck impacted Arencibia's starts
Anthopoulos kept word to veteran he'd be everyday catcher
TORONTO -- Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos says he is a man of his word. When Anthopoulos makes a commitment to a player, he intends to honour it, regardless of the perceived repercussions from the outside world.
That type of mentality was the leading reason behind veteran John Buck getting everyday starts behind the plate late in the 2010 season even when it became apparent his days in a Blue Jays uniform were numbered.
In a controversial move, Buck continued starting for the rebuilding Blue Jays while rookie catcher J.P. Arencibia watched from the dugout. The decision was heavily criticized by both the media and the fan base, but Anthopoulos said it was something the organization needed to do.
"When John Buck was signed to a one-year deal, the promise was made to him that he was going to be an everyday player from start to finish," Anthopoulos said.
"When we were competing to sign him, there were a few other teams that wanted to sign him. That was really what separated us from some of the other teams."
Based strictly on performance, Buck was the Blue Jays' best option behind the plate in 2010. The 30-year-old enjoyed a career season, hitting .281 with 20 home runs and 66 RBIs.
Despite the lofty numbers, the organization came under fire for starting Buck over one of the club's top prospects. Toronto was putting an emphasis on youth and it was apparent that Buck -- an impending free agent -- didn't fit into the Blue Jays' long-term plans.
Instead of giving Arencibia an opportunity, though, Toronto gave the vast majority of the playing time to Buck. That decision helped Buck earn a three-year, $18 million contract with the Florida Marlins, but it did little to show whether Arencibia would be able to succeed in the Major Leagues.
At the time, manager Cito Gaston was burdened with most of the blame. The 66-year-old was set to retire at the end of the season, and he was accused of sacrificing the long-term benefit of the club in order to finish his career with the best possible team on the field.
Anthopoulos said while he understands the criticism the organization received, the move was made because of the promise that was given to Buck.
"When we give our word to someone ... that's part of our brand," Anthopoulos said. "When I'm negotiating with an agent or I'm trying to recruit a player, and we have to tell them something, whether it's good or bad news, they know that we're going to honor our word and we're going to be straight shooters.
"People in the game are starting to realize that the way the Toronto Blue Jays operate, they're men of their word and they keep to their commitment."
Arencibia arrived in the Major Leagues for the second time in his career on Sept. 1, when the rosters were expanded. The 25-year-old earned the promotion after hitting .301 with 32 home runs and 85 RBIs with Triple-A Las Vegas en route to winning the Pacific Coast League MVP Award.
Arencibia had nothing left to prove in the Minor Leagues, and it was just a matter of time before he would be able to hone his skills at the next level. In September, though, Arencibia appeared in just six games and instead spent most of his time following the routines of Buck and Jose Molina. Arencibia watched how they worked with a young pitching staff and learned how to dissect video.
Along the way, the rookie's work ethic impressed Buck. After the veteran signed with the Marlins, he talked with Anthopoulos and made a point of praising Toronto's catcher of the future. He also had nothing but nice things to say about his brief tenure in Toronto, which is something Anthopoulos hopes will pay dividends down the road.
"He said he was going to call J.P. just to give him some pointers about things to prepare for in the offseason," Anthopoulos said of his phone call with Buck. "I think that's the level of respect that you build, so when you're trying to recruit a player and they're calling John Buck, they have good things to say about the city, the organization and about the management.
"Does that impact someone like J.P. Arencibia in the short term? Absolutely. There's no question, but there was a way to balance it out so he could get some development time and work with the young starters."
Blue Jays president Paul Beeston believes the way the organization treats players has already started to prove its worth. He pointed to the offseason trade of No. 1 starter Shaun Marcum to Milwaukee as one indicator that players have embraced the club and the city of Toronto.
"I listened to a radio interview that he did and he didn't want to leave," Beeston said of Marcum's initial reaction to being traded. "He believed in what we were doing, he believed in his teammates, he believed in the direction that we're going in. To me, when I see that, I say, 'That is what we want.'
"We want to be where players want to play. We want to be where guys like Robbie Alomar look at their career and say, 'I was a Toronto Blue Jay and I was proud of it.' It's a tough climb, but it's a climb nonetheless that we can do."