Blue Jays expect action to come after Meetings
Johnson's arbitration situation holding up potential negotiations
DALLAS -- Day 1 at the Winter Meetings was relatively quiet for the Blue Jays, and according to Alex Anthopoulos, it's possible things will remain that way until after the annual event wraps up later this week at the Hilton Anatole hotel in Dallas.
Toronto's general manager has made it an offseason priority to add a closer and starting second baseman to his team while he also is expected to make an attempt to upgrade the starting rotation.
Anthopoulos attended a lot of meetings with other GMs on Monday, but as of late afternoon, it did not appear as though anything was imminent.
"I'd love to fill all of our needs, but I think the last two Winter Meetings have shown that we haven't been able to do that," Anthopoulos told a group of reporters.
"Most times, we gather a lot of information, move things forward with agents and GMs, and if we're going to finalize things, they're normally after these Meetings. ... I'd love to have everything done here, but realistically they'll probably get done after we leave."
One thing holding up potential negotiations is the situation currently facing Kelly Johnson. The veteran second baseman has until Wednesday at 11:59 p.m. ET to decide whether to accept the Blue Jays' offer of salary arbitration.
Johnson would be in line for a raise on the $5.85 million he made in 2011 if he accepts. That still seems unlikely, though, as Johnson should be able to secure a multiyear contract on the open market and Toronto would pick up two important compensatory picks in next year's Draft if he departs for another organization.
The 29-year-old Johnson began the offseason in limbo, but the new Collective Bargaining Agreement altered his status as a Type-A free agent. Teams will no longer be forced to part with their top Draft pick to sign the native of Texas. That change should help drive up Johnson's value as he is arguably the most talented second baseman available through free agency.
"I think it should help the player, with the altered Type-A status, I think there are no restrictions on the player right now," Anthopoulos said.
"I think ultimately if a player ends up taking a one-year, non-guaranteed deal [in arbitration], that tells you a little bit about the market, because there are no restrictions for the player signing with another team."
Anthopoulos currently has several preliminary trade offers from other teams in hand, but nothing has piqued his interest enough to pull the trigger on a deal.
That still could change in the coming days, but it's worth noting that, in the past, Anthopoulos laid the ground work for trading No. 1 starter Roy Halladay and acquiring right-hander Brandon Morrow at the Winter Meetings but didn't go through with the deal until the Meetings were over.
Regardless of how things progress in Dallas, Anthopoulos reiterated that he would prefer making improvements via trade as opposed to handing out multiyear contracts to free agents.
"Ideally I think we'd rather go through trade, and I think that's always our first choice when we can," Anthopoulos said. "But it's easy to go the free-agent route because you don't have to give up players, just money.
"But normally you struggle with the years and the dollars, and you don't find value in that. First choice is trade and, if we exhaust that and can't come up with anything, then we'll certainly look at the free-agent market."
For the second consecutive day, Anthopoulos also was forced to talk about the rumors surrounding Toronto's interest in free-agent slugger Prince Fielder. An online report surfaced early Sunday morning that suggested the Blue Jays were the front-runner to land the All-Star first baseman, who is reportedly seeking a deal that is at least eight years long.
Toronto has a club policy of not addressing specific trade or free-agent rumors with the media, but Anthopoulos said as much as he could in an attempt to pour cold water on the recent speculation.
"I know we get linked to almost every player in the offseason," Anthopoulos said. "I think we're the team that everyone likes to use, to be completely candid about it. But I guess all I would say about big-name free-agent signings, I think most of our local media have seen what myself and [president, CEO] Paul Beeston have talked about.
"Right now we're pretty averse to signing to extensively long contracts -- seven years, eight years, things like that. If there are players out there on the market that are going to require those kind of deals, we probably won't be a factor for those players."