12/10/2013 10:19 P.M. ET
Creative Anthopoulos open to options
By Gregor Chisholm / MLB.com
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- The Blue Jays continue to explore the trade market in search of another impact starting pitcher, but so far the asking prices from across the league haven't exactly been cheap.
The lower levels of Toronto's Minor League system contain a lot of depth, but the same can't necessarily be said about Double-A and Triple-A. That creates some problems, because opposing teams often are looking for a series of prospects who are relatively close to the Majors.
Aaron Sanchez and Marcus Stroman -- Toronto's top and No. 3 prospects, respectively, as ranked by MLB.com -- have been a hot topic of conversation in recent weeks as general manager Alex Anthopoulos attempts to be creative in his search for an upgrade on the mound.
"Almost every time," Anthopoulos said when asked if teams are asking for Stroman or Sanchez. "If you're trying to get a controllable starter, everyone would prefer to get the talent level that's closest.
"That always carries the most value, there's less risk, you know more about the player, et cetera. Sanchez, Stroman, guys like that, they come up in every trade talk we probably have."
Toronto certainly would prefer to hang onto Stroman and Sanchez, as they represent the next wave of starting pitchers in the Blue Jays' system. By most accounts, Stroman is ready for the Major Leagues, and Sanchez has an outside chance of making his debut before the end of the year.
The two right-handers likely increased their value even more with strong performances in the Arizona Fall League, and it's clear they've drawn a lot of interest from across the league.
There might be some reluctance on Anthopoulos' part to move either player, but they certainly can't be considered untouchable. Anthopoulos continuously states that he is open to moving any player in the right deal, and the same policy applies to this situation as well.
"No," Anthopoulos said when asked if Sanchez or Stroman were off-limits in trade talks. "That's not to say we want to trade those guys, but I want to hear teams out. I'm open-minded. You do factor in how many years of control you're going to have the player for, how much better is that player, do you have potential to extend the player, can you get a window -- all of those things are part of the equation."
The potential return will dictate just how much the Blue Jays are willing to give up. The club has been linked to Cubs right-hander Jeff Samardzija, and according to other reports, several starters have been made available at this week's Winter Meetings, including Philadelphia's Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee, Cleveland's Justin Masterson and, possibly, Tampa Bay's David Price.
Toronto accepts ramifications of contract philosophy
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- General manager Alex Anthopoulos doesn't appear to be all that interested in making a significant splash through free agency, but even if he was, the Blue Jays would have a tough time finalizing deals because of their team policy regarding contracts.
Toronto doesn't have any desire to sign players to contracts of more than five years, a stance that essentially eliminates any chance it has of adding one of the elite players available on the open market.
The danger of lengthy contracts is one of the main reasons why Anthopoulos prefers to do almost all of his business through trade as opposed to free agency. There was one exception last offseason, when the Blue Jays considered a six-year offer to an undisclosed free agent, but for the most part, it's a rule Toronto simply won't break.
"When I was an [assistant general manager], my mind-set was a little bit different; I was probably more open to longer deals," Anthopoulos said. "I've seen some of these deals not work out for some clubs and how quickly things change with players.
"There are some players out there in trade that signed long-term contracts, and then a year or two later, they're already getting moved. That's pretty telling. I still think five years is a long period of time."
Anthopoulos conceded that because of the self-imposed limit, a certain group of players simply isn't available to them. In a lot of cases, though, there are ways to get around the issue without compromising the rules.
Toronto typically would offer a shorter-term contract that includes a higher annual salary to help offset the overall difference. Anthopoulos used an example of an unnamed player who signed for more than five seasons but would have agreed to a five-year deal at a higher annual rate.
What the Blue Jays want to avoid is having to essentially eat money at the end of a deal because they know the production won't be there six, seven or eight years down the road.
"That's certainly a choice, and some clubs choose to do that," Anthopoulos said. "We've obviously chosen not to do that, but that can definitely be a thought process. I think at the end of the day, if you're eating the last two or three years of the deal, if you're representing the contract appropriately to your ownership, you say these last two or three years don't mean anything.
"Lump those into the first three or four [years], and that's ultimately what you're paying the player. Just go shorter and pay him. Dump in the money, it's the same thing. If we're going to go seven times 10, or go five times 14, it balances out at the end of the day."
Leiper reportedly Blue Jays' new first-base coach
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- The Blue Jays have hired Tim Leiper to take over for the retired Dwayne Murphy as first-base coach, according to a report by Sportsnet.
Leiper spent the past year as a special assistant to player development in the Blue Jays' system. He also has experience with Baseball Canada at both the World Baseball Classic and the Olympics.
The 47-year-old Leiper crossed paths with general manager Alex Anthopoulos when the two were working for the Montreal Expos. Leiper worked in almost every level of the Minor Leagues before transitioning to a front-office position.
Toronto is expected to announce the move next week. Leiper would round out manager John Gibbons' on-field staff, which also includes new hitting coach Kevin Seitzer as well as returnees Pete Walker (pitching), Pat Hentgen (bullpen), Luis Rivera (third base) and DeMarlo Hale (bench).
Anthopoulos recently mentioned that the Blue Jays are considering adding another coach, but no final determinations have been made.
Davis' time in Toronto comes to an end
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- The Rajai Davis era in Toronto has come to an end, as it was revealed on Tuesday that the veteran outfielder has agreed to terms with the Tigers.
The deal was first reported by Sportsnet.
The signing has yet to be made official, but multiple sources say it will be for two years and is expected to reach $10 million.
Davis' departure hardly comes as a surprise considering the Blue Jays were never really in the market to re-sign him. Rookie Anthony Gose has the ability to take over as the fourth outfielder and provides similar speed off the bench.
Even so, there's no question that the loss of Davis is a bit of a blow to the organization. He was an ideal candidate to platoon at designated hitter with Adam Lind while also serving as a fourth outfielder and late-game pinch-runner.
Davis recorded 125 stolen bases over the past three years while appearing in at least 95 games during each of those seasons. He'll likely fill a similar role in Detroit, where he is expected to platoon in left field with Andy Dirks.
The 33-year-old Davis is a career .268 hitter over the course of eight seasons in the Major Leagues. He was acquired from the A's prior to the 2011 season in exchange for pitchers Danny Farquhar and Trystan Magnuson.