MILWAUKEE - “It’s time,” said an American League general manager Monday afternoon.
Time for what?
“Time for Toronto to make a move,” said an early arrival at the annual general managers meetings Monday afternoon at the historic Pfister Hotel (est. 1893).
“If I’m the Blue Jays, I look at Boston, they have a new GM, new manager, a new closer (the previous one, Jonathan Paplebon, signed with the Philadelphia Phillies), and may lose the big DH (David Ortiz).
“You can’t run in fear of these guys forever.”
So, what if Boston slips on a banana peel dropped in spilled clam chowder in 2012? The Jays still would have to beat at least one of the New York Yankees or the Tampa Bay Rays to reach post-season play for the first time since 1993.
“Tampa could have a bad year, Toronto could have a good year,” the GM said. “All I know is that they are pushing hard for a closer.”
The Jays have expressed interest in free agent relievers Joe Nathan, Ryan Madson, Heath Bell and Jonathan Broxton. As well, they have inquired about Oakland Athletics closer Andrew Bailey, who converted 24 of 26 save opportunities.
Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos arrived Monday night.
Agent Jeff Musselman remembers his first major-league start for the Jays at Memorial Stadium in Baltimore in 1987. Musselman was in his 35th game. Before his start, Jays lefty Mike Flanagan told him: “If Lee Lacy gets on, come set, move your hands before throwing to first, the ump won’t call a balk, and Lacy will go first movement,” Mussselman said. Musselman walked Lacy. Facing the next batter, Musselman came set, moved his hands, Lacy broke and Lacy was picked off. “That was Flanny,” Musselman said of his former teammate, who passed away in August. “He knew the ump, the runner, exactly what each would do.” ... Then, Musselman and his boss, agent Scott Boras, were off on an early morning run through the streets of downtown Milwaukee. Boras represents Madson, Prince Fielder, Edwin Jackson, and Carlos Pena in this year’s free-agent class. “Toronto has called and said we would talk about our players once they got here,” said Boras, who refused to say which player the Jays had called about.
Right-hander Yu Darvish of the Nippon Ham Fighters might be the No. 1 import from the Far East. However, the Jays, amongst others, have also shown interest in lefties Wei-Yin Chen and Tsuyoshi Wada. Both Chen, from Chinese Taipei, and Wada are free agents so there will not be a posting fee — which for Darvish could be as much as $100 million, according to some experts Chen, 25, was 8-10 with a 2.68 ERA with 31 walks and 94 strikeouts in 1642/3 innings for the Chunichi Dragons. Wada, 30, was 16-5 with a 1.51 ERA for the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks, walking 40 and striking out 168 in 1842/3 innings.
Executives from other teams expect former Mets and Montreal Expos GM Omar Minaya to join the Blue Jays. The San Diego Padres are considered in the mix as well. Minaya, who has a strong scouting background especially in Latin America, has close friendships with both Jays GM Anthopoulos and pro scout Russ Bovay, Minaya’s former coach. The Jays employ former GMs Jim Beattie (Expos, Orioles), Ed Lynch (Cubs) and Chuck LaMarr (Devil Rays).
THE LATEST STUD
Outfielder Yoenis Cespedes will display his skills at a Tuesday showcase in the Dominican Republic which will draw a cadre of evaluators. Cespedes is represented by Adam Katz. Edgar Mercedes, a Dominican-based agent, put together a YouTube video of Cespedes’ home runs, jumping atop a bench, bench pressing and taking fly balls in right. “It looks like something you’d see on Entertainment Tonight,” one GM said. “It looks like they waxed his eyebrows.” ... Washington, Oakland, Cleveland, San Francisco, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, the New York Yankees, Boston, Texas and Toronto attended his first workout. Anthopoulos said Sunday he was uncertain if the Jays would scout Tuesday’s workout.
STAYING WITH THE SNAKES
During the postseason, Arizona Diamondbacks GM Kevin Towers repeatedly said he wanted second baseman Aaron Hill back — but not at the cost of the two option years (at $8 million each) that the Blue Jays had given him. Arizona gave Hill a two-year deal worth $11 million and John McDonald two years for $3 million. Think back to August, when the Jays dealt infielders McDonald and Hill to the desert, Anthopoulos put his hand on each player’s shoulder and expressed that he wanted both to return as free agents for next season ... Now, is Kelly Johnson the No. 1 option?
Mike Matheny started 50 games behind the plate for the 1997 Jays as manager Jim Fregosi usually went with the better hitter in Darrin Fletcher. Matheny signed with the St. Louis Cardinals and won Gold Glove awards three of his next five seasons, then another with the San Francisco Giants. Now, he’s stepping into manager Tony La Russa’s shoes despite never having managed or coached in the minors. Like Phil Bengtson replacing Vince Lombardi ... White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf and GM Kenny Williams hired Robin Ventura to manage and he has zero experience and was away from the game since 2004.