Jays still have miles to go

Closer Sergio Santos heads to the dugout after ending an inning against the Tigers in Detroit,...

Closer Sergio Santos heads to the dugout after ending an inning against the Tigers in Detroit, Mich., Aug. 5, 2010. (REBECCA COOK/Reuters)

BOB ELLIOTT, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:26 AM ET

DALLAS - Are the Blue Jays better now then they were when the season ended?

After all, the goal of every general manager who walked into the door of the Anatole Hilton Sunday night — whether he was running the double-A Altoona Curve or the Toronto Blue Jays — was to get better.

“I would say the biggest thing is we didn’t lose a core piece in the off-season so far,” Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos told reporters at the conclusion of the Rule V. “We added one, so from my standpoint that’s an improvement because that’s what we need to do.

“We lost Frank Francisco, Shawn Camp, Jon Rauch and Jose Molina, but we picked up a core player. We’ve added Jeff Mathis as a No. 2, but we’ll miss Molina.”

The Jays moved prospect Nestor Molina to the Chicago White Sox for closer Sergio Santos, who was 30-for-36 (83%) converting saves.

“(Santos) might throw like a third baseman, he might have only been doing it for four or five months, but he’s fearless and throws a ton of strikes,” said an American League general manager. Santos averaged 13.9 pitches per inning, cutting right to the core of an opposing rally.

The acquisition of Santos might not create lines at the ticket windows or have people calling 1 SkyDome Way to give the call centre operators a headache — acquiring Roger Clemens didn’t do that either — but they came looking for a closer and left with one under contract ... for three years, plus three options years.

Fans want the Jays to sign Prince Fielder, the Milwaukee Brewers free agent. Four years younger than Albert Pujols, his agent Scott Boras will want a longer-term deal, no doubt.

We wrote in September how scouts in conversation with the Jays said that Toronto had looked at Fielder and decided that they were not interested ... as he was “a first baseman with a bad body at age 27, would have a bad body next year at age 28 and he’ll be worse five years from now.”

That was before a 10-year deal for Pujols was signed.

We have not seen any indication of a change.

The Jays also know who will play second base (or left field) after Kelly Johnson accepted salary arbitration at 11:59 Wednesday night.

Adding Santos and Johnson still means the Jays have many miles to hike. Like another starter. Like a bridge from the starters to Santos.

Anthopoulos said he was “not at all excited about the options” in free agency at second. A trade would have cost “some top young players, which we didn’t want to do.”

Could the Jays continue their hunt for starting help in Oakland A’s lefty Gio Gonzalez?

“I have a better sense of the landscape,” Anthopoulos said. “Everyone is more motivated to have dialogue. It doesn’t mean we’re going to do anything, but I have a much better sense of what the asking price is on guys.”

The A’s, without a Money Ball movie to distract fans next summer and entering another rebuilding phase do not want major-leaguers in return for Gonzalez. Although a player such as Eric Thames could be attractive. For the most part the A’s want high-end (ceiling), low-level, minor leaguers.

“Our system is there to either help the big-league club or to be used in trade,” said Anthopoulos. “You can look at the Baseball America top 30 list and know not all 30 will make the majors, not all pan out.

“At some point players will be used in trade. From our standpoint, timing is important, whether it’s their value or if they’re blocked.”

The problem Anthopoulos faces is getting fans on his time table.

THE BIG DAWGS

The big dawgs are coming home to roost.

Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson, plus Jose Reyes, Mark Buerhle and Heath Bell.

Who is next? Right-hander Yu Darvish.

The Japanese right-hander wrote on his blog Thursday he will test the posting system and play in the majors next season. Once Major League Baseball and the Nippon Ham Fighters make it official, teams will have four days to submit a bid. After that 30 days to make a deal.

“If it took $51 million to win the rights to talk to Daisuke Matsuzaka, I’m guessing it will be over $100 million to get his right and then sign him.” said one American League GM.

Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos scouted Darvish in September in Japan.

BRIEFLY

The Jays designated catcher Brian Jeroloman for assignment to make room on their 40-man roster for Kelly Johnson. ... The Jays selected three players in the minor-league portion of Rule V draft: Javier Avendano, 20 (1-2, 1.35, 14 walks, 52 strikeouts in 40 innings at class-A Batavia) from St. Louis; outfielder Gabe Jacobo (.270, 10 homers, 49 RBIs, double-A Arkansas) from the Angels, and catcher Hector Alvarez (.229, six RBIs) from the New York Mets.


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