INDIAN WELLS, CALIF. - Flush from handing out the largest contract he’s ever given a free agent, Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos was busy on the meeting front.
Exploring the deeper end of the free-agent pool.
After giving a three-year, $9-million contract to infielder Maicer Izturis, Anthopoulos, who has never signed a free agent for more than one year, and his assistants, met with or called Thursday on Day 2 of the winter meetings at the Hyatt Regency:
— Agents representing free-agent right-hander Anibal Sanchez. Next to Zack Greinke, Sanchez is considered the best available starter by some executives. The SFX camp, which represents Sanchez, also has received interest from the Boston Red Sox.
Originally signed by Boston, Sanchez split this season between the Miami Marlins and the Detroit Tigers. Sanchez was a combined 9-13 with a 3.86 ERA. Sanchez, who turns 29 next spring, walked 48 and struck out 167 in 1952/3 innings over 31 starts.
— Agents representing free-agent right-hander Edwin Jackson. Making 31 starts for the Washingtion Nationals, Jackson was 10-11 with a 4.03 ERA. Jackson walked 58 and fanned 168 in 1892/3 innings. Jackson was part of the three-way deal which brought Colby Rasmus to the Jays.
— Inquired about free-agent lefty Francisco Liriano, 6-12, 5.34 in 28 starts with the Minnesota Twins and the Chicago White Sox. Liriano injured his elbow in 2008 and has been 40-49, 4.75 since.
Earlier, Anthopoulos spoke in generalities when asked about free-agent pitching, talking about offers from a conceptual standpoint: Length of contract, average annual salary.
“If we think we don’t have a chance, we won’t make a phone call,” Anthopoulos told reporters. “When we call we always start with a comparable pitcher and go from there.
“It’s not a bottomless pit, but we have money to spend. I have a budget, a number, and then I can go to Paul Beeston (Jays president) if there is something else to talk about.”
The bidding for Sanchez could climb in what is considered a weak free-agent class of starters.
Especially with teams like the Red Sox and the Jays making noises that they have dough to spend.
And starters is what the Jays need with a rotation — if the season started tomorrow — of Ricky Romero, Brandon Morrow, Henderson Alvarez, J.A. Happ and possibly Chad Jenkins.
Brett Cecil, who made nine starts, will make the club out of the bullpen looking to become the next Marc Rzepczysnki. Kyle Drabek is not expected back until after the all-star break and Drew Hutchison could miss the whole season. Both underwent Tommy John surgery as three walk-off injuries in four days led to 51 missed starts, a total that will continue to grow.
Hence the need for one or two starters.
Did the Izturis contract and the initial meetings with the Sanchez agents cause a ripple through New York Yankees bank account and Red Sox Nation?
The next few months will tell if Anthopoulos if a prime-time player with the big spenders.
Infielder Adeiny Hechavarria can stay at triple-A Buffalo with the new middle infielder signed, until Yunel Escobar is moved.
“You wait around and try to keep your options open and keep your flexibility open, but you can get paralyzed by that and miss a lot of opportunities,” said Anthopoulos.
So, did the Jays blow the bundle on Izturis?
The general manager smiled and said shook his head no.
And on the manager search, as the GM has taken on a ‘the-roster-is-more-important-than-a-manager’ stance, the biggest news was that Jim Tracy, one of the leading candidates who has experience having managed the Pittsburgh Pirates, the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Colorado Rockies, has told friends that he has not heard a word from the Blue Jays.
With the Colorado Rockies hiring former rookie of the year shortstop Walt Weiss to be their manager, 29 teams now have a manager.
Weiss’ only experience was coaching high school.
The Blue Jays are on the clock.
Anyone with high school coaching experience — plus 14 years playing in the majors — can apply.