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Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos on John Farrell’s dream job; Mike Aviles; David Carpenter; and ‘unfortunate,’ ‘false’ leaks and ‘gamesmanship’

10.21.12 at 5:34 pm ET
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Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos, in a 40-minute conference call, discussed the conversations that led his organization to release John Farrell from the final season of his three-year contract as Toronto manager so that the former Red Sox pitching coach could return to Boston as a manager. He also discussed the appeal of Mike Aviles, the player whom the Jays received as compensation for Farrell’s departure; David Carpenter, the player whom the Jays sent to Boston to make the transaction official; and his concerns about the leaks — some of which Anthopoulos characterized as being flatly false — regarding the situation with Farrell and the Blue Jays throughout the process.

A summary:

  • After the season, Farrell informed Anthopoulos that managing the Red Sox represented a “dream job” that he’d like to pursue. Given that stance, once the Jays were contacted, they wanted to see if an agreement could be reached that would justify a decision by Toronto to let go of an employee who remained under contract in a lateral move.
  • Anthopoulos suggested that he understood Farrell’s motives, and that he wasn’t disappointed in his manager’s desire to leave. However, he did express disappointment with how the process unfolded — chiefly, with leaks that occurred about the process and what he termed “false” information and potential “gamesmanship” about Farrell’s relationship with the Jays front office. Anthopoulos noted that those leaks appeared to emanate from Boston.
  • The Jays never discussed an extension with Farrell to keep him in Toronto before 2013. Still, Anthopoulos said that the team fully intended to retain him as manager for 2013 if a sufficient deal with the Sox could not be struck.
  • Toronto acquired Mike Aviles from the Red Sox as a middle infielder with the ability to provide good defense around the infield, viewing hi as a high-energy player with power at a time when such players are rarely available on the market. The relatively poor middle infield options in the free-agent market underscore why Toronto valued a player like Aviles, despite his low on-base percentage.
  • While the Jays parted with right-hander David Carpenter to complete the deal, the team was almost inevitably going to lose him, since Toronto planned to remove him from the 40-man roster this offseason.
  • Anthopoulos said that speculation that Adam Lind might head to the Red Sox in the deal was completely false.
  • He also said that all members of the Blue Jays coaching staff are free to talk with any team, including the Red Sox, about job openings.

Here are some highlights from his conference call:

On whether the Jays ever discussed an extension with Farrell (whose three-year contract with Toronto ran through the 2013 season), and the timeline of events that led to the deal with the Sox:

“We did not [discuss an extension]. … [On either the Sunday or Monday after the end of the season] I spoke to John, starting going through offseason plans and so on, and that was the first time we talked about the Boston circumstances, the rumors and everything else. That was the first time we sat down all season even and addressed it and even spoke about it. John expressed to me that he’d really like an opportunity to pursue that if it came about. I explained to him that at that time, we hadn’t gotten any phone call at all, and that obviously we couldn’t hold up our offseason and even go down that path if we hadn’t gotten a phone call and we couldn’t wait forever.

“We ultimately agreed that we’d give it a few more days and see if there was going to be a phone call in the next few days. If we did not, then we were going to move forward. And if there was a call, then we were going to see if we could get something done. … This was, as John explained it to me, a dream job for him, an opportunity he really wanted to pursue. So we felt if there was a deal that made sense for our club as well, we were going to try to go ahead and complete that. So we never really got that far [as an extension]. That’s really the chain of events.

“And then after, I guess, our conversation, I’m not sure if it was a day later or two days later, John Henry, one of the owners of the Boston Red Sox, reached out to our CEO Paul Beeston, to express interest in working out a trade. I don’t know how long it’s been — maybe eight or nine, 10 days, or whatever it’s been from that time, and here we are today. It finally got done.”

On whether, at the end of the season, he was convinced completely that Farrell would be back as manager of the Jays in 2013

“My focus was completely on the roster. We have a lot of work to do on the roster, starting rotation — that’s where it needed to be. … It was 100 percent John was going to be manager for 2013. We were going to continue to discuss things like we always do — finalize staff, finalize roster, talk about offseason needs, things like that. But ultimately, when we finally discussed the Boston scenario, the fact that it was a distraction that came up, I told him we hadn’t even received a phone call at that point. He told me he’d really like to pursue it and it was something he really wanted. Ultimately, we both agreed though, that we couldn’t wait on forever. If there wasn’t any movement within a few days, then we needed to put it to bed and move forward. John was on board with that and I was on board with that. We had already started to discuss staff, players, roster.

“We’d already started to talk about some of those things geared towards 2013,” he added. “There were no plans on my end. Obviously, it changed things with that conversation, and then subsequently, a day or two later or whatever that was, when John Henry called Paul.”

On whether he is disappointed that Farrell wanted to leave

“I don’t know that I’d characterize it one way or the other. For me, with this whole process, what’s more disappointing to me is that there’s so much false information put out there, whether it’s, I read something the other day that supposedly John asked to release Omar Vizquel in July. One hundred percent false. Not one ounce of truth to it. There was all kinds of other things.

“I thought there was, to be completely candid, gamesmanship and a lot of things that went on from a negotiating standpoint, not on our end. But I thought there were a lot of things that were coming out that were completely false. You guys all know, we’re pretty good at not putting things out there in the media, or leaking things, or saying things. There was just a lot, the upsetting part for me is how many false reports were out there, that I just didn’t think were fair to John or to myself or to the organization entirely. From that standpoint, it was a story that was not going away. But we can’t do anything to control that. That’s the game we’re in. It’s going to happen with players. It doesn’t usually happen with managers, but it was just a unique timing of events, with Terry Francona being let go the year after the hiring of John. I don’t think anyone expected that. Again, this is something that John wanted. From that standpoint, once he told us that he wanted it and this was something that he wanted to pursue, at that point, it made sense for us to at least look into it with no guarantees and no assurances. If we could do something that made sense, it didn’t make sense for us to hold him back if we couldn’t work something out. …

“There were some things, I mentioned some of them, we don’t know where it came from or how it started, but probably didn’t go as smoothly as we think it could have. That’s just reality. … We want to apologize, myself and Paul, on behalf of the ballclub, the fact that this even leaked last night. This was not a done deal last night, in the sense that John was finalizing his deal — I think he finalized that last night — but we had not finalized the medical examinations on the players, which got done today, and we did not get approval from the Commissioner until today to even go forward with this. We weren’t even pleased with the way it came out last night. Who knows? When more than one person knows what’s going on, you don’t know where these things are coming from. But from our standpoint, we wanted to apologize to our media, the fact that it did come out the way that it did. That was not our intent and that was not supposed to be done that way. It was supposed to be done collectively today.”

On whether, given Farrell’s desire to manage the Red Sox, a return to the Blue Jays in 2013 remained viable:

“We could have. We talked about it. He was prepared to do so as well. One thing, he was honest. He didn’t lie. I think that’s one thing you have to respect him for. I certainly do. He’s always been that way. You’ll always get the truth out of John. You won’t get a lie. From that standpoint, obviously, my responsibility is to the ballclub. But I also understand. I understand the connections. I understand the ties. John has been there a long time. There’s a lot of strong relationships there.

“I understand , it’s not completely foreign to me why there’s an appeal there and why there would be a desire on his part, that this was the one job. That’s how he expressed it to me: This is the one job. There was no other city for him that was more of a perfect fit and a perfect opportunity.

“But, again, he was very candid and we talked about it, but we were prepared to move forward at that point. It was not going to drag on. If we didn’t hear anything or there’d been no phone call within the next few days, that was it. it was done. We were moving forward. We’d even gotten pretty in depth about some things that we were going to do. So, we were fully prepared to move forward, 100 percent. But we got the phone call. From there, it developed over the last nine days or so.”

On David Carpenter, the right-hander whom the Red Sox received in the deal, and a pitcher whom the Jays had acquired (along with pitchers Brandon Lyon and J.A. Happ) in July as part of a 10-person trade with the Astros:

“David Carpenter, at the time, we thought he had a good arm. Obviously he wasn’t the centerpiece of the deal. He was someone that we added late at the end. But the primary pieces of the deal were Happ and Lyon, and again, Carpenter was a guy that we were able to get put on late. He wasn’t the main part of that deal. But ultimately, in looking at our 40-man roster, David, unfortunately, was going to have to come off the 40-man just with the spot because even now, we’re pretty full. With getting Mike Aviles back, we’re adding a 40-man roster player. So David was going to come off the roster. He was going to be available to any team for $20,000 either way. From a procedural standpoint and a transactional standpoint, there needed to be some type of player going back in this transaction. Ultimately, for us, if there was a player who was going to come off the roster and be available to the other 29 teams for $20,000, it made sense to put him in the deal.”

On whether Anthopoulos had concerns about Red Sox officials tampering with Farrell while he was under contract:

“I don’t know Ben Cherington very well. But I’ve gotten to know him a little bit more, obviously, through this process. My quick take-away is he’s first-class, he’s honest, he’s straightforward. The little exposure I’ve gotten to Larry [Lucchino], through [Beeston] — obviously they’ve spoken quite a bit — and to John Henry and Tom [Werner], there’s a very strong relationship there and a very strong respect there.

Beyond that, there’s so many other people involved with ties. I wish I could tell you where a lot of this stuff came from. I just thought it was unfortunate overall. It would be one thing if there were factual things put out there, and then ultimately, you could just say, ‘Well, they’re leaks.’ What was upsetting to me was the false information that was being put out there. I don’t know by who. If I did know by who, obviously I would be on the phone and wanting to find out why false information was being put out there. But I don’t have any issues with Ben. I know Paul certainly doesn’t have any issues with the ownership group. We have strong relationship with them. That hasn’t changed. It’s just, with a transaction like this, you’d love it to be a little more smooth. It just seemed like a lot of the things that came out didn’t come from the Toronto media. It seemed like it was coming out of the Boston market. That’s not to say people didn’t rely on their own sources. But it’s just unfortunate that a lot of false things were put out there.

On whether he was angry about what had transpired:

“John, he gave everything he had. He worked incredibly hard from start to finish. He never let up. His focus always remained on the job. There’s no question, you prefer that something like this does not happen. … It’s not the way I’m wired. It’s not a productive way to be. It’s not a productive thing to do. … It doesn’t mean I’m happy about it. It doesn’t mean this is the way I would have drawn it up. But the facts are the facts. We need to do what’s best for the organization. We need to move forward. For me to have personal opinions or anger or whatever, that’s not productive for anybody.”

On the appeal of Mike Aviles, and whether he was concerned about the infielder’s low on-base percentage:

“Another good question. No doubt, everyone is looking at on-base pecentage. It’s very hard to get middle infielders who can play shortstop for a lot of at-bats and get a good on-base percentage guy. Those are normally superstar players. I think if we were getting a left fielder with a low on-base percentage or a first baseman with a low on-base percentage, and with the fact that he can play middle infield, if you look at the free-agent market right now with respect to shortstop, second base, it’s just so thin. The fact that Mike does have control past this year. He is a hard-nosed player. He is a gamer. He’s not without his flaws, if you look at the on-base and so on, but he is a high-energy player. He has some power. The fact that he can play the middle infield, which is so hard to find in today’s game and is becoming harder and harder to find — we just saw a big trade with Oakland trading a shortstop over to Arizona for their center fielder, who was an All-Star a few years ago, the currency that shortstops bring, it’s such a hard commodity to find. You’d love to get the ideal .360-.400 on-base percentage guy, but finding those guys at shortstop, it’s very, very hard to do.”

On whether this represented a reversal of the policy Anthopoulos put in place last offseason that prohibited Blue Jays employees under contract from making lateral moves:

“It wasn’t just going to be a blanket, just, look, you can go. … We made a trade. There’s a big distinction between the two. …

“We don’t allow lateral moves. We made a trade. There’s a big distinction between the two. It’s one thing if we’re allowing somebody to interview for a job or take another job. This is my first employee-contract trade. You don’t normally plan on doing that. This was a huge set of circumstances. But I can tell you, if a scout or someone else, if a lateral move comes up, the only way those guys are going would be in the form of a trade. That’s the only way that it can happen. I don’t think it’s completely the same at all.”

On reports of clubhouse dissatisfaction with Farrell in Toronto:

“A lot was made about a lot of things. I think I said this at my end-of-the-year press conference, winning cures a lot of problems, a lot of issues. When you’re not winning, that’s when a lot of complaining comes up, negative stories, things like that. It happens in all sports, not just ours. You don’t want to be involved in it because you don’t want to lose those games, but I don’t think it’s fair to try to pin that on anybody. It’s collectively. It’s from the front office to the staff to the players, we’re all involved in this. We win together, we lose together. I know it’s a cliche, but I don’t think it’s ever fair to try to pin one thing on any one person either way. I know it’s part of the game we’re in. People dissect that and analyze it, and I’ll let everyone else end up doing that. I just think overall, anything that happens, collectively as a group we just didn’t win enough games and I think that’s what started it.”

On Farrell’s traits as a manager:

“Well, I talked about the work ethic. He’s very even-keeled. Obviously, he dealt with a lot of challenges across the board with the injuries this past year, changes in the roster. He was very prepared, there’s no doubt about that as well. I could go on a lot of ways. My focus now is more who’s going to be the next guy for us. Obviously, I wish John well, and I thank him for everything he did. His work ethic did not waver. His focus on our job, even with the rumors and everything that were out there, they never wavered one bit. He was fully committed to the day-to-day job. I never saw him come in and change his routine or not do his work, so from that standpoint, I thank him. It was challenging this past year, to say the least, with the wins and the losses, but I do wish John well.”

On whether he regrets having hired Farrell:

“I don’t think so, at all. I think, ultimately, the timing of events is so unique in so many ways. Even the [2011] season with the Red Sox, I think they had 80-something wins going into the beginning of September, and I think they were 40 games over .500 at some point in August. So, I don’t think anyone forsaw what was going to happen to that club at the end of the year. Also, even with as much as was made about that ballclub, they were still a 90-win team when that season would’ve ended. I think it was the perfect storm of events. I think if that hadn’t occurred, I don’t think the story would’ve ever started, I don’t think there would’ve been any interest, I don’t think we’d be sitting here today talking about it. It would be more about the wins and losses and evaluations that would be made strictly from the field. This was one where it was just a unique set of events and the timing, I don’t think anyone could’ve expected it. There’s no way anyone could’ve planned for that. I don’t think anybody would’ve seen that, and I think if that hadn’t occurred, I don’t think we’d be sitting here under these circumstances.”

Read More: alex anthopoulos, Blue Jays, compensation, david carpenter
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