He’s “consumed” by his hunt for the Blue Jays’ next manager and he’s not satisfied with a winning season. Anthopoulos wants Toronto back in the playoffs, which means there is still plenty of work to be done.
With that in mind, here are a few of the highlights of the wide-ranging, one-hour meeting we had with Toronto’s young GM:
–Anthopoulos was encouraged by the progress upcoming free-agent first baseman Lyle Overbay made over the past few months. That said, even without a top first base prospect in waiting, the GM said the Jays’ approach to the position is unchanged. They’ll explore their options via trades and free agency. It’s no given that Overbay’s back for 2011.
–Asked if Adam Lind could be an option for first base, Anthopoulos did not rule it out. He did say, however, that Lind did not play enough there in 2010 to come right out and say that he is a realistic answer for the position. Anthopoulos also believes Lind will bounce back with a 30-homer season in 2011.
–Anthopoulos noted that second baseman Aaron Hill came to him and said he’s open to a position change (third base) if it will help the team. The GM also noted that Toronto has until Opening Day 2011 to make a decision on picking up all three club option years (2012-14) on Hill’s contract.
–Cuban shortstop prospect Adeiny Hechavarria began to wear down a little at the end of his first pro season, according to Anthopoulos. The Jays aren’t counting on Hechavarria for 2011, though that could change with rapid progress. Anthopoulos also said Hechavarria is considered a “priority player” in the Arizona Fall League, meaning he’ll get lots of playing time at shortstop.
–Anthopoulos said third baseman Edwin Encarnacion has a lot of room for improvement on defense, adding that EE could be tried as a first baseman or a designated hitter. There is also the chance Edwin is non-tendered, considering the type of raise he would be in line to receive through arbitration. The money he’d be owed might not match the value Toronto comes up with.
–Jose Bautista proved to be an asset in right field, but he told Anthopoulos — like Hill — that he’s willing to play more at third base if it helps the roster. The Jays are also prepared to go to arbitration with Bautista, though Anthopoulos likes to avoid hearings if possible. My gut feeling is there will not be a long-term contract for Bautista this winter.
–Fred Lewis was not too happy with his diminished role down the stretch late this season and Travis Snider is likely a full-time player come 2011. Anthopoulos noted that Lewis needs to improve defensively. If Lewis is not in the plans as a bench player, I’m not sure he brings much value off the bench. That could make him a non-tender possibility.
–Anthopoulos said pitching prospect Kyle Drabek will be given every opportunity to earn the fifth starter’s job next spring. Close behind Drabek on the depth chart is Zach Stewart, who was acquired in the Scott Rolen trade with the Reds in 2009. As for the front four, Anthopoulos does not see a clear-cut No. 1 starter.
–The Jays have free agents in relievers Scott Downs and Jason Frasor, and closer Kevin Gregg could hit the market if the Jays don’t pick up his club option for 2011. Anthopoulos said having veterans at the back end of the bullpen is important, but not necessarily a top priority if he feels the young options are capable of handling the job.
–Asked what areas needed improvement, Anthopoulos pointed to the poor bullpen ERA and the club’s subpar on-base percentage. He believes both areas need to be improved. On offense, Anthopoulos would like for the output to be more balanced, rather than living and dying by the home run.
–Anthopoulos said catching prospect J.P. Arencibia has nothing left to prove in the Minors. He has earned a shot in the big leagues. Will it be as a starter or backup? The GM would not say. The Jays will explore bringing back John Buck, but Anthopoulos said he has earned a long-term contract and a No. 1 job, whether it’s in Toronto or somewhere else.
–As he’s noted plenty of times, Anthopoulos made it clear that the Blue Jays are not operating with a specific payroll. If moves make sense, he has the ability to increase the finances as he sees fit. That gives Toronto the freedom to look at every free agent and lots of trades scenarios without ruling players out due to salary.
–Asked if he had any more hirings in mind for the front office, Anthopoulso said there was nothing in the immediately plans. That said, the GM noted that something he is considering for the future is someone who has more of a computer background, or a stats guy.
Check bluejays.com later for more on Anthopoulos’ hunt for Cito Gaston’s replacement and the unique situation the club is in regarding Bautista’s contract negotiations.