PHILADELPHIA - Although general manager Alex Anthopoulos insists he hasn't read any of the rumours, he saw fit to comment on frequent reports out of Chicago that the Blue Jays are hot for Cubs ace right-hander Jeff Samardzija.
"I haven't read them or seen them, but whatever they are, I guess I can say this; I have not had any conversations with anybody about active trade talks," Anthopoulos told assembled media on Tuesday afternoon at Citizens Bank Park. "If that ends up shooting down reports like we do every so often ... no, I have not engaged in dialogues, exchange of names, nothing. It's so rare that teams engage in trade conversations so early (in the season.")
Read between the lines. There is a difference between speaking to his Cubs counterpart, Jed Hoyer, and having scouts watching Samardzija's starts. The Blue Jays are hardly alone in tracking Samardzija, who's winless in seven starts despite posting a 1.62 ERA.
The 29-year-old has one year left of club control before becoming eligible for free agency following the 2015 season. The Cubs are rebuilding and multiple reports suggest previous efforts to get Samardzija signed long-term haven't been fruitful.
Anthopoulos repeated he will not mortgage the future for short-term gain, citing the Jays' relatively uneventful offseason as proof he won't make moves for the sake of saving his job.
What about if the right deal comes along? Would he be willing to part with a top prospect or two?
"I think you value everything on what's the contractual status, what's the control, how much do you value your own players, where's the club at, short-term, long-term, all that stuff," said Anthopoulos. "Just like anything there are a lot of players you are reluctant to move and that would be reflected in the price to really push those players. But I just don't know that you're ever in a position where players are untradeable. I think sometimes the value you place on them makes them almost untradeable because no one will pay you the ask. But I don't look at it that way that under no circumstances you hang up the phone."
WILL MORROW NEED SURGERY?
On Monday via Twitter, Brandon Morrow shared a photo of the splint he'll be wearing for the next week or so on his injured pitching hand.
Morrow tore a tendon sheath at the base of his right index finger on his second-to-last pitch of the fifth inning on Friday night in Pittsburgh.
The injury will require season-ending surgery if an attempt to rehabilitate the finger fails.
"From what I was told that wasn't going to be needed," said Anthopoulos of surgery. "If something changes down the road, but from what I was told at the time, surgery was not required."
In striking an optimistic tone, Anthopoulos said he expects Morrow to return some time around the All-Star Break in mid-July.
"We expect him to come back, we expect him to recover," said Anthopoulos. "He wasn't necessarily rolling but I thought he looked great against the Indians that game. But Brandon has the stuff to get on a streak at any time and even in that last game, I followed it obviously, it didn't seem like his slider was there and command but I think Brandon at any point can get hot and when he comes back he'll be a big add for us."
In six starts this season, Morrow is 1-2 with a 5.93 ERA. His fielding independent pitching (FIP) statistic, a measurement of ERA based on factors only the pitcher can control, is 4.03, suggesting he's been better than his actual ERA.
Morrow's 1.720 WHIP, which includes 30 hits and 17 walks in 27 1/3 innings pitched, is bloated.
Efficiency was an issue prior to Morrow's injury. He pitched into the sixth inning only twice.
LIND LIKELY FOR THURSDAY
Anthopoulos hadn't spoken to manager John Gibbons to confirm Adam Lind's return date but the aim is for Thursday's series finale against the Phillies in Toronto.
"The plan is to play nine innings of first base tomorrow in a Florida State League game," said Anthopoulos. "I'll talk to Gibby about it but hopefully we would look at potentially activating him on Thursday. I haven't talked to Gibby about it but that would be one of the thoughts I have."
Lind, 30, went on the disabled list April 16 with tightness in his lower back.
The imminent return of Lind will force the Blue Jays to make a decision on Juan Francisco.
"We'd like to keep Juan," said Anthopoulos. "He's playing well and ideally you want to be able to hang on to him. I know Gibby is fond of him and rightfully so. He's played well."
Entering Tuesday's play, in 14 games played with the Blue Jays, Francisco was hitting .280/.390/.520 with three home runs and seven RBI.
His history suggests Francisco's batting average and on-base percentage will come down significantly. But he's a power threat off the bench and can spell starters at first base and third base.
The Blue Jays would surely lose Francisco to another team on waivers should the club decide to designate him for assignment. He's out of options, meaning he can't be sent to the minors and remain on the 40-man roster.
Anthopoulos credited one of the club's Dominican stars - Francisco is from the Dominican Republic - with helping lure Francisco to Toronto after he was released by the Milwaukee Brewers in late March.
"Edwin Encarnacion was a big help in signing him," said Anthopoulos. "I think he really encouraged him to sign with us."
Encarnacion and Francisco also were teammates, briefly, with the Cincinnati Reds in 2009.
The Blue Jays have an offensive hole at second base.
Prior to Brett Lawrie going down with tightness in his right hamstring, he'd started at second base in three games in National League parks. The position switch allowed manager John Gibbons to keep Juan Francisco's bat in the lineup by putting him at third base.
Would the Blue Jays consider extending the defensive alignment into American League games when Adam Lind is back? A lineup featuring Jose Reyes, Melky Cabrera, Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion, Adam Lind, Juan Francisco, Brett Lawrie, Colby Rasmus and Dioner Navarro would be potent. It certainly would be better offensively than what any of the alternatives provide at second base.
"There hasn't been any talk of full time like that at all," said Anthopoulos. "No, it's strictly for right now. We know he can do it, I know he had a two or a three game stint last year but Brett's athletic enough you could put him anywhere on the field, I really believe that. I do believe that if you gave him enough time at any position and you gave him enough reps he could be a gold glove defender anywhere."