5:45 - How uncertain is the pitching future for the Toronto Blue Jays?
Consider the response of Manager Cito Gaston when asked about his starting rotation for the 2010 season: "What's the rotation? Wish, I knew! (Laughing) Seriously. I'm serious. Well you can say Ricky [Romero], that's what you can say. Because those other guys we've been talking about you don't know if they're going to be healthy. So right now, if Doc leaves or if and when Doc leaves, you could say Ricky."
What else did Cito have to say in his half-hour media briefing? Well, here are some of the topics that were touched upon and his responses.
On the reported clubhouse dissension at season's end: "I still say if you go into that clubhouse and take a survey you're not going to have everyone in that clubhouse that likes you. I don't think there's 50 per cent of that clubhouse that dislikes me and if it is true, they'll be rid of me at the end of the year anyway".
On the outlook for the Blue Jays if Roy Halladay is traded: "I wouldn't say it's starting over. I just think it depends on who you get back for Doc. And once you know that you can know what direction you're going in. Right now it's kind of in limbo because we don't know. There are possibilities, but nothing's happened yet".
His thoughts on a return in a trade for Halladay: "Wish list? Probably someone back that can get you some innings. Maybe somebody back that can play the outfield or catch. But you know you can wish for all of that stuff, it doesn't mean you're going to get it".
On his batting order for 2010: "I'd certainly like to get [Aaron] Hill in that 3rd spot and [Adam] Lind in that 4th spot if we can and work them in during Spring Training games".
Boras draws a crowd at winter meetings - 3:30pm
He has arrived!
There was a somewhat surreal scene here at the Winter Meetings in the last hour, as super-agent Scott Boras swept into the building and generated roughly the same response from scores of reporters that the Beatles once provoked from teenage girls. Eventually he became completely encircled by reporters and agreed to take questions. What did he have to say? Quite frankly, I don't know. I was standing no less than 15 feet away from Boras, but was separated by a scrum of close to 100 reporters that completed encircled him. It was by far and away the largest media scrum of the three days of the Winter Meetings. I was more of a bemused spectator than an active participant. With good reason, GM Alex Anthopoulos confirms the Jays don't have a single Boras client on their 40-man roster.
The most amazing thing is that he spoke for more than 30 minutes and the size of the crowd around him never once dissipated. Yes, there were some reporters on the outside that stepped away, some shaking their heads and remarking they could barely make out what he said. But their place was quickly taken by another.
When Boras finished his media session he moved quickly to a nearby escalator where a couple of fans asked him to sign autographs. I spent seven seasons working in baseball and can honestly say that's the first time I've ever seen an agent asked for an autograph. Boras, who is not especially well-liked by Major League executives (typically because he repeatedly beats them into financial submission in contract talks), smiled, obliged graciously and exchanged a few friendly words before being swept away by his staffers.
Non-tenders a reason for lack of moves? - 2pm
These Winter Meetings have been largely devoid of any major announcements that were commonplace in years past. I ran a theory about the lack of player movement (trades or free agency) past a high-ranking MLB official that he indicated "makes sense".
The non-tender deadline this year is December 12. With a slowed economy and some teams interested in shedding payroll, there could be scores of players not offered contracts that day and put out to free agency. With that in mind, teams here might be reluctant to sign big-name free agents or trade for "pricey" players when there might be cheaper talent available in just a few short days.
Even as far back as October, Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos told me he expects "a flood of non-tenders" this year, as teams battered by the slowed economy look to trim expenses.
From the Ground Up
Earlier today, I wrote about former Jays farm director Dick Scott. Since then, I've had a chance to speak with the new man overseeing the Jays minor league operations Charlie Wilson. It's actually not quite accurate to describe Wilson as a "new man", as the 37-year-old Toronto native has been working with the Jays since the mid-90's. Moreover, he's been heavily involved in the club's player development program for more than a decade now.
Wilson says their goal, operating under a new GM, remains the same -- to produce Major League-ready players with sound fundamentals. If there is a change, Wilson says it's that Anthopoulos has placed an even greater sense of importance on the farm system than in years past. "[Alex] believes in scouting, he believes in player development as the foundation of the organization", says Wilson. "He wants to make sure that we have everything we need, resources, personnel, you name it, to go forward and make sure we make this the best player development system we can".
Wilson says the entire player development staff will be meeting next week at the Jays minor league complex in Florida to go over organizational goals. It's a group that includes 12 new staff members. A second set of meetings will be held just prior to Spring Training.
A Quiet Start - 10am
The lobby here at the Winter Meetings has a fraction of the traffic this morning as compared with either of the past two days. That might be a result of any one of the following:
1. The hundreds of job-seekers looking for Major or Minor League employment have exhausted their own travel budgets and/or their supply of resumes and have headed home
2. The executives of different teams are so wrapped up in talks, they don't have time to mingle downstairs (let's hope so, as these meetings have been long on hours and short on anything resembling major news)
3. A whole group of people fled Indianapolis late yesterday to get out before this latest storm snowed them in
Realistically speaking, it seems like the last option is the most likely. These Winter Meetings are getting a real blast of winter today with howling winds and some snow.
From a Blue Jays perspective, there is nothing to report aside from the fact reporters will get the added bonus of hearing from both the General Manager and the Field Manager later today. Alex Anthopoulos will hold his daily briefing at 4 o'clock, while Cito Gaston will meet with the media at 4:30 pm.
From a former Blue Jays perspective, there is some news. Dick Scott, the Blue Jays farm director for the past eight seasons, is in attendance at these meetings. He's been busy getting to know the staff with his new club, the Houston Astros. Scott, who was let go from the Jays organization at the same time as J.P. Ricciardi, recently landed with the Astros as their minor league field coordinator.