Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos praised new acquisition Brett Lawrie in an interview with Toronto radio station Fan 590 on Tuesday, though he acknowledged it was tough giving up pitcher Shaun Marcum in the process.
"Brett's someone that we've been trying to acquire for a long time. After I got the job last year, he was one of the players that we targeted. He was a 19-year-old athletic player that could run, throw, power, plays the game as hard as anybody that you're going to see and will rip your heart out to win," Anthopoulos told the Fan.
"Shaun's name came up late. I was not prepared to trade him for Brett, as tempting as it was. Then, the more I thought about it and knowing how much I wanted Brett and how much he fit and how hard it is to get young, talented position players with that type of ceiling", Anthopoulos knew it was a move the team "needed to make and one that would help us for the long term."
"When I broke the news to (Marcum), he was pretty shaken up," the Jays GM said. "First-class, very respectful to the organization and to his time here. It certainly made it harder after speaking to him that he did get a little emotional about the trade."
As for Lawrie, the Jays will be trying to figure out where the 20-year-old B.C. native fits into the picture.
"He's a good enough athlete really to play anywhere on the diamond. His hands are very good, his arm strength is very good, he plays the game at 100%," Anthopoulos said. "He's a really aggressive player and he does that on defence as well."
He added that he wouldn't necessarily keep Lawrie at his current position at second base (with incumbent Aaron Hill already there for Toronto), and is instead potentially looking at third base or the outfield. Nothing is concrete though, except for the club's desire to keep Lawrie in the bigs once he's playing at the level.
"One thing we're big on is from a development standpoint, we'd like it when we call these guys up, they're up here to stay. So until we get our hands on him it's probably too hard to say much more," Anthopoulos added.
Meanwhile, with the departure of Marcum, there has been rampant speculation that the Jays will now shift their focus to acquiring Royals pitcher Zack Greinke in a trade.
Anthopoulos did not get specific about Greinke, saying he didn't want to speak about another team's player, but he did say that in general he would certainly be making an effort to pursue whatever was in the club's best interest.
"In terms of rumours and us being linked to players, I think if there's a good player that may or may not be available in a trade, I will at least make the phone call just to find out the price," said the 33-year-old GM. "Whether that means we go any further and have dialogue and exchange names, not entirely. But I will at least make the phone call and inquire whether the player seems to be a fit or not, because if we can upgrade our talent and that leads to other possibilties, we will certainly explore it."
Despite Marcum's departure, Anthopoulos said he believes the Blue Jays still have a "lot of talent" in their starting rotation, adding that prospect Kyle Drabek - who came over from Philadelphia in the Roy Halladay trade about a year ago - is potentially in the running to be a regular big league pitcher this season.
"We think (Drabek) deserves a strong possibility to make this club and get a full 30 starts or more and continue to develop," Anthopoulos told Fan 590.
As for injury-plagued hurler Dustin McGowan, Anthopoulos said he remains optimistic.
"He's just started throwing, playing catch, obviously he feels good at that stage. The fact that he's now back throwing is certainly encouraging," he said. "Until we get him to the point where he can pitch in consecutive games four or five times, I think it's too early to try to determine anything.
"There's no question that we brought him back for a reason. Our doctors are still holding out hope that he's going to come back. We certainly know the ability and the upside that he has. We certainly felt like we needed to continue to work to try to get him back."