12/20/2011 03:44 EST | Updated 02/19/2012 05:12 EST

Blue Jays general manager Anthopoulos stays quiet on Darvish bid talk

TORONTO - A rare baseball buzz was built in Toronto over the last week after reports indicated the Blue Jays were a contender in the Yu Darvish sweepstakes.

Instead, the Texas Rangers secured the negotiating rights to the Japanese pitcher Monday night with a record bid worth a reported US$51.7 million.

With the bid process generating plenty of ink, Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos held a conference call Tuesday to address a flood of interview requests.

However, Anthopoulos had little to say and wouldn't confirm whether the Blue Jays even put in a bid.

"I try to operate close to the vest when it comes to free agency and things like that," Anthopoulos said. "And I think it's worked to our advantage in a lot of ways in our ability to make trades and so on. I think I've been consistent with what our plans have been, that our desire first and foremost is to try to explore the trade market.

"We won't rule out the free-agent market, but right now with where we're at and what we have to work with, the trade market makes more sense for us and that hasn't changed."

For many fans, Toronto's reported interest in Darvish brought back memories of the team's glory days when the team was a contender in the American League East and a player in big-name acquisitions.

The fact the Jays were believed to be in the mix was a big change for a team that has watched its wallet in recent years as free-spending clubs like New York and Boston jumped at big-name free agents.

Anthopoulos was pressed a few times on why he wouldn't reveal whether or not the team put in a bid. The 34-year-old GM wouldn't bite, adding he feels it's important to operate quietly when it comes to front-office matters.

"I think it's one thing to say you were in on a minor-league free agent, it's another thing to say you were in on a premium, high-end free agent, that the dollars were going to be significant," he said. "Ultimately I think that's an indication to both clubs and to agents of where your payroll may be going and what you can and can't do."

Darvish is considered the best pitcher in the Japanese pro leagues and several of baseball's biggest spenders were thought to be interested in him.

Bidding for the posting fee closed last Wednesday, and the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters had until 5 p.m. ET on Tuesday to accept. The fee will be paid only if a contract agreement is reached with Darvish's agents.

If a deal is not finalized with the Rangers, Darvish returns to the Fighters for another season.

Toronto catcher J.P. Arencibia did his part to make Jays fans feel better by weighing in with a tweet on the risks of the process.

"Think about it fans... 50 mill posting fee, plus what he gets in contract... Could be paying someone 150 mill who's not proven in MLB!" he said on Twitter.

The Blue Jays have been mired in mediocrity for years but are coming off an 81-81 season that allowed many of their young players to get necessary mileage under their belts.

Many baseball observers feel Toronto may be at least a year away from contending for a division title, although flirtation with a wild-card spot could be a possibility in 2012.

Anthopoulos appears to have the financial freedom to make a splash if he chooses. Whether that happens this off-season or down the road is still up in the air.

"It's not a bottomless pit," Anthopoulos said of his 2012 payroll. "I have what I have available and I'm going to make that work and we're going to try to put a competitive and world championship club on the field."

Anthopoulos filled a big hole at this month's winter meetings in Dallas by landing closer Sergio Santos from the Chicago White Sox in exchange for prospect Nestor Molina.

He said trade talks have stayed active since, adding that he's open to adding a bat and making improvements to his pitching staff.

"We have to find a way to make it work and be creative and continue to try to build a contending team year in and year out," Anthopoulos said.

He also said he thinks he has enough money to work with going forward.

"I understand there's absolutely a desire for us to have an unlimited payroll but it just doesn't work that way," Anthopoulos said. "I think that almost every team would tell you the same thing. I know ultimately we're never going to be able to please everybody.

"The only thing I can worry about is winning and trying to put the best team we can on the field."


With files from The Associated Press.