TORONTO - In the hours leading up to baseball's trade deadline, Toronto Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos heard small bits of news about moves around the American League but didn't have time to digest them.
"You're not really spending time to sit back and analyze what your competition's doing and things like that," Anthopoulos said. "You're so focused on what we're trying to get done."
Ultimately, while the landscape around them changed with trades both major and minor, the Blue Jays did nothing before Thursday's non-waiver deadline. The chase for the AL East continues after the Baltimore Orioles burnished their bullpen and the New York Yankees beefed up their infield while Toronto stood pat.
"We weren't going to do deals that we didn't think were going to make us better," Anthopoulos said on a conference call. "I know probably everyone would like to make a splash and add players, but to add players to make the team worse just to say we did something, that wouldn't make a whole lot of sense for us."
Entering Thursday's action, the Blue Jays held one of the AL's two wild-card spots. They were 2 1/2 games back of Baltimore and three games ahead of New York.
On deadline day, the Orioles added left-handed reliever Andrew Miller from the Boston Red Sox, who had their own fire sale by also sending Jon Lester to the Oakland Athletics, John Lackey to the St. Louis Cardinals and Stephen Drew to the Yankees. New York also got infielder Martin Prado from the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Ace left-hander David Price left the division as the Tampa Bay Rays sent him to the Detroit Tigers in a three-way deal that also included the Seattle Mariners. As part of the return, the Rays got centre-fielder Austin Jackson from Detroit.
Refusing as usual to discuss specific names, Anthopoulos said the Blue Jays "got the prices on most if not all the players that got moved." He also said, in general terms, that young and established players on the major-league roster were asked for by other teams in trade talks.
Undoubtedly starters Marcus Stroman and Aaron Sanchez came up at some point, and the Blue Jays understandably did not want to part with either of their top pitching prospects. Anthopoulos said the team was open-minded but unwilling to discuss pulling from its 25-man roster.
"To be talking about those guys, you'd be filling one hole and then you'd create a new hole," he said.
Jose Bautista told reporters in Houston before Thursday night's game against the Astros that he had "mixed feelings" about the Blue Jays' inaction at the trade deadline.
"Of course it's a little disappointing that we somehow weren't able to get anything done, but everyone around us that's in contention — and even some teams that aren't in contention like the Red Sox — somehow figured it out," he said. "Maybe they believe enough in our talent that they didn't feel like they wanted to break up our group and sacrifice our talent and what we've got going."
In recent weeks, Bautista and other players made similar comments in favour of Anthopoulos adding to this team.
"In terms of players wanting to improve the club, I expect that," Anthopoulos said. "We want to improve the club. I wouldn't expect anything less. There's a great group of guys in that clubhouse that are very competitive, that want to win."
Amid reports that financial limitations prevented Anthopoulos from making trades, the GM stressed that the biggest payroll in franchise history wasn't a hindrance.
"We absolutely had the financial resources to add at this trade deadline," Anthopoulos said. "Any deal that we felt was a good baseball deal, the finances were certainly there for us. That has never been a problem."
One problem of late for the Blue Jays has been injuries. They expect to have Edwin Encarnacion, Brett Lawrie of Langley, B.C., and Adam Lind back in the lineup sooner rather than later, which could give them a post-deadline boost.
Anthopoulos also didn't rule out making a trade within the next month, though the need to put players on waivers could make that more difficult.
"Maybe some things get done in the next month here," he said. "I'm not going to promise or guarantee that. We're definitely not going to stop being active and going over the wire and probably going to make some claims and things like that, see if we can add a player or two, and we'll see where things go."
Playing "armchair quarterback" a half-hour after the deadline passed, Anthopoulos judged "off the cuff" that contending teams improved by adding some great players. And while the Blue Jays didn't get any of them, Price and Lester going to other divisions might be a silver lining.
"Certainly any time great players leave the AL East it's certainly not a bad thing for us," Anthopoulos said.
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