No splash, but plenty of substance
Despite lack of activity, Jays feel Meetings were productive
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Time for the exit strategy. After four days of maneuvering around inside the massive complex that is the Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center, the Blue Jays were more than ready to find a way out.
"I'm sick of Nashville," Blue Jays general manager J.P. Ricciardi said with a laugh on Thursday. "When you stay here, you can relate to someone who's on house arrest."
All kidding aside, the Jays were happy with what they were able to accomplish while confined to the huge hotel. For the most part, Toronto was quiet, but the club did add some depth with minor moves, and it entered into discussions about some more notable transactions.
As the Jays' brass headed out of town, it was still waiting to hear back on a pair of potential moves. Toronto tabled a one-year contract offer to free-agent catcher Paul Lo Duca and proposed a trade with the Giants that would bring right-hander Tim Lincecum to Canada in exchange for right fielder Alex Rios.
"I think they've been productive," said Ricciardi, referring to the Meetings. "We came in knowing that there were certain things that we wanted to do and try to do. I think we've accomplished those things."
As a whole, there weren't many major moves in Nashville this week. Aside from the blockbuster trade that sent Miguel Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis to the Tigers for six prospects, the Winter Meetings involved more talk than anything else.
The same held true for the Blue Jays, whose only moves were hardly those of the buzz-creating variety.
Toronto acquired utilityman Buck Coats from Cincinnati in exchange for a player to be named or cash considerations, throwing another body into the mix for a bench job. The Jays also picked up right-hander Randy Wells from the Cubs during the Rule 5 Draft on Thursday in an effort to add more bullpen depth.
With all the hype heading into these Meetings, Ricciardi sounded disappointed that more prominent moves weren't made around baseball.
"I thought there'd be more," Ricciardi said. "You just sit around and, really, how many trades went down outside of the Tigers-Marlins? Maybe Buck Coats -- that was probably the headline after that."
The Blue Jays didn't finish off any big deals, but the club did lay the groundwork for some possible transactions. The move that may be closest to fruition is signing Lo Duca, who would be in a split role with Toronto catcher Gregg Zaun in 2008.
That fact may lead the 35-year-old Lo Duca to weigh his alternatives. The Jays aren't willing to go beyond one year on a contract, and Lo Duca might be able to find more playing time -- not to mention more money -- elsewhere. Ricciardi said the Jays would probably know more in the next few days.
A deal with the Giants may take longer to iron out. Toronto is willing to send Rios to San Francisco in exchange for a potential ace like Lincecum, who is controllable contractually for six more years, but Giants general manager Brian Sabean is reluctant to pull the trigger.
The Jays are also exploring a contract extension with Rios -- a four-year deal would be the most likely scenario, according to a person familiar with the negotiations. That's evidence that Toronto doesn't believe it absolutely needs to make a major move before the season opens.
"There's a little bit of comfort in the fact that we do like our club, and it wasn't like we had to do something," Ricciardi said. "We've got some irons in the fire and we'll see where it leads to."
Still, pitching is a valuable commodity on the current market, and the Blue Jays understand the reality of their situation. It's a distinct possibility that Toronto right-hander A.J. Burnett will opt out of his contract after the 2008 season, and the Jays' young pitchers may not all repeat their performances from last season.
"Some of the kids really stepped up [last season]," Ricciardi said. "We have a little more of a sense of security, although the young kids, you never know how they're going to respond. We're still kind of holding our breath that the young kids continue their progress."
The Jays also remain interested in free-agent starter Matt Clement, who is coming off a major right shoulder injury and hasn't pitched in the Majors since 2006. Toronto has a good relationship with Clement's agent, Barry Axelrod, and Clement knows Jays pitching coach Brad Arnsberg from their days in the Marlins organization.
"I haven't even had a chance to talk to his agent since we've been down here," Ricciardi said. "We'll see. That's going to be a low-risk, high-reward type of deal. If it doesn't fit, it doesn't fit."
Ricciardi has previously said that the Jays were interested in a few other "reclamation projects" such as Clement, but that doesn't appear to be the case any longer. On Thursday, Ricciardi said Clement was the only pitcher in that category that Toronto was pursuing.
Deals done: Toronto got involved in a number of discussions, but it only made one minor trade. The Jays acquired Coats -- a versatile utilityman -- from the Reds to add another body to the mix for the final spot on the bench.
Rule 5 activity: Toronto used the 11th pick in the Rule 5 Draft to pick up Wells, who will vie for a job in the bullpen. The Jays grabbed the right-hander away from the Cubs, who have had Wells in their farm system for the past five years.
Goals accomplished: Toronto continued to bolster its bench and 'pen with the minor additions of Coats and Wells, respectively. Beyond those small moves, the Jays entered into plenty of talks, making it known that they're willing to further explore the trade market.
Unfinished business: The search for a second catcher is ongoing. Toronto tabled a one-year offer to Lo Duca, but it's waiting to hear back from his representative. The Jays are also waiting to hear if the Giants will agree to the proposed trade for Lincecum.
GM's bottom line: "We added a guy who can compete for the 25th job. Hopefully, we can get another catcher in here. I think we've made some progress. It's probably not the big splash, but as an industry, as a whole, there weren't a lot of big splashes." -- Ricciardi
Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.