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Blue Jays add outfielder, continue to rack up rumours

The Toronto Blue Jays picked up Ben Francisco from the Phillies in exchange for a minor league pitcher on Dec. 12, 2011.

Sarah Conard/Reuters/Sarah Conard/Reuters

Alex Anthopoulos can't win.

He spent last week telling everyone he has no money to spend and still the chattering classes say his baseball team will be a player in the Prince Fielder free-agent market. It has to be like death by a thousand tweets for the general manager of the Toronto Blue Jays.

So let's this once refrain from parsing his statements. After acquiring Ben Francisco, a right-handed batter, from the Philadelphia Phillies on Monday, to add to his already crowded but lefty-heavy outfield, Anthopoulos said flexibility for future moves wasn't necessarily a key element of the transaction. He was getting somebody who, two years ago, hit .282 against left-handed pitching, can play the outfield and designated hitter and will give manager John Farrell some flexibility off the bench.

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The price? Minor-league reliever Frank Gailey.

In the course of his conference call to discuss the Francisco acquisition, Anthopoulos eventually did acknowledge he does have some outfield depth to help expedite any future move. But to what end?

Francisco hit .244 with six home runs and 34 runs batted in last season, and joins left-hitting Travis Snider and Eric Thames and righty Edwin Encarnacion in the left-field mix.

As of now, Anthopoulos says Thames and Snider are battling it out for the starting spot, but with the Blue Jays continuing to be linked in trade rumours surrounding Oakland Athletics starter Gio Gonzalez and others, it remains possible – even likely –one of the two will be gone by 2012 opening day.

Monday at 11:59 p.m. (EST) was the deadline for tendering contracts, which means the available player pool will be bigger starting Tuesday. That is a cost-effective avenue for a team like the Blue Jays, which hopes to add some bullpen depth.

Wednesday, according to Anthopoulos, is the date by which teams must submit posting offers for Japanese free-agent pitcher Yu Darvish, a process which could likely cost the team that signs him upwards of $110-million (U.S.) in posting fee plus contract. The winning bid won't be known until next Monday, and depending on who is doing the guessing, there's anywhere from four to eight teams in on the process.

The same people that see the Blue Jays making a play for Fielder see them being involved in the Darvish market – especially since Anthopoulos is one of two GMs known to have gone to Japan to watch Darvish pitch.

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As for Fielder? If the free-agent first baseman slugger's agent, Scott Boras, is seriously contemplating scaling down the length of his contract demands to four or five years in order to drive up the average annual value of a deal – and likely guarantee his client another shot at free agency at 33 or 34 – that would bring Fielder within the six-year limit Blue Jays president and chief executive officer Paul Beeston has placed on multiyear contracts.

Beware the resulting Twitter storm.

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