Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos looked to downplay reports Friday that several Toronto players discussed deferring portions of their salary to help land free agent pitcher Ervin Santana.
Santana elected to sign with the injury-plagued Atlanta Braves last month for the same one-year $14-million US deal offered by the Jays.
Anthopoulos, who is also Toronto's senior vice-president of baseball operations, declined to comment specifically on the Fox Sports report, which was confirmed by other outlets.
The suggestion left by the stories is that Toronto's purse-strings may be being held tightly. But Anthopoulos offered a different view of the Santana negotiations.
"The takeaway for me is we felt that we had an agreement in place," the GM told reporters prior to Friday night's home opener against the New York Yankees. "He was prepared to come here. We had the dollars. How we choose to structure those dollars, those are things that we keep in house.
"But I believe if (Braves pitcher) Kris Medlen had not been hurt, Ervin Santana would be here today."
Several Toronto players made a public plea last month to sign the 31-year-old former all-star. But Santana, a Dominican who counts several Jays as friends, elected instead to sign with the Braves after Medlen went down with a season-ending injury.
Money not an issue
Anthopoulos insisted money was not an issue in the negotiations.
And asked about the money behind the Jays, Anthopoulos said: "Our payroll's very strong. I don't think anybody's complaining about that at all. Ownership has given us more than enough."
Asked again about whether any of his players had offered to defer salary, Anthopoulos said those were "private things."
Had the Santana deal been done and had there been any kind of deferred payments, it would have been made public, he added.
Santana spent his entire career in the American League, with eight seasons as a Los Angeles Angel before being traded to the Kansas City Royals in 2013. His career record is 105-90 with a 4.19 ERA.
A one-year contract in the NL East, home to the .sub-500 Miami Marlins, New York Mets and Philadelphia Phillies last season, might seem more hospitable than the thorny AL East.
"He had a lot more interest going into the NL, which is his right," said Anthopoulos.
Anthopoulos' comment that the Jays had an agreement in place with Santana was more than he had said during spring training last month. He said Friday he was comfortable being more open on the issue given that Santana himself had since said that he was set to go to Toronto at one point.
The Jays were quiet in the off-season compared to the spending spree prior to the 2013 campaign. Starting pitching has been a question-mark for months in Toronto, with Santana one of the leading free-agents available.
Anthopoulos said he was comfortable with his starting rotation "right now."
"The question is am I comfortable with the health and I'll tell you that as the time goes along. I'm certainly comfortable with the talent ... we need to stay healthy."
Asked about the Fox report, Toronto manager John Gibbons said: "To be honest, that's not my department."