Well, apparently Oliver didn’t have anything to do with that.
The words, though, did come from his agent Jeff Frye, who had told the press in recent weeks that the team would need to either trade Oliver to the Texas Rangers or give him a raise for him to suit up for the 2013 season.
Oliver didn’t know about that either.
Speaking to the press after agreeing to join the team for his 20th season in the bigs, the veteran lefty directly contradicted what his agent said, flatly telling the press “I didn’t say those things.” Oliver went on to say that he contacted the Blue Jays after he heard the comments, and that he never demanded anything from the team or its GM, Alex Anthopoulos. The decision for the 42-year old to come back on the $3 million team option that was picked up at the end of October was strictly made between him and his family.
What did end up convince him, in the end, is the team’s commitment to bring the World Series trophy to Toronto. “I’ve always told you guys, I’ll play until they tear my jersey off,” Oliver said. Like the rest of the league, he saw the moves that the team made to revamp its roster, and thought that it meant he could have a chance to take home that elusive World Series ring, after coming oh-so-close with the Rangers:
“Those moves…made the team a really really good chance for us to get to the playoffs. Obviously at this point in my career I want to be a part of that. I’m still chasing the ring.”
For the Blue Jays, that Oliver has decided to come back on the team option has major implications on the makeup off the bullpen. Prior to Oliver’s return, the team would have been left with Brett Cecil and Aaron Loup as its only southpaws in the pen, and would have likely had to make a move to acquire a late-inning setup lefty to complement the likes of Sergio Santos and Steve Delabar. With Oliver, the team now features a backend group with Delabar, Santos, Oliver, and Casey Janssen – one that should be well-equipped to handle most late-inning situations.
Alex Anthopoulos didn’t bother dancing around words when it comes to the impact of Oliver’s decision, simply saying “it’s huge…maybe huge isn’t a strong enough word.” The GM had essentially hinted that the team’s budget was all but tapped out with the numerous acquisitions its made this winter, and having a steady veteran like Oliver coming back on a team option at a friendly rate provides a signifcant amount of stability without the team having to maneuver around the bank, so to speak.
What this will mean, on the other hand, is that some of the other guys will be competing for a job. According to Shi Davidi of Sportsnet, Anthopoulos have said that Esmil Rogers is a lock for the bullpen; ditto Brad Lincoln, who may be stretched out to start if necessary. That leaves one job – assuming Aaron Loup is going back to the minors – for Brett Cecil and Jeremy Jeffress, both of whom are out of options.
There is also the possibility of having J.A. Happ start the season in the minors as well. All said, the bullpen will be an interesting vocal point for the Blue Jays when Spring Training starts up in February.