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Blue Jays GM says he's confident he'll have financial flexibility if needed

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TORONTO - Toronto Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos said Thursday that he's confident he'll have financial flexibility should he need it later in the season.

Anthopoulos, who held a media availability before his team opened a four-game series against Kansas City, was asked about an online report by columnist Peter Gammons that quoted him saying the team is "pretty much maxed out" in terms of payroll.

"We're at our number to start the year," Anthopoulos explained to reporters. "That's fair so I don't think it varies from anything else we've ever said."

The Blue Jays, who have a payroll of about US$135 million, don't have a locked-in salary ceiling. If a situation presented itself, it appears there would be room to heighten it if needed.

Toronto has been one of the surprises of the American League this season, rising to the top of the East division and taking a nine-game winning streak into Thursday's game. Talk of potential upgrades and loading up for a post-season run is already underway in the playoff-starved city even though the season is barely one-third old.

Anthopoulos said while it's still quite early, he does not expect to be hamstrung when it comes to finances.

"I have every confidence that if we have a need come the trade deadline, which is obviously late July, I have every confidence that we'll have the resources to do that," Anthopoulos said. "I don't have any doubts about that at all."

The team's purse strings were in the news last April when reports surfaced that some Toronto players discussed deferring portions of their salary to help land Ervin Santana. The free agent pitcher ended up signing with Atlanta for the same one-year US$14-million deal offered by the Jays.

But Anthopoulos stressed that if something came up in the next month or two, he feels the team could take on salary if required.

"We may need to be creative, we may need to do some things," he said. "But we've been able to add payroll when needed."

One potential upgrade area is the starting rotation, which has improved significantly this season despite Brandon Morrow going on the 60-day disabled list and a variety of pitchers handling the No. 5 spot.

Anthopoulos gave credit to his starters and said their performance will be key going forward.

"I know the offence has been great, we're hitting home runs and all that, it's fun to watch," he said. "But we will go as far as the rotation will bring us, there is no doubt about that."

The Blue Jays could get an in-house upgrade if Morrow is able to return to form.

"We'll have more of a report by the end of June," Anthopoulos said. "He's going to be back around the all-star break and by late June, he should be going out on a rehab assignment. So I think it could actually time well."

For now, Anthopoulos is focusing on preparations for next week's draft. He expects GMs to pick up trade discussions once the selection process is complete.

"We're not having any active talks at all," Anthopoulos said. "We're really immersed in the draft right now. But I do expect once that draft is over and we get to the Monday after the draft, I think that's when everyone is going to start making the calls again."

The team's play over the next month will determine the GM's next move. But again, Anthopoulos doesn't believe money will be an issue.

"I think if we're in a good position at the beginning of July, we'll know the landscape a little bit more with what our needs are," he said. "I have every confidence in the world that I can have that conversation with (president) Paul (Beeston), and Paul has that conversation with ownership.

"But one, we need to be playing well at that time and we're still very far away from that (date)."

Follow @GregoryStrongCP on Twitter.

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