Aaron Sanchez Rumors

Anthopoulos On Payroll, Cabrera, Pitching, Gibbons

Blue Jays General Manager Alex Anthopoulos met with the media, including Sportsnet.ca’s Ben Nicholson-Smith and Shi Davidi (Twitter links) and the National Post’s John Lott, for 50 minutes today before Toronto’s season finale against Baltimore. Here are the highlights:

  • Anthopoulos declined to put a figure on the team’s 2015 payroll, but expects to have the financial flexibility to make moves and has “some ideas on trades and free agents.”
  • The Blue Jays will make a competitive offer to Melky Cabrera, but Anthopoulos reiterated the club’s policy of limiting contracts to five years “is still firmly in place. That’s not going to change.” 
  • On the Jays’ starting rotation, I wouldn’t feel good going into the season with five,Anthopoulos said. “Philosophically speaking, you want to hoard as much as you can, keep as much depth as you can.” To that end, Anthopoulos hinted J.A. Happ‘s $6.7MM option will be exercised and Aaron Sanchez (“frontline starter potential“) will be stretched out in Spring Training. He will, however, at least consider trade offers for established arms.
  • The Blue Jays will eschew big-name relievers and focus on set-up arms in an effort to rebuild their bullpen. Sanchez may pitch in relief sometime during the course of 2015, but only to manage his innings.
  • Yes,” was Anthopoulos’ reply when asked would he hire John Gibbons if he had a managerial opening next season.
  • Brett Lawrie is slated to play third base next year, but could be moved to second if an impact third baseman is acquired. As for evaluating the other position players, Anthopoulos will place a premium on durability.
  • Nicholson-Smith opines bench upgrades will most likely be accomplished through trades rather than free agency.

East Notes: Sanchez, Rays, Smyly, Lee, Mets Lawsuit

Highly-regarded Blue Jays prospect Aaron Sanchez is proving that his stuff plays at the MLB level, writes Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet.ca. His upper-90s fastball is generating swings and misses along with plenty of groundballs, and he’s also found success with his curve. As Nicholson-Smith notes, Sanchez has shown that the two-pitch combo can make him a force out of the pen, but the next step will be for him to incorporate his change as he looks to establish himself as a big league starter in the future. Sanchez is currently rated the game’s 37th-best overall prospect by MLB.com.

Here’s more from the east:

  • The Rays expect their payroll to drop below this season’s franchise record of over $80MM, Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reports on Twitter. Overall spending is “clearly going to be lower,” said owner Stuart Sternberg. That is hardly surprising, especially given that the team will not be paying David Price a big arbitration raise and has Heath Bell coming off the books. On the other hand, it would seem to indicate that Tampa does not expect to add significant salary via free agency or trade, as the team will be paying raises to players like James Loney and Grant Balfour (whose free agent deals were backloaded) as well as arbitration-eligibles such as Matt Joyce, Jeremy Hellickson, Jake McGee, Desmond Jennings, and the recently-acquired Drew Smyly.
  • Since going to the Rays in the Price trade, Smyly has increased his strikeout rate and improved his effectiveness against righties by elevating his fastball, as Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports originally explored and Jeff Sullivan of Fangraphs further explains with the aid of many interesting statistics and GIFs. As Sullivan writes — and as Fangraphs has been discussing more generally of late — there is an increasing movement among some teams (including Tampa) and some pitchers to pursue the use of high heat as batters have adjusted to lower pitching.
  • Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. says that he expects Cliff Lee to deliver significant on-field value next year, Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer reports. Lee is on track in his rehab plan, which currently means continued rest. As Gelb notes, Lee’s situation will likely not begin to clarify until he begins throwing this fall and begins to ramp up for the spring.
  • The Mets have issued a statement denying the allegations of former executive Leigh Castergine, as MLB.com’s Anthony DiComo reports“We have received and reviewed the complaint,” the statement reads. “The claims are without merit. Our organization maintains strong policies against any and all forms of discrimination.” In a rather scathing assessment, meanwhile, Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports argues that MLB should investigate immediately and act firmly in the wake of Castergine’s troubling allegations. As Passan notes, Mets COO Jeff Wilpon — whose alleged statements and actions form the basis for much of the lawsuit — not only occupies a key position with the team, but also sits on the boards of MLB Enterprises and MLB Network.

Blue Jays To Promote Aaron Sanchez

The Blue Jays will promote top prospect Aaron Sanchez to join their bullpen today, sources tell Shi Davidi of Sportsnet. The right-handed starter had been moved to the bullpen at Triple-A recently to prepare him for the role in the Majors, though he made just two relief appearances before this promotion.

Aaron  Sanchez

Sanchez, 22, ranked as the game’s No. 32 prospect on Baseball America’s pre-season Top 100. He ranked 31st on Baseball Prospectus’ version of the same list and 23rd on MLB.com’s Top 100. Sanchez has had a bit of a down season, causing him to fall off of the midseason edition of BA’s Top 50 prospects. However, BP wasn’t as swayed by his regression and upped his ranking to No. 29 on their midseason list (though as they note, given the number of prospects that have been promoted ahead of him, the ranking is actually a bit of a step back).

In 100 1/3 innings between Double-A and Triple-A this season, Sanchez has a 3.95 ERA with 7.5 K/9 and 5.1 BB/9. As BP’s Chris Mellen notes in his write-up of Sanchez on BP’s midseason list (subscription required and recommended), he consistently teases the Blue Jays by showing front-of-the-rotation stuff but with heavily inconsistent fastball command. As a result, the “clear-headed line of sight” points to a mid-rotation role for Sanchez, Mellen writes. Prior to the season BA praised his ability to induce grounders with his fastball as well as the tilt and depth of his potentially plus curveball. They did note, however, that when pitching from the stretch in 2013, he walked more hitters than he struck out. Sanchez’s changeup has potential to be a third average-or-better offering as well, per MLB.com’s scouting report.

If Sanchez is at the Major League level to stay, he would accumulate 70 days of service time through season’s end, which would leave him well shy of attaining Super Two status. Recent reports have indicated that the Blue Jays are looking for bullpen help, but if Sanchez can solidify a relief role, he could be an alternative to making a trade.

Sanchez has also seen his name mentioned in trade rumors pertaining to starting pitching additions, but GM Alex Anthopoulos has shown a strong resistance to moving Sanchez’s lofty ceiling. Sanchez’s name was frequently brought up in possible Jeff Samardzija trades — alongside lefty Daniel Norris and center fielder Dalton Pompey — before “Shark” was ultimately dealt to Oakland.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.



Rangers’ Relievers Drawing Interest

9:13pm: Texas wants a “substantial package” to move Soria, report T.R. Sullivan and Grace Raynor of MLB.com. The asking price is believed to be two or three prospects.

1:51pm: The Rangers are receiving trade interest in a number of their bullpen arms, according to multiple reports. MLB.com’s T.R. Sullivan reports that the team is listening on right-hander Jason Frasor and lefty Neal Cotts, and both have generated some interest. Meanwhile, Ken Rosenthal and Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports report that the Angels, Blue Jays and Tigers have been in contact with the Rangers about closer Joakim Soria (Twitter link).

As Sullivan points out, both Frasor and Cotts are free agents at season’s end. While Frasor has scuffled of late, yielding five runs over his past 3 1/3 innings, he still boasts a solid 3.38 ERA with 9.2 K/9, 4.0 BB/9 and a 47 percent ground-ball rate. The 36-year-old is earning a highly affordable $1.75MM this season, meaning that he’s owed about $765K through season’s end.

Cotts, 34, reemerged in the Majors last season after an absence of four years and put his injury woes behind him with an electric 1.11 ERA in 57 innings for Texas. He’s taken a step back in 2014 but has a solid 3.55 ERA with 45 strikeouts against 15 walks in 38 innings. However, after dominating opposing lefties in 2013, he’s surrendered a .281/.328/.456 batting line against same-handed hitters in 2014. It shouldn’t come as a total shock, as Cotts does have a reverse-platoon split for his career, but certainly not one this pronounced. Cotts is earning $2.2MM this season, meaning he has roughly $962K remaining on his deal.

As for Soria, the Tigers and Angels come as no surprise, as both have dealt with significant bullpen issues in 2014. However, the Blue Jays are a bit of a surprise club to see listed here. In another series of tweets, Rosenthal adds that while the club does like Soria, the team is also toying with the idea of promoting top prospect Aaron Sanchez to work out of the bullpen this season. Fellow top prospect Daniel Norris could even join him eventually, Rosenthal adds, making for a situation that would resemble the dynamic pairing of Trevor Rosenthal and Carlos Martinez with the Cardinals last year.

Soria is in the midst of one of perhaps his finest season. In his second year back from Tommy John, the 30-year-old has a 2.76 ERA with a whopping 12.3 K/9 and a minuscule 1.2 BB/9 in 29 1/3 innings. Sabermetric ERA estimators such as FIP (0.80), xFIP (1.93) and SIERA (1.58) all feel that he’s doing the best work of his career. Though he has a higher salary at $5.5MM, Soria unquestionably will come with the highest asking price in a trade. He has an affordable $7MM club option on his contract for 2015, and the Rangers do have eyes on contending next season, when they hope to have better luck on the injury front.


Chicago Links: Beckham, Quintana, Russell, Wright, Garcia, Samardzija

The White Sox are willing to move second baseman Gordon Beckham, reports Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports, but Jose Quintana isn’t available (Twitter link). The 27-year-old Beckham opened the season on the disabled list and had a strong month of May after being activated, but he’s cooled since that time and is hitting .248/.302/.395. He’s under team control through 2015 and is earning $4.18MM this season after avoiding arbitration for the second time this season. It’s not entirely surprising that the team wouldn’t move Quintana, as he just inked a five-year, $21MM contract extension in Spring Training. He’s in the midst of his finest season in the Majors to this point, having posted a 3.20 ERA with 8.0 K/9, 2.6 BB/9 and a 47.6 percent ground-ball rate.

Here are a few more items pertaining to the Sox and their north-side counterparts…

  • Left-handers James Russell and Wesley Wright are both drawing trade interest, reports Chris Cotillo of MLB Daily Dish. Each southpaw is under team control through the 2015 season, and each has a 2.22 ERA through 24 1/3 innings this season. Wright, who is earning $1.43MM is slightly more affordable than Russell and his $1.78MM salary.

Earlier Links

  • White Sox GM Rick Hahn told reporters today that injured outfielder Avisail Garcia has been cleared to resume baseball activities (via CSN Chicago’s Dan Hayes). While he has a long way to go and it’s a long shot, Hahn wouldn’t rule out the possibility that Garcia could play in the Majors again this season.
  • Shi Davidi of Sportsnet.ca reports that the Cubs talked with the Blue Jays regarding Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel before trading the pair to the A’s on Independence Day. The Cubs were asking for Marcus Stroman and Drew Hutchison in addition to “at least” one of Daniel Norris, Aaron Sanchez and Dalton Pompey. That’s a steep price to pay, to be sure, though none of those prospects are as highly regarded as the centerpiece Chicago did acquire in the deal — shortstop Addison Russell.
  • Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports heard the same five names, though he hears that they were discussed in various combinations, and the Blue Jays didn’t discuss packages to acquire both pitchers (Twitter links). One scout tells Rosenthal that Norris and Stroman could both be No. 1 or No. 2 types of starters, and the Jays would be “crazy” to deal them.
  • Speaking to WFAN’s Mike Francesca on Monday, Yankees GM Brian Cashman said that he had extensive negotiations with the Cubs to acquire both Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel, but he doesn’t think the Cubs could have landed a better package than they one they wound up taking from Oakland, regardless of who they were dealing with. CBS New York has highlights and audio from the conversation.

Latest On Blue Jays’ Interest In Jeff Samardzija

The Blue Jays continue to scout Jeff Samardzija, as pro scouting director Perry Minasian was in attendance for yesterday’s outing against the Reds, reports Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports. Much of the chatter regarding Samardzija to this point has included speculation when it comes to Chicago’s asking price, but Morosi hears “strong indications” that the Cubs would deal Samardzija for a package highlighted by right-hander Aaron Sanchez, left-hander Daniel Norris and center fielder Dalton Pompey.

Toronto GM Alex Anthopoulos has maintained that he won’t include all three of those prospects in a deal for Samardzija or any other available pitcher — even David Price — according to Morosi’s report. He also notes that as much as the Blue Jays like Samardzija, they may prefer Price and Philadelphia southpaw Cole Hamels (though the latter isn’t guaranteed to be available).

The Blue Jays reluctance to deal three of their top prospects lines up with previous indicators that they may be more interested in rental players than controllable players due to a strong desire to preserve some of their farm system. Toronto has dealt away some notable prospect value — including Noah Syndergaard, Travis d’Arnaud, Jake Marisnick, Justin Nicolino, Henderson Alvarez and Anthony DeSclafani — to acquire the likes of R.A. Dickey, Mark Buehrle and Jose Reyes. One thing we do know is that Anthopoulos feels he will have ownership’s blessing to expand the team’s payroll if necessary.

As for the three prospects listed by Morosi, Sanchez entered the season with the highest stock of the bunch but has seen his star lose some of its luster after struggling to a 4.08 ERA and issuing 48 walks in 75 innings between Double-A and Triple-A. Norris, on the other hand, has been electric, turning in a combined 1.62 ERA and 4.47 K/BB ratio in 72 innings between Class-A Advanced and Double-A. Pompey ranked just 17th among Toronto prospects (per Baseball America) prior to the season but has boosted his value with a strong .312/.392/.460 batting line, six homers and 27 steals (in 29 attempts).