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Alex Anthopoulos Rumors
The Blue Jays are “in contact” with the representatives of multiple top free agent relievers, Jon Morosi of FOX Sports tweets. Among them are righties Francisco Rodriguez, Rafael Soriano, and Burke Badenhop.
With former Jays closer Casey Janssen now headed to the Nationals, Toronto officially must look elsewhere to build out its pen. The three names listed above are arguably the top three arms remaining, though several other options remain as well.
GM Alex Anthopoulos said earlier today that he is looking for many different ways to add talent to the relief corps, as Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet.ca reports. As things stand, Brett Cecil and Aaron Sanchez are perhaps the top two candidates to hold down the ninth inning, and Toronto is not sending signals that it feels an established closer is a necessity.
Payroll may be the driving factor at this point, writes Nicholson-Smith. With perhaps $5MM to $6MM in 2015 spending capacity remaining, that makes trade candidate Jonathan Papelbon a questionable fit. “When you see us linked to a player for days and days and back and forth, I’d say 9.9 times out of 10 there probably isn’t anything to it,” Anthopoulos said. “I can say we’re not going to be in the market for relievers making $10-plus million or more.”
Otherwise, Anthopoulos indicated that the team was in an opportunistic mode after getting a lot of work done earlier in the winter. “Most times the later you get in to the winter there’s potential for the prices to change on some of these guys,” he noted. One internal wild card, catcher Dioner Navarro, remains available in trade but seems destined to remain with the Jays unless a suitable offer comes in.
Here’s the latest from Toronto…
- The Blue Jays don’t appear to have checked in on Sergio Romo, Sportsnet’s Ben Nicholson-Smith tweets.
- The lack of interest in Romo may not be surprising, given what GM Alex Anthopoulos told reporters (including MLB.com’s Gregor Chisholm) today. The Jays are “probably turning our attention a little more to trades right now in terms of the relievers. That’s not to say that’s how we’ll ultimately end up but….We’re exploring some trades right now that might make a little more sense for us.”
- The costs were seemingly too high for the free agent relief arms and Anthopoulos also said there’s only so much the Jays are willing to give up in deals for bullpen help. “We knew what the prices were in free agency and we weren’t prepared to go to that price point, and we’re still talking about some trades. We’re not looking to trade our young, big league ready, or close to ready big league arms, for relievers. That’s not something we’re contemplating right now.”
- The Jays are reportedly planning to “raid the Mets” during the minor league portion of tomorrow’s Rule 5 draft, ESPN New York’s Adam Rubin tweets.
- The Jays had discussed Francisco Liriano before the lefty re-signed with the Pirates, Bob Elliott of the Toronto Sun reports. With Liriano off the board, Elliott wonders if the Blue Jays will now target another second-tier starter in Brandon McCarthy.
Blue Jays president Paul Beeston appears set to continue on in that capacity, according to Shi Davidi of Sportsnet.ca. Of course, as Davidi notes, both Beeston and GM Alex Anthopoulos could face questions if a postseason berth is not in the offing in 2015. The front office will have at least $20MM to $30MM in free salary, Davidi reasons, which could be bolstered with a spending increase and/or move to shed some payroll obligations. As Davidi rightly notes, Toronto has a very clean balance sheet after this year, which could potentially leave the team with a big hammer to wield in free agency.
Here’s more from Toronto and the rest of the AL East:
- The Blue Jays have a number of possible offseason targets on both the trade and free agent front, writes Sportsnet.ca’s Ben Nicholson-Smith. Among them is Angels second baseman Howie Kendrick, who Toronto has “placed multiple calls on,” according to Nicholson-Smith — who, it should be noted, also recently reported that the Jays are on Kendrick’s no-trade list.
- Whether or not the Yankees are big free agent spenders this year remains to be seen, but the club’s financial muscle is flexed in many and disparate ways, as Kiley McDaniel of Fangraphs writes. Over recent years, New York has consistently controlled the market for minor league free agents, bringing bigger and better offers to the table for players like Yangervis Solarte. (In an interesting note to give context to this relatively minimal spending, McDaniel says a team source told him the team could break even financially even if it carried $500MM in total payroll obligations, including luxury tax costs.)
- The early set of rotation targets for the Yankees features names like Brandon McCarthy, Jason Hammel, and Chris Capuano, according to Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com. That jibes with another recent report suggesting that New York has no current plans to attack the arms at the top of the market.
- Free agent closer David Robertson, who is currently weighing a qualifying offer from the Yankees, is one of the most fascinating free agents to watch. Joel Sherman of the New York Post writes that his sense is the club will be interested in exploring a multi-year deal with Robertson, but may not chase him at the top of the market and would be comfortable allowing him to walk.
- Another QO recipient, Nelson Cruz, told MLB Network Radio (via Eduardo Encina of the Baltimore Sun) that a return to the Orioles is his preferred outcome. “No doubt it’s my first choice,” said Cruz. “I’d love to be back. I understand the business. I know they’re interested in bringing me back. Hopefully we can work something out.” Cruz was not willing to say he would take a lesser deal to stay in Baltimore, though it is obviously hard to fault him for not copping to that publicly — or, for that matter, for choosing the best contract offer he receives, if that ultimately proves to be the case.
- The Red Sox catcher of the future is Blake Swihart, not Christian Vazquez, opines J.J. Cooper of Baseball America. But the team need not decide now how it will sort out the presence of two highly-regarded young backstops. Instead, the team has the option of adding a veteran presence alongside Vazquez for the coming year while Swihart continues to develop in the minors. Assuming Swihart establishes himself as a big league regular, Boston will have plenty of time to assess whether it makes more sense to keep both players or deal one away.
Several executives around baseball are starting to think James Shields will receive some five-year offers in free agency this winter, Scott Lauber of the Boston Herald reports. This would be a sizable commitment in a pitcher who will be 33 years old on Opening Day, and since the Red Sox don’t like guaranteeing that many years to pitchers in their 30’s, the team could offer Shields a four-year deal with a higher ($20MM) average annual value. If this isn’t enough to land Shields, however, Lauber feels by that point the Sox should just increase their offer to Jon Lester.
Here’s some more from around the AL East…
- In a radio interview on The Jeff Blair Show (Sportsnet.ca’s Ben Nicholson-Smith has the audio link and partial transcript) Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos said the team had had “some conversations” with Melky Cabrera about a new contract though seemingly little progress has been made. “Clearly both sides right now can’t seem to get together for various reasons,” Anthopoulos said. “I don’t think it’s fair for anyone to assume that there hasn’t been dialogue. I wouldn’t assume that there haven’t been proposals exchanged.”
- Beyond just on-the-field upgrades, the Blue Jays also need to re-establish trust between the clubhouse and upper management, Sportsnet.ca’s Shi Davidi opines. Some Jays players were openly upset with the front office’s lack of major spending or acquisitions over the last year, and while Davidi doesn’t cite this lack of trust as the key reason why the Jays missed the playoffs, it obviously helps to have everyone in the organization on the same page.
- The Orioles‘ success over the last three seasons wouldn’t have been possible without former president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail, Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune writes. While MacPhail’s departure following the 2011 season coincided with Baltimore’s return to contention, manager Buck Showalter and several of the O’s best players joined the organization on MacPhail’s watch.
- J.J. Hardy‘s extension with the Orioles only enhances Xander Bogaerts‘ value to the Red Sox, Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal writes. A young, controllable star at shortstop who can contribute both offensive and defensively is a major commodity, though Bogaerts obviously still work to do to establish himself on that level. “How much of a step forward Bogaerts can take at shortstop will have quite a bit to do with how much of a step forward the Red Sox can take in the American League East,” MacPherson writes.
- In other AL East news from earlier today on MLBTR, I collected a set of Yankees Notes and Jeff Todd featured Blue Jays center fielder Colby Rasmus in a Free Agent Profile.
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.
Alex Anthopoulos will remain the GM of the Blue Jays following the 2014 season, reports Steve Simmons of the Toronto Sun. Anthopoulos has been under some scrutiny from fans, media, and even players over his failure to make a big acquisition at the trade deadline. The Blue Jays have begun to lag in the AL playoff picture. They are four games back in the Wild Card race, but would have to pass the Mariners, Tigers, and Yankees to claim the second spot. One reason ownership is patient with Anthopoulos is the emergence of pitchers Drew Hutchison, Marcus Stroman, Aaron Sanchez, and minor leaguer Daniel Norris. Anthopoulos is signed through 2015.
- Also from Simmons, the Jays never actually approached ownership about expanding payroll because a deal was never close. Front office personnel do believe that more money is available for the right player.
- Related to a deal not being close, the Rays apparently wanted both Stroman and Hutchison in return for David Price. In my opinion, it’s understandable why that offer didn’t get anywhere. The Jays would have upgraded one rotation spot while creating a potential hole with another.
- Keith Pelley, president of Rogers Media, says the club is focused on the 2014 playoff run and has not evaluated offseason options, according to Shi Davidi of Sportsnet.ca. That would seemingly contradict Simmons’ report, although such comments are often pure double talk.
- Davidi also illuminated manager John Gibbons’ contract situation. Gibbons is signed through 2015 and will have a vesting option for 2016 triggered after December 31. His contract is structured to continuously add such options until it is terminated.
Blue Jays General Manager Alex Anthopoulos met with the media (including Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet.ca and Sean Fitz-Gerald of the National Post) for 30 minutes today before Toronto’s game with Texas. Here are the highlights:
- Anthopoulos addressed recent reports he isn’t allowed to add payroll at the Trade Deadline. “I don’t think it’s about being ‘allowed’ or anything like that at all. We’re having dialogue with teams.” Anthopoulos added the club has always kept payroll projections in house.
- Anthopoulos says he has the freedom to make the necessary moves to keep the Blue Jays in the playoff hunt. “I don’t have any doubt that we have the ability to add players. How that gets done, we can always be creative, but I’ll say this: we have a very healthy payroll, we have a very strong payroll.“
- Anthopoulos denied ownership will stand in the way of a possible deal because of money. “Ownership’s been outstanding with us from that standpoint. If a baseball trade lines up for us, I don’t see any reason we’re not going to be able to add players at the trade deadline if we can line up in terms of talent.“
- No trades are pending with discussions still in the “conceptual stage,” but Anthopoulos is willing to deal prospects. “It’s really as much about what you get back, as much as what you give up. The more talent you give up, the more years of control, the more talent you get back. It’s a sliding scale.“
- Optimistic injured starters Adam Lind, Brett Lawrie and Edwin Encarnacion “will have a chance to come back sooner than we all think,” Anthopoulos will still look to bolster the Blue Jays‘ offense before the Trade Deadline.
The Blue Jays sit atop the AL East but most feel that the club will try to fortify its starting rotation before the trade deadline. Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos hinted to Peter Gammons of GammonsDaily.com that if his team did make a move, the price might be too high for a big-name arm. “We are pretty much maxed out in terms of payroll, but more important, we cannot keep trading our young [minor league] pitchers,” Anthopoulos said. “We also have to be realistic about whom we can extend if we make a trade for him….We have been feeling out teams and doing background work. I think we’d probably look at something where we have a pitcher for the rest of this season. That makes sense.” Gammons wonders if this means the Jays wouldn’t pursue David Price or Jeff Samardzija since neither pitcher is likely to sign an extension with Toronto to becoming a free agent after 2015. James Shields (a free agent this winter) would also cost a lot, while Gammons suggests names like Francisco Liriano, Jason Hammel or Justin Masterson as possible fits.
Here’s the latest from around the AL East…
- Dellin Betances no longer frets about trade rumors like he did in his younger days, the Yankees reliever tells Brendan Kuty of NJ.com. “I try not to pay too much attention,” Betances said. “Actually, I haven’t heard anything. But this has happened so many times that — you always hear rumors that are coming up.” CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman recently explored Betances as a possible trade chip the Yankees could use in a package for Samardzija, though with Betances pitching so well, Heyman noted New York would be hesitant to move the right-hander.
- In an Insider-only piece for ESPN.com, Christopher Crawford breaks down what each of the five AL East teams could look for in the upcoming amateur draft.
- The struggling Red Sox may not look to help their lineup by trading for a notable hitter, FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal said in a recent radio appearance on WEEI’s Dennis & Callahan Show (WEEI.com’s Nick Canelas has a partial transcript). “To expend what you’d have to expend to get that player, I’m not sure the Red Sox want to do that because right now they’re in a situation where they are protective of what they have,” Rosenthal said. “They have depth in young talent all over the place, we know that; left side of the infield, catching, pitching to some extent. But their idea is to keep this going, and I’m not sure you keep it going by trading for a big-money hitter and expending prospects to do it with one or two years left on the guy’s contract.”
- From that same interview, Rosenthal also touched on Orioles slugger Nelson Cruz, who “looks like a player that a lot of people underestimated” coming off his PED suspension in 2013. “The price was not to the liking of a lot of teams early on, and he’s not that offensive-defensive mixture that most teams seek now….He’s a guy that clearly has shown that whatever was going on with him, assuming that nothing is going on now, he is back to the player that we thought he should be.” Cruz is currently slashing .295/.361/.612 with a Major League-leading 16 homers.
- Rosenthal notes that the Red Sox didn’t pursue Cruz last winter. Cruz’s success notwithstanding, I’d say it’s hard to fault Boston for that non-move since the club was seemingly set in the corner outfield spots and David Ortiz is the everyday DH.
We covered a couple of Yankees items as part of a New York Notes post earlier today, so now let's take a look around the rest of the AL East…
- Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos said the team is open to possibly extending the contracts of Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion and Jose Reyes, the GM tells The Toronto Star's Richard Griffin. Bautista (33) and Encarnacion (31) are contracted through 2015 and the Jays have team options on both players for 2016, while Reyes (30) is locked up through the 2017 season. Extensions would take any of the trio well into their late-30's, yet Anthopoulos points to David Ortiz and Carlos Beltran as older players who are still big hitters.
- Also as part of the wide-ranging interview, Anthopoulos discusses his disappointment over the Ervin Santana non-signing, restocking the farm system and more.
- Grady Sizemore will be the Red Sox center fielder on Opening Day, manager John Farrell told reporters (including Scott Lauber of the Boston Herald). Star prospect Jackie Bradley was widely presumed the favorite to take over from Jacoby Ellsbury as Boston's new center fielder this season, yet Bradley struggled to hit in Spring Training and will start the year at Triple-A. Sizemore, meanwhile, enjoyed a big spring and proved he was healthy after missing the last two seasons. Sizemore signed a $750K minor league deal with Boston this winter that could be worth as much as $6MM if Sizemore meets all the incentives.
- Farrell said that Sizemore will still receive regular rest in order to keep him fresh. Since this will free up some outfield playing time, FOX Sports' Jon Paul Morosi wonders if the Red Sox could be in the market for a right-handed hitting outfielder who can play all three OF spots.
- Red Sox sports-medicine coordinator Dan Dyrek played an important part in both convincing Sizemore to sign with Boston and in getting him back in playing condition, Sizemore tells Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal. Dyrek was “the first guy who has understood not only how it happened but what caused it and how to fix it and how to prevent it from happening again,” Sizemore said.
- The Orioles plan to have Jonathan Schoop on the Opening Day roster, FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal tweets. Schoop will play both second and third base, splitting time with Steve Lombardozzi and Ryan Flaherty, respectively. The 2014 Baseball America Prospect Handbook ranked Schoop as the fifth-best prospect in the Baltimore farm system, and Schoop fought his way onto the 25-man roster thanks to a huge Spring Training.
Now that it's clear Nelson Cruz won't be back, it's unclear who the Rangers will use as their designated hitter against lefties, Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News writes. The Rangers still had interest in Cruz, Grant writes, noting that, in addition to the qualifying offer, they made at least one offer that exceeded the $8MM Cruz ended up taking from the Orioles. That leaves them with a variety of options to play DH against lefties, but none manager Ron Washington likes very much: Mitch Moreland is a lefty, Michael Choice doesn't have enough experience for Washington's taste, and Washington would prefer to keep the Rangers' spare catcher (Geovany Soto or J.P. Arencibia, depending on who isn't starting) available on the bench.
- With Cruz off the market, Grant, in a separate article, believes now is the time for the Rangers to extend manager Ron Washington. Grant also opines players tagged with qualifying offers are going to think more seriously about accepting them in light of Cruz's surprisingly small contract.
- Yankees manager Joe Girardi thinks new minor-league signee Andrew Bailey can help them in the late innings, but probably not until September, Jack Curry of the YES Network tweets. The former Athletics and Red Sox closer had labrum surgery last July.
- The Red Sox will try Mike Carp out at a new position this spring, Alex Speier of WEEI.com tweets. While Spring Training experiments like these aren't uncommon and often have little long-term impact, a bit of added versatility might change Carp's outlook with the Red Sox, particularly if he can play third, where the Red Sox are less settled than they are elsewhere. Carp hit .296/.362/.523 in 243 plate appearances last season, but the Red Sox already have plenty of talent at first base, left field and DH, which has led to speculation that Carp could be a trade candidate.
- Scott Boras blames the Blue Jays' lack of activity in the free agent market on its ownership, Rogers Communications, reports FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal. "There is no one who has the asset base of Rogers," said Boras. "They’re a car with a huge engine that is impeded by a big corporate stop sign . . . a successful and committed ownership that needs to give their baseball people financial flexibility." GM Alex Anthopoulos denied Boras' assertion telling Rosenthal, "Our ownership has been outstanding and given us all the resources we need." The Blue Jays' payroll is expected to exceed $130MM this season.
- Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon told reporters, including Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News Tribune, Justin Smoak will be the team's first baseman as long he performs. This means McClendon expects new acquistions Logan Morrison and Corey Hart to man the corner outfield spots and DH.
- Astros GM Jeff Luhnow acknowledged internal discussions about a contract extension for catcher Jason Castro have taken place, reports the Houston Chronicle's Evan Drellich. No offer, however, has been discussed with Castro.
Edward Creech contributed to this post.