Michael Saunders Rumors

Blue Jays Claim Donn Roach From Reds

The Blue Jays announced today that they have claimed right-hander Donn Roach off waivers from the Reds. Michael Saunders has been transferred to the 60-day DL to create room on the 40-man roster for Roach, who was designated for assignment by Cincinnati over the weekend. Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet tweets that Roach will head to Triple-A for the time being, though he could obviously be a candidate for a call-up when rosters expand on Sept. 1.

Roach, 25, has appeared in the Majors with the Padres and Cubs over the past two seasons, totaling 33 2/3 innings of 5.35 ERA ball with 18 strikeouts against 16 walks. Those numbers aren’t particularly impressive, of course, but Roach’s extreme ground-ball nature — he has a 65 percent ground-ball rate in those 33 2/3 innings — probably appealed to the Blue Jays, who play in a very homer-friendly park. Roach has allowed just two homers in the Majors, and in 580 minor league frames, he’s averaged 0.4 homers per nine innings.


Blue Jays Notes: Saunders, Leake, Price, Pillar, Stroman

The Blue Jays have decided to shut down ailing outfielder Michael Saunders for the remainder of the season, manager John Gibbons told reporters, including Sportsnet’s Shi Davidi (Twitter link). Acquired in a one-for-one swap that sent J.A. Happ to Seattle this winter, Saunders tore the meniscus in his knee when he tripped over a sprinkler head in Spring Training. He was originally projected to miss half the season, but that timetable was accelerated to about six weeks after he had a large portion of the meniscus surgically removed. Saunders returned for nine games in early May but had lingering effects from the surgery. He had fluid drained from the knee and a cortisone shot, but neither proved effective enough to keep him from the disabled list for a second time. Those nine games will be the only ones in which Saunders takes the field in 2015. Uncertainty surrounding Saunders’ knee makes him a non-tender candidate, although he won’t receive much of a raise (if any) on this year’s $2.875MM salary. That makes him a nice low-cost asset with some significant upside; Saunders has always been injury prone but batted .248/.320/.423 with 162-game averages of 19 homers and 18 steals from 2012-14 despite playing his home games at the spacious Safeco Field.

A few other items pertaining to the Blue Jays, who narrowly trail the Yankees for the AL East lead…

  • USA Today’s Bob Nightengale spoke to a number of Blue Jays players as well as Anthopoulous about the club’s flurry of trade deadline activity. Notably, Nightengale reports that the Jays had a trade for Mike Leake worked out with the Reds prior to acquiring David Price, but talks for Price ignited shortly before the trade with Cincinnati was finalized. Price himself offered an interesting take on the trade deadline, telling Nightengale that he thought he was going to be traded to the Yankees prior to learning of the move to Toronto.
  • Nightengale asked Anthopoulos about the contrast to last year’s trade deadline, when the Blue Jays had a better record but did not make a move. “It was different last year,” the GM explained. “We had a lot of holes, a lot of guys hurt, and we weren’t going to (deal) without doing some real long-term damage to the organization. If we had done some of those deals, [Kevin] Pillar and [Josh] Donaldson are not on this team right now.” The implication there, of course, is that Pillar was in demand from other clubs, as were some combination of prospects Franklin Barreto, Sean Nolin and Kendall Graveman, who went to Oakland in the Donaldson swap.
  • Mark Buehrle spoke to Nightengale about how he has fallen in love with the Blue Jays and the city of Toronto after initially being upset to be traded there in 2012. “Before I came here, this was a place where I never wanted to play,” Buehrle candidly explained. “…You come here as a visitor, and you have the customs, trying to figure out your phone bills, the money exchange, the temperature readings. But now that I’ve played here, it’s been so great. It’s just such a great place to live and play. They make it so comfortable for you.” Nightengale’s entire article is well worth a read, particularly for Blue Jays fans.
  • Marcus Stroman will throw a 40-pitch simulated game at the team’s Spring Training complex in Dunedin, Fla., next Monday, reports Sportsnet’s Jeff Blair. If all goes well there, he’ll throw a 55-pitch simulated game on Aug. 29 and then make a rehab outing at Triple-A in early September before Buffalo’s season closes on the seventh. That Triple-A outing will determine whether or not Stroman can return to the club in 2015. GM Alex Anthopoulos shared a generally positive outlook on Stroman’s progress in a message to Blair, saying, “I’ve seen videos of his bullpen sessions, and he looks great.”

AL East Notes: Craig, Smyly, Ellsbury, Saunders

It is by now well-documented that Allen Craig of the Red Sox has experienced a significant decline at the plate, leading to his outright off of the 40-man roster. But as Alex Speier of the Boston Globe explains, the fall-off has been so steep that it actually has historical dimensions. Looking at other players who posted consistently strong batting lines in their age-26 to 28 seasons, Speier shows that no other player has fallen as far as has Craig (62 OPS+) in the following two years. There could, of course, still be some hope of a turnaround given the complicated role that injuries in his struggles and the fact that he is still only 30.

  • Rays lefty Drew Smyly appears to be reconsidering the surgical route and could instead attempt to rest and then rehab his ailing left shoulder, ESPN.com reports. It’s not clear what precipitated the changed approach, but manager Kevin Cash says that the current plan may allow Smyly to return later this year. “We’re optimistic,” Cash said. “We’re hearing good things.” While any return to action would, at this point, presumably be rather late in the year — Smyly was just placed on the 60-day DL and would obviously require a lengthy resting and rebuilding process — the realistic possibility of a return could impact the team’s summer trade market plans.
  • The Yankees good news on Jacoby Ellsbury, who will not need surgery on his just-injured right knee, as Andrew Marchand of ESPNNewYork.com reports“It is not anything that requires surgery so we are not holding anything that is doom or gloom,” said manager Joe Girardi. “We just have to see how he responds over the next few days and see what [team doctor Chris] Ahmad says.”
  • Meanwhile, the Blue Jays are still set to be without outfielder Michael Saunders for three to five weeks, MLB.com’s Gregor Chisolm reports. Saunders says he suffered a bone bruise in his left knee that arose out of his recent surgery to remove his meniscus. The Jays are still bringing up the rear in the division, of course, and will hope that Saunders can return to action sooner rather than later.


Injury Notes: Pence, Tanaka, Blue Jays, Fister, Ryu

Giants outfielder Hunter Pence is returning to active duty tomorrow, Andrew Baggarly of the Mercury News reports on Twitter. Pence has yet to see MLB action this year since suffering a fractured forearm in the spring. The 32-year-old figures to provide a nice boost to the club, which has produced middling results thus far.

Here are some more injury notes from around the game:

  • Another important player who received promising injury news is Yankees ace Masahiro Tanaka. As Bryan Hoch of MLB.com tweets, Tanaka threw 35 pitches in a BP session today and seems to be nearing the start of a rehab stint. Tanaka’s continued progress is obviously welcome, particularly given that swingman Chase Whitley may be headed for season-ending surgery.
  • The Blue Jays also have some notable situations to watch, with Shi Davidi of Sportsnet.ca providing several updates. Outfielder Michael Saunders will miss four to six weeks to rest his knee. And catcher Dioner Navarro still does not have a timetable for a rehab assignment as he rests his hamstring. More positively, shortstop Jose Reyes is nearing his own build-up through the minors. While Saunders and Reyes are important for the team, the Navarro news is most notable from a transactional perspective. Though he has not done much offensively this year, Navarro could be a useful trade piece for a Toronto club that has other needs — if he can reestablish his health and show more promise at the plate.
  • The Nationals made the surprising announcement today that righty Doug Fister is heading to the DL with right forearm tightness (via Dan Kolko of MASNsports.com, on Twitter). Young starter A.J. Cole, one of the team’s top prospects, will return to take his spot on the active roster. While hidden somewhat due to the attention given to Stephen Strasburg, there is cause for concern with Fister, whose velocity (86.1 mph average two-seam fastball), K:BB ratio (4.1 K/9 vs. 2.3 BB/9), and groundball rate (40.9%) have suffered in comparison to his usual numbers. Of course, the Nationals are somewhat uniquely suited to weather any extended absence, should that prove necessary. But for the 31-year-old free agent-to-be, the first two months of the season have left him with plenty to prove the rest of the way.
  • Hyun-jin Ryu of the Dodgers is still not even scheduled to resume throwing, J.P. Hoornstra of the Los Angeles News Group reports on Twitter. The health of the 28-year-old lefty remains a key sub-plot in the development of the summer trade market: L.A. already profiles as a strong buyer for starting pitching, and its needs would be enhanced greatly if Ryu isn’t able to develop an upward trajectory.

Blue Jays Designate Steve Tolleson

The Blue Jays have designated infielder Steve Tolleson, Shi Davidi of Sportsnet.ca reports on Twitter. With the move, the club has cleared roster space for the activation of outfielder Michael Saunders.

The 31-year-old Tolleson saw just 12 plate appearances this year for Toronto, picking up three hits and a walk. He saw his most extensive MLB action last year with Toronto, slashing .253/.308/.371 in 189 plate appearances. Tolleson has seen limited action in two other seasons.


AL East Notes: Rays, Saunders, Navarro, Webb, Davies

Following the promotion of former first-round pick Mikie Mahtook to the Majors, Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times looks back at what the Rays hoped would be a franchise-altering 2011 draft. Tampa had 10 of the first 60 picks in that year’s draft, but as Topkin points out, a significant number of the picks haven’t panned out. Infielder Brandon Martin and outfielder James Harris have both been released, while surgeries have slowed the careers of several others. Pitchers Taylor Guerrieri and Grayson Garvin have both undergone Tommy John surgery, right-hander Jeff Ames‘ 2014 season was cut short by thoracic surgery, and infielder Jake Hager will miss 2015 following a knee operation.

Here’s more from the AL East…

  • Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos is hopeful that outfielder Michael Saunders will be healthy enough to join the roster on the team’s upcoming 10-game homestand, writes Sportsnet’s Shi Davidi. However, Anthopoulos stressed that the team isn’t going to “force a timeline” on Saunders’ return. The GM said that the team needs to be convinced that Saunders is able to play nine innings at a time five days in a row, though he won’t necessarily be required to do that on his rehab assignment before activation. Saunders played five innings in the outfield on Saturday and took just one at-bat as a DH on Sunday before being pulled with a tight hamstring, though that decision was a precautionary move, Davidi writes.
  • Anthopoulos also briefly addressed Dioner Navarro‘s trade situation, David notes. “If we have any trade discussions on anybody, that’s not something we’re going to advertise,” said Anthopoulos. “But like I said, if there’s an opportunity to get him an everyday job we’ll look to do that, same thing we said in spring training.” It’s pure speculation on my behalf, but I do wonder if the Indians would have interest in Navarro with Yan Gomes out for up to two months. Navarro would eventually be reduced to a reserve role, but he’d likely accumulate more at-bats over the next six to eight weeks in Cleveland than in Toronto.
  • Orioles executive VP/general manager Dan Duquette joined MASNsports.com’s Steve Melewski on 105.7 The Fan yesterday, and the two discussed the Ryan Webb trade as well as Chris Tillman‘s contract status. Melewski asked if it’s more difficult to trade player that has already been designated for assignment, as was the case with Webb, but Duquette revealed that trade talks with the Dodgers were already fairly advanced when Webb was designated. “In other situations, I wouldn’t designate the player and then continue down the track with a trade,” said Duquette. “I had a good sense that we could make a deal with the Dodgers and get back a couple of players that we liked.” Duquette also acknowledged that there won’t be any continuation of extension talks for Tillman during the season but said that the team had several good talks with Tillman’s representatives about his 2015 contract. He didn’t specify how much, if any, progress was made on a longer-term deal. MLBTR’s Charlie Wilmoth took an in-depth look at the unique nature of the Webb trade last night.
  • Kyle Davies‘ return to a Major League mound as a member of the Yankees marks the culmination of three years spent recovering from shoulder surgery, writes MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch. Coincidentally, last night’s appearance forced Davies to face the final hitter he faced in his last Major League appearance in 2011 — David Ortiz (Ortiz grounded out each time). After the outing, Davies spoke with Hoch about the feeling of returning to the Majors. “This is why you come to work and you still do it,” said Davies. “This is why you did all that stuff and rode the buses in [Class A] and Double-A two years ago. It’s pretty cool.”

AL Notes: Price, Ludwick, Lindstrom, Blue Jays

Academy Award-winning actor, Michigan native and huge Tigers fan J.K. Simmons will throw out the first pitch at the Tigers’ opener on April 6.  Simmons won a Best Supporting Actor Oscar last month for his role in Whiplash, and if you’ve seen the movie, you’ll agree that the Tigers should probably hold off on having Simmons give a pep talk to the rookies before the game.  Here’s the latest from around the American League…

  • The Tigers‘ chances of extending David Price aren’t good, Mlive.com’s Chris Iott opines, as there are simply too many reasons for Price to test the free agent market this winter.  Price could potentially find a $200MM+ contract next offseason, so it’s possible Detroit would have to top that level now in order to retain him.
  • The Rangers told outfielder Ryan Ludwick that he wouldn’t make the team, GM Jon Daniels told reporters (including MLB.com’s T.R. Sullivan).  Daniels described Ludwick as an “all-world guy” who he believes could help another team’s roster, though in the Rangers’ case, “as we look at it today, we thought other options in camp fit the roster better.”  Ludwick signed a minor league contract with Texas in February and, as an Article XX(B) free agent, would’ve been obligated to receive a $100K bonus if the Rangers wanted to keep him in the organization but not on the 25-man roster.
  • Matt Lindstrom is also an Article XX(B) free agent, and the Angels right-hander’s status could hurt his chances of making the roster since the Halos like to be flexible in sending relievers back and forth to the minors, MLB.com’s Alden Gonzalez writes.
  • Right-hander Steve Delabar told reporters (including Sportsnet’s Mike Wilner) that “it’s a shock to me” that he won’t be making the Blue Jays‘ Opening Day roster.  Delabar pitched well this spring but apparently lost his spot due to the emergence of Miguel Castro and Roberto Osuna, both of whom seem very likely to make the team.  Delabar was clearly upset by the demotion, and when asked if he would accept a change of scenery to a new team, he said “it could be considered, but I’m not saying that that’s what I’m asking for or anything like that. But if that was to happen… I feel like I’m a major-league player and I can help a bullpen.”
  • Blue Jays outfielder Michael Saunders won’t be ready for Opening Day, MLB.com’s Gregor Chisholm writes, though the reason isn’t due to a setback in his rehab from knee surgery.  The team and Saunders both want to make sure the outfielder is 100 percent when he takes the field, which could be as soon as Toronto’s home opener on April 13.  Saunders had surgery to remove 60 percent of his left meniscus after tearing the cartilage earlier this spring — a decision that accelerated his timeline to take the field from midseason to early April.  Manager John Gibbons has referred to the radically altered timeline as “kind of a miracle,” and Saunders has already been DHing in Minor League games, per Chisholm. However, he’s yet to play outfield defense or run the bases; he’s returned to the dugout rather than running after each at-bat in those games, as the focus is currently just on getting his timing down in a game setting.

AL East Notes: O’Day, Rays, Capuano

Michael Saunders‘ recovery from a torn meniscus is “kind of a miracle,” Blue Jays manager John Gibbons told reporters, including Mark Zwolinski of the Toronto Star.  Saunders is already back to baseball activities in camp less than two weeks after deciding to have the injured cartilage removed completely.  It was originally thought that the injury would sideline Saunders for the first half of the season, but he now has a shot at the Opening Day lineup and, at worst, should be back on the field by mid-April.  Here’s some more from around the AL East…

  • Orioles right-hander Darren O’Day said the club has yet to discuss a new contract with him, MASNsports.com’s Roch Kubatko reports.  While O’Day said he’d enjoy staying in Baltimore, he also noted that team will have a lot of other business to handle, as O’Day is one of 11 Orioles who will be free agents after the season.
  • Pitching and defense is how we build this team and it’s going to be the way we continue to succeed,” Rays GM Matt Silverman told Steve Phillips and Todd Hollandsworth of MLB Network Radio interview (audio link), though Silverman also believes the lineup is “much more balanced…and much more formidable 1-through-9.”  This balance, Silverman feels, will help Tampa string together more big innings and have more luck scoring runs.  “A lot of it [the scoring problems] had to do with situational stuff and things that not necessarily were flukish, but things that we thought would revert back to the mean.  We put a lot of guys on base, we just didn’t get them home,” Silverman said.
  • Phillips and Hollandsworth also interviewed Evan Longoria during their visit to the Rays‘ camp (audio link), and the third baseman said that he’s hoping to finish his career in a Tampa Bay uniform.  Longoria’s contract with the club runs through 2022, which would be his age-36 season, plus the Rays have a club option on his services for 2023.  While Longoria expressed his desire to be a one-franchise guy, he did hint that this would be contingent on the Rays continuing to be a winner.  “From the beginning, I really wanted to be one of…those rare guys who get to spend their whole career in one place,” Longoria said.  “I’ve been lucky enough to be on good teams and that’s really what makes guys want to stay places….For as long as that’s happening, I’m happy being here.”
  • Estimates on how long Chris Capuano will be sidelined with his strained right quad range from “at least the first week or two of the season” (as the southpaw told MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch) to all of April.  Yankees manager Joe Girardi told reporters, including ESPN New York’s Andrew Marchand that Capuano “is not going to do anything, at least for a couple of weeks. Nothing. The problem is we are so early in the process, you are almost going to have to start over.”

Michael Saunders To Miss 5-6 Weeks After Knee Surgery

TODAY: Toronto announced that Saunders is only expected to be out five to six weeks after undergoing his procedure. The timetable moved up because the cartilage could only be removed, not replaced, Anthopoulos told reporters, including John Lott of the National Post (Twitter links). While that could lead to some longer-term knee troubles for Saunders, it will allow him to return to action much sooner.

YESTERDAY: Blue Jays outfielder Michael Saunders will miss approximately the first half of the season after tearing his meniscus, Shi Davidi of Sportsnet.ca reports on Twitter. Saunders was acquired for pitcher J.A. Happ over the offseason.

The news represents a disappointing start to camp for a club that had built plenty of positive momentum over the offseason. Saunders had seemed a solid replacement for outgoing free agent Melky Cabrera. He may yet be, but the club will have to wait for the summer to find out.

GM Alex Anthopoulos says that the club will give its internal options a chance initially to fill the void.  At present, Davidi notes, the group in camp includes just three members of the 40-man (Jose Bautista, Dalton Pompey, and Kevin Pillar) along with non-roster invitees Ezequiel Carrera, Chris Dickerson, and Caleb Gindl. (Twitter links.)

Of course, Toronto will undoubtedly look hard at what is available via trade over the course of the spring. The group that it had compiled was already lacking somewhat in depth, making some kind of addition seem reasonably likely. But Anthopoulos will surely be in no rush, and could also look to work the waiver wire for a solution.


Anthopoulos On Bullpen, Happ, Extensions

The Blue Jays held a “State Of The Franchise” event for season ticket-holders at the Rogers Centre on Thursday, with president Paul Beeston, manager John Gibbons and GM Alex Anthopoulos in attendance to discuss the club’s offseason and future plans. As you would expect, most of the hot stove-related news came from Anthopoulos, and here’s the roundup of his comments from Sportsnet.ca’s Ben Nicholson-Smith and Shi Davidi (links are to Davidi’s Twitter feed).

  • The Jays are still concentrating their efforts on bullpen help, though Anthopoulos said they’re looking for depth and not specifically a closer. “We’re not overly concerned about the ninth inning, because we do think there are some guys that can get those last three outs,” Anthopoulos said, referring to Aaron Sanchez and Brett Cecil. “We are concerned about the general depth —” just having enough guys to lead into the ninth.” Toronto has been linked to such notable relief names as Jonathan Papelbon, Francisco Rodriguez, Rafael Soriano and Phil Coke in recent weeks, though of that group, Coke is the only one who wouldn’t expect to close.
  • While the club is still looking for relievers, Anthopoulos said the Jays could also save their payroll space to make additions at the end of Spring Training or during the season.
  • The Jays are likely set at second base, Anthopoulos said. Maicer Izturis, Ryan Goins, Steve Tolleson and Munenori Kawasaki are the internal options at the keystone, with newly-acquired prospect Devon Travis still probably a year away.
  • With Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion both entering their last seasons under contract, Anthopoulos said he expects “that at some point we’ll sit down with them and try to work something out” in regards to extensions. The Jays hold club options ($14MM for Bautista, $10MM for Encarnacion) on the two sluggers for 2016 that look like no-brainers to be exercised, so the club has plenty of time to negotiate.
  • The Mariners claimed J.A. Happ off waivers from the Blue Jays last August, Anthopoulos said. The two sides couldn’t agree to a trade at the time and Happ finished the season in Toronto, though they did discuss Michael Saunders during negotiations. The M’s and Jays finally worked out a Saunders-for-Happ trade in December.