Toronto Blue Jays Rumors

Toronto Blue Jays trade and free agent rumors from MLBTradeRumors.com.

Blue Jays Release Andy Dirks

The Blue Jays have released outfielder Andy Dirks, according to Sportsnet.ca’s Ben Nicholson-Smith.  Dirks has recently undergone back surgery and will likely be sidelined for the entire 2015 season.

This is the second back operation in as many years for Dirks, as his prior surgery (and a couple of hamstring injuries during rehab) limited him to just 14 minor league games during 2014.  Dirks hit .276/.332/.413 in 1063 plate appearances with the Tigers from 2011-13, hitting slightly better against right-handed pitching (career .751 OPS) than lefty pitching (.721 OPS).

The Jays claimed Dirks on waivers from the Tigers in October then non-tendered him to avoid paying him a projected $1.6MM (as per MLBTR’s Matt Swartz) in his first year of arbitration eligibility.  Toronto then re-signed Dirks to a minor league deal in January.  Were it not for his back problems, Dirks looked like a solid contender to win a part-time role with the Jays this season as a left-handed bat who could contribute in left field, DH or in a pinch-hitting role.


East Notes: Marlins, Stammen, Francis

Marlins manager Mike Redmond is rumored to be on the hot seat, but MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro writes that the team doesn’t need a new manager, just better starting pitching. Marlins starters have a 5.23 ERA with 5.2 K/9 and 3.2 BB/9, and they’re reeling from the loss of Henderson Alvarez with a shoulder injury. Still, the Marlins have enough talent to rebound from their 3-10 start, Frisaro says. Here are more quick notes from the East divisions.

  • Nationals pitcher Craig Stammen had surgery Sunday to fix two torn flexor tendons in his forearm, James Wagner of the Washington Post reports. He is likely to miss the rest of the season and will be able to return for Spring Training next year. In the last three seasons, Stammen has been a workhorse in the Nats’ bullpen, pitching 242 2/3 innings in that span. He’ll make $2.25MM in 2015 and is arbitration eligible next winter for the last time before free agency.
  • Jeff Francis is back in the big leagues with the Blue Jays, and he’s hoping to stick around even though he knows it might be tough to do so, John Lott of the National Post writes. The former Rockies starter pitched 3 1/3 innings Sunday, but he’s 34 and throws in the upper 80s. He’s now pitching for his fourth team since the start of the 214 season, having appeared with the Reds, Athletics and Yankees last year. Francis, who is from Canada, calls playing for his favorite childhood team a “thrill” but says it’s one he’ll mostly enjoy after he’s done playing.

Dodgers Notes: Alvarez, Startups

Last week, Kiley McDaniel of Fangraphs noted that he’s heard from multiple internaitonal scouts who believe the Dodgers have an agreement with Cuban righty Yadier Alvarez for a signing bonus of around $16MM. While he cautioned that no deal is completed and other teams still have interest, it’s a significant development in the market for Alvarez, who is waiting to hear whether or not he will be cleared to sign in the current signing period or in the 2015-16 period, which begins on July 2. The Dodgers likely wouldn’t sign Alvarez until the upcoming signing period, McDaniel noted. Here’s more out of Los Angeles.

  • Jon Heyman of CBS Sports’ latest piece on Alvarez seems to line up with McDaniel’s findings, as Heyman lists the Dodgers as the favorite to sign and adds that he’s heard L.A. has already made an offer to Alvarez. Heyman lists the division-rival Diamondbacks as competition, along with the Rangers, Blue Jays and Nationals. Texas, of course, can’t sign Alvarez until July 2, as they’re restricted for signing a player for more than $250K in the current signing period. The Blue Jays seem unlikely to sign him in the current period even if he’s cleared, as they’re rumored to have a $4MM+ deal with Vlad Guerrero Jr., and going over their pool to sign Alvarez in the current period would prohibit them from finalizing that deal.
  • In an outside-the-box move, the Dodgers are planning to invest up to $1.2MM in ten startup companies, Pedro Moura of the Orange County Register writes. Specifically, the Dodgers will focus on startups with ideas that might help make them more money or improve their team. That might mean they’ll invest in companies working in fan engagement or customer relationship management, but they could also invest in sports analytics. “We’re in this to find products and companies and technologies that solve our problems but are ultimately scalable,” says Dodgers CFO Tucker Kain. “We’re not really going to cross over into the proprietary, competitive-advantage area. But, hey, listen, if somebody comes to us with something that is incredibly proprietary … we might pull it out of the program.”


AL East Notes: Francis, Balfour, Betts, Schoop

The Blue Jays announced today that they’ve selected the contract of veteran left-hander Jeff Francis and optioned fellow lefty Colt Hynes to Triple-A Buffalo. The 34-year-old Francis, a native of Vancouver, will add another Canadian player to Toronto’s roster, joining Russell Martin, Michael Saunders and Dalton Pompey. Francis will hope for better results than he’s seen over the past three seasons, during which he’s posted a combined 5.84 ERA in 203 1/3 innings with the Rockies, Reds, A’s and Yankees. Toronto already had an open 40-man roster spot after designating Todd Redmond for assignment last week.

Here’s more from the AL East…

  • Recently designated right-hander Grant Balfour spoke with Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times about how he wished his second run with the Rays had yielded better results. Balfour admitted to shying away from his fastball after the realization that the pitch lacked its typical life. The Australian righty wouldn’t state for certain whether or not he’d pursue another opportunity immediately: “Maybe a little bit of rest will be good for me. … I’m not thinking too far ahead. If it happens, it happens. If it doesn’t, it doesn’t.”
  • After speaking to multiple scouts about the futures of Mookie Betts and Xander Bogaerts, Michael Silverman of the Boston Herald writes that Betts has leap-frogged Bogaerts in the eyes of the baseball industry. “I don’t think you could find anyone in baseball who would pick Bogaerts over Betts right now,” one scout told Silverman. Another said Betts “clearly” has the better bat of the two, while a third scout said that in 20 years, Betts “makes quicker adjustments to his game than anybody I’ve seen.” All of the scouts to whom Silverman spoke are quick to clarify that Bogaerts still has star potential, but the glowing reviews add to the meteoric rise of Betts over the past 12 months.
  • Orioles second baseman Jonathan Schoop is likely to miss longer than the minimum amount of time on the 15-day disabled list, writes Eduardo A. Encina of the Baltimore Sun. The 23-year-old Schoop suffered a Grade 1 partial PCL tear and an MCL sprain, and while surgery is unlikely, an exact timetable is unknown. Encina looks at Anthony Rendon as a possible comparable, noting that Rendon has just resumed baseball activities six weeks after spraining his left MCL.

Quick Hits: Scully, Hendriks, Nationals

Dodgers Hall of Fame broadcaster Vin Scully is celebrating his 65th anniversary in the booth tonight. His first game was at Philadelphia’s Shibe Park featuring Robin Roberts against Don Newcombe. Incidentally, Roberts is also in the Hall of Fame while Newcombe is often discussed as a snub. Here’s more from around the league.

  • The Blue Jays did little to address an obvious bullpen problem over the offseason, writes Mike Wilner of Sportsnet.ca. However, the club might have lucked into a valuable solution in the form of Liam Hendriks. The 26-year-old is averaging 93 mph with his fastball – up about two mph from his career norm. Through six innings, he’s allowed two hits and one walk while recording nine strikeouts. Before anybody anoints Hendriks the closer, it’s worth noting that he has a low 5.3% swinging strike rate. At some point, that rate will either increase, or his strikeout rate will decrease.
  • The Nationals must learn to thrive under walk year pressure, writes Thomas Boswell of the Washington Post. When Jayson Werth entered his walk year with the Phillies, then-manager Charlie Manuel advised him to test free agency (in more colorful language). Now the Nationals have four key players on the road to free agency. Ian Desmond, Jordan Zimmermann, Doug Fister, and Denard Span could all leave after the season, which gives 2015 a make-or-break feel for Washington. Werth and Max Scherzer have advice for their new teammates – acknowledge all the sources of pressure.

Heyman’s Latest: Padres, Buehrle, Greene

The Padres declined to part with top outfield prospect Hunter Renfroe in their deal for closer Craig Kimbrel, according to Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com.  At the same time, the Braves weren’t sold on top catching prospect Austin Hedges and feared that his hitting might not develop enough. Ultimately, that left pitcher Matt Wisler as the key prospect in the deal.  Here’s more from Heyman’s column..

  • Blue Jays left-hander Mark Buehrle is considering retirement following the 2015 season, Heyman reports. While he notes that April retirement ruminations often prove to be inaccurate, there seems to be a strong possibility that the 36-year-old Buehrle will call it quits.
  • Tigers executives were shocked that they were able to pry right-hander Shane Greene away from the Yankees this winter, Heyman writes. The Yankees considered trading Greene “painful,” but the team was desperate for a shortstop, and New York scouting guru Gene Michael was a strong supporter of Gregorius.
  • Trading Ryan Howard seems less and less likely for the Phillies each coming day, Heyman writes, noting that one scout said that Howard simply looks “lost” at the plate. Heyman also notes that the stacked starting pitching class on next year’s free agent market may be hindering the Phillies’ ability to move Cole Hamels, as teams are content to wait to bid on the likes of David Price, Johnny Cueto, Jordan Zimmermann, Jeff Samardzija and others.
  • The Orioles checked in on Blue Jays catcher Dioner Navarro at some point late in the spring.  Navarro, who has been supplanted as the starting catcher in Toronto by Russell Martin, is hoping to go elsewhere and start.  The diplomatic Navarro spoke with MLBTR’s Zach Links last month about the trade talk surrounding him.
  • One GM who has some interest in Elvis Andrus suggested to Heyman that it’d be hard for the Rangers to trade him now.  While Texas has infield depth, most of it is at the lower rungs of their system.  Meanwhile, they’ll be without Jurickson Profar for a second straight year.
  • Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez has one year to go on his contract, but word is that the front office likes him and they mainly want to see progress from their younger players before extending him.  It’s said that Gonzalez won’t be judged on his win-loss record, but so far he’s doing pretty well in that department too.
  • The Red Sox made at least a preliminary offer to Yoenis Cespedes before trading him, which seems to poke a hole in the theory that Boston coaches “hated” the outfielder.

Zach Links contributed to this post.


AL East Notes: Reyes, Castro, Arencibia, Ramirez

In a radio appearance on FAN 590, Blue Jays manager John Gibbons told Sportsnet’s Jeff Blair that Jose Reyes had an MRI the revealed a small crack/fracture in his rib — an injury that could require a trip to the disabled list (Twitter links via Sportsnet’s Ben Nicholson-Smith). The Blue Jays expect to have a better sense of whether or not Reyes will end up on the disabled list later today, though the injury certainly doesn’t seem to bode well for the shortstop, who exited last night’s game in the first inning. A DL trip for Reyes would seemingly mean that Ryan Goins would see time at short in his absence.

More from the AL East…

  • Shi Davidi of Sportsnet has posted an excellent look at the way in which Miguel Castro came to sign with the Blue Jays. Castro first worked out for both the Mets and Phillies, but failed to finalize a deal with either club for different reasons. Blue Jays director of Latin American operations was occupying that role with the Mets when the team pursued Castro, and Cruz recalls that he and Mets GM Sandy Alderson liked Castro and were comfortable signing him for $200K. However, some of the Mets pitching coaches and Cruz’s direct supervisor were concerned by Castro’s body type — he’s been likened, physically, to NBA superstar Kevin Durant due to his lanky frame — and the Mets ultimately passed. Castro then agreed to a $180K bonus with the Phillies, pending a physical, but Philadelphia didn’t like the look of his elbow and voided the deal. Cruz was transitioning to the Jays at that time and made his first order of business to ask GM Alex Anthopoulos for the money to sign Castro. A physical did reveal that Castro’s elbow looked to have had a past injury that no longer looked to be a major concern, but it was enough for Toronto to drop its initial offer to $43K. Castro accepted, and he impressed enough in his first big league camp to break camp with the team. Castro, of course, has already been moved to Toronto’s closer role.
  • J.P. Arencibia, who signed a Minor League pact with the Rays yesterday, will head to Triple-A and work mostly as a first baseman/DH, writes Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times. Arencibia will get some occasional time at catcher, but manager Kevin Cash seemingly indicated that the 29-year-old’s bat, not the desire for additional depth behind the plate, was the reason for the signing. “He’s got some pop… we like what he does offensively,” Cash told Topkin. “Any added insurance he can provide, we’ll kind of see how it goes, but we’re excited.”
  • Righty Erasmo Ramirez has been shelled in two outings with the Rays, but Topkin writes that it appears the 25-year-old will stick with the club and try to work out his control issues out of the bullpen. The Rays don’t need a fifth starter until April 25, Topkin points out, and while either Alex Colome or Drew Smyly could theoretically be ready by that point, Tampa is not yet ready to give up on Ramirez.

Blue Jays Designate Todd Redmond For Assignment

The Blue Jays have designated right-hander Todd Redmond for assignment, as per a team press release.  Infielder Ryan Goins has been recalled from Triple-A in a corresponding move.

Redmond had gotten off to a rough start in 2015, posting a 16.62 ERA in 4 1/3 innings of work, allowing five walks to four strikeouts in that brief stretch.  Originally claimed off waivers from the Orioles in March 2013, Redmond posted league-average numbers for Toronto as a fill-in starter in 2013 and then was a solid relief arm (3.24 ERA, 7.2 K/9, 2.22 K/BB rate) over 75 innings for the Jays last season.  He held right-handed batters to a .242/.287/.360 slash line last year, though lefty batters had a much heftier .834 OPS against Redmond.

As per the MLB Trade Rumors DFA Tracker, Redmond is one of three players currently in ‘limbo,’ along with the Nationals’ Xavier Cedeno and the Yankees’ Matt Tracy.


International Notes: Bonus Pools, Dodgers, Cubs

Yesterday, Fangraphs’ Kiley McDaniel looked ahead to the 2015-16 international signing period by looking at several of the top prospects expected to land large bonuses on or after July 2.  Today, McDaniel is back with the second part of his piece, this time examining how particular clubs are going to approach this next round of international spending.  For reference purposes, here are the 2015-16 international bonus pools for each team, as compiled by Baseball America.  If a team exceeds its pool, they have to pay a 100% tax on any overage and are prohibited from spending more than $300K to sign any player in the 2016-17 and 17-18 international periods (provided that the current rules aren’t altered in the next collective bargaining agreement).

Some of the highlights of McDaniel’s latest work, focusing on the teams most likely to exceed their bonus pool and face that two-year penalty…

  • The Dodgers are, unsurprisingly, the only team McDaniel lists in the “(almost) anything is possible” category.  By not signing Yoan Moncada, the Dodgers retained their ability to spend freely in the 2015-16 market, and it seems the team will go far beyond its $2.02MM bonus pool limit.  The Dodgers are rumored to already have agreements in place with Yadier Alvarez (for $16MM), Dominican center fielder Starling Heredia ($3MM) and Dominican shortstop Ronny Brito ($2MM).
  • The Cubs‘ previous ban on signings of more than $250K will expire on July 2, and the team is reportedly already planning to again exceed its international budget.  McDaniel lists seven players who have deals in place with Chicago, the most expensive of which is a $2MM bonus for Dominican shortstop Aramis Ademan.
  • The Rangers are another club coming off a ban, and “they’re at least thinking long and hard about” exceeding their pool limit again, though McDaniel hears from rival scouts that Texas’ international planning may have “got a bit of a late start” due to A.J. Preller and Don Welke leaving for the Padres.  Three rumored agreements should put the Rangers roughly at their approximate $4.586MM bonus pool already, and the club is still checking in on other high-priced talent.
  • The Royals have a shot at staying under their bonus limit if they trade for some extra space, though it looks like Kansas City will probably slightly exceed their pool (a little over $2.07MM).
  • The Blue Jays also seem likely to slightly go over their spending pool (roughly $2.324MM) and it could be entirely for the sake of their much-rumored agreement with Vladimir Guerrero Jr.  McDaniel believes Toronto’s agreement with Guerrero is worth $4.4MM and he hasn’t heard any news that the Jays have any other deals lined up with other prospects, though he figures they’ll sign one or two other notable players “to make the most of going over.”  While fans now associate exceeding the bonus limit with extreme cases like the Yankees or Red Sox, McDaniel notes that most clubs who exceed their pools are like the Jays, who fit the model of a team who “found a couple players they really like in a year they didn’t have a ton of money to spend.”
  • Since they had hoped to sign Moncada and thus be facing a penalty for the 2015-16 signing period, the Padres seemingly don’t have any deals lined up.  McDaniel considers them a “wild card” due to Preller’s aggressiveness.

AL East Notes: Pillar, Orioles, Garcia, Greene

Kevin Pillar was expected to be the Blue Jays‘ fourth outfielder this season and, until Michael Saunders returned from the DL, only a short-term replacement in left field.  After a hot start both offensively and defensively (including an incredible homer-robbing catch last night), however, Sportsnet.ca’s Ben Nicholson-Smith notes that Pillar is making a strong bid for regular playing time even after Saunders is back.  Given Saunders’ knee injury and recent hamstring issue, I’d guess that he could see some DH time to keep him fresh, opening the door for Pillar to continue playing in left.  Switch-hitting center fielder Dalton Pompey has badly struggled against left-handed pitching in his brief career, so Pillar (a right-handed hitter) could also be used in a semi-platoon situation.

Here’s some news from around the AL East…

  • The Orioles are dealing with several roster questions, and MASNsports.com’s Roch Kubatko notes that the club’s decisions involve both making the team better in 2015 and also looking ahead to who might fill some holes on the 2016 roster.  Baltimore has 10 players scheduled for free agency this winter, leaving plenty of room to evaluate players for bigger roles, like T.J. McFarland or Mike Wright for a possible rotation spot next year.
  • Also from Kubatko’s piece, the Orioles want to keep Rule 5 Draft pick Jason Garcia as a piece for 2016 and beyond, though keeping him on the roster for all of this season could be tricky.  Garcia also has some interest from other teams, as “at least one member of the organization is convinced that the Rays would claim” the young righty if he was put on waivers.
  • Grantland’s Jonah Keri explores why the Orioles are keeping Kevin Gausman in the bullpen when the promising youngster and former fourth overall pick could be more valuable in the rotation.  One theory Keri has heard is that the O’s are giving their five veterans an opportunity to start in order to showcase them for possible trades, which would then open a space for Gausman.  Wei-Yin Chen and Bud Norris are both free agents after the season and the O’s would likely love to rid themselves of Ubaldo Jimenez‘s contract, though it’s worth noting that Gausman has thus far struggled (8.31 ERA and a 1:1 strikeout to walk ratio over four innings) in a relief role.
  • The early returns on the Yankees‘ offseason three-team trade with the Diamondbacks and Tigers aren’t promising for the Bronx Bombers, Joel Sherman of the New York Post writes.  Shane Greene, who went to Detroit from New York, has yet to allow a run in 16 innings for the Tigers, while Didi Gregorius has had an all-around rough start to his Yankees career.  While it’s still early, one scout tells Sherman that Greene made some strong adjustments and “was the best pitcher he had seen in March.”  Sherman also notes that the Yankees haven’t historically had much success in trades with Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski.