Toronto Blue Jays Rumors

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

Free Agent Stock Watch: Melky Cabrera

A year ago, Melky Cabrera‘s value was at its nadir. After a PED suspension cut short his 2012 breakout season with the Giants, and after he left the team under bizarre circumstances, Cabrera became a free agent and landed a relatively meager two-year, $16MM deal with the Blue Jays. He then began that deal by hitting a disappointing .279/.322/.360 in his first year in Toronto, then had surgery in September to remove a benign tumor from his back.

USATSI_8028977_154513410_lowresSince then, though, a healthier Cabrera has improved his bargaining position, hitting a much better .301/.351/.458 in his walk year and emerging as one of the better hitters available in a very weak free agent class. Perhaps even more importantly, he’s another year removed from his PED troubles, and his good season, along with even better seasons from Jhonny Peralta and Nelson Cruz, might suggest that teams this offseason will be less wary of suspended players than they have been in the recent past.

Cabrera now is out for the rest of the season with a fracture in his right pinky, an injury that could have some effect on his market as a free agent. He’s had surgery and should be ready for spring training, although the injury could theoretically have a lingering effect on his power.

Still, Cabrera is likely to get a sizable deal, given the weakness of the outfield market. Rusney Castillo has already signed with the Red Sox, and there’s another Cuban outfielder, the very promising Yasmany Tomas, who’s currently waiting to be declared a free agent. There’s also Cruz, who will be coming off a very good offensive season but is already in his mid-thirties and has significant defensive limitations.

After that, there’s Cabrera, and then a significant drop-off. The best remaining outfielders are the aging, injury-prone Michael Cuddyer; the defensively challenged Michael Morse and Josh Willingham; and light-hitting types like Nori Aoki and Emilio Bonifacio. There will also be Colby Rasmus, a 28-year-old who has hit well at times and can play center field, but who was recently benched by the Jays. And the market could also include players like Nick Markakis and Alex Rios, depending on the statuses of their options.

Leaving aside Tomas, there isn’t anyone on the outfield market who’s better rounded than Cabrera, even if one counts his PED past as a strike against him. Unlike Cruz, Morse or Willingham, he isn’t a terrible fielder (although he isn’t a great one, either). Unlike Aoki or Bonifacio, he has power. Unlike Cruz and Cuddyer, he’s still relatively young, at 30. And unlike Rasmus, he isn’t a complete question mark. The outfield market is full of dubious options. Teams considering punting on the left field position in order to upgrade their offense elsewhere won’t have much to work with, either.

Even better for Cabrera, there could be plenty of teams on the prowl for a corner outfielder this offseason. The Astros, Athletics, Mariners, Mets, Orioles, Phillies, Reds, Twins and White Sox could all make some degree of sense for Cabrera, depending on how the rest of the market shakes out. Cabrera has said that he wants to return to the Blue Jays, and a return to Toronto might be a good fit as well. The Jays have Jose Bautista in right, and assuming Rasmus departs, they’ll probably soon have top prospect Dalton Pompey as their regular starter in center. But they don’t have a stellar option in left field.

Given Cabrera’s performance, a potentially vigorous market and the Jays’ own need for an outfielder, extending Cabrera a qualifying offer seems like an obvious decision. Such an offer should help the Jays limit other teams’ interest (particularly from teams like the Mets and Reds, who currently look to have two of the first unprotected picks in next year’s draft), and could lead to some sort of multiyear agreement for him to remain in Toronto.

As long as teams aren’t worried about the lingering effects of his hand injury, Cabrera’s representatives at the Legacy Agency should be able to swing at least a three-year deal. Last month, Brendan Kennedy of the Toronto Star polled various agents who suggested he could get anywhere from $36MM to $45MM over a three-year deal, meaning that the three-year, $39MM deal Shane Victorino received from the Red Sox before the 2013 season might be a precedent. A four-year deal might also be a possibility, with Cabrera’s camp possibly pointing to last offseason’s contracts for Curtis Granderson and Peralta.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.


Minor Moves: P.J. Walters, Cutter Dykstra

Here are some recent minor moves from around MLB:

  • The Blue Jays have released right-hander P.J. Walters, according to Matt Eddy of Baseball America. The 29-year-old, acquired by the Blue Jays in May from the Royals, pitched to a 4.82 ERA, 7.9 K/9, and 2.9 BB/9 in 142 innings this year covering 27 appearances, 25 of which were starts. Walters last saw MLB action in 2013 with the Twins.
  • Infielder Cutter Dykstra has avoided minor league free agency by re-signing with the Nationals, Eddy reports. Dykstra, perhaps better known for being the son of ex-MLB outfielder Lenny Dykstra or the fiance of The Sopranos actress Jamie-Lynn Sigler, slashed .279/.356/.399 in 433 plate appearances for Washington’s Double-A and Class A-Short Season affiliates.
  • The DodgersRed Patterson is the only player currently in DFA limbo, per MLBTR’s DFA Tracker.

Blue Jays Outright Darin Mastroianni, Matt Hague

We’ll keep tabs on the day’s minor moves right here:

  • The Blue Jays have outrighted outfielder Darin Mastroianni and corner infielder Matt Hague, according to the International League transactions page. Both 29-year-olds were designated on the 2nd in order to clear roster space for the team’s September call-ups. Mastroianni struggled in limited action in Toronto this year. Hague, meanwhile, has yet to see much of a chance at the MLB level but posted solid numbers at Triple-A this year.


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.

AL East Notes: Rookies, Pedroia, Cabrera, Rodriguez

In a piece for Sports on Earth, MLB.com’s Jim Callis ranks the top dozen players from this year’s crop of rookies by their anticipated future production. In spite of his questionable elbow situation, Masahiro Tanaka of the Yankees leads the way, with shortstop Xander Bogaerts of the Red Sox occupying the second slot.

Here’s more from the AL East:

  • Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia is “probably likely” to sit out the remainder of the year and could be headed for another hand procedure, manager John Farrell said today in an appearance on WEEI (Twitter link). News of the increasing difficulty with Pedroia’s left hand and wrist emerged last night, with MLB.com’s Quinn Roberts among those reporting that a surgical option was on the table. “Surgery is one of [the options],” said Pedroia. “I could rest or continue to play or surgery. There’s three things we could do. We’ll come up with a plan the best we can that’s best for the team.” It is incumbent upon the team to act decisively to resolve Pedroia’s impairments, writes WEEI.com’s Alex Speier, especially since he is already entering the tail end of typical peak years of production. The star 31-year-old is mired in his worst season at the plate since becoming a regular (.278/.337/.376). On the other hand, he is still an elite defensive player and has racked up over 4 wins above replacement. Pedroia is owed $97.5MM (some of it deferred) over the next seven seasons under the extension he signed just over a year ago.
  • Blue Jays outfielder Melky Cabrera once again presents quite an interesting free agent case, as Mike Petriello of Fangraphs explores. Heading into his age-30 season, Cabrera is very well-placed in the upcoming free agent market, and Petriello thinks that a three or four-year deal makes sense in spite of Cabrera’s baggage. Some clubs will be willing to forgive his previous PED issues, and Petriello notes that a qualifying offer may not be a major impediment if teams with a protected first-round pick — he suggests the Phillies, White Sox, Astros, and Padres, and potentially the Reds and Mets — make a run at Cabrera. Ultimately, his value could settle somewhere in the range of three years and ~$40MM up to Curtis Granderson‘s four-year, $60MM deal.
  • The Yankees are not far off from facing yet another round of questions with regard to embattled third baseman Alex Rodriguez, writes Joel Sherman of the New York Post. Though simply cutting him loose surely has some appeal, given the uncertainty of his ability to perform (to say nothing of off-field considerations), Sherman notes that doing so would prevent any chance of recovering some portion of the remaining $61MM owed Rodriguez if his hip issues ultimately trigger an insurance payout. Sherman argues that the club should have Rodriguez report for training in October, ready to learn first base. The Yankees could then begin to see what he has left to offer, opening the possibility of using him on either side of the diamond and recouping what value there is left to be had from his ill-fated contract.

AL East Notes: Hague, Morrow, Castillo, Orioles

The Blue Jays are set to place corner infielder Matt Hague on waivers, tweets MLBTR’s Zach Links. Hague, who just turned 29, was recently designated as part of Toronto’s roster-clearing for September call-ups.

Here’s more from the AL East:

  • Blue Jays righty Brandon Morrow has shown recently that his stuff can play up in a bullpen role, as Shi Davidi of Sportsnet.ca writes. While his $10MM club option for next year is still unlikely to be exercised, the 30-year-old could revive his career by returning to the pen, where he spent some time previously. Of course, as Davidi notes, Morrow still may be intriguing enough as a starter that he could look for an opportunity to stay in that role, where he thrived in 2012 (2.96 ERA in 124 2/3 frames). Saying that he still hopes Toronto will exercise the option, Morrow said he will otherwise “see what offers come in” and choose “which option you feel like is your best opportunity.” Morrow emphasized that he still thinks he can bring more value as a starter.
  • Recent Red Sox signee Rusney Castillo is now just one step removed from the majors, as Tim Britton of the Providence Journal writes. The big dollar Cuban free agent is expected to play in a playoff series for Triple-A Pawtucket and then debut with the big club sometime next week.
  • Yesterday, I asked MLBTR’s readers to weigh in on the Orioles‘ slate of possible qualifying offer candidates. With over 12,000 votes recorded, outfielder/DH Nelson Cruz proved the most popular option as a potential recipient, followed by shortstop J.J. Hardy and outfielder Nick Markakis. It will be interesting to see how executive VP Dan Duquette handles the trio, especially with rising arbitration salaries for position players like Chris Davis, Matt Wieters, Alejandro De Aza, and Steve Pearce. Given Cruz’s big season and Hardy’s consistent production, it would seem quite enticing for both to turn down a QO if it is made. Given their respective ages, however — Cruz recently turned 34, while Hardy just turned 32 — draft compensation could prove a significant hindrance to their markets.

Minor Moves: Michael Kohn, Jairo Diaz, Mike Zagurski

Here are the latest minor transactions from around baseball, with the newest moves at the top of the post…

  • Now-former Angels righty Michael Kohn has elected free agency rather than accepting an outright assignment, tweets Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register. Kohn was designated for assignment earlier this month in spite of his 3.04 earned run average, having struggled to stay in the zone all year.
  • The Angels have purchased the contract of right-hander Jairo Diaz, Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register reports.  The Halos will need to make another move to create a spot for Diaz on their 40-man roster (Twitter links).  Diaz, 23, has a 3.48 ERA, 11.8 K/9 and 4.25 K/BB rate over a combined 64 2/3 relief innings at the high-A ball and Double-A levels in 2014.
  • The Blue Jays granted left-hander Mike Zagurski his release earlier this week, MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes recently reported on Twitter. Zagurski signed a minor league deal with Toronto in May and he has a combined 2.08 ERA, 12.3 K/9 and 2.86 K/BB rate over 60 2/3 relief innings with the Jays’ and Indians’ Triple-A affiliates this season.  The southpaw has been largely dominant in the minors over his career but his control issues have caused problems at the Major League level, as Zagurski has a 7.05 ERA, 5.5 BB/9 and 75 strikeouts over 75 1/3 career innings in the Show.

AL East Notes: Orioles, Melky, Ortiz

Miguel Gonzalez‘s name was mentioned in trade rumors this summer (most notably as part of a possible Jon Lester package) and yet as MASNsports.com’s Roch Kubatko points out, Gonzalez’s recent success could be another example of “how sometimes the best deals are the ones you don’t make.”  The Orioles right-hander has a 2.00 ERA over his last nine starts, including a complete game shutout of the Reds last Wednesday.  Gonzalez has been a solid piece of the O’s rotation for the last three years and has a 3.38 ERA over 136 IP this season, which I suspect will earn him a nice salary bump this winter when he is arbitration-eligible for the first time.

Here’s some more from around the AL East…

  • Also from Kubatko, the Orioles are “hesitant” about making a long-term commitment to Nelson Cruz.  Though the O’s have recently had some light negotiations with Cruz’s representation about a new contract, it isn’t hard to see why the club would be wary of guaranteeing multiple years to a 34-year-old who is a defensive liability and has a PED history.  Of course, Cruz’s bat looks as potent as ever, given his .862 OPS and a league-high 39 homers this season.  As you would expect, a one-year “qualifying offer appeals to the Orioles,” Kubatko writes, though surely Cruz feels his production merits a longer deal.
  • Melky Cabrera has been scouted by at least one NL team for the last three weeks, Sportsnet’s Jeff Blair reports.  One of those scouts tells Blair that his team could be willing to offer Cabrera something in the neighborhood of a four-year, $53MM contract in free agency this winter, a deal akin to what Jhonny Peralta received from the Cardinals last offseason.  Peralta’s deal was front-loaded, and Blair opines that a similarly-structured deal could await Cabrera given that both players have a PED suspension on their records.
  • Blair also can’t figure out why the Blue Jays haven’t already re-signed Cabrera for 2015 and beyond, given how well the outfielder has hit this year.  Cabrera, who is done for the season after fracturing his pinky finger on Friday night, has expressed an interest in staying in Toronto.
  • It’s been a tiring season for David Ortiz, as the Red Sox slugger tells ESPN Boston’s Joe McDonald that “it wears you out more than when you know you’re going to the playoffs — believe it or not. It wears you out more than when you know you have more games to play.”  Ortiz isn’t sure how much longer he’ll play beyond 2015 (the end of his current contract), though when he does he hang it up, he said he’ll do it in the offseason rather than announce his retirement a year in advance like Derek Jeter or Mariano Rivera.
  • Red Sox righty Joe Kelly and the OriolesAndrew Miller were two trade deadline acquisitions that have worked out very well for their teams, Peter Gammons writes in his latest piece for Gammons Daily.  Boston hopes Kelly can be a No. 2 or No. 3 starter in their 2015 rotation while Miller has continued his superb season since joining Baltimore’s pen.
  • Also from Gammons, if the Orioles don’t bring back Nick Markakis, one possible replacement could be prospect Mike Yastrzemski.  A 14th-round draft pick in 2013, Yastrzemski (Carl’s grandson) hit .288/.346/.490 with 14 homers, 34 doubles and 16 triples in 594 PA over three minor league levels this season, though he has yet to reach Triple-A.

Cafardo On Astros, Darvish, Gallardo, Bautista, Kang

The firing of Astros manager Bo Porter and bench coach Dave Trembley was a clash of old-school baseball versus the new-school of analytics and old-school lost, according to Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe. For that reason, Cafardo opines GM Jeff Luhnow’s next hires will need to be data savvy, know their way around a laptop, put numbers ahead of traditional baseball, and accept daily interference. Trembley, who found out he was fired from the ESPN news ticker, wasn’t surprised by the dismissals because there was a disconnect with the front office from “the computer leaks to the draft and the Mark Appel situation where the manager wasn’t told (top prospect) Appel was coming up to throw. I think (owner) Jim Crane nailed it when he said that there was a personality clash and sometimes people just don’t get along.

In other items from Cafardo’s Sunday Notes column:

  • There is a financial component to placing Yu Darvish on the disabled list. The Rangers can deduct $5,228.75 per day in bonuses over 30 days on the DL and, since the right-hander has been moved to the 60-day disabled list, the savings realized will be nearly $136k on Darvish’s $800K roster bonus.
  • Justin Verlander‘s struggles this year should give teams pause about giving large contracts to older pitchers. Cafardo, however, doesn’t see this cautionary tale dampening the market for Jon Lester, Max Scherzer, and James Shields because there are franchises which cannot resist the temptation and feel it’s the cost of doing business.
  • Cafardo views the Red Sox as players for the services of free agents Jason Grilli and Justin Masterson this offseason.
  • There is some debate within the Brewers organization about exercising Yovani Gallardo‘s $13MM option for 2015 with some feeling the money might be better spent elsewhere.
  • Expect the Rangers to engage the Blue Jays in trade talks for Jose Bautista, but Cafardo notes Texas may not have the pitching prospects to pry the All-Star slugger away from Toronto.
  • Joel Hanrahan, who suffered a setback in his rehab from Tommy John surgery, will not need another operation and will attempt to continue his comeback in 2015. Hanrahan had signed a $1MM deal with the Tigers in May, but never pitched an inning for the organization.
  • Korean shortstop Jung-ho Kang will be posted this winter and should be in line for a substantial contract given the lack of available impact power hitters. The 27-year-old, who measures six feet and 180 pounds, hit 38 home runs and drove home 107 runs in 107 games for Nexen of the KBO. Cafardo notes the Cardinals have shown interest in Kang previously, but a few more teams (not named by Cafardo) are now in the mix.

AL Notes: Yankees, Royals, Cabrera, Odorizzi

The Royals are having a better season than the Yankees, but that doesn’t mean the Royals’ situation is better, Andy Martino of New York Daily News reminds fans who would like to see the Yankees take a more player development-heavy approach. The Yankees, who depend heavily on expensive talent from outside their organization, have spent the past 20 years in playoff races, while the Royals have spent years losing while trying to develop a solid core. The Yankees consistently contend, which is why Carlos Beltran picked the Yankees over the Royals last offseason, Martino writes. “I liked (the Royals). I liked the team,” says Beltran. “But at the end of the day, I felt that this (the Yankees) organization — every year, man, they find a way to put things together.” Of course, the Yankees are able to pursue the strategy they do because of their financial advantages, and Beltran’s first year perhaps illustrates certain problems with their strategy. Here are more notes from the American League.

  • Melky Cabrera suffered a season-ending injury last night and can become a free agent after the season, but he wants to remain with the Blue Jays next season, the Associated Press reports. “I stay in Toronto,” Cabrera said last night. Cabrera, 30, has had a strong season in the last year of his two-year, $16MM deal, hitting .301/.351/.458.
  • 2014 hasn’t been a strong season for the Rays, but Jake Odorizzi‘s development has clearly been a bright spot, as Andrew Astleford of FOX Sports Florida notes. Odorizzi has struck out 9.7 batters per nine innings in a full season in the rotation, and he’s posted strong numbers overall, improving after a bumpy month of April. That’s not bad for a player who wasn’t even the headliner in the trade in which he was acquired. ”I think you’re just seeing a young man understanding what he has and how to utilize it,” says Rays manager Joe Maddon. ”That’s it.”