Toronto Blue Jays Rumors

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

White Sox Weighing Pursuit Of Melky Cabrera

The White Sox are interested in free agent outfielder Melky Cabrera and are considering pursuit, reports Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com.

Other clubs that could make sense for Cabrera, says Heyman, include the Mariners and Orioles. The Royals have been mentioned elsewhere as an outside possibility. And, of course, the Blue Jays still have interest in bringing him back.

We have not heard much in the way of rumors regarding Cabrera, a 30-year-old switch-hitter coming off of a strong .301/.351/.458 campaign. Though he certainly comes with his downsides, Cabrera is a valuable asset and one of the best position players available this year, as MLBTR’s Steve Adams explained in detail in his recent profile. Adams predicts a five-year, $66.25MM pact.

It is worth bearing in mind, of course, that a team signing Cabrera will be required to sacrifice a draft pick as compensation. Holding a protected first-round choice, that would be much easier to stomach for Chicago.


Blue Jays Preparing Offer For Pablo Sandoval

There’s already been some Pablo Sandoval chatter today, with the Red Sox reportedly making an offer and agent Gustavo Vasquez set to chat with the Giants via phone tonight. Vasquez and Sandoval are wrapping up a visit to Boston today, and there’s plenty more on the Kung Fu Panda…

  • The Blue Jays met with Sandoval’s camp at last week’s GM Meetings, writes Sportsnet’s Shi Davidi. While the meeting is said to have gone well, no offer has been made at this point.
  • However, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe reports (via Twitter) that while there’s been no offer to this point, within the next 24 hours, the Blue Jays are indeed expected to make a formal offer to Sandoval. That report adds a third seemingly serious club to the mix. Of course, it’s worth remembering that the Jays do have a team policy against contracts of more than five years, and Sandoval is said to be seeking a six-year deal north of $100MM.

Earlier Updates

  • Sean McAdam of CSNNE.com heard from a source that emphatically denied a rumor out of San Francisco that said the Giants were “out” on Sandoval at this point. The Giants are still “very much” in play for Sandoval, McAdam reports, though he does note that it’s unclear how lengthy of a contract the team is willing to issue.
  • Hank Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle shoots down another portion of the apparently erroneous report to which McAdam referred, noting that Sandoval never asked for a seven-year deal from the Giants, who are still definitely in the mix (Twitter link).
  • ESPN’s Buster Olney tweets that even if the Giants don’t end up securing Sandoval, they’ll be able to walk away from the situation knowing they made a very strong, very legitimate effort.
  • WEEI.com’s Alex Speier examines why it is the Red Sox prefer Sandoval to Hanley Ramirez, despite the fact that Sandoval is seeking a $100MM+ contract and comes with a significantly lesser offensive track record. Speier lists age, defense, durability and also makeup, which he notes is a concern for the Sox regarding Hanley. While Sandoval’s age and defense are larger factors, his excellent clubhouse reputation is an asset as well.
  • The Red Sox and Giants remain the main players, writes Jon Heyman of CBS Sports, but the Padres, White Sox and Blue Jays are all still in the mix. Heyman notes that while the Marlins have been a speculative fit in recent months, there’s been no contact from Miami at this point.

Red Sox Claim Juan Francisco

The Red Sox have claimed Juan Francisco off waivers from the Blue Jays, Boston announced today. Francisco, 27, had been noted as a non-tender candidate by MLBTR’s Mark Polishuk, and obviously was headed in that direction before the move by the Jays to expose him to the wire.

Francisco is projected by MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz to take home a $2.2MM payday through arbitration. Boston still has time to determine whether it will go down that path, of course, but obviously his power left-handed bat holds enough appeal that the team decided to open the possibility.

Last year, Francisco posted a fairly typical .220/.291/.456 slash over 320 plate appearances for the Jays, swatting 16 home runs in the process. That is rare power in this day and age, especially for a player who is capable of playing third base. But Francisco’s strikeout issues — he was second-worst in the league, 300 PA minimum — have shown no signs of abating. And his defense at the hot corner has generally drawn substandard reviews.

The timing of the move is somewhat interesting, of course, given that Boston is said to be hotly pursuing free agent third baseman Pablo Sandoval, who also hits from the left (and right) side. But the two players profile quite differently, needless to say, and Francisco looks more like a platoon or bench option — particularly given his extremely poor splits against lefties — if the team is unable to consummate a deal with the high-dollar Sandoval.



Reactions To And Fallout From Russell Martin Signing

With the Blue Jays set to introduce new catcher Russell Martin and his five-year, $82MM deal tomorrow, let’s take a look at some of the reactions and reporting from around the game:

  • Regarding other teams that were in the mix for Martin, the Cubs were “close” runners-up, according to Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe (Twitter link). Chicago was pushing past the four-year, $65MM mark and was willing to go to five years under some scenarios, Patrick Mooney of CSN Chicago tweets. The Pirates, meanwhile, were willing to go to four years, as Travis Sawchik of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports, and were involved deep into the process. And we noted earlier today that the Mariners also made a run, per MLB.com’s Anthony Castrovince.
  • The Blue Jays have drawn interest in backstop Dioner Navarro, tweets Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. But the club does not feel obligated to move him, as he can still function as a backup and part-time DH. Navarro is owed $5MM this season in the second and final year of his contract.
  • ESPN.com’s Keith Law is among the fans of the deal, via Insider link, writing that Martin is probably good enough by traditional measures to justify the deal, but also shines in areas like pitch framing, staff handling, and leadership. Shi Davidi of Sportsnet.ca likewise highlighted Martin’s multi-faceted value. Navarro is likely more useful to Toronto as a trade piece than a part-timer, Law suggests.
  • Adding Martin likely takes the Jays out of the running for Melky Cabrera, tweets ESPN.com’s Buster Olney. It does bear noting that Martin’s backloaded deal structure still seems to leave the team space to add payroll this year, and Toronto still has plenty of open spending capacity after 2015.

AL Notes: Jays, Astros, Anderson, White Sox, Kluber, Twins, Bourjos

The heavily backloaded nature of the Blue Jays‘ deal with Russell Martin leaves the club with additional potential payroll capacity for 2015, as Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet.ca writes. It is worth noting that Toronto likely feels comfortable pushing cash into the 2016-19 segments of the contract because, as is apparent from my recent post regarding future obligations, the team had very little on the books after this year.

Here’s the latest from the American League:

  • The Astros have checked in with Brett Anderson‘s representatives, tweets Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle. The oft-injured, but generally excellent lefty makes his home in Houston and could represent an interesting upside play for the rising Astros.
  • White Sox GM Rick Hahn has an extensive history with Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman, notes Dan Hayes of CSNChicago.com. As Hayes explains, the two even managed to pull of a trade for the injured Jesse Crain at the 2013 trade deadline. While it remains to be seen whether a deal will be worked out involving shortstop Alexei Ramirez, it seems fair to believe that all reasonable possibilities will be explored between those two clubs.
  • Of course, the White Sox already made an interesting move earlier today by locking up southpaw Zach Duke to a three-year, $15MM pact. Hahn says he is pleased but already “on to the next [deal] now,” as Hayes reports“It’s an important get, one we’re all very happy about,” said Hahn. “But we’re not deluding ourselves that we’re by any means finished addressing our needs both in the bullpen or elsewhere.”
  • A move by the Indians to push for an extension with Cy Young winner Corey Kluber would not be surprising; indeed, I profiled Kluber as an extension candidate back in August. But the club has yet to initiate talks, according to Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com (Twitter link).
  • With the Twins still lacking a clear solution in center field for 2015, Peter Bourjos of the Cardinals is a name to keep an eye on, according to a tweet from Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN. MLBTR’s Steve Adams has been one notable advocate of such a move for Minnesota.

Blue Jays Sign Russell Martin

Toronto-born Russell Martin is heading home, as the Blue Jays have officially announced a five-year deal with the free agent backstop (in both English and French).  Martin, who is represented by agent Matt Colleran, will reportedly be guaranteed $82MM over the life of the contract, which is said not to have a no-trade clause, as per the Jays’ team policy.

MLB: St. Louis Cardinals at Pittsburgh Pirates

It was just yesterday that the Cubs were reported as the leading bidders for Martin’s services, as FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal said Chicago was offering a deal in the four-year, $64MM range.  Rosenthal did warn that the Jays were still in the mix and indeed, Toronto ended up sealing the deal by giving Martin what Peter Gammons described as “McCann money” — a contract that fell just shy of the five-year, $85MM pact that Brian McCann received from the Yankees last winter.  Martin will reportedly earn $7MM in 2015, $15MM in 2016 and $20MM annually from 2017-19.

The contract is a major commitment to a catcher who will turn 32 years old in February, though MLBTR’s Steve Adams projected Martin would find a five-year deal given both the thin catching market and Martin’s obvious talents.  Martin hit .290/.402/.430 with 11 homers in 460 plate appearances for the Pirates last season, and is one of the game’s best defensive catchers both in terms of pitch-framing and throwing out baserunners.

Martin’s deal is the second-largest contract in Blue Jays team history and easily the biggest deal handed out in Alex Anthopoulos’ tenure as general manager.  (Anthopoulos’ previous highs were signing Maicer Izturis for three years and signing Melky Cabrera for $16MM).  Toronto also has a team policy of not issuing contracts for longer than five years, so they went right to the limit of their in-house maximum to clinch the deal.  Between the Martin signing and the trades of Anthony Gose and Adam Lind (for Devon Travis and Marco Estrada, respectively), the Jays have been one of the offseason’s busiest teams, a far cry from their relative inactivity both last winter and at last July’s trade deadline.

The Jays weren’t thought to be in the market for a catching upgrade this winter since they already had Dioner Navarro under contract through the 2015 season. Navarro had a solid 2.0 fWAR in 2014 and could be moved into a platoon DH role, or he could become trade bait.  Backup Josh Thole could also be a trade candidate if Martin or Navarro can adapt to catching R.A. Dickey‘s knuckleball, as Thole has largely served as Dickey’s personal catcher over his two seasons in Toronto.

In losing Martin, the Pirates lose both a clubhouse leader and a key reason why the team reached the playoffs in each of the last two seasons.  Pittsburgh’s acquisition of Francisco Cervelli seemed like a sign that they had moved on from Martin, as it seemed unlikely that the Bucs would be able to match the high bids for Martin on the open market.

Still, the Pirates are more than satisfied with the return on their original two-year, $17MM investment in Martin and they’ll now receive an extra draft pick as compensation.  Because Martin rejected the Bucs’ qualifying offer, Pittsburgh gets a bonus pick between the first and second rounds of the 2015 draft.  The Blue Jays, meanwhile, will surrender their first-rounder (17th overall).

Peter Gammons (Twitter link) first reported that the Jays had agreed to terms with Martin.  CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman reported the contract length, the lack of a no-trade clause, and the year-to-year breakdown.  FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal was the first to report the $82MM figure.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.


AL East Notes: Jays, Sox, Sandoval, Lester, Yankees, Scherzer

The Blue Jays were the only team that put a fifth year on the table for Russell Martin, tweets Jim Bowden of of ESPN.com, and that was the key to landing the backstop. With Toronto having fired the first major offseason salvo in the AL East, let’s see where things stand elsewhere in the division …

  • Martin’s signing does not mark an early conclusion to the Blue Jays‘ offseason, but rather opens up new possibilities for GM Alex Anthopoulos, writes Shi Davidi of Sportsnet.ca. The move also highlights Anthopoulos’s desire to “rearrang[e] the clubhouse dynamics,” says Davidi.
  • Pablo Sandoval met with the Red Sox today, and the club will also sit down with Jon Lester before the lefty flies off for meetings with other suitors tomorrow, reports WEEI.com’s Rob Bradford. Boston never made an effort to acquire Jason Heyward before he was sent to St. Louis, reports Scott Lauber of the Boston Herald.
  • The Yankees are largely waiting and watching at the moment, according to George A. King III of the New York Post. It is possible that the Rangers would be willing to part with shortstop Elvis Andrus, but it remains unknown whether New York would take on enough cash or part with sufficient prospects to make a deal attractive to Texas. And the team’s own free agents still seem to be feeling out the market at present.
  • King notes that an arm like Max Scherzer could become increasingly appealing to the Yankees as the offseason progresses, and indeed Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reports that there has been at least “brief contact” between the team and Scott Boras (Scherzer’s agent) since the GM Meetings. New York “may revisit their initial instinct to largely sit this winter out,” per Heyman, who explains that the silence around Scherzer’s market is rather unusual.

Blue Jays Interested In Jon Lester, Andrew Miller

As if signing Russell Martin wasn’t enough, the Blue Jays are also looking to address their rotation and bullpen.  Toronto is one of the six teams in the market for southpaw Jon Lester, WEEI.com’s Rob Bradford reports.  The Jays have also been “very aggressive” in courting Andrew Miller, Sportsnet’s Jeff Blair (Twitter link) hears from a source on another team in pursuit of the free agent reliever.

As a durable top-of-the-rotation arm with a lot of AL East familiarity, Lester makes sense for the Jays, though they already have six starters (Mark Buehrle, R.A. Dickey, Marcus Stroman, Drew Hutchison, J.A. Happ, Marco Estrada) in play for their 2015 rotation.  Starting pitching isn’t an obvious need, though since the Blue Jays will probably have to move at least one starter to address other needs anyway, they could package two arms in one deal or make multiple trades.  The Martin signing indicates that Toronto is willing to spend and be players in free agency, though meeting Lester’s projected six-year/$150MM price tag would take things to another level for the Jays.

The Red Sox are known to be one of Lester’s other five suitors, and it’s safe to assume that the Cubs are another given how they’re meeting with him this week and have been so often linked in rumors.

Miller recently met with the Jays, and it’s probably no surprise that Toronto is being aggressive given that they’re one of a whopping 22 teams who have reportedly checked in with agent Mark Rodgers about Miller’s services.  Miller is looking for a four-year deal at minimum, and he’ll likely find it with such a healthy market.  The Blue Jays could offer Miller a closing role, as Casey Janssen is likely to depart in free agency and Toronto has no clear in-house replacement for the ninth inning job.


Cubs Appear To Be Front-Runners For Russell Martin

9:59pm: Rosenthal tweets that the Blue Jays could also be seriously involved in the pursuit for Martin. The Tigers worried that the Jays would outbid them for Victor Martinez, Rosenthal writes, seemingly implying that the Jays have the funds needed to land Martin, who looks like he might end up signing a similar contract.

8:43pm: Executives involved in negotiations with free agent catcher Russell Martin believe the Cubs are the leading bidders, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports tweets. Rosenthal further suggests that the negotiations are heading toward a deal in the range of four years and $64MM, a bit less than the five years and $72.5MM MLBTR’s Steve Adams recently projected for Martin.

The other teams most strongly connected to Martin have been the Dodgers, Blue Jays and Pirates, although the Pirates recently traded for Francisco Cervelli, a possible indication that they feel it’s unlikely they can re-sign their catcher. They extended Martin a qualifying offer, which he declined. The Cubs’ top pick (No. 9 overall) is protected, so they’ll only have to give up their second-round pick if they sign Martin.

A report early in November indicated that the Cubs intended to pursue Martin. The team intends to be a major bidder for top free agents this offseason, and Martin represents a significant offensive upgrade over incumbent Welington Castillo. Also, Martin excels at framing and has gotten excellent marks for his work with pitchers, two good traits for a team aiming to develop young pitching.


Latest On Nick Markakis, Blue Jays

Sources tell Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports (Twitter links) that even though the Blue Jays have had contact with the agent for Nick Markakis, they aren’t seriously pursuing him right now.  Currently, Toronto is prioritizing other outfielders ahead of Markakis.

Meanwhile, Morosi says that the Orioles are still trying to re-sign Markakis, but the two sides are not close on a deal.  Last week, it was reported that there was renewed optimism between the O’s and Markakis’ camp about hammering out a new contract.  That might still be the case, but it doesn’t sound like anything is imminent on that front.  The two sides are said to be discussing a deal that would pay between $10-$12MM per year.

The Blue Jays are also in a similar spot with Hanley Ramirez, Morosi tweets.  Toronto has established contact with the free agent shortstop, but they’re not actively pursuing him at this time.  With Jose Reyes at shortstop, Ramirez, presumably, would be slotted in at third base with Brett Lawrie at second.  Then again, it’s unclear how serious GM Alex Anthopoulos & Co. are about pursuing Ramirez, who figures to be among the most highly paid free agents of the offseason.