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Toronto Blue Jays Rumors
The Blue Jays announced that they have outrighted catcher George Kottaras off the 40-man roster and officially announced the outrights of Munenori Kawasaki and Dan Johnson, both of which were made known earlier in the week.
Kottaras, 31, batted a strong .233/.351/.533 with three homers in 38 plate appearances between the Indians, Cardinals and Blue Jays this season. Two of those homers came as a member of the Indians in his first game of the season.
The journeyman catcher has always shown plus plate discipline and plus power but low batting averages, as evidenced by his .215/.326/.411 career batting line. Kottaras has struck out in 23.7 percent of his career plate appearances, but that number has jumped to 35.3 percent over the past two seasons (164 PA). Defensively speaking, he’s thrown out just 18 percent of opposing base-stealers in his career, and pitch-framing metrics haven’t been kind to him.
Kottaras and Johnson have both elected free agency, per the Blue Jays, while Kawasaki has yet to do so. Brendan Kennedy of the Toronto Star tweets that Kawasaki will likely do the same thing that he did last offseason: seek a Major League deal elsewhere but return to the Blue Jays as a minor league free agent if he is unable to find one.
The Blue Jays have outrighted infielder Munenori Kawasaki and first baseman Dan Johnson, according to the team’s official transactions page.
Kawasaki, 33, batted .258/.327/.296 in 274 plate appearances in his second season with the Blue Jays. The Japanese infielder’s outgoing nature and quirky sense of humor have made him popular with both fans and teammates, but he hasn’t hit much in either of his two seasons in the Majors. He does grade out as a solid defender at shortstop, and both Ultimate Zone Rating and Defensive Runs Saved gave positive reviews to a small sample of work at third base this season.
The 35-year-old Johnson saw some action with Toronto this season as a replacement for the injured Adam Lind. The AL East veteran (he’s also been with the Rays, Orioles and Yankees) batted .211/.333/.342 with a homer in 48 trips to the plate. Johnson posted yet another gaudy OBP total at Triple-A, slashing .232/.381/.434 with 18 homers in 459 PA. In parts of 11 seasons at the Triple-A level, the former seventh-round pick is a .281/.401/.509 hitter, so he should be able to find a home rather easily this winter if he wishes.
After crunching a variety of payroll numbers, WEEI.com’s Alex Speier concludes that the Red Sox should have at least $50MM to $55MM in 2015 payroll still available. You’ll want to read the typically excellent piece to understand exactly how Speier reaches his conclusions, but the bottom line is that the team’s financial situation dovetails with an impressive stock of prospects to convey unmatched flexibility to GM Ben Cherington entering the offseason. Of course, as Cherington notes, that doesn’t mean that Boston can snap its fingers and return to contention. “I think we have a challenging offseason ahead of us that’s sort of, in a way, simple to see but that doesn’t mean it’s easy to execute,” he explained.
Here’s more from the AL East:
- Free agent shortstop Stephen Drew, recently of the Yankees, says he would welcome a chance to continue in pinstripes as he looks to rebound from a rough 2014. As George A. King III of the New York Post reports, Drew’s agent — Scott Boras — still believes his client has productive baseball ahead of him. “I would say clubs would spend a good deal of time focusing on his career offensive statistics as opposed to a couple hundred at-bats,” said Boras. “Defensively, he is still elite and a lot of teams will have interest in him as a shortstop.” Boras did seem to acknowledge that Drew needs to rebuild his stock one year after declining a qualifying offer and waiting to sign until after the draft. “If it’s a multi-year [deal], I don’t think it would be a long one,” said Boras. “I trust this player.”
- Meanwhile, Joel Sherman of the New York Post analyzes the possible Derek Jeter replacements for the Yankees. He ultimately rejects many names that have commonly been linked to New York, noting that many of the free agent shortstops come with questions about how long they can continue to play the position. Sherman lists Drew, Didi Gregorius, Jose Iglesias, Jimmy Rollins, and Alexei Ramirez as five possible candidates. (All but Drew, of course, would have to be acquired via trade.)
- 2012 Blue Jays third-round draftee Anthony Alford has agreed to a full-time baseball commitment. The Clarion-Ledger reported yesterday that Alford had decided to end his football career at Ole Miss to join the Jays. As John Lott of the National Post explains, Alford’s deal with Toronto — which came with a $750K bonus — allowed him to focus primarily on football. That risk was the only way to acquire Alford’s rights, said GM Alex Anthopoulos, who explained that the organization believes Alford to be an “outstanding prospect” who could move quickly in full-season baseball.
- Orioles executive VP Dan Duquette says his ballclub is better now than in 2012 due to its starting pitching, and credits pitching coach Dave Wallace for the improvement, as MLB.com’s Britt Ghiroli reports. Meanwhile, Duquette talked over some of the organization’s notable mid-season moves to fill gaps that had opened, acknowledging the hard work and remarkable performances of players like Steve Pearce and Caleb Joseph. Of course, as Ghiroli suggests, some portion of the credit for those fill-ins must go to Duquette and his front office.
With the regular season in the books, it’s worth assessing how things ultimately shook out from last winter’s Rule 5 draft. Only nine players were taken in this year’s draft. Here’s where things stand:
Remember, players are eligible for the Rule 5 Draft if they aren’t on the 40-man roster four or five years after signing, depending on the age at which they signed. If a team makes a selection, it pays the former team $50K and must keep that player on the Major League roster all season or offer him back to his original team for $25K. (Note that Rule 5 selections can change hands like any other player, with an acquiring team stepping into the shoes of the original selecting club. Click here for more details.)
- Patrick Schuster, LHP (taken first overall by the Astros from the Diamondbacks): Returned to Arizona. But not before a somewhat eventful tour. He was first dealt to the Padres, then placed on waivers and claimed by the Royals before finally being sent back. He never ended up throwing a big league inning, and ultimately struggled to 4.50 ERA in 18 frames at Triple-A once back with the D’backs.
- Adrian Nieto, C (taken third overall by the White Sox from the Nationals): Retained by Chicago. The switch-hitting, 24-year-old backstop hung on all year, posting a .236/.296/.340 line in his first 118 MLB plate appearances. He is now White Sox property.
- Kevin Munson, RHP (taken fourth overall by the Phillies from the Diamondbacks): Returned to Arizona. Munson never made it onto the active roster, and was sent back in mid-March. Though he never saw MLB action this year, he did post a rather dominant campaign at Triple-A: 2.60 ERA, 11.8 K/9, 3.2 BB/9.
- Tommy Kahnle, RHP (taken eighth overall by the Rockies from the Yankees): Retained by Colorado. The 25-year-old was an oft-used bullpen piece for the Rockies, posting a 4.19 ERA in 68 2/3 frames with 8.3 K/9 against 4.1 BB/9. Colorado owns his rights moving forward.
- Brian Moran, LHP (taken ninth overall by the Blue Jays from the Mariners): Still in limbo after season-ending surgery. Moran was dealt by Toronto to the Angels on the day of the draft, and opened the season DL’ed on the active roster. But his left elbow ultimately required Tommy John surgery, meaning that he ended up on the 60-day DL. The Halos do not yet own Moran’s rights permanently: to keep him, the club will need to carry him on the active roster without a DL stay for at least 90 days.
- Seth Rosin, RHP (taken tenth overall by the Mets from the Phillies): Returned to Philadelphia. Dealt immediately after the draft to the Dodgers, Rosin was claimed by the Rangers late in the spring and made three appearances before his roster spot was needed and he was returned. Back at Triple-A with the Phillies, he worked to a 3.86 ERA over 58 1/3 rames.
- Wei-Chung Wang, LHP (taken eleventh overall by the Brewers from the Pirates): Retained by Milwaukee. It took some doing, but a contending Brewers club was able to hold onto Wang for the entirety of the season. Though he did miss 45 games with a DL stint, Wang ultimately made only 14 appearances for the club. The 22-year-old will presumably be stretched out as a starter again as he returns to his development track in the lower minors.
- Marcos Mateo, RHP (taken fifteenth overall by the Diamondbacks from the Cubs): Returned to Chicago. Mateo was the first player to be returned, heading back in mid-March. The 30-year-old threw to a 3.86 ERA in 37 1/3 innings upon his return to Triple-A with his original team.
- Michael Almanzar, 3B (taken sixteenth overall by the Orioles from the Red Sox): Returned to Boston … but ultimately traded back to Baltimore. Shelved with injury for much of the year, Almanzar was returned to the Red Sox in the middle of the summer after a rehab stint. But the O’s obviously wanted him back, and added him as part of the Kelly Johnson deal. Over 233 minor league plate appearances on the year, Almanzar posted a .245/.322/.389 slash.
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Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos and manager John Gibbons are in no immediate danger of losing their jobs, but that could change if team president Paul Beeston leaves his post, FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal writes. Beeston is in the last year of his contract, and there is speculation around the game about whether he’ll stay. Beeston backed Red Sox chairman Tom Werner over Rob Manfred for commissioner, which Rosenthal implies might suggest Beeston was looking for a job in the commissioner’s office. Also, Rogers Communications, which owns the Jays, hired a new CEO in January. Here are more notes from the American League.
- Phil Hughes is open to a contract extension with the Twins, writes Mike Berardino of the Pioneer Press. Hughes quietly had one of the top seasons among starting pitchers, with 6.1 fWAR and 4.3 rWAR. He walked just 16 batters in 209 1/3 innings. Combined with a solid 8 K/9, Hughes set a major league record for K/BB ratio at 11.63 while pitching to a 3.52 ERA. Hughes is entering his age-29 season and has two years and $16MM remaining on his contract.
- Earlier this weekend, the Orioles designated reliever Preston Guilmet for assignment. For Guilmet, that move concluded a season spent in a transaction vortex, CSN Baltimore’s Rich Dubroff writes. Since Guilmet arrived in a minor trade with the Indians in April, he’s been involved (by MLBTR’s count) in 14 transactions, mostly a function of the fact that he had options. None of those transactions were earth-shaking, but they had to have been trying for Guilmet personally.
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.
Here are today’s minor moves:
- The Blue Jays have claimed right-handed reliever Cory Burns from the Rays. Toronto announced the move via press release. Burns, who will turn 27 on October 9, has a 4.60 ERA in 29 1/3 Major League innings. He spent the entirety of 2014 in the minors, splitting time between the Rays and Rangers organizations.
- Also via press release, the Blue Jays have selected the contract of first baseman Matt Hague. The 28-year-old was acquired off waivers from the Pirates in mid-August. Since joining Toronto, Hague has hit .377/.411/.566 in 56 Triple-A plate appearances. He managed two major league plate appearances with the Pirates, going 0-for-2. Melky Cabrera and Chad Jenkins were moved to the 60 day disabled list to clear room for the pair.
The Blue Jays‘ offseason agenda could include re-signing Melky Cabrera, acquiring a second or third baseman (for whichever position Brett Lawrie doesn’t play) and pursuing relief help, Brendan Kennedy of the Toronto Star writes. The Jays are likely to extend Cabrera a qualifying offer and be proactive in trying to sign him. They’ll also need to patch up a bullpen that struggled this year and is likely to lose Casey Janssen to free agency. Pursuing starting pitching probably will not be a top priority, Kennedy suggests. Here’s more from the East divisions.
- Red Sox manager John Farrell says he would like his team to re-sign reliever Burke Badenhop, WEEI.com’s Alex Speier tweets. Badenhop posted a stellar 2.33 ERA in his first season with the Sox, albeit with less inspiring peripheral numbers (5.0 K/9, 2.5 BB/9). He pitched reasonably well in the Marlins, Rays and Brewers bullpens before joining the Red Sox via trade last November.
- The Marlins have shown interest in Cuban outfielder Yasmany Tomas and second baseman Hector Olivera but are unlikely to seriously pursue either, MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro writes. Tomas will be expensive, and the Marlins already have a strong trio of outfield starters. Olivera is older and doesn’t have Tomas’ star power, so the Marlins could simply depend on Donovan Solano and Enrique Hernandez at second base instead.
Here’s the latest from the game’s eastern divisions:
- The Marlins are interested in Cuban second baseman Hector Olivera, reports Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald. Olivera recently defected with hopes of becoming an MLB free agent, and Miami is certainly one of several clubs that looks in need of an acquisition up the middle.
- Giancarlo Stanton‘s season-ending injury does not change the Marlins‘ plans to make a push at extending him this winter, the Associated Press reports (via the New York Times). “There’s no hesitancy, no reservation or doubt he’ll return and be even better,” said Miami president of baseball operations Michael Hill. “We’re going to do everything in our power to keep him a fixture in our lineup for many years to come.”
- The Red Sox are not giving up on Will Middlebrooks in spite of building frustration, but president Larry Lucchino did make clear that the team is “looking for a left-handed hitting third baseman,” as he told WEEI’s Dennis & Callahan (via WEEI.com’s Andrew Battifarano). Though Lucchino said that prospect Garin Cecchini could be that player, he also emphasized that the team will not “make the same mistake that [we] made this year, which is to assume that so many of our young players are ready for prime time.”
- Two long-time Blue Jays — reliever Casey Janssen and DH Adam Lind — are approaching the possibility of finding new homes, as Shi Davidi of Sportsnet.ca writes. Janssen, a free agent, says he does not yet know whether Toronto will make him a competitive offer. If not, he says, he will “embrace a new city and try to bring a championship to wherever that next stop is.” Lind, on the other hand, is subject to a $7.5MM club option. Though expectations are that it will be exercised, Lind says he hopes the front office will give him a clear sense of its intentions before the season ends.
It was not easy for Braves president John Schuerholz to dismiss GM Frank Wren, writes MLB.com’s Tracy Ringolsby. Due to a combination of loyalty and good initial hiring decisions, Schuerholz has rarely decided to part ways with top members of his front office. But in this case, the longtime Atlanta executive said that change was necessary, albeit difficult. “It took time for me to get to the point of doing what I did,” said Schuerholz, who also indicated that failures in free agency may not have been the primary source of Wren’s undoing. “It’s not just about success of the club at the Major League level,” he explained, referring to the “life blood” of the club’s scouting and player development. “You have to be cognizant that the strengths of your organization are as strong as they need to be. it is why I used the words ‘cumulative effect’ [during the announcement Monday].”
- Meanwhile, newly-extended Mets GM Sandy Alderson had a variety of interesting comments today, and Adam Rubin of ESPNNewYork.com provides a transcript. Emphasizing that he does not believe the club needs “a giant leap” to contend, Alderson said he expects the team to be active in free agency while remaining cognizant that the open market is, as he described it, a “crapshoot.” After COO Jeff Wilpon indicated that his GM will have payroll flexibility (as Rubin reports on Twitter), Alderson said that he does not know whether the team will see a spike in payroll. He did note that he does not “feel that we will necessarily be constrained by the payroll next year.” With the team needing to improve by approximately ten to twelve wins, according to Alderson, it is looking to add production in any way possible rather than “get[ting] too bogged down in too much specificity now.” That opportunistic approach may take some time to play out, he suggested: “We’re going to explore all of the options and see where it takes us. It may take us a while during the course of the offseason to fully explore what those options are.”
- The Blue Jays will retain manager John Gibbons for next year barring some unforeseen change in circumstances, reports Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com. Though recent comments from GM Alex Anthopoulos led some to believe that Gibbons could be in some trouble heading into the offseason, Heyman says that the team is planning for 2015 without any intention of finding a new skipper.
- While the Yankees have not played up to expectations after a winter of big spending, the club’s mid-season acquisitions could not have gone much better, writes Dave Cameron of Fangraphs. With the exception of Stephen Drew, all of the veterans added with the hope of a turnaround did just that. contributing far more value in their short stints in New York than they had with their former clubs.
- As the Red Sox continue to tinker with one of the game’s most fascinating talent mixes, those calling for a trade of cornerstone second baseman Dustin Pedroia may need something of a reality check, writes Rob Bradford of WEEI.com. For starters, Pedroia’s deal contains a full no-trade clause, Bradford notes. And when Pedroia’s glove and veteran role are weighed in the balance, says Bradford, the idea of trading him makes little practical sense.