- In a recent piece about the Blue Jays and Jose Bautista, Richard Griffin of the Toronto Star cites Brett Gardner as one of multiple “trade avenues to explore” for the Jays before they would considering re-signing Bautista. The Yankees are known to have received some interest in Gardner this winter, and this is the first time Toronto has been linked to the veteran, though Griffin’s comment could imply more a due-diligence type of a check-in on the Blue Jays’ part rather than a solid interest. Gardner’s overall hitting numbers declined in 2016, though he still checks a lot of boxes for the Jays as a good on-base threat and leadoff man, a left-handed hitter and an excellent baserunner and defensive left fielder. The 33-year-old is owed $25MM in guaranteed salary over the next two seasons. A complicating factor, of course, could be the fact that the two teams are division rivals — the Blue Jays and Yankees haven’t collaborated on a trade since 2002.
To set the stage for the remainder of the offseason, we’ll take a look at the most pressing remaining needs of every team in baseball over the coming week or so, division by division. (Hat tip to MLBTR commenter mike156 for the idea.) We often discuss things through the lens of an organization’s trajectory; thus, a rebuilding team might “need” to move some salary, while a contender might “need” an expensive starter. But with camp in sight, every club is making final calls on who’ll compete for big league jobs in the season to come (while also pursuing broader opportunities), so the focus here is on specific positions on the MLB roster. Fortunately, the task of roster analysis is made much easier by the MLB depth charts available at RosterResource.com. Each team listed below is linked to its respective depth chart, so you can take a look for yourself.
Jeff Todd kicked off the series with a look at the NL West, and now we’ll move across the continent and across leagues to the AL East, starting with the division champion Red Sox and moving in order of last year’s standings. Here are three needs (of varying importance) for each team in the division:
- Third Base: Boston is hoping that a healthy and in-shape Pablo Sandoval can get back to his old Giants form, though that’s no small risk given Sandoval’s disastrous 2015-16 seasons. With Travis Shaw off to Milwaukee, the Sox are left with Brock Holt and Josh Rutledge as the primary third base backup options on the MLB roster. The Red Sox didn’t hesitate to bench Sandoval after he struggled in Spring Training last year, so if he has another rough spring, the Sox could start looking for a reliable everyday option at the hot corner.
- Bench Depth: While the Red Sox have several backup options on the 25-man roster or high minors, WEEI.com’s Rob Bradford recently pointed out that the team is rather lacking in proven depth pieces, and might not be able to handle an injury to one or two regulars. Adding the likes of an Adam Rosales or Trevor Plouffe (names cited as Bradford as players of interest for the Sox) would help in this regard.
- Left-Handed Reliever: The club’s decision to tender a contract to Fernando Abad was something of a surprise, given how poorly Abad fared after joining the Red Sox last summer. Robbie Ross is the primary lefty in Boston’s bullpen and while it appears the Sox feel Abad will get back on track, it wouldn’t hurt to find another southpaw. Admittedly, this is a pretty borderline “need” on what is a pretty stacked Boston roster — the Sox could potentially find another lefty reliever internally in the form of Roenis Elias, Brian Johnson, Henry Owens or perhaps even one of Eduardo Rodriguez or Drew Pomeranz (if Steven Wright reclaims a rotation spot).
- Corner Outfield: With Jose Bautista and Michael Saunders both in free agency, the Jays are left with Melvin Upton Jr., Ezequiel Carrera, new acquisition Steve Pearce and Dalton Pompey as the candidates for both left and right field. You could argue that this counts as two needs, though the Blue Jays can juggle their internal options at one corner spot and focus on acquiring an everyday outfielder to handle the other position.
- Left-Handed Reliever: Southpaw bullpen depth has been a long-standing need for the Jays, who were short on lefties even before Brett Cecil signed with the Cardinals. The team has been linked to several left-handed relievers in free agency, though given the big contracts scored by Cecil and other lefties this winter, landing one of those notable arms won’t be cheap. Toronto has added left-handers T.J. House, Brett Oberholtzer and Jeff Beliveau to minor league deals this winter, though a more proven southpaw reliever would certainly be preferred.
- Right-Handed Reliever: No reason to stop at just southpaws, as the Jays’ relief corps is pretty thin behind Roberto Osuna, Jason Grilli and Joe Biagini, and it could get thinner if the Jays explore stretching Biagini out as rotation depth. The Jays are looking to duplicate their success with Biagini in another Rule 5 draft pick (Glenn Sparkman) and have a few new faces added in the minors to join their in-house bullpen options. As with the lefties, however, adding an experienced, reliable arm would go a long way to solidifying the bullpen.
- Right Field: With a Hyun Soo Kim/Joey Rickard platoon planned for left field, the Orioles have considered several free agents and trade targets for the right field slot. This doesn’t necessarily have to be an everyday option, as the O’s could form another platoon out of a new addition and one of Christian Walker, Aneury Tavarez, Adam Walker or Dariel Alvarez. With rookie Trey Mancini in line for a significant amount of DH at-bats, however, the Orioles may hesitate at allotting quite so much playing time to inexperienced youngsters.
- Designated Hitter: While the O’s are high on Mancini, it makes sense to add a veteran who can at least serve as a platoon partner should Mancini not be ready for prime time. Baltimore has been linked to free agents like Chris Carter or Pedro Alvarez for DH duties, though ideally, Mancini’s DH partner would also be able to handle playing a corner outfield role, so two needs could be addressed at once.
- Left-Handed Hitter: If the Orioles do add another bat, some left-handed pop would be preferable to add balance. Kim and Chris Davis are the only left-handed hitters projected to get regular playing time in the current Baltimore lineup.
- Starting Rotation: Masahiro Tanaka, Michael Pineda and C.C. Sabathia aren’t the most rock-solid top three in the world, though they’re locked in atop the Yankees rotation. That leaves Luis Severino, Chad Green, Luis Cessa, Bryan Mitchell and perhaps Adam Warren battling for those last two spots. There isn’t a lot of experience in that group, and GM Brian Cashman has downplayed the idea of acquiring another starter (though the Yankees have also been linked to Jose Quintana in some trade rumors). As much as the Yankees want to see what they have in their young arms, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see them add a low-cost, innings-eating veteran to compete for a rotation job in Spring Training.
- Left-Handed Reliever: Aroldis Chapman will close and Tommy Layne is a classic LOOGY, so since Joe Girardi likes to have as many bullpen options as possible, that leaves room for another southpaw. Chasen Shreve, Richard Bleier and Dietrich Enns are options on the 40-man roster, though since the Yankees have been connected to veterans like Boone Logan or Jerry Blevins on the rumor mill, they could be looking for more experience.
- First Base: As in the rotation, the Yankees are committed to young players at first, with Greg Bird penciled in as the starter and Tyler Austin getting some action against lefties (veteran Matt Holliday could also fill in, in a pinch). While Bird is reportedly recovering well from February 2016 surgery to repair a torn labrum, you have to consider a position a bit of a question mark when the first choice is a player returning from missing an entire season. It’s very unlikely the Yankees will make a move to address first base before Opening Day, though it could be an area to watch as the season develops if Bird, Austin or Holliday have injury or performance-related setbacks.
- Starting Rotation: While the Rays already have plenty of starters, what they really “need” is to decide if they’re going to be dealing one of them. Rumors have been flying all winter about teams looking to acquire one of Tampa’s starters, with Drew Smyly or Alex Cobb perhaps more likely to be on the move due to the Rays’ reportedly enormous asking price for Chris Archer or Jake Odorizzi. What the Rays get in return for one of their arms (if any are dealt) will go a long way towards filling one or both of the remaining needs on this list.
- Right-Handed Hitter: Left fielder Corey Dickerson and first baseman Brad Miller are both left-handed bats who struggle against southpaws, so the Rays would be aided by adding a player who can handle one (or both) positions and add some thump from the right side of the plate.
- Designated Hitter: This would also be a natural spot for a right-handed bat, as switch-hitter Nick Franklin was only effective against righty pitching last season in part-time action. A regular DH isn’t necessary since the Rays would like to keep this position open for lineup flexibility — Wilson Ramos will likely require some DH time in the wake of knee surgery, while neither Dickerson or Miller have much defensive value — but the promise of DH at-bats could help the Rays entice a veteran hitter who might be otherwise unenthusiastic about playing on Tropicana Field’s artificial surface.
A return to Toronto would certainly make sense for Bautista and makes a fair amount of sense for the Blue Jays as well. The subtraction of Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion and Michael Saunders from Toronto’s lineup removed quite a bit of offense, and while newcomers Kendrys Morales and Steve Pearce will compensate for some of that loss, the Jays still have a pair of question marks in each of their outfield corners. Reports have recently indicated that Bautista is willing to consider one-year proposals coming off an injury-hampered season, though at last check the Jays had yet to offer anything greater than the $17.2MM qualifying offer to Bautista.
The Blue Jays will have to decide exactly how much they can count on Bautista as an everyday outfielder at the age of 36. Defensive metrics have soured on him rapidly in recent years, though he also battled foot and knee injuries in 2016, which certainly may have impacted his defense. Then again, as a 36-year-old that has spent the past eight seasons playing on artificial turf, Bautista may simply be more prone to injury than he was even into his mid-30s, when he averaged 154 games played from 2014-15. That, too, will have to be a factor as the Jays weigh a potential reunion. And while the Blue Jays don’t technically need to forfeit a draft pick by signing Bautista, doing so means that they won’t receive the comp pick they expected when making a qualifying offer, so the team is in essence surrendering a pick in the 30 to 35 range of next year’s draft.
All of those factors, along with Bautista’s deteriorated (but still quite strong) production at the plate in 2016, are part of the calculus being weighed by president Mark Shapiro, GM Ross Atkins and the rest of the Jays’ front office. Bautista slashed .234/.366/.452 with 22 home runs and 24 doubles last year — production that rated 17 percent above the league average (per OPS+) and 22 percent above average (per wRC+) when adjusting for park and league. And, from 2010-15, Bautista was unequivocally one of baseball’s most feared hitters, batting a Herculean .268/.390/.555 (156 OPS+) and averaging 45 homers per 162 games played.
A return to Toronto would give Bautista the opportunity to reestablish some stock in a familiar and hitter-friendly setting while taking aim at another deep postseason run with the team for which he cemented himself as a star. Outside of the Blue Jays, it’s been a fairly tepid market for Bautista this winter — a scenario that is applicable to any number of the remaining corner outfield/first base type of sluggers on the market. Demand simply hasn’t materialized in the way that one might’ve expected, even for top-tier names. The Rays were somewhat speculatively linked to Bautista earlier this winter, and the Mets were said to have some interest before re-signing Yoenis Cespedes, but it’s been largely quiet on the Bautista front since he turned down a the qualifying offer back in November.
In the wake of Edwin Encarnacion’s signing, there are now a whole lot of power hitters who could be next in line to sign. That situation provides much of the impetus behind the latest notes column from Jon Heyman of Fan Rag. You’ll want to read the whole thing to get his full take on the market, but here are a few notable items of information:
- The Athletics’ entry into the chase for Encarnacion helped push the action that led to his signing, per Heyman. Oakland proposed two separate scenarios, he notes, one of which would’ve been a straight two-year, $50MM deal and the other of which would have tacked on a third-year option in exchange for an opt-out clause. Before those offers pushed the Indians to boost their own deal, Encarnacion had been fielding many less-desirable possible arrangements. Indeed, the Blue Jays were mostly engaged with their former star on one-year possibilities most recently, Heyman notes.
- With Encarnacion now off to Cleveland, the many remaining sluggers will be looking to land with a variety of other suitors. Heyman suggests that the Blue Jays, Orioles, and Rangers are all “very likely” to add bats, while listing a number of other teams that could get involved as well. That includes the Rays, Giants, Phillies, White Sox, Angels, and Rockies, each of whom has at least some interest in the remaining market.
- Mark Trumbo is probably now the player with the highest earning capacity who has yet to sign, but his landing spot remains hard to peg. Beyond the Orioles and Rockies, Heyman says, “a couple more opportunities may have cropped up” of late.
- It seems unlikely that the Blue Jays will punt a pick to sign Jose Bautista (which they’d technically be doing, as they’d no longer be in line for the comp pick they stand to gain when he signs elsewhere), he adds, even if he’s now available on a one-year pact. Toronto does need to make some outfield additions, though, and Heyman writes that the club has kept tabs on free agents Michael Saunders and Brandon Moss, along with “many others.” The Orioles are also said to have interest in Saunders, as has been suggested previously, and Heyman suggests that the Phillies — who’d prefer to add a lefty bat — have some interest in Moss.
- Mike Napoli was said to be seeking a three-year deal earlier this winter, but this report now indicates that he’s seeking a two-year contract, which seems quite a bit more plausible. The Rangers are reportedly a “strong possibility” for Napoli, though Heyman notes the possibility of the ever-popular “mystery team” in Napoli’s market, suggesting that Napoli has at least one suitor that has yet to be linked to him publicly.
- While the Dodgers are willing to give up Jose De Leon in a trade that would net them Brian Dozier from the Twins, they’re not willing to include first base prospect Cody Bellinger or well-regarded right-handed pitching prospects Yadier Alvarez or Walker Buehler alongside De Leon. Heyman writes that some clubs feel the Dodgers are being “stingy” with their prospects and overvaluing their minor league talent, though as he points out, that approach worked to their benefit with regards to Corey Seager and Julio Urias (although none of the names listed are as well-regarded as that pair was).
- In addition to Jered Weaver, veteran right-handers Jake Peavy and Colby Lewis are on the Padres’ radar. Peavy would love the opportunity to return to San Diego, where he established himself as a star and won the 2007 National League Cy Young Award. I’ll point out that Lewis, too, has some connections to the Padres, as GM A.J. Preller was in the Rangers’ front office when Lewis returned from Japan and cemented himself as a Major League-caliber arm.
- The Blue Jays reportedly turned down the Rockies’ ask of Marcus Stroman as part of a deal for Charlie Blackmon earlier this winter, and that seems to have ended the Jays’ chance of landing the outfielder, MLB.com’s Gregor Chisholm writes. “Talks quickly died” between the two clubs once Stroman wasn’t made available, and Chisholm doesn’t think Toronto has enough other trade chips to get Colorado’s interest.
- Edwin Encarnacion’s departure to Cleveland has many Blue Jays fans upset, with some blaming the team for not finding a way to re-sign Encarnacion and others blaming Encarnacion for seeking too much money early in the process, Sportsnet’s Shi Davidi writes in a fascinating timeline of the negotiations between Encarnacion and the Blue Jays. As had been previously reported, the Jays offered Encarnacion a four-year, $80MM deal in early November; Davidi notes that deal also included a vesting option that would have increased the value of the deal to $100MM. Encarnacion, though, didn’t want to take a deal on the doorstep of free agency (as his agent, Paul Kinzer, admitted earlier this week). As free agency opened, the Jays believed Encarnacion was seeking $100MM and judged from his lack of urgency to move on the Jays’ initial offer that he had another suitor in the $80MM-$100MM range, which wasn’t the case. The Jays thus moved quickly to sign Kendrys Morales, and took their $80MM offer off the table. The two sides remained in touch, but with Morales and Steve Pearce in the fold, the Jays weren’t as strongly motivated to sign Encarnacion, and he ended up with Cleveland.
The Blue Jays have “kicked around” Andrew McCutchen’s name as they attempt to address their outfield, ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick reports (all Twitter links). Pirates GM Neal Huntington recently said the team was likely to keep McCutchen after trade negotiations with the Nationals fell through. But, Crasnick writes, the Jays are one of several teams who are still interested in the Pirates’ star.
The Blue Jays have Kevin Pillar, an exceptional defender, in center field, so McCutchen would likely move to a corner if he were to be traded to Toronto. That might be best anyway, since McCutchen’s declining speed helped result in dreadful defensive numbers in center last season, leading to talk about him moving to a corner even if he stays in Pittsburgh. (His positioning might also have been a factor in his poor defensive stats.)
McCutchen posted a .256/.336/.430 line last season, with all three figures representing career lows. Still, the Pirates’ price to move him will be high — he’s still just 30 and has two years of relatively cheap control remaining, and his outstanding pre-2016 performances and strong hitting over the last two months last season inspire hope for his future. The discussions with the Nationals reportedly included top pitching prospect Lucas Giolito as well as another good prospect, Dane Dunning, both of whom later went to the White Sox in the Adam Eaton deal.
Since then, though, the Pirates have agreed to re-sign Ivan Nova, and been connected in trade talks to star White Sox lefty Jose Quintana. Their outlook now might be somewhat different than it was a month ago, as they now might be more focused on contending. Last week, Fan Rag’s Jon Heyman wrote that the Pirates wanted MLB-ready talent in return if they were to trade McCutchen.
The Jays, of course, recently lost Edwin Encarnacion to the Indians via free agency. It remains unclear which players they might use to lure the Pirates to trade McCutchen — their farm system, headed by shortstop Richard Urena, righty Sean Reid-Foley and outfielder Anthony Alford, is decent but not outstanding. The Jays acquired two of their other top prospects, catcher Reese McGuire and outfielder Harold Ramirez, with Francisco Liriano in a summer trade with the Pirates seemingly designed to help the Bucs shed Liriano’s salary.
Veteran slugger Jose Bautista is willing to take a one-year contract, according to Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports. There’s something of a catch, though: per the report, “he wants it to be at a higher value than the qualifying offer.”
It seems, then, that Bautista would need to see something greater than $17.2MM on an offer sheet for the 2017 season before he’s willing to give up his pursuit of a lengthier pact — at least at this stage. Notably, the report does not suggest that the organization has shown any movement on its part; at last check, Toronto had yet to indicate a willingness to exceed the value of the QO that it previously extended, and Bautista declined. As Passan puts it, “the next move is the Blue Jays’.”
Passan explores in great detail why a reunion with Toronto makes sense, particularly in a single-season scenario; you’ll want to give his breakdown a full read for that reasoning. Indeed, with former teammate Edwin Encarnacion now off the market, the path is perhaps cleared for Bautista (and other defensively limited power bats) to find their own landing spots. And the Jays’ lineup surely is still in need of some pop, especially in the outfield, as the team’s current depth chart shows. Bautista wants to return to the place where he finally found his stride as a ballplayer, too, a source informs Passan.
It’ll be interesting to see whether this new bargaining position for Bautista changes the calculus for Toronto (or other organizations). Much of the risk in his profile lies in his age (36); though he took a step back in the power department last year, he also dealt with some injuries and still maintained his top-of-class plate discipline. All told, Bautista still generated a strong .234/.366/.452 batting line with 22 home runs in 517 plate appearances. In that regard, the demand for a salary in excess of the QO does not seem startling; coming into the winter, after all, expectations were that he could find a multi-year contract with an AAV in that ballpark.
Other market markers seem relevant here, too. Carlos Beltran landed $16MM from the Astros on a one-year term, while Matt Holliday got $13MM from the Yankees. It’s certainly arguable that Bautista is a bigger prize than either of those players, though neither required draft compensation. (For Toronto, the club wouldn’t punt one of its existing picks, but re-signing Bautista would mean surrendering its rights to a compensatory choice.)
At the same time, teams eyeing power bats no longer have quite as many names to choose from, particularly if they prefer an outfield-capable player. The younger but less-accomplished Mark Trumbo is perhaps the biggest remaining competition on the free-agent market, which still includes other options such as Mike Napoli (who is limited to first base) and Brandon Moss (who hits from the left side). On the trade side of the equation, J.D. Martinez can presumably still be had, though we haven’t heard much indication that anything will come together on the Tigers star. There are a variety of other free-agent outfielders, including recent Toronto teammate Michael Saunders, though none feature anything approaching Bautista’s offensive track record.
From the demand side, plenty of hypothetical suitors remain for Bautista and his market competition. We ticked through some of them recently in this post. As the recent bidding for Encarnacion shows, there could still be an appetite on the market for multi-year pacts with significant value, as well as creative, shorter-term deals at high average annual values. But just how much demand exists for the older Bautista — whose platform season wasn’t as promising as that of his long-time teammate — remains unclear.
In prior years, we’ve seen players settle for one-year deals after turning down qualifying offers, though in most instances they took less than the value of the offer itself. (This was the case for players such as Ian Desmond, Dexter Fowler, Kendrys Morales, and Stephen Drew.) Ervin Santana agreed to a $14.1MM deal with the Braves in advance of the 2014 season, matching that year’s QO value, though he had to wait for spring injuries to land that contract. Only Hiroki Kuroda was able to beat the qualifying offer on a single-season pact; in November of 2012, he inked a $15MM contract after turning down what was then a $13.3MM QO. Unlike those situations, however, the new rule preventing multiple qualifying offers from being extended to a single player would prevent the Blue Jays or another team from lining up possible draft compensation after the 2017 campaign.
Last night, Edwin Encarnacion agreed to a three-year, $60MM contract with the Indians that contains a club option for a fourth year which would bring the deal to a total of $80MM over four years. The contract fell shy of expectations for Encarnacion, whose free-agent stock was damaged due to his age, draft pick compensation and a market flooded with sluggers capable of splitting time between first base and designated hitter. In the hours since that pact was reached, Cleveland has drawn widespread praise for the deal, and agent Paul Kinzer has publicly given some insight into the final stages of negotiations that led up to the deal. Here’s a roundup of some context on the signing, reactions to the deal and the impact it’ll have on the remainder of the first base/DH market…
- In an appearance with Jim Bowden on MLB Network Radio, Kinzer stated that both the Athletics and Rangers remained in the mix for Encarnacion’s services until the final decision to take Cleveland’s offer (audio link). According to Kinzer, A’s president of baseball ops Billy Beane got creative and made offers with a high average annual value over a short term. Kinzer says that Encarnacion turned down more money from Oakland, though prior reports suggest that Oakland was only willing to offer two years. It’s quite possible, of course, that Kinzer was simply referring to “more money” on an annual basis. Indeed, the AAV in the A’s offer was $25MM at what is believed to be a shorter (presumably, two-year) term, according to Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet.ca (via Twitter). The agent also noted that Cleveland’s proximity to the Dominican Republic (relative to Oakland) was enticing for Encarnacion, who wanted to limit travel obligations for his family as best he could.
- The Rangers’ final proposal was “well within the Indians’ neighborhood,” according to Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports, though precise details remain unknown. Texas long presented a public stance that downplayed the likelihood of landing Encarnacion, though it certainly seems that the organization put together a competitive effort. Interestingly, Passan adds that, by the end of the Winter Meetings, the market for the veteran slugger had slowed to the point that some (unidentified) team felt it reasonable enough to dangle a three-year, $42MM offer.
- Clearly, the market rebounded from that point, but Encarnacion never saw the kind of cash that the Blue Jays had initially put on the table. Toronto’s reported four-year, $80MM offer to Encarnacion earlier in the offseason may well have had an additional wrinkle, per Sportsnet.ca’s Shi Davidi (video link via Twitter). Though the guarantee was indeed $80MM, the Jays were also interested in including a fifth-year option that could have brought the total value up to $100MM. Depending upon the structure of the deal — including how the option could be exercised and what portion of the guarantee would have been included as a buyout — the presence of such a provision could conceivably have slightly improved or reduced the value of the overall potential contract from Encarnacion’s perspective.
- The Cardinals explored Encarnacion’s market and had “mild” interest in the slugger, one source tells Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch (Twitter link). The P-D’s Jeff Gordon, though, opines that Encarnacion was never a good fit in St. Louis due to the team’s pre-existing infield logjam. St. Louis already has Matt Carpenter at first base, Kolten Wong at second, Aledmys Diaz at shortstop and Jhonny Peralta at third base, while Jedd Gyorko figures to function as a super-utility option. Matt Adams currently projects as a bench player. Adding Encarnacion into that mix would’ve only resulted in further complications and forced what could possibly have been multiple trades, none of which would’ve necessarily been easy to facilitate.
- ESPN’s Keith Law calls the signing a “colossal coup” for the Indians (ESPN Insider subscription required and strongly recommended), opining that Encarnacion will be worth an extra two to three wins during the regular season over the player he is effectively replacing: Mike Napoli. Returning to the postseason in the first year of the deal would recoup much of the $60MM guarantee Encarnacion received, and that’s worth the risk that Encarnacion won’t be a $20MM player in the third year of the deal, Law continues. He calls the Blue Jays the biggest losers in this situation, noting that the team paid more than half of Encarnacion’s guarantee for a player (Kendrys Morales) that may not be one-quarter as productive, citing Morales’ recent struggles in 2014 and the early portion of the 2016 season.
- Law’s colleague Buster Olney argues differently from the Blue Jays’ vantage point (Insider also required), writing that Toronto president Mark Shapiro and GM Ross Atkins weren’t in position to expect Encarnacion’s market to collapse in this fashion. Olney adds that among agents and teams around the league, the three-year, $33MM contract the Jays issued to Morales is viewed as a “solid move,” though it goes without saying that a number of teams likely feel differently. (Toronto, after all, outbid all other interested parties, suggesting that plenty of teams wouldn’t be comfortable at that rate.) Still, I agree with Olney’s take that Encarnacion’s market collapse was surprising; few projected that high-payroll fits like the Yankees, Red Sox and (to some extent) Rangers would all balk at a long-term investment for a player of Encarnacion’s caliber. And Olney rightly points out that the new Jays’ front office has made some nice value adds since taking over, citing the reasonable contracts given to J.A. Happ and Marco Estrada.
- The agreement is good for both Encarnacion and the sport, argues FOX’s Ken Rosenthal, who notes that it’s refreshing to see a pair of low-payroll clubs like the Athletics and Indians as finalists for one of the market’s top free agents. While he’s quick to note that he’s not suggesting the new CBA has leveled the playing field between high-revenue and low-revenue clubs, the fairly minimal increases to the luxury tax threshold (and boosted penalties) do appear to have impacted clubs like the Yankees and Red Sox and the way in which they’ve approached their offseason dealings — though, perhaps, that was driven largely by both organizations’ preexisting motivations to reset their base tax rate by dipping under the luxury line for at least one year. Then again, the Red Sox in particular never seemed likely to pursue a long-term commitment at the DH spot, based on myriad reports out of Boston. And another suitor that went a different direction, the Astros, aren’t near the current luxury tax threshold, so the CBA’s impact on them probably wasn’t much of a factor.
Free agent center fielder Ben Revere is reportedly likely to sign in the near future (as MASNsports.com’s Roch Kubatko first relayed earlier today), and Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet tweets that the Blue Jays won’t be his landing spot. That crosses the Blue Jays and Orioles (per Kubatko) off the list for Revere — two teams that could conceivably be in the market for a left-handed-hitting outfielder with some speed. Multiple teams still make some degree of sense for Revere, with the Giants, Mariners, Rangers, Angels and Tigers all striking me as on-paper fits (though that list is purely speculative). Non-tendered by the Nats this offseason, Revere logged a dismal .217/.260/.300 batting line in 375 plate appearances in 2016, but he’d batted .305 or better in each of the three prior seasons.