Toronto Blue Jays Rumors

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

Quick Hits: Shields, Yankees, Craig

Jim Bowden of ESPN (Insider required) speculates the best fits for the current top 10 free agents. At the head of the list is James Shields who Bowden thinks fits with an AL team. Specifically mentioned are the Yankees, Red Sox, Blue Jays, Tigers, and Rangers. However, now that his price tag may have dropped below five years and $110MM, other teams could get involved too. Jon Heyman of CBS Sports also explored nine potential suitors for Shields and turned up plenty of NL contenders like the Cardinals and Padres.


Notes On Blue Jays, Beeston, Duquette

The Blue Jays have been graceless in their attempt to replace president Paul Beeston, Bob Elliott of the Toronto Sun writes. Elliott’s timeline of events begins in early November, when Rogers Communications chairman Ed Rogers contacted the White Sox seeking permission to hire Ken Williams for Beeston’s job, not realizing that Beeston and White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf were best friends. Later, Reinsdorf told Williams the Blue Jays were interested in him, and Williams said he already knew, indicating that there had been tampering, according to Elliott. Here’s more on the Blue Jays’ search for a new president.

  • Rogers has left behind a “trail of stink-bombs” in attempting to replace Beeston, writes John Lott of the National Post. The Blue Jays could have improved the situation by issuing a joint statement from Beeston and the team indicating his agreement to retire. The Orioles reportedly want more than just first-round pick Jeff Hoffman in return for allowing Dan Duquette to take the Blue Jays job. Hoffman might be too much to give up, Lott writes, but the Blue Jays should have to give up a good young player, or perhaps two.
  • If Duquette does leave for the Blue Jays, the Orioles will be fine, MASNsports.com’s Roch Kubatko writes. With Duquette gone, manager Buck Showalter could play a greater role in personnel decisions. Meanwhile, the rest of the Orioles’ front office (including Brady Anderson, Tripp Norton, Gary Rajsich, Brian Graham and John Stockstill) are capable as well, Kubatko argues.

East Notes: Papelbon, Hamels, Duquette

Talks between the Brewers and Phillies on closer Jonathan Papelbon do not appear to be gaining momentum, according to Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel (Twitter links). There was “no traction today” and there remains “no reason to believe” that a deal is close, says Haudricourt. The Papelbon situation comes down to money, writes Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports, who says that the veteran righty “almost certainly” would require Milwaukee to guarantee his 2016 option as a condition of waiving his no-trade rights against the club. Echoing that focus on the bottom line, Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com writes that the the cost may be large but the Phillies need to pay what’s necessary to move on from Papelbon.

Here’s more from the east coast:

  • As regards the Phillies‘ most significant trade piece, Cole Hamels, Rosenthal suggests that there is at least some line of thinking in the organization that Hamels and Cliff Lee could front an imposing rotation if a significant free agent arm were added next winter. (Links to Twitter.) That is not to say that a Hamels trade is no longer a possibility, as Rosenthal adds that the club is looking for one MLB-ready, impact prospect to go with further-off talent in a swap.
  • The Orioles would seem unwilling to let executive vice president Dan Duquette leave for the Blue Jays in exchange for first-round draft pick Jeff Hoffman alone, Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun reports. That does seem to suggest, as Connolly writes, that Baltimore still has a high price tag on Duquette, though the scribe adds that he senses an increased likelihood that a deal gets worked out.
  • All this intra-AL East intrigue has left us with plenty to think about, and there are plenty of worthwhile pieces breaking down the situation. Among them: Richard Griffin of the Toronto Star argues that the Blue Jays have bungled the pursuit of a new president and should stop chasing Duquette. And if you are wondering how to go about calculating a reasonable return for an executive, have a look at this piece from last September, in which Jeff Long of Baseball Prospectus attempts to value front office figures in terms of top prospects.


Brewers In Serious Talks To Acquire Papelbon

8:52am: Papelbon would want his $13MM option for the 2016 season to be guaranteed in order to waive his no-trade clause, Salisbury reports. That presents an expensive obstacle in trade talks, but Salisbury hears that the Phillies are committed to moving Papelbon and letting Ken Giles inherit the closer’s role. ESPN’s Jayson Stark tweets that figuring out how much of Papelbon’s 2016 salary the Phillies would pay is the “last remaining obstacle” in trade talks.

8:18am: The 12 teams to which Papelbon cannot block trades are the Red Sox, Rays, Royals, Angels, Mariners, Astros, Mets, Braves, Cardinals, Reds, Cubs and Padres, reports Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com (on Twitter).

Additionally, Rosenthal tweets that while the Blue Jays did reach out to the Phillies regarding Papelbon, their interest is still very limited. He adds that Papelbon has not yet been approached about waiving his no-trade clause for a move to the Brewers, indicating that talks have not yet reached advanced stages.

7:14am: The Brewers are indeed on Papelbon’s no-trade list, reports Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (Twitter links). Of course, that doesn’t mean that a deal can’t be worked out, particularly if Papelbon’s desire to have a chance at winning is still his primary focus. Rosenthal notes that the Phillies would need to send money to Milwaukee in order to facilitate a deal, in addition to getting Papelbon’s approval.

Rosenthal also tweets that the Blue Jays expressed interest in Papelbon in recent weeks, although they, too, are on the closer’s no-trade list

1:01am: The Brewers are in serious talks to acquire Jonathan Papelbon from the Phillies, reports Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports (on Twitter). Earlier today, Jon Heyman of CBS Sports reported that Milwaukee was casting a wide net as it looked for pitching upgrades, and GM Doug Melvin said in an appearance on MLB Network Radio that adding bullpen help was his top priority.

It’s unclear at this time whether or not Milwaukee is on Papelbon’s no-trade list, Passan adds, although indications over the summer were that Papelbon would waive his no-trade protection to be moved to a contender. While the Brewers are far from a lock to achieve a postseason berth in 2015, they do appear to be better positioned than the rebuilding Phillies, who have traded away Antonio Bastardo, Jimmy Rollins and Marlon Byrd this offseason as the club looks to the future.

Papelbon, 34, is owed $13MM in 2015 and has a $13MM vesting option that will kick in this season if he reaches 48 games finished. Should Milwaukee ultimately reach a deal to acquire Papelbon, one would think that he’d supplant Jonathan Broxton as the club’s closer, making 48 games finished a highly attainable milestone. Of course, as Passan notes, it is not even clear at this time whether or not the Brewers are one of the 17 clubs on Papelbon’s no-trade list.

Though Papelbon’s velocity and strikeout rate have declined in recent seasons, his bottom-line results have remained largely intact. Papelbon’s heater sat at 95 mph in his final season with the Red Sox, but it dropped to 93.8 mph in 2012, 92 mph in 2013 and 91.3 mph in 2014. Nonetheless, Papelbon was still able to notch an excellent 2.04 ERA with 8.5 K/9, 2.0 BB/9 and a 41.9 percent ground-ball rate in a 2014 campaign that also featured 39 saves — the second-highest single-season total of his career.

The Brewers recently traded Yovani Gallardo and his $13MM salary to the Rangers, although Milwaukee remains on the hook for $4MM of that sum. Still, that salary reduction leaves the Brewers well-equipped to add some payroll, particularly if the Phillies elect to eat some of the remaining money on Papelbon’s contract, which many have assumed they would need to do in order to move him.

As it stands, Broxton figures to be closing games, with righties Jim Henderson and Tyler Thornburg serving as setup options alongside lefty Will Smith. Both Francisco Rodriguez and Rafael Soriano have been mentioned as possible bullpen targets for the Brewers, although for the time being, the trade market appears to be the more likely avenue for Doug Melvin to improve his bullpen.


Quick Hits: Moncada, Dodgers, Johan, Varona

In an interview with Mike Ferrin and Jim Duquette on MLB Network Radio on Sirius XM (audio link), Rays president of baseball operations Matt Silverman said his team will scout Yoan Moncada as they would any prospect of “great intrigue,” but “given our financial situation, I wouldn’t expect us to be the winners of an auction.”  Silverman feels this is another example of how difficult it is for successful small-market teams to replenish their systems, as “all of the [player acquisition] structures, whether it’s the draft or international, put us at a disadvantage.

Here’s some more from around baseball…

  • A group of South Korean investors are talking with the Dodgers about buying a minority stake of the franchise, Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times reports.  The news was originally reported by two South Korean newspapers, one of which (the Korea Joongang Daily) reports that the discussed terms were $370MM for 20 percent of the team.  A source with knowledge of the talks told Shaikin there is a “zero” chance the Dodgers’ ownership group would give up control of the team in these negotiations.
  • The Phillies face a tough road back to respectability but they can get there within two to four years if they augment their financial resources with good young talent, Fangraphs’ Jeff Sullivan opines.  The worst-case scenario would be if they make the wrong moves and revenues decline, thus putting the club in a long streak of losing seasons, a la the Orioles prior to their 2012 playoff appearance.
  • Peter Greenberg, Johan Santana‘s agent, said his client doesn’t have any structural damage in his shoulder, FOX Sports’ Jon Paul Morosi tweets.  Santana was recently scratched from a Venezuelan Winter League start due to his shoulder, though Greenberg said Santana might return to pitch in the league playoffs.
  • Cuban outfielder Dayron Varona receives a scouting report from ESPN’s Keith Law (Insider subscription required), who praises Varona’s running and plus arm but has some questions about his hitting.  The current popularity of Cuban players could inflate Varona’s market, Law feels, though he thinks Varona will sign for “close to eight figures as a potential big league backup.”
  • The Blue Jays could consider Everth Cabrera as an option at second base, CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman tweets.  Presumably the Jays’ interest would hinge on the outcome of Cabrera’s ongoing legal case, which may not take place until April.  Heyman also notes that Rickie Weeks “seems to be further down [Toronto’s] list.”
  • ESPN.com’s David Schoenfield lists the five teams he felt improved the most and least this winter.

Latest On James Shields

James Shields‘ market still lacks clarity, as more notable teams are claiming to be out rather than in on the free agent right-hander.  The Diamondbacks and Brewers both seem to be out of the running, while Red Sox GM Ben Cherington said his team is more focused on adding rotation depth than a potential ace.  Here’s some more about which clubs may or may not still be in the Shields derby…

  • Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports takes an overview of Shields’ market, plus passing on the news that Shields would prefer to pitch closer to his home on the west coast.  Rosenthal also adds to the lack of a Brewers/Shields connection, reporting that Milwaukee owner Mark Attanasio isn’t pushing his front office to add Shields.  The Blue Jays, who are known to be interested in Shields, have limited payroll space and would need a “massive backload” of a contract to make it work.
  • Also from Rosenthal, some executives think Shields will receive a four-year deal worth $70-$80MM.  Page Odle, Shields’ agent, has been very quiet about his strategy or expectations for his client’s next salary, though Rosenthal reports that some around the game feel Shields would’ve been better off billing himself as a No. 2 or No.3 starter rather than as a top-of-the-rotation ace.
  • The Marlins are “closely monitoring” the Shields market, ESPN’s Jim Bowden reports (Twitter link).  Miami has been linked to Shields in recent weeks though they’re wary about paying too much to sign him and Grantland’s Jonah Keri recently reported there is a “zero percent” chance of Shields joining the Fish.
  • In an interview with Jim Duquette and Mike Ferrin on MLB Network Radio on SiriusXM (audio link), Royals GM Dayton Moore said it’s “doubtful” that Shields returns to Kansas City.  While Moore admitted that “I can’t say [re-signing Shields] hasn’t crossed my mind,” he said that the Royals’ roster, and particularly its rotation with new addition Edinson Volquez, is probably settled going into Spring Training.
  • The Padres are “unlikely” to sign Shields though they’re still “on [the] periphery” of his market, FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal tweets.  A few weeks ago, I speculated that the Padres could be a dark-horse contender for Shields since they’ve been so aggressive in upgrading their roster, not to mention the fact that Shields lives in the San Diego area.

Orioles Will Receive “Substantial” Compensation If Duquette Deal Completed

Several reports have been floating around about Orioles executive vice president Dan Duquette and the oft-discussed possibility of him moving to the Blue Jays to become the division rival’s president. The outcome still seems tough to predict, but action is increasing. Here’s the latest:

  • The Orioles are considering several compensation packages that would allow Duquette to leave for Toronto, Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun reports. While no deal appears close and talks could still fall apart, Connolly notes that this could be the closest the two sides have come to an agreement given that the O’s are now actually looking at offers. Duquette has reportedly made his interest in the Jays’ job known to Orioles ownership, which could explain why the O’s are more open to letting him go, though that doesn’t mean they’ll relax their compensation demands.  A top prospect like Jeff Hoffman would only be one part of Baltimore’s asking price, Connolly writes.
  • If the O’s continue with these high demands, Sportsnet.ca’s Shi Davidi opines that “the Blue Jays should, and in all likelihood would, look elsewhere in their search for a new president and CEO,” noting that Duquette is far from the only qualified executive who would be interested in the Toronto job.
  • Despite the rising value of top front office minds around baseball, “many in the industry will privately question the Blue Jays if they part with a top prospect for an executive,” Sportsnet.ca’s Ben Nicholson-Smith writes.  An expendable Major League roster piece like Dioner Navarro or Kevin Pillar might be more palatable compensation for the Jays, though Nicholson-Smith notes that the O’s will want more.

Earlier Updates

  • Kubatko hears that the Orioles are pushing for more substantial compensation as a trade-off for not filing tampering charges against the Blue Jays (Twitter link).
  • Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun gets the sense that while a resolution to the situation isn’t close, it’s certainly gotten closer over the past few days (Twitter link).
  • ESPN’s Buster Olney reports (via Twitter) that if a deal gets done, the compensation for Baltimore will be “substantial.” Olney hears that one name that has been discussed is right-hander Jeff Hoffman, whom the Blue Jays selected ninth overall in the 2014 draft. Hoffman was at one point in the mix to go first overall or certainly in the top five, but he slipped a bit due to the fact that he had Tommy John surgery shortly before the draft.
  • A deal is “getting close and going to happen,” a source tells ESPN.com’s Jim Bowden (Twitter link), who cautions that the information is not confirmed. Of course, that would appear to conflict with another seemingly unconfirmed report yesterday from Sportsnet.ca radio host Bob McCown (via Ben Nicholson-Smith), which stated that Paul Beeston would stay on for another year as the Jays’ president and CEO.
  • Shi Davidi of Sportsnet.ca reported yesterday that MLB was running out of patience with the dalliance and was pressuring Baltimore to get something done or close down the possibility. Perhaps looking to increase its own leverage, the Orioles have themselves discussed the possibility of filing tampering charges against Toronto, Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com tweets.

Outfield Notes: Ichiro, Schierholtz, Chavez, Bautista

The Marlins have made a one-year, $2MM offer to Ichiro Suzuki, Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald reports. Miami is “optimistic, but not certain” that it will reach agreement with the veteran. If not, it could look to Nate Schierholtz or the trade market. Ichiro could be the next domino to fall now that Colby Rasmus has signed with the Astros.

  • The Orioles offered Rasmus a one-year, $7MM deal that might have included an option, Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun reports. After missing on Rasmus, Baltimore is looking down its list for other left-handed outfield options. Schierholtz is a possibility, as is Ichiro.
  • Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com also discusses the club’s efforts to add another outfielder, explaining that the uncertainty surrounding executive VP Dan Duquette has not been the reason that the team has missed on its outfield targets thus far. Instead, Baltimore is focused on only striking the right deal, and could take its current roster into camp with at least some hope that youngster Dariel Alvarez would be ready to contribute by the summer. As Kiley McDaniel of Fangraphs wrote yesterday in his breakdown of the O’s minor league system, the club is much higher on Alvarez than outside evaluators.
  • In spite of making several outfield additions, the Mariners are interested in a reunion with Endy Chavez, ESPN.com’s Jerry Crasnick reports (Twitter links). The 36-year-old, who spent each of the last two seasons in Seattle, might need to fight for a roster spot out of camp, says Crasnick.
  • Blue Jays star right fielder Jose Bautista says that his next contract is not the first thing on his mind right now, as Mackenzie Liddell of Sportsnet.ca writes (comments via an appearance on Brady and Walker of Sportsnet 590). Bautista did acknowledge that he is intrigued by the possibility of becoming a free agent after the 2016 season, but says his focus is on playing winning baseball this year.

Latest On The Market For James Shields

With Max Scherzer off the market following a historic seven-year agreement with the Nationals, all eyes will be on top remaining free agent James Shields and agent Page Odle leading up to Spring Training. ESPN’s Jayson Stark has spoken to a number of industry sources for his most recent look at Shields’ market, and he lists various reasons that the industry doesn’t expect Shields to end up with the Marlins, D-Backs, Blue Jays, Red Sox, Yankees, Cubs, Dodgers, Giants, Royals, Tigers, Rangers, Astros, Cardinals and Brewers (the Padres, at least, are listed as “possible, but not likely”).

Of particular note from Stark is that the D-Backs are actively trying to trim their payroll, rather than add salary; the Cubs are likely to look for another big-name starter, but not until next offseason; and the chances of the Marlins signing Shields are precisely “zero,” the latter of which meshes with a recent report from Grantland’s Jonah Keri.

Nonetheless, one executive to whom Stark spoke said he sees jumping back into the mix for Shields. However, one of the reasons, per that exec, is that teams believe Shields will have to settle for less than the $110MM that he reportedly was offered earlier this month and are revisiting the situation with the assumption that the price has dropped. Said Stark’s source, “But the problem is, now everyone is bottom-feeding. And when you’re someone like him, that’s the last thing you want, is a lot of teams bottom-feeding on you in late January.”

Regardless of the imperfect fits that litter the market for Shields, most executives tell Stark they can’t see Shields signing for anything less than $80MM over a four-year term, and nearly everyone to whom he spoke thinks that Shields could sign at virtually any time.

One club that won’t be signing Shields is the Giants, it seems, based on comments made by GM Brian Sabean earlier today on KNBR radio. As KNBR scribe Dieter Kurtenbach writes, Sabean plainly stated that while his club has wiggle room to add another piece, “it’s not going to be a high ticket item.” Sabean explained that while the team made a run at a pair of “high ticket” items in the form of Pablo Sandoval and Jon Lester, the team made the decision to spread the money throughout the roster. As such, the club acquired Casey McGehee and Nori Aoki to fill respective holes at third base and in left field, and Jake Peavy was re-signed to add some stability to the rotation. (Of interest to Astros fans may be Sabean’s statement of the fact that he believes Ryan Vogelsong is “going elsewhere as we speak,” as Vogelsong is said to be nearing a deal with Houston.)


Free Agent Notes: Moncada, Olivera, Belisario, Santana, Zito

While he awaits clearance from the government, Cuban second baseman Yoan Moncada is putting on showcases for interested teams. The Yankees have already put the 19-year-old through the paces, according to Ben Badler of Baseball America. In addition to New York and the previously-reported Giants, Moncada has worked out for the BrewersRangersRed Sox, and Padres, per MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez. Meanwhile, the DodgersRaysCubs, and Phillies have shown interest. For their part, the Twins will not seek a private workout because they believe the bidding will go too high, Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN tweets.

Here are some more free agent notes:

  • Fellow Cuban second bagger Hector Olivera will begin a two-day open showcase in the Dominican Republic tomorrow, Badler reports on Twitter. Olivera figures to be more of an immediate contributor than the younger Moncada.
  • Clubs interested in righty Ronald Belisario, as with Burke Badenhop, include the Blue Jays and Nationals, per Jon Morosi of FOX Sports (via Twitter). The 32-year-old has run up solid innings totals over each of the last three years, but has seen his ERA steadily move north during that stretch. On the other hand, ERA estimators have viewed him as a solidly average performer in each of those seasons, with a low strand rate likely causing most of his troubles in 2014.
  • The YankeesBlue Jays, and Padres are three of the approximately six teams pursuing lefty Johan Santana, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com tweets. An upcoming Venezuelan league start could have some bearing on where the one-time ace ends up.
  • Another prominent lefty is plotting his comeback as well. Per Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle (Twitter link), Barry Zito still plans to return to baseball after a year off and will put on a showcase this spring. The 36-year-old last threw in 2013, working to a career-worst 5.74 ERA over 133 1/3 innings.