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Toronto Blue Jays Rumors
Michael Saunders‘ recovery from a torn meniscus is “kind of a miracle,” Blue Jays manager John Gibbons told reporters, including Mark Zwolinski of the Toronto Star. Saunders is already back to baseball activities in camp less than two weeks after deciding to have the injured cartilage removed completely. It was originally thought that the injury would sideline Saunders for the first half of the season, but he now has a shot at the Opening Day lineup and, at worst, should be back on the field by mid-April. Here’s some more from around the AL East…
- Orioles right-hander Darren O’Day said the club has yet to discuss a new contract with him, MASNsports.com’s Roch Kubatko reports. While O’Day said he’d enjoy staying in Baltimore, he also noted that team will have a lot of other business to handle, as O’Day is one of 11 Orioles who will be free agents after the season.
- “Pitching and defense is how we build this team and it’s going to be the way we continue to succeed,” Rays GM Matt Silverman told Steve Phillips and Todd Hollandsworth of MLB Network Radio interview (audio link), though Silverman also believes the lineup is “much more balanced…and much more formidable 1-through-9.” This balance, Silverman feels, will help Tampa string together more big innings and have more luck scoring runs. “A lot of it [the scoring problems] had to do with situational stuff and things that not necessarily were flukish, but things that we thought would revert back to the mean. We put a lot of guys on base, we just didn’t get them home,” Silverman said.
- Phillips and Hollandsworth also interviewed Evan Longoria during their visit to the Rays‘ camp (audio link), and the third baseman said that he’s hoping to finish his career in a Tampa Bay uniform. Longoria’s contract with the club runs through 2022, which would be his age-36 season, plus the Rays have a club option on his services for 2023. While Longoria expressed his desire to be a one-franchise guy, he did hint that this would be contingent on the Rays continuing to be a winner. “From the beginning, I really wanted to be one of…those rare guys who get to spend their whole career in one place,” Longoria said. “I’ve been lucky enough to be on good teams and that’s really what makes guys want to stay places….For as long as that’s happening, I’m happy being here.”
- Estimates on how long Chris Capuano will be sidelined with his strained right quad range from “at least the first week or two of the season” (as the southpaw told MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch) to all of April. Yankees manager Joe Girardi told reporters, including ESPN New York’s Andrew Marchand that Capuano “is not going to do anything, at least for a couple of weeks. Nothing. The problem is we are so early in the process, you are almost going to have to start over.”
The devastating loss of Marcus Stroman for the season greatly increases the likelihood that top prospect Aaron Sanchez will be in the Blue Jays’ rotation rather than bullpen, as many had assumed, writes MLB.com’s Gregor Chisholm. Sanchez, Daniel Norris and Marco Estrada will compete for the final two rotation spots behind R.A. Dickey, Mark Buehrle and Drew Hutchison. Chisolm notes that if Sanchez does end up in the rotation, an already thin bullpen becomes even thinner, as Brett Cecil becomes the likely closer, with Aaron Loup the top setup option. Behind that duo, Estrada could relieve if he doesn’t win a starting role, and the club can also look to Steve Delabar, Wilton Lopez, Todd Redmond, Kyle Drabek, Jeff Francis and prospect Miguel Castro. One thing no one should expect, Chisolm writes, is a significant trade. GM Alex Anthopoulos all but ruled that out, stating to reporters: “Those guys aren’t normally available in March, actually there might be one but I don’t know that we can afford that right now.” Presumably, Anthopoulos was referring to Cole Hamels.
Here are some more Blue Jays items as they plan for a season without their projected top starter…
- Writing for FOX Sports, Fangraphs’ Dave Cameron opines that the Jays should give Estrada the first crack at the vacant rotation spot. Cameron notes that while Estrada was undeniably ineffective in 2014, he was a useful rotation piece in 2012-13, getting by with a skill-set similar to that of Jered Weaver; that is to say, he succeeded despite below-average velocity as a result of his ability to command the zone and induce a tremendous amount of infield flies. One shouldn’t expect Estrada to morph into Weaver, of course, but Cameron concludes that Estrada could be useful enough in the first half for the Blue Jays to see if the rest of their team lives up to its potential, and at that point, go rent an ace for the stretch run. Using Estrada in the rotation would also allow Sanchez to pitch at the back of the bullpen, giving the team a bit more relief depth.
- Castro and fellow right-hander Roberto Osuna, both 20, have a chance at cracking the team’s bullpen, writes Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet. While each is considered a long shot, the duo has impressed Blue Jays management with their power arms and advanced feel, particularly Castro. “If he’s really, really good this spring, there’s an outside shot he could be on the team simply because he’s advanced,” said manager John Gibbons, who noted that Castro is impressive not only due to power stuff but because he can throw strikes. Gibbons also touched on the fact that while there wasn’t necessarily a philosophical change in the organization last year, they acted more aggressively with young arms like Sanchez and Norris and could do so again to help fill out the bullpen.
- Since publishing that article yesterday, Nicholson-Smith has tweeted that Castro’s odds to make the club seem to be getting better with every passing day. It likely helps that Castro fired two scoreless innings today, yielding one hit and no walks with two strikeouts.
Blue Jays starter Marcus Stroman has a torn ACL and is expected to miss the season, the club announced. While a knee injury may carry less long-term risk than would a problem with Stroman’s valuable right arm, the news nevertheless constitutes a huge blow to the Jays and a significant set-back for the prized 23-year-old.
The stakes are high for the Blue Jays after a win-now offseason spent bolstering the club’s lineup with veteran additions. Stroman had been expected to lead the rotation after a strong rookie year in which he posted a 3.65 ERA over 130 2/3 frames with 7.6 K/9 against 1.9 BB/9. Drawing rave reviews from scouts, Stroman also posted peripherals that suggested he was even better than his earned run mark.
Toronto expects to fill the void internally, at least this spring, as Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet.ca tweets. Marco Estrada will compete with top prospects Daniel Norris and Aaron Sanchez for a rotation spot, GM Alex Anthopoulos told reporters. Of course, that will not only have implications for the team’s overall starting depth, but will take away options from an already less-than-ideal bullpen situation.
As others have noted, Toronto was said to be tapped out already in terms of 2015 spending, making a significant addition seem a difficult fit. Estrada does have plenty of big league time under his belt, some of it promising, while Norris and Sanchez bring plenty of upside. Of course, while the free agent market is currently lacking in supply, the team will potentially have the ability to attract a veteran who does not make an Opening Day roster and exercises an opt-out clause. And it is worth remembering as well that Johan Santana is under contract with the Jays.
Blue Jays backstop Dioner Navarro says that his understanding from his agent is that the Tigers and Diamondbacks are among the teams that have expressed interest in trading for him, Bob Elliott of the Toronto Sun reports. Navarro is currently slated to miss a few days after a minor knee injury, as MLB.com’s Gregor Chisholm tweets, so certainly there is not yet any reason to believe that anything is imminent.
Last we heard, the Jays remain open to dealing Navarro — as is his preference — but have little intention of shedding him for a minimal return. The veteran was bumped down the depth chart when Toronto signed Russell Martin, but is a reasonably appealing asset since he is under contract for just one more season at $5MM. With a league-average batting line and sturdy defensive results, Navarro checked in with about two wins above replacement last year, although framing measures would suggest a downgrade is in order.
Arizona’s lack of quality and depth at the catching position is rather well-established. For Detroit, veteran Alex Avila comes with injury concerns (not to mention a bat that has dipped below average) while backup Bryan Holaday is a marginal hitter and youngster James McCann has only minimal time at the MLB level. The switch-hitting Navarro, who is historically much better against southpaws, would make for a natural platoon mate with the righty-mashing Avila.
Shawn Camp, who pitched 11 seasons in the Majors, announced his retirement today. Camp worked in the bullpens of the Royals, Rays, Blue Jays, Cubs, and Phillies, topping 70 innings in four different seasons. Camp pitched 541 career games in total, including an MLB-leading 80 for the Cubs in 2012.
“I would like to thank all the great organizations I had the privilege to play for during my career,” Camp said through a statement. “I also had the opportunity to play for some tremendous managers and coaches as well as play alongside some extraordinary teammates. I have been a part of professional baseball for the past 17 years and it’s in my blood. As such, I’ll be looking to pursue other opportunities within major league baseball in the future. Most importantly, as I transition to the next chapter, I will get to spend more time with my family who has supported me beyond belief over the past 17 years.”
Camp told me his ultimate goal is to be a pitching coach one day, but he’s open-minded to any opportunities that may come in. He also has interest in working with young players in the minor leagues.
Over the last two seasons, Josh Donaldson has quietly been one of the best players in baseball, finishing third in fWAR among position players in the last two years, behind only Mike Trout and Andrew McCutchen. That doesn’t mean, however, that his new team, the Blue Jays, should rush to sign the MVP Sports Group client long-term.
As a Super Two player, Donaldson’s salaries through 2018 will be determined by the arbitration process, and the Blue Jays’ victory over Donaldson in his first arbitration case this winter was a crucial one. Not only was there a significant gap between the number Donaldson camp proposed ($5.75MM) and the Blue Jays’ proposed figure ($4.3MM), but the arbitator’s decision in favor of the Blue Jays will affect not only Donaldson’s 2015 salary, but his salaries from 2016 through 2018 as well.
Donaldson’s statistical profile (offensive numbers that are very good but not obviously spectacular, combined with superb defense) likely made him somewhat underpaid this time through the arbitration process. That effect might wear off somewhat in coming seasons as he moves to a much more homer-friendly ballpark in Toronto than the one he had in Oakland — he hit .255/.342/.456 with 29 homers and 98 RBIs in 2014, and bumping those numbers up somewhat would help him as he enters arbitration for a second time. Still, Sportsnet.ca’s Ben Nicholson-Smith tweeted that a source estimated Donaldson’s arbitration loss this winter might cost him a full $6MM over the next three years. That guess might, if anything, be low.
On top of that, the Blue Jays already control Donaldson throughout what could well be the rest of his prime. Since he got off to a late start to his big-league career, he won’t be eligible for free agency until after his age-32 season. Any extension beyond that would only buy out seasons beginning with age 33. In other words, the Blue Jays have a very good situation with Donaldson, and they have little reason to press their luck with an extension unless it’s a very favorable one. Donaldson isn’t a 23-year-old superstar who figures to be in his prime in his first free agent seasons. He’s a 29-year-old superstar who’s very likely in his prime right now.
If the two sides were to begin discussing a deal, finding a close comparable for a Super Two player like Donaldson would be difficult. We can begin, however, with his likely arbitration salaries through 2018, which might total somewhere around $35MM-$40MM if he maintains impressive offensive totals. Donaldson’s camp could point to Kyle Seager‘s recent seven-year, $100MM extension as a possible model for a Donaldson deal, and that wouldn’t be entirely unreasonable, given that Seager’s deal began in what would have been his first year of arbitration salary, and with a salary of $4MM (although Seager, not being a Super Two player, was a year closer to free agency than Donaldson is). For the reasons mentioned above, though, that seems like a lot of risk for the Blue Jays to assume.
The Blue Jays, then, could hypothetically look at recent deals for Jason Kipnis and Matt Carpenter that each guaranteed about $52MM for six years. Both those deals occurred when the players had between two and three years of service time, but neither Kipnis nor Carpenter were Super Two players, so their arbitration years would likely have been less lucrative than Donaldson’s figure to be. That would likely mean that a Donaldson extension would either require a somewhat higher total, or give away fewer years of free agency.
Perhaps something along those lines could work, although it might be hard to find an equilibrium where the Jays felt like they were taking on an appropriate amount of risk and Donaldson’s camp felt like he was getting a large enough total to forgo free agency following the 2018 season, which might be his only attempt at a significant free-agent payday. Then there’s the fact that Donaldson and the Jays already went to an arbitration hearing — hearings can be tough for some players to take, and could make future extension talks difficult. As Braves assistant GM John Coppolella recently told MLBTR’s Steve Adams, “If you look at the history of players who have gone to arbitration hearings, for whatever reason, very few remain with the same team for the long term. I don’t think the hearings are contentious per se, but the process isn’t exactly friendly and heartwarming.”
If Donaldson and the Blue Jays were to have interest in an extension, then, it wouldn’t be impossible to negotiate one, but it would be tricky. And given Donaldson’s age and years of control remaining, the Jays shouldn’t have much urgency to negotiate a deal.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
Since taking over as the Rays‘ head of baseball operations, Matt Silverman has taken the somewhat unusual step of polling a small group of key players (including Evan Longoria and Alex Cobb) so that their voices can help inform his decision-making, Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reports. Silverman consulted with players about hiring new manager Kevin Cash, as well as on other moves. “It opened up conversations about their feelings not just on the manager position, but the organization and how it operates,” says Silverman. “And I believe those conversations led to some outcomes, and to better dialogue between the front office and the clubhouse. … There are certain things I learned that I wasn’t aware of, and wouldn’t have known, given my prior position [as team president].” Here’s more from the American League.
- Dayan Viciedo was taken aback by the White Sox‘ decision to release him, but he’s landed on his feet after signing a minor-league deal with the Blue Jays, the Associated Press reports. “I was slightly surprised because I thought I had an agreement in place to stay there, but I understand it’s a business,” Viciedo says. “You have good days, you have bad days. I took it in stride. I’m not upset. It kind of surprised me at first but everything had worked out and is OK.”
- Athletics manager Bob Melvin says outfielder Josh Reddick will be out for two weeks with a right oblique strain, MLB.com’s Jane Lee writes. Reddick will then have to take additional time to prepare to play, which means it’s questionable whether he’ll be ready for Opening Day. In the meantime, the Athletics will take looks at a variety of players in right field, including Rule 5 pick Mark Canha and newly-claimed (or, rather, re-claimed) former Red Sox farmhand Alex Hassan. Billy Burns, Jason Pridie, top prospect Matt Olson and perhaps even first baseman Ike Davis will also get looks. From the outside, though, the Athletics’ opportunity to get a better sense of what they have in Canha, who hit an impressive .303/.384/.505 with Triple-A New Orleans in the Marlins’ system last year, looks like the clearest silver lining to Reddick’s injury.
Rusney Castillo‘s strained oblique may cause him to miss a bit of Spring Training time, yet the injury isn’t considered to be particularly serious. Still, WEEI.com’s Rob Bradford posits that this setback might convince the Red Sox to give Castillo some extra minor league preparation time at the start of the season and give the center field job to Mookie Betts. Castillo told Bradford that he would be open to being in the minors if the team felt it necessary, and his long-term contract makes him secure about his role in Boston’s plans. “Of course there is a degree of comfort in that that I’m going be here for a while,” Castillo said. “At the same time, if you don’t want to be in the minor leagues ramp it up and work harder to not be there.”
Here’s some more from around the AL East…
- Orioles executive VP Dan Duquette spoke to reporters (including MASNsports.com’s Roch Kubatko) about the team’s release of Suk-min Yoon earlier today and Yoon’s subsequent return to the KBO’s Kia Tigers. Duquette confirmed that Yoon gave up the $4.15MM still owed to him under the Orioles contract in order to make the deal happen. “The good part of this is that this didn’t work, but we were able to correct the mistake, if you will, and we have that money available to invest in other players,” Duquette said.
- After a tumultuous year that has included Tommy John surgery, being drafted by the Blue Jays and then mentioned in trade rumors to acquire Duquette as Toronto’s new team president, Jeff Hoffman tells Sportsnet’s Shi Davidi that he is looking forward to just “putting on a uniform again” once he’s finished his rehab work. Hoffman provides a progress report on his recovery from his surgery last May.
- After years of struggling to find reliable left-handed relievers, the Yankees look to have solved the problem with Andrew Miller, Chasen Shreve and Justin Wilson all in the fold, Joel Sherman of the New York Post writes. Ironically, this comes at a time when there are only a few standout left-handed hitters amongst the Yankees’ AL East rivals, Sherman notes.
Catcher Eli Whiteside has opted to accept a coaching job with the Giants rather than taking one of several offers he had to continue playing, MLB.com’s Chris Haft reports. The veteran played in parts of six MLB seasons, including a three-year run in which he was a significant contributor for San Francisco. He will retire after getting one last short run in the bigs last year with the Cubs.
More from the NL West:
- Padres righty Josh Johnson has progressed to the point that he’ll throw to a catcher on flat ground, Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune reports. With his training program currently on track, Johnson is scheduled to throw a pen session for the first time by mid-March with a target of game action by June, if all goes according to plan. Johnson’s deal with San Diego promises him only $1MM but can increase all the way to $7.25MM if he maxes out his incentives.
- Fellow two-time TJ patient Cory Luebke is also hoping to return strong for the Padres, as MLB.com’s Corey Brock reports. The story details some of the ups and downs that Luebke has had in dealing with his two procedures. As with Johnson, 2015 is something of a make-good season for the lefty: his early-career extension is up after the season, when San Diego will have to decide whether to exercise a $7.5MM option or pay a $1.75MM buyout.
- The Rockies pursued utilityman Daniel Descalso not only because he would offer a versatile bench option, but because of his big-game experience, Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post writes. Skipper Walt Weiss explained that the former Cardinals infielder brought an underappreciated element to the squad. “All of that factored in quite a bit,” said Weiss. “I think we sometimes underestimate the value of that — guys that have played in big games, pennant races, and have won a World Series. Those types of players are valuable, and that’s a big reason why we brought Danny in here.”
- Alex Guerrero‘s contract and the Dodgers roster situation makes for quite a puzzle, as Dave Cameron of Fangraphs writes. On the one hand, Guerrero can refuse an optional assignment and has said he will do just that. On the other, if he is traded he will earn the right to opt out of his deal after the season. Cameron posits that the club could send Guerrero out in exchange for some savings on his 2015 tab, agreeing to remain responsible for post-2015 responsibilities while hoping he will opt out. The Angels, Blue Jays, Rockies, and Rangers all look like reasonable landing spots, in Cameron’s estimation.