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Toronto Blue Jays Rumors
Catcher didn’t seem to be an obvious area of upgrade for the Blue Jays heading into the offseason, yet the team made a big splash by signing Russell Martin to a five-year, $82MM free agent deal. This immediately turned incumbent Jays catcher Dioner Navarro into a possible trade candidate, and indeed, at least three teams asked about Navarro in the wake of Martin’s signing. Navarro himself even inquired about being dealt somewhere where he could receive everyday playing time.
This trade speculation was certainly not what Navarro was expecting coming off his solid 2014 campaign. After signing a two-year, $8MM deal with the Jays in December 2013, the switch-hitting Navarro hit .274/.317/.395 with 12 homers last season, reaching new career highs in plate appearances (520) and games played (139). Defense, however, was another story, as Navarro ranked near the bottom of the league in terms of pitch-framing and throwing out baserunners.
As he’s scheduled for free agency next winter, Navarro obviously wants a better platform than a backup catcher/part-time DH role to boost his value as he looks ahead to his next trip into the open market. Keeping Navarro as a backup makes a lot of sense for Toronto despite the presence of another catcher (Josh Thole) on the roster. If Martin can handle R. A. Dickey‘s knuckleball, then Thole’s role as Dickey’s personal catcher becomes redundant, and Navarro offers far more hitting value than Thole.
On the other hand, the Jays are looking to add relievers despite limited payroll space; moving Navarro and his $5MM 2015 salary seems like a logical way to free up some money for further transactions. The Jays are reportedly asking for pitching in return in any Navarro trade, so they’re clearly exploring this strategy already.
The Diamondbacks and Tigers are two teams who have been linked to Navarro on the rumor mill this winter, though Detroit’s interest has been limited to internal discussions at this point. Gerald Laird and Tuffy Gosewisch project as Arizona’s starting catching combo in the wake of Miguel Montero‘s departure, and while the team may think prospect Peter O’Brien is their future at the position, one year of Navarro would both give the D’Backs an upgrade now and still clear the path for O’Brien beyond 2015. The Tigers, meanwhile, look to have Alex Avila and one of Bryan Holaday or James McCann splitting time at catcher. Avila is a question mark due to his concussion history while Navarro would certainly provide a more proven bat than Holaday or McCann.
Catching depth is thin enough around baseball that a number of teams could also be fits for Navarro’s services. In my opinion, the White Sox and Pirates stand out as teams whose hopes of contending would be improved behind the plate by Navarro’s presence, though both clubs already have several catchers battling for those jobs. (In Pittsburgh’s case, admittedly, their focus on catcher defense might keep Navarro off their radar.) The Rangers could see Navarro as a more proven option than their current selection of Robinson Chirinos, Carlos Corporan, Tomas Telis and Chris Gimenez. The Rays could platoon Navarro with the defensive specialist Rene Rivera, though the prospect of an inter-division trade and Tampa taking on a $5MM salary for a part-time player made this seem somewhat unlikely.
Photo courtesy of Kim Klement/USA Today Sports Images
J.J. Hardy made an early exit from the free agent market when he re-signed with the Orioles before the ALCS, but the shortstop would’ve preferred to have inked his new contract even sooner. “It kind of went a lot longer than I wanted it to,” Hardy told Steve Melewski of MASNsports.com. “I didn’t think it needed to go that long, but it did. But I told my agent, ‘Listen, this is what I want and I like it in Baltimore. Let’s get to what is fair and make this happen.’ Now that it is done, I’m glad everything worked out as it did.” Hardy also said he was hampered by a bad back last season, and hopes to deliver more of his customary power now that he’s feeling healthier. Here’s some more from around the AL East…
- Canadian-born Russell Martin, Dalton Pompey and Michael Saunders are slated to play major roles for the Blue Jays, though team president Paul Beeston and Alex Anthopoulos tell Robert MacLeod of the Globe & Mail that this increase in Canadian talent is a coincidence in roster-building, not a promotional gimmick. “The city and the fans and the country embrace great players because great players help you win. And I think winning is what promotes the sport and baseball in Canada,” Anthopoulos said.
- Rays minor leaguer Spencer Edwards has been issued an 80-game suspension for a PED violation, the league announced. Edwards was Tampa’s second-round pick in the 2012 draft, selected 88th overall. The 21-year-old shortstop/center fielder has a .558 OPS in 569 PA over his first three pro seasons, none above the A-ball level.
- Rough seasons for Xander Bogaerts, Will Middlebrooks and Jackie Bradley were a big reason why the Red Sox suffered through a last-place finish in 2014. Alex Speier of the Boston Globe examines both why these players struggled and takes a broad overview of how the Sox are adapting their player development system as part of an in-depth four-part series of articles.
- The main takeaway from Speier’s piece is that the Red Sox felt empowered by their 2013 World Series title to deploy so many youngsters in last year’s starting lineup, and realistically, the team didn’t even expect all three to contribute right away. The larger roster flaw, according to Speier, may have been that Boston didn’t acquire enough veteran depth last winter to account for some growing pains by their three young starters. In response, the Red Sox began adding notable veterans even before last season ended, and now theoretically have protection should Bogaerts, Bradley or other unproven talents like Mookie Betts or Rusney Castillo underperform.
- Speier’s piece also explores some bigger-picture topics, such as how the Red Sox are dealing with the age-old problem of how to best prepare each individual prospect to be ready for the majors. This is complicated by the fact that the quality gap between Triple-A and MLB has never been wider, yet top prospects are coming into the game with higher expectations than ever thanks to media hype and fan interest.
The Blue Jays and Indians appear not to be involved with any of the three best remaining relievers — righties Francisco Rodriguez, Rafael Soriano, and Joba Chamberlain — according to ESPN.com’s Jim Bowden (Insider link). Other theoretically plausible landing spots seem fairly dried up as well, he notes in assessing the most likely remaining suitors.
Here are a few more pitching notes:
- Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik says that the club spoke with lefty reliever Joe Beimel but that a deal could not be reached, Shannon Drayer of 710 ESPN tweets. Beimel had a nice rebound campaign last year in Seattle, and is one of the few southpaws left on the market.
- The Mets will not be dealing away any pitchers unless circumstances change, Marc Carig of Newsday reports (Twitter links). Dillon Gee generated the most discussion, but New York never found an offer it liked and its prospective trade partners went with other options.
- We checked in earlier this evening on K-Rod and lefty Phil Coke, each of whom has received some interest from the Marlins. Within that post, we noted a report from Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet.ca (via Twitter) indicating that Coke still has hope of landing a big league pact.
- Marcus Stroman of the Blue Jays is likely not going anywhere any time soon, but I can’t help but link to this interesting piece from Jeff Sullivan of Fangraphs, who explains that Stroman’s arsenal of pitches looks like it was assembled from amongst the best offerings of some of the very best arms in the game.
The Yankees‘ primary focus with trade acquisition Nathan Eovaldi will be on improving his offspeed offerings, writes Dan Martin of the New York Post. Despite Eovaldi’s imposing velocity, the 25-year-old generates a surprisingly low number of strikeouts. And, while he struggles more against left-handed hitters, his lack of whiffs isn’t as a result of any platoon issue (6.5 K/9 vs. RHB in his career; 6.0 K/9 vs. LHB). He’s already begun working with pitching coach Larry Rothschild on improving those pitches and would do well to improve his change-up to give him a true out pitch versus lefties. As it is, lefty hitters have batted .466 with a .655 slugging percentage against Eovaldi’s change in his career. The Yankees, Martin writes, were drawn to Eovaldi because of his velocity (95.9 mph fastball from 2013-14), age and the durability he showed in 2014, throwing 199 2/3 innings.
A few more notes from around the AL East…
- Red Sox third base prospect Garin Cecchini isn’t worried about the team’s addition of Pablo Sandoval, he tells Peter Abraham of the Boston Globe. “I take it as a positive for my career,” Cecchini explains. “I get to hang out with a great player like that and work with him in spring training. That has to help me. It’s easy to say, ‘Where is my spot?’ but I can’t worry about that. You have to create your own opportunity.” Of course, creating that opportunity won’t be easy, barring an injury to Sandoval. And even in that instance, left fielder Hanley Ramirez could slide over to third base, as the Sox have tremendous outfield depth. Cecchini acknowledged to Abraham that a position change or trade could be the eventual outcome. “You hear that kind of stuff. But I don’t look too much into it. … I understand Pablo is in front of me but I hope I can do something to help.”
- The Blue Jays had two scouts watch Matt Albers‘ recent workout, tweets Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet. Albers turned down multiple offers to sign with the White Sox, according to Nicholson-Smith, though it’s not clear if Toronto was one of the teams to make an offer. Shortly after Albers signed, the Houston Chronicle’s Evan Drellich tweeted that Albers had offers from four teams besides the ChiSox.
- Nicholson-Smith also spoke with someone familiar with the arbitration process who estimated that the Blue Jays‘ win over Josh Donaldson in yesterday’s arbitration hearing may have saved the club upwards of $6MM over the next several winters, as each salary is based upon the previous year’s figure (Twitter link).
FEB. 13: Donaldson has lost the hearing and will earn $4.3MM in 2015, according to Heyman (Twitter link).
FEB. 12: The Blue Jays and third baseman Josh Donaldson had an arbitration hearing today, reports Jon Heyman of CBS Sports (on Twitter). Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet tweets that a decision should be announced tomorrow, which was the case with the team’s previous arb hearing against fellow corner infielder and fellow MVP Sports Group client Danny Valencia. (Valencia won his hearing.)
Acquired from the Athletics in a blockbuster deal that sent third baseman Brett Lawrie and prospects Franklin Barreto, Sean Nolin and Kendall Graveman to Oakland, Donaldson is arbitration eligible for the first time this winter. The 29-year-old late bloomer has a compelling case in his first trip through arbitration, as he’s batted .277/.363/.477 with 53 homers for the A’s over the past two seasons. Those efforts have netted the former Cubs farmhand a fourth-place and an eighth-place finish in the past two MVP votings, respectively.
Donaldson, who was projected by MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz to earn $4.5MM in 2015, filed for a $5.75MM salary, while the team countered at $4.3MM (as can be seen in MLBTR’s Arbitration Tracker). He’ll now earn either that $5.75MM figure or the $4.3MM figure, depending on which way an arbitration panel leans.
Donaldson is a Super Two player, meaning that he’ll be eligible for arbitration four times instead of the standard three. He’s under control through the 2018 season and will be arbitration eligible three more times.
MLBTR sends our condolences to the family and colleagues of Alison Gordon, who passed away today at age 72. Gordon covered the Blue Jays for the Toronto Star from 1979 to 1983, becoming the first woman to work as a full-time beat writer covering an MLB club, as well as the first female member of the Baseball Writers Association Of America. The Star’s Brendan Kennedy has a fuller examination of Gordon’s career and her influence on countless female sportswriters.
Some news items from around the game…
- GM Jeff Luhnow said the Astros could add “perhaps another reliever but not another starter at this point,” Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle reports (via Twitter). The Astros added to their rotation depth earlier today by signing Roberto Hernandez, and the team could be closing in on a deal with left-handed reliever Joe Thatcher.
- The Rangers are another team with a “strong interest” in Thatcher, as well as another lefty bullpen arm in Phil Coke, SB Nation’s Chris Cotillo reports (Twitter link). Coke recently threw for Texas.
- The arbitration hearing between Addison Reed and the Diamondbacks is scheduled for Friday unless the two sides can reach an agreement before then, Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic reports.
- Rockies GM Jeff Bridich discusses the team’s offseason and his own hiring in an interview with Woody Paige and Les Shapiro of the Denver Post’s Sports Show (video link).
- Critics may claim the Phillies haven’t done enough to move their high-priced veterans this offseason, though Ryan Lawrence of the Philadelphia Daily News feels the Phils have a right to be cautious given the scope of their rebuild.
- “Patience,” is how a Phillies executive responded when asked by FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal if the club was frustrated by the lack of quality offers for Cole Hamels. Both Rosenthal and the executive feel more trade opportunities could open up as teams’ needs change due to Spring Training injuries.
- The Blue Jays and Indians don’t appear to be in on any of Francisco Rodriguez, Rafael Soriano or Joba Chamberlain, ESPN.com’s Jim Bowden writes. The Tribe has less of a pressing need at the back of their bullpen given Cody Allen‘s emergence last season, while the Jays may also not specifically be looking for closing help, though they are looking at bullpen upgrades.
- The Dodgers‘ hiring of Andrew Friedman and Farhan Zaidi to run the front office is the top transaction of the 2014-15 offseason, Fangraphs’ Dave Cameron opines. Three other Dodgers moves appear in Cameron’s list of the winter’s top 10 moves, and he calls them “probably the scariest organization in baseball” now that their financial resources have been augmented by Friedman/Zaidi’s creative maneuvers.
Here are the day’s minor moves:
- Continuing their trend of adding veteran arms on minor league deals, the Braves have added right-hander Todd Coffey on such a pact and invited him to Spring Training, tweets Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports. Coffey missed the 2013 season after undergoing his second career Tommy John surgery and spent much of the 2014 campaign with the Mariners’ Triple-A affiliate, where he posted an excellent 1.93 ERA with 8.2 K/9 and 3.9 BB/9 in 37 1/3 innings of work. From 2009-12 with the Brewers, Nationals and Dodgers, Coffey notched a 3.76 ERA with 7.4 K/9 and 2.9 BB/9 in 225 innings. The Braves have also added Jose Veras, Matt Capps, Chien-ming Wang, Wandy Rodriguez and Donnie Veal on minor league deals this winter.
- The Blue Jays announced that first baseman/outfielder Chris Colabello has cleared waivers and been outrighted to Triple-A (h/t: Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet). The 31-year-old Colabello found himself designated for assignment to make room for waiver claim Jayson Aquino. The longtime indy ball star has been a nice story since signing with the Twins as a 28-year-old and rising through their ranks to the MLB level.
- The Indians have signed former Phillies utility man Michael Martinez to a minor league deal and invited him to Spring Training, per MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian (on Twitter). The 32-year-old switch-hitter brings plenty of defensive versatility to the table, though he’s just a .181/.231/.251 hitter in 440 big league plate appearances.
- The Marlins have inked infielder David Adams to a minor league deal that does not include an invitation to big league camp, Joe Frisaro of MLB.com reports (Twitter links). Now 27, Adams slashed a meager .193/.252/.286 in 152 trips to the plate with the Yankees in 2013. He has performed much better in the upper minors, slashing .255/.349/.397 in 333 plate appearances at Triple-A and putting up a .290/367/.443 line in 899 Double-A turns at bat.
- Another utility infielder, Chris Dominguez, has agreed to a minor league pact with the Reds, the club tweeted. Dominguez, who was recently designated and released by the Giants, will participate in MLB camp. The 28-year-old saw his first action in the bigs last year, a quick stop with San Francisco, but has spent most of his time over the last two seasons at Triple-A. In 1,203 total PCL plate appearances, Dominguez owns a solid .278/.312/.446 slash with 39 home runs.
- Lefty Cesar Jimenez has cleared waivers and accepted a Triple-A assignment, the Phillies announced. Despite a strong 2014 and deal to avoid arbitration, Jimenez was designated and then outrighted recently.
4:25pm: Whatever Detroit has done internally, it has not yet chatted with Toronto about a deal involving Navarro, Sportsnet broadcaster Mike Wilner tweets.
3:04pm: Following the news that Victor Martinez has a torn medial meniscus and will undergo surgery tomorrow that makes him highly unlikely to be ready for Opening Day, Sportsnet’s Jeff Blair reports that the Tigers have had internal discussions about pursuing a trade for Dioner Navarro. According to Blair, Toronto won’t move Navarro without receiving pitching in return.
The fit is at least somewhat curious, as Martinez wasn’t expected to catch much anyhow — perhaps only in interleague series that take place in NL parks, manager Brad Ausmus told the Detroit Free Press in late January. Beyond that, Detroit and Toronto share perhaps the same Achilles Heel in the form of relief pitching. The Blue Jays have been eyeing bullpen help for the better part of a month, and the Tigers’ shaky bullpen was their downfall in last year’s ALDS. It seems unlikely that Detroit would willingly deplete its bullpen depth in order to facilitate a trade. Then again, the Blue Jays could theoretically move Navarro for minor league pitching and use the $5MM savings to increase their pursuit of a free agent such as Francisco Rodriguez or a trade target like Jonathan Papelbon, though that’s one hundred percent speculative.
Navarro, who turns 31 today, enjoyed a solid season at the plate in his first year with the Blue Jays, hitting .274/.317/.395 with 12 homers. He’s been an oft-mentioned trade candidate this winter following Toronto’s signing of Russell Martin to a five-year deal, but recent indications have been that he will open the season with Toronto. Navarro will earn $5MM in the second season of a two-year, $8MM contract in 2015.
The James Shields saga has finally drawn to a close, with the right-hander agreeing to a four-year deal to pitch near his southern California home as a member of the vastly reshaped Padres. Shields will reportedly take home $75MM, and his contract also contains a club option. Shields rumors have dominated the past week, with multiple teams rumored to be involved. Here are some reactions from around the baseball world as well as some details on other offers that Shields had available…
- Shields did not take the best offer that was presented to him, according to ESPN’s Buster Olney (Twitter link). One team made the right-hander a four-year, $80MM contract offer. Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune backs that up (also on Twitter) by noting that the Padres’ offer was “one of the highest,” adding that he had heard Shields was willing to take a small discount to pitch in San Diego.
- That team wasn’t the Cubs, who topped out at three years and a vesting option, according to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports (on Twitter). Chicago wasn’t willing to guarantee Shields a contract in the mid-$70MM range after spending $175MM on Jon Lester and Jason Hammel already this offseason.
- The Marlins also offered Shields a three-year pact and a vesting option, Heyman tweets.
- The Marlins realized they had to bow out on Saturday afternoon once the bidding exceeded $70MM, reports MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro (Twitter links). Miami was concerned not only with blowing up its future payroll but also with forfeiting the No. 12 pick in the draft — the top unprotected pick this year. The Padres, of course surrendered the very next pick in the draft, as they’d been slotted 13th overall. Frisaro adds that Shields monitored the Marlins all winter and was impressed by their direction, but the Padres simply made a stronger offer.
- Olney gets a different sense of the Marlins’ level of involvement, as he tweets that some are of the belief that the Marlins actually made the highest offer to Shields.
- The Cubs‘ guarantee was around $60MM, Joel Sherman of the New York Post reports. Sherman adds that Shields’ camp pursued the Dodgers far more than the team pursued him, and the Blue Jays hadn’t spoken to Shields in about two weeks when he agreed to terms.
- Also from Sherman’s piece, he opines that while Shields is unquestionably a financial risk — the Friars will be paying him and Kemp roughly $36MM per year beginning in 2016 (the $18MM received from the Dodgers offsets much of the 2015 cost) — he was too good of a deal to pass up. Shields was still cheaper, financially speaking, than Cole Hamels, and he also didn’t cost the prospects Hamels would have required. He also provides leadership and protects them somewhat when Ian Kennedy and Andrew Cashner hit the open market. And, with Kennedy, Carlos Quentin, Justin Upton, Will Venable, Joaquin Benoit, Cory Luebke, Shawn Kelley, Brandon Morrow and Josh Johnson all potentially off the books next winter, the team has some financial flexibility.
- Fangraphs’ Mike Petriello writes that while the addition of Shields is an unequivocal boost to the Padres’ postseason hopes, their downfall very well could be a patchwork group of infielders. The Padres’ infield projects at just 5.6 WAR, based on the Steamer projection system, and Petriello looks at the past five seasons’ worth of data to see the correlation between infield WAR and overall wins by a team. Unsurprisingly, the outlook is bleak, with only the 2012 Orioles and A’s receiving a lower WAR contribution and still reaching the playoffs. Of course, as Petriello notes, there’s reason to be optimistic for a rebound from Jedd Gyorko, and there’s still some upside in Yonder Alonso and Will Middlebrooks. The shortstop tandem of Alexi Amarista and Clint Barmes is likely to be a black hole offensively, however.
- Peter Gammons is a bit skeptical of the Padres’ win-now tactics (Twitter links). As Gammons points out, while the team has created some buzz and bolstered its 2015 hopes, by 2017 they’ll have a 32-year-old Matt Kemp and 36-year-old Shields earning significant salaries, and they’ve either traded away their recent first-round picks or watched them flame out. The Padres have just two of their first rounders from 2009-14 still in the system in Hunter Renfroe and Cory Spangenberg, and they now don’t have a first-rounder in 2015. Trea Turner and Joe Ross were in the Wil Myers trade, Max Fried was used in the Justin Upton trade, Karsten Whitson didn’t sign (Spangenberg was selected as compensation the following year) and Donavan Tate was out of baseball last season. The team does still have some supplemental first-rounders in the system, while seventh-rounder Matt Wisler and second-rounder Austin Hedges have become Top 100 prospects.
- Shields provides the Padres with some surprisingly much-needed innings, write Mark Simon and Justin Havens of ESPN. Though the Friars are typically thought of as having a strong pitching staff, their rotation has ranked 22nd or 23rd in innings in each of the past three seasons.
Yankees GM Brian Cashman feels that the potential is there for a big year, but he’s not guaranteeing the AL East title or anything of that sort, as Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe writes. “We have a lot of talent,” he said. “Like other teams, we have some ifs. If we get good comebacks and our rotation stays healthy, if our team stays healthy, we’re a good team.” Additions like Andrew Miller will be counted on for production, but the Bombers will really hope for some vintage performances from guys like Mark Teixeira, Carlos Beltran, and embattled third baseman Alex Rodriguez. Here’s more from today’s column..
- The Phillies continue to insist on Blake Swihart in any deal for Cole Hamels and there’s been no movement to ask instead for Christian Vazquez. The Red Sox, meanwhile, refuse to part with their top young catcher. Cafardo suggests the Phillies could have a better chance of working out a deal with the Padres as they are more open to moving catching prospect Austin Hedges.
- There are no substantive talks between the Mets and Everth Cabrera‘s camp at the moment as they seem committed to Wilmer Flores. It was reported earlier this winter that the Mets had interest in the former Padres shortstop. A major league source with knowledge of Cabrera’s situation indicated to Cafardo that he has made great strides personally.
- Cafardo writes that the Blue Jays remain interested in Phillies reliever Jonathan Papelbon. A report from earlier this month characterized the Blue Jays as a “major long shot” to land the closer due to financial reasons.
- General Managers around the league can’t stop raving about 19-year-old Cuban prospect Yoan Moncada. “He could be the next Robinson Cano/Chase Utley, but more Cano. That’s the kind of potential bat we’re talking about,” one National League talent evaluator said. An NL GM told Cafardo that Moncada “may be better than [Yasiel] Puig or [Jose] Abreu or [Yoenis] Cespedes or [Jorge] Soler.” Meanwhile, one GM tells Cafardo that the middle infielder would still require some minor league seasoning before breaking into the majors.
- There’s a good amount of interest in Brandon Beachy for when he’s finally ready to sign. The 28-year-old owns a lifetime 3.23 ERA over 46 big league starts, with a 3.34 FIP, 3.54 xFIP, and 3.39 SIERA.