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Toronto Blue Jays Rumors
Signing the likes of Pablo Sandoval or Russell Martin would represent a major shift from how the Blue Jays have approached the free agent market in recent years, FOX Sports’ Jon Paul Morosi writes. Under Alex Anthopoulos, the Jays have signed only three free agents to multiyear contracts, none longer than three years (for Maicer Izturis) and none for more than $16MM (for Melky Cabrera). The Jays’ stated internal policy of not offering contracts longer than five years could play a role, though they’d almost certainly have to top that mark to sign Sandoval, who reportedly wants a six-year deal.
More from north of the border…
- With Cabrera’s status still up in the air, Anthopoulos is doing his due diligence on possible replacements within Toronto’s lineup, Sportsnet.ca’s Shi Davidi reports. “We’ve thought about alternatives, you have to think about alternatives all the time for any position. I can’t speak for Melky specifically other than we’d like to have him back,” Anthopoulos said. “We may have a good sense right now of what the likelihood is of signing him or not signing him, but I’m sensitive to not talking about someone else’s free agency, and not divulging negotiations or things like that….That’s not to say we don’t want it to happen with Melky, but we’re also being real with this. There’s a good chance he doesn’t come back, we just don’t know.”
- Also from Davidi, the Blue Jays are one of the 20 teams on Cole Hamels‘ no-trade list. The Red Sox are also known to be on Hamels’ block list, while the Cubs are not.
- The Braves‘ Evan Gattis doesn’t appear to be a Jays trade target, Davidi reports, and he also reiterates that the Jays aren’t interested in Yasmany Tomas.
- If the Jays can’t land Martin, Bob Elliott of the Toronto Sun speculates that the club could pursue Marlins catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia, “who is available” following a .220/.320/.362 performance over 435 PA in 2014. Saltalamacchia just signed a three-year, $21MM free agent deal with Miami last winter, though obviously it wouldn’t be the first time the Marlins have looked to deal a recent high-profile signing. I’m not sure I see Saltalamacchia as a fit for the Jays, as he costs a lot more than incumbent catcher Dioner Navarro but arguably isn’t an upgrade.
- The Jays are talking to Brook Jacoby about becoming the club’s new hitting coach, Elliott reports. Jacoby is an assistant hitting coordinator for the Rangers and previously spent seven years as the Reds’ hitting coach.
The Blue Jays are in on several top free agents as the offseason kicks off. They’ll meet with Pablo Sandoval‘s agent Gustavo Vasquez today, according to Shi Davidi of Sportsnet.ca. Reps for Victor Martinez spoke to the Jays recently, and there’s reportedly a meeting on the books with Russell Martin‘s agent as well. Further details on Canada’s team…
- Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos preached flexibility yesterday. According to Davidi, Anthopoulos said, “We’re going to try to take the best player available, and we’re not locked into one thing, like we need a defender at first base, we need a pure DH. It depends on what becomes available to us.” Edwin Encarnacion can be deployed at first base or DH, while third base could be opened up by using Brett Lawrie at second.
- Martin, a Canada native, turned down the Blue Jays before the 2010 season because the Yankees offered more playing time behind the plate, according to Davidi. Davidi feels that of all the Blue Jays rumors, Martin may be the one with the most substance.
- The Jays are looking at Anthony Gose and Kevin Pillar in center field next year, barring a trade.
- Infielder Munenori Kawasaki is leaning toward a return to Japan, but Davidi says he might be swayed by a Major League contract.
- The Jays called the Phillies about Cole Hamels, Chase Utley, and Antonio Bastardo, according to Bob Elliott of the Toronto Sun.
The Blue Jays, Brewers, Cubs and Indians are the four teams on Justin Upton‘s revised no-trade list, FOX Sports’ Jon Paul Morosi reports (via Twitter). Upton’s contract allows him to block deals to four teams per year, and since his deal is up after the 2015 season, there have been whispers that Atlanta could explore trading Upton this winter. One team notable by its absence on this year’s list is the Mariners; when Upton was with the Diamondbacks, he vetoed a deal that would’ve sent him to Seattle in January 2013. Here’s some more from the Braves camp…
- President of baseball operations John Hart denied a Joel Sherman report that the Braves were shopping Evan Gattis, calling it “absolutely inaccurate.” Hart told the media (including David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution) that “we are coming in with the idea that we don’t have to trade anybody. We have not made a call (to see if a team is interested in any player). We have received calls on people; we haven’t had any conversations yet.”
- Hart said the Braves will look to add starting pitching this winter, though they’ll look at the “B tier and down” rather than any of the big names on the free agent market. If Atlanta did acquire a higher-caliber, it would likely be in a trade. “Money could be freed up; there’s a lot of different dynamics there,” Hart said. “But from where we sit today, that would be the sort of level that we would be looking at.”
- The Braves could be interested in re-signing Aaron Harang, though Hart said the team will wait to see how Harang’s market develops. In a Free Agent Profile of Harang, MLBTR’s Zach Links predicted the veteran righty would find a two-year, $14MM deal this winter.
The Red Sox are one of the 20 teams on Cole Hamels‘ no-trade list, reports Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (Twitter links). As Rosenthal notes, Hamels wouldn’t necessarily block a trade to Boston, but he may want a team to pick up his 2019 vesting option ($20MM) in order to waive the clause. That would take Hamels’ total guarantee from four years and $90MM to five years and $110MM, likely making him a bit less attractive as a trade target. Boston has been an oft-rumored potential trade partner should the Phillies decide to move their ace.
More from baseball’s Eastern divisions…
- Yasmany Tomas isn’t close to a deal of any sort, but Andy Martino of the New York Daily News tweets that Tomas’ agent, Jay Alou, had a one-on-one meeting with Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. at today’s GM Meetings in Phoenix.
- The Mets saw Tomas, but their scouts didn’t love him and they’re not likely to go near the $100MM range to sign him, reports Joel Sherman of the New York Post. He does note that the Mets are looking at outfielders on the trade market and willing to listen on Daniel Murphy again. However, the Mets have been underwhelmed by past offers for Murphy and may just hang onto him, as they’re comfortable giving Dilson Herrera more time to develop in the minors.
- Sherman also reports that the Yankees are “intrigued” by Rangers shortstop Elvis Andrus. The Yankees are trying to get younger and are hopeful of acquiring youthful players that may not have had their best season yet, and Andrus could fit that bill. However, they’re also wary of Andrus’ huge $120MM contract extension, which doesn’t even kick in until next season.
- Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos tells Sportsnet’s Jeff Blair that he won’t allow other teams to dictate his offseason. What he means by that, Blair explains, is that the Jays won’t wait to see where a certain player signs before pursuing another. Blair recalls the 2006 Winter Meetings, when Anthopoulos was an assistant GM to J.P. Ricciardi. Toronto was hamstrung at the Winter Meetings waiting to hear back from free agents Ted Lilly and Gil Meche, both of whom signed elsewhere in the end. According to Blair, there was some stark internal criticism about how the other team’s plans were held up by other clubs. Toronto’s priority is re-signing Melky Cabrera, Blair writes, but the Blue Jays are aware that his QO and past ties to PEDs could lead to a slow-developing market.
Earlier this morning, reports indicated that the Mariners are interested in, if not prioritizing Victor Martinez (as well as Hanley Ramirez), which meshes with previous reports that the team will likely show interest. As one of the top free agents on the market, Martinez will likely find his name swirling about the rumor mill, and we’ll keep track of today’s V-Mart talk here…
- The Blue Jays are now among the teams interested in Martinez, reports Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. Though the team perhaps has a greater need in the infield, Heyman writes that the trade of Adam Lind has opened a door for Martinez to fit into the picture in Toronto. Heyman hears that the Tigers and Mariners are the other two primary suitors in the early stages, noting that Martinez is high on Seattle GM Jack Zduriencik’s wish list.
The Orioles and Blue Jays discussed a potential Adam Lind trade before the Jays sent Lind to the Brewers, reports MASNsports.com’s Roch Kubatko. The Jays asked for Steve Pearce in the deal, which would have amounted to something like a challenge trade — Lind and Pearce are the same age and play the same positions, although Lind is left-handed and Pearce right-handed, and Lind has one more year of team control. Pearce is coming off a significantly better season and will be much cheaper in 2015 (a projected $2.2MM for Pearce versus $7.5MM for Lind), however, so it’s not surprising that the Orioles said no. Here are more notes from around the big leagues.
- Dan Duquette’s most significant trade for the Orioles was sending Jeremy Guthrie to the Rockies for Jason Hammel and Matt Lindstrom, Rich Dubroff of CSNBaltimore.com writes. As that trade suggests, Duquette hasn’t been involved in many blockbusters in his three years on the job. The book is far from closed, however, on a couple of the deals Dubroff lists, like last season’s swap of Eduardo Rodriguez and Andrew Miller, and the 2013 trade of Jake Arrieta and Pedro Strop for Scott Feldman and Steve Clevenger.
- The Rockies should need to trade Troy Tulowitzki or Carlos Gonzalez to become relevant again, but they should wait until those stars prove they’re healthy, Benjamin Hochman of the Denver Post writes. If the team can trade one at the peak of his value, the deal might mark a significant step forward for the franchise, much like the Cubs’ trade of Jeff Samardzija.
- Pablo Sandoval is likely to represent the best value among free agent corner infielders this winter, ESPN’s Keith Law writes (Insider-only). Law argues that since Sandoval is only 28, he has plenty of upside, although his conditioning could cut in two directions — he might be able to get better with improved conditioning, although that conditioning could also be a drawback as he ages if it doesn’t improve. Law also writes that Hanley Ramirez has good value as a third baseman but much less as a shortstop.
SUNDAY: Sandoval’s camp will also meet with the Giants, Blue Jays and White Sox, Cotillo reports.
SATURDAY: The Red Sox will meet with Pablo Sandoval and agent Gustavo Vasquez at the GM meetings in Arizona next week, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe writes. Chris Cotillo of MLB Daily Dish was the first to report the scheduled meeting. The Red Sox reportedly headed into the offseason with Sandoval and Chase Headley as their top priorities. Sandoval rejected a qualifying offer from the Giants last week, and is instead reportedly seeking a nine-figure deal, possibly for six years. Cafardo notes that, along with the Red Sox and Giants, the Blue Jays and White Sox currently seem to be the most interested in Sandoval.
Boston would want to use Sandoval as its third baseman, Cafardo reports, although he notes that, unlike the Giants and other NL teams, the Red Sox could also eventually use Sandoval at DH if his physique prevented him from staying at third. The switch-hitting Sandoval’s ability to hit from the left side would also be a benefit for Boston. With Sandoval in the Majors, the Red Sox could send Will Middlebrooks, who can still be optioned, to Triple-A Pawtucket.
Earlier today, we learned that free agent catcher Russell Martin will meet with four teams – the Cubs, Pirates, Dodgers, and Blue Jays. In fact, he’s already met with Chicago. Other clubs may become involved in the bidding, but this is the initial group upon which to focus. Martin’s price is expected to soar due to a dearth of catcher talent on the market.
Initially, it appeared that the Pirates might pull out all the stops to re-sign Martin. The club is thin at catcher with Tony Sanchez and Chris Stewart occupying the top of the depth chart. While the need for Martin is obvious, the ever-increasing rumored cost might push them out of the market.
The Cubs and Dodgers are a better financial fit, since we know both teams can afford Martin at any reasonable cost. They have a decent internal options – Wellington Castillo for the Cubs and A.J. Ellis for the Dodgers – so they’re not desperate for a backstop in the same way as the Pirates. The Cubs recently dismissed a well-regarded manager to hire Joe Maddon, so a similar move at catcher is easy to picture. The Dodgers are supposed to be more financially responsible with Andrew Friedman at the reins. We’ll see if and how that affects their pursuit of Martin.
From the outside, the Blue Jays look like a dark horse candidate, although catcher has been an area of concern since they traded away prospect Travis d’Arnaud. Dioner Navarro and Josh Thole are currently under contract to man the position, but neither player is close to Martin’s talent level.
Of course, the infamous mystery team could rear its head. A few clubs who could conceivably join the fray include the Angels, Tigers, Rangers, Mariners, White Sox, and Nationals.
It is early in the free agent process, but the Cubs have already met with top backstop Russell Martin, Bruce Levine reports for CBS Chicago. Martin is also expected to visit and undertake preliminary discussions with the Pirates, Dodgers, and Blue Jays, according to Levine. It is far from clear, of course, that Martin’s market will ultimately be limited to that group. After all, he figures to draw broad interest around the game.
Incumbent Cubs catcher Welington Castillo struggled with his offense and framing last year, and the big-market Cubs have money to spend, so it’s unsurprising they would have interest in Martin. In Los Angeles, catcher A.J. Ellis hit just .191/.323/.254 last season, and the Dodgers’ new saber-friendly front office will likely place a high value on Martin, particularly given his work behind the plate. The Jays have had internal discussions about pursuing Martin and making current starting catcher Dioner Navarro their primary DH.
Blue Jays president Paul Beeston appears set to continue on in that capacity, according to Shi Davidi of Sportsnet.ca. Of course, as Davidi notes, both Beeston and GM Alex Anthopoulos could face questions if a postseason berth is not in the offing in 2015. The front office will have at least $20MM to $30MM in free salary, Davidi reasons, which could be bolstered with a spending increase and/or move to shed some payroll obligations. As Davidi rightly notes, Toronto has a very clean balance sheet after this year, which could potentially leave the team with a big hammer to wield in free agency.
Here’s more from Toronto and the rest of the AL East:
- The Blue Jays have a number of possible offseason targets on both the trade and free agent front, writes Sportsnet.ca’s Ben Nicholson-Smith. Among them is Angels second baseman Howie Kendrick, who Toronto has “placed multiple calls on,” according to Nicholson-Smith — who, it should be noted, also recently reported that the Jays are on Kendrick’s no-trade list.
- Whether or not the Yankees are big free agent spenders this year remains to be seen, but the club’s financial muscle is flexed in many and disparate ways, as Kiley McDaniel of Fangraphs writes. Over recent years, New York has consistently controlled the market for minor league free agents, bringing bigger and better offers to the table for players like Yangervis Solarte. (In an interesting note to give context to this relatively minimal spending, McDaniel says a team source told him the team could break even financially even if it carried $500MM in total payroll obligations, including luxury tax costs.)
- The early set of rotation targets for the Yankees features names like Brandon McCarthy, Jason Hammel, and Chris Capuano, according to Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com. That jibes with another recent report suggesting that New York has no current plans to attack the arms at the top of the market.
- Free agent closer David Robertson, who is currently weighing a qualifying offer from the Yankees, is one of the most fascinating free agents to watch. Joel Sherman of the New York Post writes that his sense is the club will be interested in exploring a multi-year deal with Robertson, but may not chase him at the top of the market and would be comfortable allowing him to walk.
- Another QO recipient, Nelson Cruz, told MLB Network Radio (via Eduardo Encina of the Baltimore Sun) that a return to the Orioles is his preferred outcome. “No doubt it’s my first choice,” said Cruz. “I’d love to be back. I understand the business. I know they’re interested in bringing me back. Hopefully we can work something out.” Cruz was not willing to say he would take a lesser deal to stay in Baltimore, though it is obviously hard to fault him for not copping to that publicly — or, for that matter, for choosing the best contract offer he receives, if that ultimately proves to be the case.
- The Red Sox catcher of the future is Blake Swihart, not Christian Vazquez, opines J.J. Cooper of Baseball America. But the team need not decide now how it will sort out the presence of two highly-regarded young backstops. Instead, the team has the option of adding a veteran presence alongside Vazquez for the coming year while Swihart continues to develop in the minors. Assuming Swihart establishes himself as a big league regular, Boston will have plenty of time to assess whether it makes more sense to keep both players or deal one away.