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Toronto Blue Jays Rumors
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.
The 33-year-old Janssen didn’t pick a great time to have his worst season since 2009, and his new agents will be tasked with convincing interested parties that this year was an aberration as opposed to a genuine cause for concern. The former Jim McDowell client opened the year on the disabled list with a back strain that sidelined him through mid-May. Janssen’s struggles began after the All-Star break — during which he caught a violent case of food poisoning and lost eight pounds as a result. As John Lott wrote in the National Post in late August, Janssen himself would not use his illness as an excuse, but he did make five appearances in an eight-game stretch just starting on July 20, when he’d spent the previous two days attached to an IV to get fluids back into his body.
The end result of Janssen’s season was a 3.94 ERA with 5.5 K/9 and 1.4 BB/9, but the first- and second-half splits are eye-catching. He allowed three runs in 22 innings with a 14-to-1 K/BB ratio prior to the All-Star break (1.23 ERA) before posting a 6.46 ERA in 23 2/3 second-half innings. While there’s certainly a correlation with the food poisoning, detractors can note that Janssen’s strikeouts and ground-ball rate were down significantly, even in the first half.
As shown in MLBTR’s Transaction Tracker, ACES has negotiated multiple contracts for free agent relievers over the past couple of offseasons, including Brandon League, Randy Choate, Santiago Casilla, Joaquin Benoit and Grant Balfour, and they also negotiated Jonathan Papelbon‘s record contract with the Phillies.
Janssen’s switch is now reflected in MLBTR’s Agency Database, which contains agent information on more than 2,000 Major League and Minor League players. If you see any errors or notable omissions within the database, please let us know via email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Angels infielder Howie Kendrick‘s extension contains a clause permitting him to block trades to four teams this year. As Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet.ca reports on Twitter, Kendrick can decline a swap that would send him to the Blue Jays, Mets, Rays, or Marlins.
The 31-year-old second baseman has been mentioned as a trade candidate as he enters the final year of the extension he signed before the 2012 season. Kendrick is owed $9.5MM this year before hitting the open market.
Kendrick could hold appeal to several teams given his reasonable price tag and lack of a long-term commitment. Of course, the Jays, Mets, and Marlins are all clubs that seem poised (on paper, at least) to pursue additions up the middle, so his no-trade choices could well have an impact on his market.
For the contending Halos, the possibility of a deal seems tied primarily to the desire to open up payroll space. After all, Kendrick has produced at or above the league average rate in every year but his first. And he has been a consistently strong producer in recent years: since 2012, Kendrick has averaged 594 plate appearances and a .292/.336/.410 line and has been good for about twenty combined homers and steals per campaign.
With solid defensive marks, Kendrick has been a consistently above-average player on the whole. And a jump in defensive metrics last year thrust him into the four-to-five WAR range. That is an appealing total package, particularly when his good record of durability and limited commitment are factored in.
In a text message to George A. King III of the New York Post, David Robertson says things are “quiet on the front” in terms of a multiyear contract with the Yankees or receiving a qualifying offer from the team. The Yankees are expected to extend the QO to Robertson and the closer is very likely to reject it given the interest in his services. At least six clubs are interested in Robertson this winter, a league source tells Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News.
Here’s more from around the AL East…
- The Yankees have begun talks with Chase Headley, CBSSports.com’ Jon Heyman reports. New York has exclusive negotiating rights with Headley until 11pm CT tonight, though it would be quite surprising to see a deal reached before Headley has had a chance to test the thin free agent market.
- Blue Jays southpaw J.A. Happ is “generating lots of interest” in trades, Sportsnet.ca’s Shi Davidi reports. Happ enjoyed a solid 2014 season and had his $6.7MM option for 2015 exercised by the Jays on Friday. With the newly-acquired Marco Estrada now in the rotation mix, Happ could be expendable.
- Earlier today, Sportsnet.ca’s Jeff Blair reported that the Blue Jays have had internal discussions about Russell Martin. In that same item, Blair notes that Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos might look to act quickly this offseason rather than wait for deals to develop. The latter strategy left the Jays largely empty-handed last winter. Toronto has already dealt Adam Lind to Milwaukee, a trade that Blair feels doesn’t make much sense for the Jays unless a follow-up move is forthcoming.
- The Orioles don’t seem to have interest in trading or non-tendering Chris Davis, MASNsports.com’s Steve Melewski reports, though the first baseman will have much to atone for in Baltimore following his disappointing 2014 season.
- Though the Orioles currently have six legitimate rotation candidates on the roster, MASNsports.com’s Roch Kubatko expects the club to add pitching depth by signing at least one veteran to a minor league deal.
- Jay Alou, Yasmany Tomas‘ agent, tweeted that his client worked out at the Red Sox academy in the Dominican Republic over the weekend. While the Sox have had some interest in Tomas in the past, WEEI.com’s Rob Bradford hears that the workout was arranged “partly out of convenience, with Tomas needing a place in the area to continue his preparation.” It would be a surprise to see Boston sign Tomas given that the Sox already have an outfield surplus.
- The Red Sox are in need of a top left-hander for the bullpen, Michael Silverman of the Boston Herald writes. Bringing back Andrew Miller would be the best option, though he’ll be heavily courted by several teams and the Sox may not be able to win a bidding war.
- Silverman thinks the Red Sox and Burke Badenhop could quickly come to terms on a new contract. The righty reliever posted a 2.29 ERA in 70 2/3 IP with Boston in 2014.
The Blue Jays have had internal discussions about signing free agent catcher Russell Martin, Sportsnet.ca’s Jeff Blair reports. Needless to say, the Jays would have to outbid several teams in order to secure Martin, who is easily the top catcher on the open market. The Jays haven’t made any significant payroll expenditures in almost two years, though they’re trying to create some payroll flexibility in order to make some moves this winter, as evidenced by their trade of Adam Lind.
With Martin a sure bet to receive a qualifying offer from the Pirates, the Jays would also have to give up their first-round draft pick (18th overall) as compensation for the signing. While surrendering a first-rounder would represent a shift in Toronto’s front office philosophy, the Blue Jays could get another draft pick back (between the first and second rounds) should Melky Cabrera sign elsewhere this offseason.
Toronto already has Dioner Navarro under contract for one more season, though if Martin signed, Blair notes that Navarro would be shifted into a DH role. One would think Navarro wouldn’t be the primary DH and would split time between that spot and a backup catcher role, though that also raises the possibility that the Jays would part ways with current backup Josh Thole (whose option was picked up for 2015). Since Thole’s primary role with the Jays has been to catch for R.A. Dickey, his future with the team could depend on how well Martin or Navarro could handle the knuckleball.
With Navarro already slated to start, the Jays were an off-the-board contender for Martin and thus not cited by MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes in his Top 50 Free Agent Predictions. Dierkes predicted Martin would sign the Cubs, with the Pirates and Dodgers also standing out as likely bidders.
The Rays will wait until tomorrow to make their option decision on reliever Joel Peralta, the Tampa Bay Times’ Marc Topkin tweets. They’ll also soon be making other 40-man decisions, since they need to reinstate Matt Moore and Jerry Sands from the 60-day disabled list, and their roster is currently full. Peralta’s option comes at $2.5MM, and if the Rays exercise it, they’ll have options at the same price for 2016 and 2017 as well. Peralta is 38 and is coming off a season in which he posted a 4.41 ERA, and the Rays could decide to let him go to save a bit of money and clear a roster spot for a younger player. In general, though, $2.5MM would seem to be a reasonable price for a reliever who had 10.5 K/9 and 2.1 BB/9 last season. Here’s more from the American League.
- Blue Jays closer Casey Janssen is excited for free agency, Brendan Kennedy of the Toronto Star writes. After a poor second half (perhaps due in part to coming down with food poisoning at the All-Star Break), Janssen isn’t sure how he’ll be valued, but he points to the Royals’ excellent bullpen and the Tigers’ playoff struggles as evidence that good relievers are valuable. “It just shortens the game when you can confidently hand the keys to the ’pen in the sixth or seventh inning,” he says.
- Perhaps unsurprisingly, the Athletics do not plan to extend a qualifying offer to Jed Lowrie, reports Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle. Lowrie has said that he’s unlikely to give the A’s a significant hometown discount to return, and the team isn’t likely to want to make a longer commitment. They also don’t have an obvious internal replacement (particularly after sending Addison Russell to the Cubs), so they could be on the hunt for a shortstop this offseason. Slusser notes that someone like Stephen Drew, who they might be able to sign to a shorter deal, might be a candidate. The A’s could also trade to acquire a shortstop from a team like the Cubs or Diamondbacks. Slusser writes that the Athletics will likely lose their other six free agents as well — Jon Lester, Jason Hammel, Luke Gregerson, Jonny Gomes, Alberto Callaspo and Geovany Soto.
When the Blue Jays brass met to discuss the offseason, Adam Lind was at the top of the list, writes John Lott of the National Post. The first baseman’s presence on the roster impeded flexibility, which is why the club dealt him for pitcher Marco Estrada earlier today. GM Alex Anthopoulos expressed hope that the trade would be the first domino in a series of moves. Here’s more from north of the border.
- FOXSports’ Ken Rosenthal tweets that the White Sox were also interested in Lind but did not make a substantial offer. I’m not surprised the Sox did not match the Brewers’ offer. With the possible exception of Dayan Viciedo, the White Sox don’t possess a player like Estrada, i.e. an established major leaguer coming off a disappointing season.
- The Jays and free agent Melky Cabrera are far apart in contract negotiations, writes Shi Davidi of Sportsnet.ca. Anthopoulos was forthcoming about the talks, comparing the situation to some arbitration cases. “Sometimes you need to have that third party, which is the market…so they truly know what they are worth.” Based on those comments, it appears likely that Cabrera will test the market. We at MLBTR pegged Cabrera for a five-year, $70MM contract, but he’s obviously among the hardest players to gauge due to his history with performance enhancing drugs and a lost season in 2013 from a back injury. For what it’s worth, I consider the $70MM estimate to be conservative in today’s offensively anemic game.
- Toronto declined Dustin McGowan‘s $4MM option because the contract was too rich for his projected role, says Davidi (Twitter link). Anthopoulos did not rule out a reunion with McGowan at a lesser rate, per Brendan Kennedy of the Toronto Star (via Twitter).
- Anthopoulos confirmed that the club views prospect Aaron Sanchez as a starter long term, tweets Kennedy. However, there may not be a spot in the rotation. My observation from strolling around the internet is that many fans hope to see Sanchez installed as the closer. No plans have been made at this time.
- The Blue Jays will not make a qualifying offer to Colby Rasmus or Casey Janssen, tweets Davidi. He referred to the news as “confirming the obvious,” since neither player was viewed as a candidate for an offer.