Toronto Blue Jays Rumors

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

Mariners, Blue Jays Swap Michael Saunders, J.A. Happ

The Mariners have officially acquired lefty J.A. Happ from the Blue Jays in exchange for outfielder Michael Saunders, as Jayson Stark of ESPN.com first reported on Twitter. Both teams have been aggressive in adding talent early in the offseason, and this move seems to set up additional action for each.

MLB: Seattle Mariners at Houston Astros

In Happ, 32, Seattle has added a left-handed starter who just threw 158 innings of 4.22 ERA ball, striking out 7.6 and walking 2.9 batters per nine. That makes him a reasonably useful pitcher, though he’ll play for $6.7MM this year before hitting free agency. But Happ has never returned to the production he flashed back in 2009, when he notched a 2.93 ERA over 166 frames (while carrying a less-encouraging 4.33 FIP).

Saunders, meanwhile, is a 28-year-old outfielder who brings plenty of talent with him to Toronto and fills a need for the Jays. He has had three straight above-average offensive seasons, including a .273/.341/.450 slash over 263 plate appearances in an injury-limited 2014 campaign. Though advanced metrics have not always been in love with his defensive work, particularly in center, he posted solid numbers last year and is generally viewed as a good fielder. Projected to earn $2.9MM in arbitration, Saunders comes with an additional season of non-guaranteed control as well.

Though the Jays are left without a sturdy rotation option, the team does have young arms to fill in with upside to spare. And Saunders makes an excellent fit for a club that has an opening in the corner outfield and is relying on youngsters in center. Even better, the nearly $3MM in cost savings will open up more flexibility as the club looks to build out its pen and address other areas of need.

The move certainly makes sense of last night’s non-tender decisions. With Saunders in the fold, the Jays seem unlikely to continue pursuing Melky Cabrera. Indeed, Joel Sherman of the New York Post reports that to be the case on Twitter. The club’s extra payroll space will also create opportunities to add back to the team’s big league rotation.

It is somewhat more difficult to understand the logic from the Mariners’ perspective. Though Saunders and the team squabbled earlier in the offseason, and he was part of a generally lefty-heavy lineup, the fact remains that he is a valuable young contributor. While Happ will add some stability to the rotation, that was not exactly a pressing area of need, and one cannot help but wonder whether a slightly more substantial return might have been possible.

Of course, if another move for an outfielder is in the works, then the moving pieces could begin to line up. And GM Jack Zduriencik gave the impression to reporters, including Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times (Twitter link) that he intends to do just that.


Blue Jays Sign Justin Smoak

One day after non-tendering him, the Blue Jays have signed first baseman Justin Smoak to a one-year, $1MM deal, the team announced. Toronto obviously saw an opportunity to achieve some savings, as Smoak was projected by MLBTR and contributor Matt Swartz to take home a $3MM salary through arbitration.

Soon to turn 28, Smoak has generally failed to live up to the high hopes that he brought with him to the big leagues. He has had productive stretches, but ultimately owns a .226/.308/.384 line in just under 2,000 career turns at the plate. Smoak will presumably step into the part-time first base role played previously by Adam Lind.

As Toronto prepares to take a low-cost shot that Smoak can return to his prior trajectory, the team has some additional upside given that it can control Smoak for 2016 if he makes good. And at that point, he will be working from a fairly low starting point, which could make tendering arbitration a less costly proposition.


Free Agent Notes: Melky, Ervin, Headley, Miller, Soto

The Royals have reached out to a familiar name in the form of Melky Cabrera, reports Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. It’s not clear if the Royals are able to afford Cabrera, who is said by Heyman to be seeking “at least” a five-year deal. He notes that the Reds have also contacted Cabrera’s camp. Additionally, Heyman lists the Mariners, Orioles and White Sox as speculative fits. Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet tweets that the Blue Jays are still in touch with Cabrera as well. As many have pointed out, Toronto has just three outfielders on its 40-man roster at present. I profiled Cabrera in early October and projected a five-year deal worth just over $66MM.

Some more notes from the free agent market…

  • Also seeking a five-year deal is right-hander Ervin Santana, tweets ESPN’s Buster Olney. Santana is among the best of the bunch in the second tier of free agent starters, and he’s been rumored to have mutual interest with the Royals. However, Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star tweets that the Royals’ comfort level is at three years with Santana. MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes projected a four-year, $56MM contract for Santana.
  • Continuing on the theme of five-year contracts, Wallace Matthews of ESPN New York reports that the Yankees aren’t willing to give Chase Headley a five-year deal, and it’s believed by some that five years is now his asking price in the wake of both Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez signing in Boston. An alternative for the Yankees, Matthews writes, is to play Martin Prado at third base regularly and give prospect Rob Refsnyder a chance to be the everyday second baseman.
  • The Yankees, Red Sox and Astros are all continuing to show strong interest in free agent lefty Andrew Miller, tweets Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. Miller is believed to be headed for a four-year deal, and the Astros have been somewhat surprisingly linked to him and fellow top reliever David Robertson.
  • Geovany Soto is currently talking to five or six teams, tweets Chris Cotillo of SB Nation. A reunion between Soto and the Rangers is a definite possibility, per Cotillo. The free agent market for catchers has few options remaining, putting Soto in a relatively good spot.
  • Anthony Fenech of the Detroit Free Press reports that 10 teams, including the Tigers, have reached out to free agent righty Ronald Belisario after he was designated for assignment by the White Sox and chose to elect free agency (Twitter link). Belisario has a track record of success but struggled in 2014 despite maintaining his velocity and ground-ball rate.
  • Nyjer Morgan is eyeing a return to the Majors and has drawn interest from both MLB and Asian clubs, tweets Cotillo. The 34-year-old spent a bit of time with the Indians last season but had his Cleveland tenure cut short by injury.


Blue Jays Non-Tender Mayberry, Smoak, Dirks

The Blue Jays have non-tendered a trio of recently-acquired position players in John Mayberry Jr., Justin Smoak, and Andy Dirks, the club announced.

Each player had been obtained within the last three months or so at minimum cost to Toronto. It would appear that the club was keeping them on hand to create some options, but that it has decided to go in another direction.

As Shi Davidi of Sportsnet.ca explains, the move certainly sets the table for more action out of Toronto, which now has only three outfielders on its 40-man roster. And that is before addressing the team’s needs in the pen and at second.

The trio will deliver some cost savings back to the Jays, of course. Mayberry ($1.9MM), Smoak ($3MM), and Dirks ($1.6MM) combined for a projected tab of about $6.5MM. That should be enough space for one or two good to very good relief arms, and moving Dioner Navarro‘s salary might create yet more breathing room.


Trade Notes: Hamels, Fowler, Cespedes, Murphy

In the midst of a run of arbitration information, there were a few interesting reports on some trade situations percolating around the game. Let’s have a look …

  • The Phillies are conducting “intensive homework” on the Dodgers‘ minor league system in anticipation of trying to work out a deal involving Cole Hamels, Bob Nightengale of USA Today reports on Twitter. The trade market for Hamels still seems to be in a holding pattern, along with much of the rest of the non-Jon Lester pitching market.
  • Dexter Fowler‘s name has come up in trade talks between the Blue Jays and Astros, Jon Morosi of FOX Sports reports (Twitter link). Fowler, who projects to earn $9MM through arbitration (via MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz) in his final year of team control, would be an interesting potential add for Toronto. The 28-year-old switch-hitter is capable of playing center but could also line up in the corner. He has been a consistently solid performer at the plate, though defensive metrics have wavered on his value in the field.
  • Reds GM Walt Jocketty says that his club has not discussed Yoenis Cespedes with the Red Sox, John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer reports via Twitter. There has been some speculation recently about a possible match, fueled in part by a recent spate of rumors, but it appears that nothing is in the works in that respect.
  • There has not been much of any action surrounding Daniel Murphy of the Mets, writes Joel Sherman of the New York Post. The second baseman may have a “greater perceived value” to his current club, and their fans, than to outside entities, Sherman suggests. New York may prefer to try other means of opening payroll flexibility now, holding onto Murphy and reassessing at the trade deadline.

Braves, Blue Jays, Giants, O’s In On Markakis

11:55am: Orioles executive VP/GM Dan Duquette tells MLB.com’s Britt Ghiroli that Baltimore is still very much in the mix for Markakis (Twitter link). “Rumors of our demise are largely exaggerated,” he tells Ghiroli.

10:56am: On the heels of last night’s report that Nick Markakis is no longer likely to re-sign with the Orioles, Jon Heyman of CBS Sports reports that the Braves, Blue Jays and Giants are among the teams that have shown interest in signing Markakis. Heyman notes that the Orioles, of course, will continue to try to re-sign their long-time right fielder.

As Heyman notes, Markakis is a Georgia native that grew up in the Atlanta area, attended college just two hours or so from Atlanta and has a home in that area. With the Braves trading Jason Heyward and listening on Justin Upton, it does seem like Atlanta could eventually have a fit in its outfield. The Blue Jays, Heyman writes, have been “lurking” for awhile and will look to add at least one outfielder, while the Giants’ interest may hinge on the outcome of their pursuit of Jon Lester.

Markakis hit .276/.342/.386 with 14 homers last season and was said at one point to be nearing a four-year deal with Baltimore. However, last night’s report from the Baltimore Sun’s Dan Connolly indicated that the O’s may not be comfortable with the four-year term of that potential contract. I profiled Markakis back in mid-October and pegged him for a four-year, $48MM pact, and it seems that his camp will now field offers from other clubs as it seeks to lock in that fourth guaranteed year. From a speculative standpoint, I’d think that the Tigers, Royals, Mariners, White Sox and Reds are also fits (though not all can necessarily afford to meet Markakis’ asking price).


Blue Jays Considering Signing Alberto Callaspo

The Blue Jays are considering signing free agent Alberto Callaspo to fill their hole at second base, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports tweets. The Blue Jays have already added Russell Martin and Josh Donaldson to their offense this offseason, but they’re still weak in left field and at second, where Ryan Goins currently tops their depth chart. The Jays also have Maicer Izturis, who will be returning from a significant knee injury.

Callaspo, 31, had a poor .223/.290/.290 season with Oakland in the last season of a two-year deal he originally signed with the Angels. He should therefore be available fairly cheaply, however, and Rosenthal notes that the Jays think Callaspo ought to rebound in 2015. Callaspo also ought not to require a multi-year deal, which means the Jays can keep second base clear for recently-acquired prospect Devon Travis in 2016 if Travis continues to hit.

Callaspo had back-to-back seasons of at least 2.9 WAR in Los Angeles in 2011 and 2012. At his best, the switch-hitter has generated value with an OBP-heavy offensive game and a good glove at both second base and third. He did, however, have negative UZR figures at second in both the last two seasons. Still, Toronto’s reported opinion that Callaspo is a good candidate to rebound appears to be well founded — Steamer projects he’ll hit .252/.326/.354 and be a win above replacement if given a full-time job next season.


Quick Hits: A’s, Rockies, Morales, Albers

With the Winter Meetings just a week away, MLB.com’s Anthony Castrovince names the top ten Hot Stove storylines heading into December. How the top-tier starting pitcher market shakes out heads the list, according to Castrovince, who notes the trade market for the likes of Cole Hamels, Jordan Zimmermann, and Jeff Samardzija will heat up once free agents Jon Lester and Max Scherzer sign. Among Castrovince’s other top headlines this month are whether the Braves trade Justin Upton and how the Red Sox and Dodgers deal with their surplus of outfielders.

Elsewhere in baseball on the final day of November:

  • After A’s GM Billy Beane signed Billy Butler to a $30MM deal and traded third baseman Josh Donaldson to the Blue Jays, Steve Melewski of MASNsports.com isn’t sure what the plan is in Oakland.
  • The best way for the Rockies to become contenders is for Carlos Gonzalez and Troy Tulowitzki to be healthy and productive, but it would be daring for GM Jeff Bridich to trade the duo in search of salary relief to address areas of concern, opines MLB.com’s Tracy Ringolsby.
  • The market for Kendrys Morales has been quiet to date with only the Indians being linked to the free agent DH. CBSSports.com’s Jon Heyman tweets, besides Cleveland, the Rangers and Royals are also taking a look at Morales while the Mariners and Blue Jays are possibilities, as well.
  • Left-handed starter Andrew Albers recently became a free agent and has drawn interest from a number of big league clubs, an industry source told Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet. Albers became a free agent when South Korea’s Hanwha Eagles declined the 2015 option on his one-year deal. The Canadian pitched to a 5.84 ERA in 146 1/3 innings, though he did make 27 starts and led his team with 102 strikeouts. BN-S writes Albers appears to be seeking a split contract with incentives.

AL East Notes: Orioles, Kemp, Blue Jays

Earlier today, we rounded up some items from the AL East.  Here’s the afternoon edition..

  • The Orioles have talked to the Dodgers about Matt Kemp, sources tell Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (on Twitter). The O’s are lining up alternatives in case they can’t re-sign Nick Markakis and/or Nelson Cruz, but they could also be trying to create leverage to pressure both into staying.  As Rosenthal has said before, a Markakis return once appeared to be a foregone conclusion, but that’s no longer the case.
  • In a chat with Jim Bowden and Jim Duquette of SiriusXM, Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos downplayed his interest in the market’s top free agent relievers.  “I don’t know that you’re going to see us involved in some of the large big money deals,” AA said, according to Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet (via Twitter).
  • The Rays‘ trio of managerial finalists – Kevin Cash, Raul Ibanez, and Don Wakamatsu – is about as intriguing and outside-the-box as you can get, writes David Laurila of Fangraphs.  The Rays are in a transition period and Laurila writes that it’ll be fascinating to see how they proceed from here.

AL Notes: Samardzija, Donaldson

Here’s the latest from the AL as we continue to digest turkey and the Josh Donaldson blockbuster.

  • Earlier today, we learned the White Sox and A’s were discussing a trade for Jeff Samardzija. Shortstop Alexei Ramirez may be the A’s prime target, but they also like infield prospect Tim Anderson and utility fielder Marcus Semien, reports Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle. Some view Anderson, 22 next season, as the second best prospect in Chicago’s system after pitcher Carlos Rodon. Semien, 24, has looked overmatched in 326 major league plate appearances, but he’s featured reliable power, speed, and position flexibility at the Triple-A level. It’s worth wondering if the Sox would deal a top prospect like Anderson for just one season of Samardzija – especially with an apparent buyers market for pitchers.
  • Donaldson credits part of his 2012 offensive breakout to studying the swing of new teammate Jose Bautista, writes Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet.ca. According to Donaldson, he’s watched “thousands of hours” worth of Bautista swings (that’s at least 83 days of swing analysis if you want to take the hyperbole at face value).
  • The Blue Jays may feel good about their recent moves, but they won’t boast, reports Peter Gammons of GammonsDaily.com. The club hasn’t reached the postseason since winning the World Series in 1993 – the longest such drought in baseball. While they have to feel good about the core of the lineup, there are plenty of holes on the roster. Second base, left field, and late innings relief are the most pressing areas, although the rotation and center field are notably thin too.