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Toronto Blue Jays Rumors
The Yankees may not have stowed away their checkbook, as MLB.com’s Barry Bloom reports. Owner Hal Steinbrenner told reporters yesterday that time remained for moves. “It’s not over until it’s over,” he said. “We still have a full month before Spring Training. … [W]e’re still the New York Yankees, all you guys know that. We know what the fans expect. We know what the town expects. We’re not going to be afraid to spend money.”
- If the Yankees are still the Yankees, then so too are the Rays still the Rays. As Andrew Astleford of FOX Sports Florida writes, trading away Ben Zobrist is just the latest reminder of the team’s continued strategies. “These trades are difficult, but they’re a necessary part of how we operate,” said president of baseball operations Matthew Silverman.
- One other hallmark of the Rays method is early-career extensions, and one area of risk in such deals is injury, especially for pitchers. Lefty Matt Moore, who is controllable through 2019 under just such a contract, lost virtually all of last season due to Tommy John surgery. He is in a good physical and mental state, tweets Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times, and hopes to return to the mound soon while building toward a return to the roster this coming June.
- Topkin also wonders (via Twitter) whether the Braves and Rays could be a match on outfielder David DeJesus. The veteran is owed $5MM this year and a $1MM buyout on a 2016 option, which makes him a reasonably priced target but also does not leave him with a ton of trade value.
- Though Orioles owner Peter Angelos threw cold water yesterday on the idea that momentum was building toward a deal that would result in executive VP Dan Duquette taking over the Blue Jays‘ front office, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports says that the possibility still remains. If nothing else, Duquette wants the job in Toronto, per the report, which chalks up the Angelos statement to negotiating tactics.
- The Mets should make a hard push to acquire shortstop Ian Desmond from the Nationals, Rosenthal argues in the same piece. The recently-acquired Yunel Escobar provides an alternative to Desmond in D.C., and Rosenthal suggests that including Daniel Murphy and adding prospect value could make the trade palatable for the Nats. While I would not write off the idea entirely, it would seem likely that the Nationals would demand a particularly significant return to move Desmond to a rising division rival.
- Staying in the division, Rosenthal says that the Braves should deal away closer Craig Kimbrel. The righty is an expensive luxury for a non-contending team, says Rosenthal, who does note that the club might get better value for him at the trade deadline. That may well be, but it would be interesting to see what teams would give up now for one of the game’s most dominant arms; I’m guessing quite a bit. For its part, Atlanta is “optimistic about the coming season” and has no interest in dealing away Kimbrel, MLB.com’s Mark Bowman tweets.
- The ship has sailed at this point, of course, but Mark Bradley of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution opines that the Braves may not have been in need of such a dramatic renovation. While the plan to re-build around young pitching obviously makes sense directionally, Bradley argues that the team now looks destined to be rather dreadful for the next season or two and wonders whether a less drastic plan could have been pursued.
West, 26, had been designated by Texas recently to clear room for the signing of Juan Carlos Oviedo. He reached the bigs for three outings last season, but spent most of the year at Triple-A. Across 56 2/3 innings, he worked to a 3.34 ERA with 10.2 K/9 and 2.9 BB/9.
The 27-year-old Burns, meanwhile, also pitched last in the majors with Texas. He worked at Triple-A last year for the Rangers and Rays, totaling 63 2/3 frames with a 4.95 ERA and 8.2 K/9 against 2.3 BB/9. Toronto claimed him off waivers in late September.
The Blue Jays and Orioles have reached the point of discussing compensation if current Baltimore executive VP Dan Duquette were to head to Toronto as the club’s new president, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports (links to Twitter). The Orioles are “open to his departure,” says Rosenthal, whose sources tell him that some in the organization want him to leave to resolve what has become an uncomfortable situation. No deal is close at present, per the report.
Here are a few more quick notes from the east:
- The Braves are still talking with clubs regarding catcher/outfielder Evan Gattis, MLB.com’s Mark Bowman tweets. Nothing appears to be imminent, however, according to the report. As things stand, Gattis appears slated to open the season as Atlanta’s left fielder, though the right offer could presumably change that quickly.
- Among the teams interested in veteran southpaw Johan Santana is the Yankees, according to Dan Martin of the New York Post. New York had eyes on Santana in his recent Venezuelan winter league outing and pursued him last year before he launched an unsuccessful comeback bid with the Orioles.
The Red Sox made their annual announcement of front office personnel changes today, and among the most significant changes is the creation of a department of behavioral health, writes Alex Speier of the Boston Globe. The Red Sox will hire Dr. Richard Ginsburg as the department head, and he will pair with former Major Leaguer Bob Tewksbury, who served as a mental skills coach with Boston from 2005-13. Tewksbury left the club for a year to work with the MLBPA, and Speier writes that his absence was noticed by young players such as Jackie Bradley Jr. and Xander Bogaerts as they struggled to transition to everyday roles. Said GM Ben Cherington of the new department: “We’re trying to take care of the body as well as we possibly can… Health extends past the body, but it’s all related. … We’re really just trying to help players be as healthy as they possibly can be, physically and mentally.”
More from the AL East…
- The Red Sox may have to sell low on Bradley Jr., as they did with Will Middlebrooks, writes Jason Mastrodonato of MassLive.com. Boston will likely trade Bradley or another outfielder before Opening Day due to the fact that they have a logjam in the outfield. Mastrodonato opines that Bradley absolutely has the upside to be an everyday center fielder in the field and at the plate — his defense is already considered among the best in baseball — and worries about the danger of moving him only to see him take off with another club. He likens Bradley to Carlos Gomez, who was slow to develop but has always possessed a good glove and is now a perennial MVP candidate in the NL. Bradley may not have that type of power, but Cherington has told Mastrodonato this offseason that he thinks there are other clubs that will perceive Bradley as an everyday outfielder, and the Sox feel he has that ability as well.
- Though the Orioles have not approached right-hander Tommy Hunter about an extension, the setup man tells Rich Dubroff of CSN Baltimore that he’s certainly open to a long-term deal to remain with the club. Hunter’s agent, Mike Moye, just wrapped up negotiation on a contract to avoid arbitration for the final time, settling on a $4.65MM salary for 2015. Hunter is one of 11 Orioles that can hit the open market next winter, and while he says he’d love to see the group stay together, he acknowledged that that the business element of the game prevents that before adding, “Let’s win this year, and worry about everything else after.”
- Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com penned a column with multiple Orioles notes, including the fact that the Orioles had definite interest in acquiring Ben Zobrist from the Rays before he was dealt to Oakland. However, the Rays brought up names such as Dylan Bundy and Chance Sisco in talks, neither of whom GM Dan Duquette was willing to surrender.
- Kubatko also notes that the Orioles don’t appear to have interest in a reunion with Johan Santana, and there’s nothing hot between the O’s and Colby Rasmus at this time. Baltimore’s interest hasn’t waned, but they’re maintaining the same level and don’t appear willing to go beyond their comfort zone to add him to the roster.
- The Yankees are wise to have looked at the big picture this offseason rather than focusing on the immediate, opines Anthony Castrovince of MLB.com. Historically speaking, the Yankees have lived largely in the present, doling out large contracts with little regard for the potential negatives at the end of a deal. However, despite needs in the rotation, the Yankees have stayed out of the Max Scherzer market and haven’t been seriously connected to James Shields or Cole Hamels. Rather, the club is prioritizing defense and a strong bullpen. While their 2015 outlook may not have improved much, Castrovince writes, the team is in a better place in the long-term due to exercising caution.
- Sportsnet’s Ben Nicholson-Smith hosted a Blue Jays chat with readers today and covered a wide variety of hot stove topics. To name a few, Ben noted that he doesn’t foresee a reunion with Casey Janssen, that he expects Dioner Navarro to open the season with the club and that he believes the team will end up acquiring a new closer prior to Spring Training.
Adam Dunn‘s agent, Brian Peters, tells Jon Heyman of CBS Sports (Twitter link) that Dunn is indeed retiring, as was widely expected. Dunn himself said that he would retire following the season back in August, though he created a bit of doubt when he backed off slightly and said, “That’s it, probably,” following the Athletics’ loss to the Royals in the AL Wild Card game. Dunn’s career was unique, to say the least, as he epitomized the “three true outcomes” player, homering 462 times while striking out in 28.6 percent of his plate appearances and walking in 15.8 percent of them. Just under half (49.9 percent) of Dunn’s career plate appearances ended in a long ball, a walk or a whiff, and he will enter the record books with a .237/.364/.490 batting line. Dunn hit 40-plus homers in six separate seasons, including five consecutive years — four of which finished with 40 on the dot (2005-08). The “Big Donkey” will be fondly remembered by many for his light-tower power — a skill that earned him more than $112MM throughout his career, per Baseball-Reference.com. MLBTR wishes Dunn and his family happiness and the best of luck in his post-playing days.
Here are a few notes on some of the game’s Western division clubs, including the final team for which Dunn played…
- Athletics right-handers Jarrod Parker and A.J. Griffin are doubtful for Opening Day, tweets Jon Morosi of FOX Sports. That’s not a huge shock, given that both underwent Tommy John surgery last spring, though Parker, whose surgery was on March 25, would have seemed to at least have a chance at being ready. Oakland still has plenty of pitching depth, however, with Sonny Gray, Scott Kazmir, Jesse Hahn, Jesse Chavez, Drew Pomeranz, Chris Bassitt, Sean Nolin and Kendall Graveman all in the fold. Once Griffin and Parker are healthy, Oakland will have a plethora of MLB-ready rotation options, and only Kazmir is set to depart following the 2015 campaign.
- Morosi also tweets that the Diamondbacks have received calls from the Orioles regarding their outfield depth. Baltimore is known to be looking for a left-handed hitting outfielder, and both David Peralta and Ender Inciarte would fit that description, Morosi notes. Peralta’s name has surfaced in trade talks already this offseason, as the Reds were said to be interested in him prior to acquiring Marlon Byrd. Moving Peralta would allow Arizona to shift Yasmany Tomas to the outfield rather than trying him at third base, as is the current plan, although first-year GM Dave Stewart specifically mentioned Peralta when discussing the club’s strengths shortly after his hiring.
- Also from Morosi, the D-Backs have called the Blue Jays about Dioner Navarro, but talks haven’t advanced much to this point. Morosi noted last night that Arizona is working hard to acquire a catcher, as Tuffy Gosewich is the lone player on their 40-man roster with big league experience. Navarro is known to be available after the Jays inked Russell Martin to a huge five-year deal earlier this offseason.
- The Giants tried to work out a deal to acquire Ben Zobrist from the Rays before he was dealt to Oakland, but San Francisco deemed Tampa’s asking price to be too high, tweets Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe.
- The Mariners are one option for veteran outfielder Endy Chavez, tweets Heyman. Soon to be 37, Chavez remains on the free agent market on the heels of a season in which he batted .276/.317/.371 (99 OPS+, 97 wRC+). While Chavez has never brought much to the table in terms of offense, he’s graded out well from a defensive standpoint throughout his career (though defensive metrics have soured on him over the past two seasons).
- Yonder Alonso tells Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune that he is 100 percent healthy after undergoing surgery to repair a torn tendon in his right wrist. Alonso says that he hasn’t been pain-free in his hands since he broke a metacarpal bone in his right hand when he was hit by a pitch on May 31, 2013. Padres GM A.J. Preller has indicated that first base is likely to be handled by some combination of Alonso, Tommy Medica and Will Middlebrooks, and Lin notes that perhaps a lower-pressure environment with more offensive threats throughout the lineup will help Alonso. Still, he notes, Alonso’s tenure with the Padres has been a disappointment to many. “I really thought he’d unleash some power,” a scout from another club tells Lin. “It’s been disappointing.”
The Rays are big on promoting from within both on the field and off. That’s why they were able to replace popular Triple-A pitching coach Neil Allen, now with the Twins, with another sharp mind in Kyle Snyder, writes Marc Topkin for Baseball America. “Kyle Snyder is an excellent pitching coach,” Rays farm director Mitch Lukevics said. “He’s way ahead of the curve in development. He’s smart, has passion, can relate to all. I say all, because he’s been often injured as a professional. He’s been in the big leagues. He’s been rehabbed. He’s been bounced around.” More out of the AL East..
- The Blue Jays have been linked to free agent John Axford and there are several reasons why they would make sense for the closer, including proximity to his hometown, as Richard Griffin of the Toronto Star writes. “Living and growing up not too far away from Toronto — Port Dover, Ont. — I lived just under two hours away,” Axford said of the proximity factor. “Growing up a Blue Jays fan, that would be a big deal for me, definitely. I still live close to Toronto, about 45 minutes away in the off-season, still close to home. So, yeah, it would definitely be big for me, but I’m not going to shut out any team.”
- Before Ben Zobrist was shipped to the A’s, the Orioles discussed him with the Rays, according to Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com (via Twitter). The O’s really wanted the standout second baseman/outfielder, but the asking price was just too high for them.
- David Laurila of FanGraphs (on Twitter) likes the Zobrist trade from the Rays‘ perspective. The A’s get the short-term win on the deal, but infield prospect David Robertson has a bright future and should excel for years after Zobrist is done playing.
It’s time to add Pete Rose’s name to Hall of Fame ballot, writes Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe. Cafardo always agreed with the decision from commissioner Bart Giamatti to keep Rose out of baseball after he bet on games but after 25 years at the age of 73, he feels that the all-time great has paid for his crime. He’s not sure whether he’d vote for Charlie Hustle, but he should at least have the opportunity to be elected. More from today’s column..
- Cafardo hears that there have been no talks this month between the Phillies and Red Sox regarding Cole Hamels. Boston will not part with Mookie Betts or Blake Swihart but the Phillies want one of the two to make a deal. West Coast teams, meanwhile, are in pursuit of the left-hander.
- One National League GM speculated that James Shields hasn’t jumped on his rumored $110MM offer because he doesn’t want to play for that team. Of course, at 33, teams are wary of giving a five-year deal. “There isn’t a team who wouldn’t want Shields for three years. But five? That’s where it gets tough,” one GM said.
- Orioles executive VP Dan Duquette is still in the running for the Blue Jays president’s job, according to a major league source that spoke with Cafardo. In order that that to advance, of course, the two teams would have to agree on compensation, which is where deals such as this usually break down.
- The tampering charge the Rays filed against the Cubs over manager Joe Maddon is still alive. A major league source tells Cafardo that MLB investigators have been gathering information on the matter.
- Alexi Ogando‘s shoulder medicals don’t look great, according to an American League executive. Still, once his price lowers and he’s no longer holding out for a major league contract, teams will compete for his services.
- Mark Mulder says he’s in the final stage of rehab for his Achilles’/ankle injury and will soon make a decision on whether to resume his pitching career. “The ankle is great,” Mulder said.
Here’s the latest from around the league as the evening winds down.
- With Ben Zobrist headed west to the Athletics, the Nationals are still trying to solve second base, writes Bill Ladson of MLB.com. Currently, there are five internal options. The most obvious are Danny Espinosa and Anthony Rendon. Espinosa has disappointed over the last two seasons while Rendon is expected to start at third base. Prospect Wilmer Difo has yet to play above A-ball, but he’s on the 40-man roster and possesses exciting tools. Other options include veterans Kevin Frandsen and Dan Uggla.
- Free agent John Axford would like to compete for a closer gig, writes Shi Davidi of Sportsnet.ca. As it happens, the Blue Jays have yet to acquire a closer. Left-hander Brett Cecil is penciled into the role. At this point, no offers have been made to Axford, but several teams have shown interest including the Jays. After three consecutive rough seasons, Axford would likely have to earn any high leverage role.
- The market for mid-tier, high leverage relievers has been slow to materialize, writes Rob Bradford of WEEI.com. Bradford interviews righty reliever Burke Badenhop who is coming off a career season with a 2.29 ERA in over 70 innings. As Badenhop points out, teams don’t feel any pressure to make the first offer to free agents of his caliber. While five teams may be showing interest, they each know that any firm offer will get passed around to the others for bidding. Relievers like Badenhop, Francisco Rodriguez, and Rafael Soriano have to exercise patience as prospective buyers first gauge the trade market.
MLBTR offers its best wishes to the family and friends of former Negro League player Herb Simpson, who passed away Wednesday at age 94. As MLB.com’s Greg Johns writes, Simpson was the last known surviving member of the Seattle Steelheads and also saw action with the Birmingham Black Barons and Chicago American Giants.
As we honor an early pioneer of African-American baseball in the Pacific Northwest, here are some notes from the league’s western divisions:
- Diamondbacks GM Dave Stewart tells Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic that asking prices in trade talks for another backstop are simply too high at present. “We’ve not made a whole lot of headway in that area yet,” said Stewart. “Without really giving up something that’s going to cost us a player that we don’t want to give away, we don’t have a whole lot of motion yet.” Arizona has had talks with the Blue Jays regarding Dioner Navarro and with the Cubs regarding Welington Castillo, says Piecoro.
- The Rockies have “mild” interest in trading for Dan Haren, tweets Jon Morosi of FOX Sports. However, as he notes, the thin air and homer-friendly nature of Coors Field make Colorado a fairly poor fit for Haren. Morosi also tweets that while the Giants did have interest earlier in the offseason (prior to re-signing Jake Peavy), there’s no active dialogue between Miami and San Francisco.
- Rangers top prospect Jurickson Profar, who missed the entire 2014 season after tearing the same muscle in his right shoulder twice, has been cleared to begin a throwing program on Jan. 19, tweets Anthony Andro of FOX Sports Southwest. Still just 21 years old, it was only two years ago that Profar was the consensus No. 1 overall prospect in baseball (per Baseball America, Baseball Prospectus and MLB.com). A healthy Profar would give the Rangers somewhat of a surplus of middle infielders, as Elvis Andrus and Rougned Odor are both in the fold as well.
The Blue Jays’ reported minor league contract with outfielder Ryan Kalish has fallen through, according to Shi Davidi of Sportsnet. Kalish will once again be a free agent and is free to sign with any club. Davidi adds that it’s unclear why the deal came unglued, but Kalish was likely headed to Triple-A to serve as depth anyhow, so the move won’t have much of an impact on the big league roster.
A couple more Blue Jays notes as the weekend approaches…
- The market for John Axford is picking up, tweets Jon Heyman of CBS Sports, and the Blue Jays are one of four clubs believed to be pursuing the former Brewers closer. Axford, 32 in April, is an Ontario native, though it’s unclear if that gives Toronto any sort of edge in their pursuit. The mustachioed flamethrower began last season with the Indians but struggled with his control and eventually gave way to the talented Cody Allen. The Pirates claimed Axford in August, and he showed improved control in an 11-inning sample there. All told, he pitched to a 3.95 ERA with 10.4 K/9, 5.9 BB/9 and a 53.6 percent ground-ball rate in 54 2/3 innings between the two clubs. Toronto has been eyeing relief help for quite some time, though they’re believed to be working with a limited budget at this stage of the offseason.
- MLB.com’s Gregor Chisholm looks at the Blue Jays players that are out of minor league options and assesses which are at the greatest risk heading into Spring Training. Danny Valencia and Justin Smoak have nothing to worry about, he writes, and righty Todd Redmond should be back as a long man out of the bullpen. However, left-hander Scott Barnes has two lefties to compete with in Aaron Loup and Brett Cecil, while Steve Tolleson is behind Valencia, Maicer Izturis and Ryan Goins on the depth chart. That pair, along with righty Liam Hendriks, Chisholm believes, could end up exposed to waivers. One of the more interesting names is Kyle Drabek, as the former top prospect’s only chance at making the club looks to be as a reliever.
- Sportsnet’s Ben Nicholson-Smith runs down some of the recent rumors pertaining to the Blue Jays and wonders if the club’s interest in Ichiro Suzuki may have been overstated. As Nicholson-Smith notes, the Blue Jays make calls on a vast array of free agents, but they typically do their best to keep it under wraps when they’re on the verge of making a move. Also, with only about $5-7MM left to spend and limited playing time in the outfield behind Michael Saunders, Dalton Pompey and Jose Bautista, he feels there are multiple reasons to doubt that Toronto is the best fit for Ichiro. Even if he were to take a pay cut, adding Ichiro and a relief arm under the remaining budget could be difficult.