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Toronto Blue Jays Rumors
Over the last two seasons, Josh Donaldson has quietly been one of the best players in baseball, finishing third in fWAR among position players in the last two years, behind only Mike Trout and Andrew McCutchen. That doesn’t mean, however, that his new team, the Blue Jays, should rush to sign the MVP Sports Group client long-term.
As a Super Two player, Donaldson’s salaries through 2018 will be determined by the arbitration process, and the Blue Jays’ victory over Donaldson in his first arbitration case this winter was a crucial one. Not only was there a significant gap between the number Donaldson camp proposed ($5.75MM) and the Blue Jays’ proposed figure ($4.3MM), but the arbitator’s decision in favor of the Blue Jays will affect not only Donaldson’s 2015 salary, but his salaries from 2016 through 2018 as well.
Donaldson’s statistical profile (offensive numbers that are very good but not obviously spectacular, combined with superb defense) likely made him somewhat underpaid this time through the arbitration process. That effect might wear off somewhat in coming seasons as he moves to a much more homer-friendly ballpark in Toronto than the one he had in Oakland — he hit .255/.342/.456 with 29 homers and 98 RBIs in 2014, and bumping those numbers up somewhat would help him as he enters arbitration for a second time. Still, Sportsnet.ca’s Ben Nicholson-Smith tweeted that a source estimated Donaldson’s arbitration loss this winter might cost him a full $6MM over the next three years. That guess might, if anything, be low.
On top of that, the Blue Jays already control Donaldson throughout what could well be the rest of his prime. Since he got off to a late start to his big-league career, he won’t be eligible for free agency until after his age-32 season. Any extension beyond that would only buy out seasons beginning with age 33. In other words, the Blue Jays have a very good situation with Donaldson, and they have little reason to press their luck with an extension unless it’s a very favorable one. Donaldson isn’t a 23-year-old superstar who figures to be in his prime in his first free agent seasons. He’s a 29-year-old superstar who’s very likely in his prime right now.
If the two sides were to begin discussing a deal, finding a close comparable for a Super Two player like Donaldson would be difficult. We can begin, however, with his likely arbitration salaries through 2018, which might total somewhere around $35MM-$40MM if he maintains impressive offensive totals. Donaldson’s camp could point to Kyle Seager‘s recent seven-year, $100MM extension as a possible model for a Donaldson deal, and that wouldn’t be entirely unreasonable, given that Seager’s deal began in what would have been his first year of arbitration salary, and with a salary of $4MM (although Seager, not being a Super Two player, was a year closer to free agency than Donaldson is). For the reasons mentioned above, though, that seems like a lot of risk for the Blue Jays to assume.
The Blue Jays, then, could hypothetically look at recent deals for Jason Kipnis and Matt Carpenter that each guaranteed about $52MM for six years. Both those deals occurred when the players had between two and three years of service time, but neither Kipnis nor Carpenter were Super Two players, so their arbitration years would likely have been less lucrative than Donaldson’s figure to be. That would likely mean that a Donaldson extension would either require a somewhat higher total, or give away fewer years of free agency.
Perhaps something along those lines could work, although it might be hard to find an equilibrium where the Jays felt like they were taking on an appropriate amount of risk and Donaldson’s camp felt like he was getting a large enough total to forgo free agency following the 2018 season, which might be his only attempt at a significant free-agent payday. Then there’s the fact that Donaldson and the Jays already went to an arbitration hearing — hearings can be tough for some players to take, and could make future extension talks difficult. As Braves assistant GM John Coppolella recently told MLBTR’s Steve Adams, “If you look at the history of players who have gone to arbitration hearings, for whatever reason, very few remain with the same team for the long term. I don’t think the hearings are contentious per se, but the process isn’t exactly friendly and heartwarming.”
If Donaldson and the Blue Jays were to have interest in an extension, then, it wouldn’t be impossible to negotiate one, but it would be tricky. And given Donaldson’s age and years of control remaining, the Jays shouldn’t have much urgency to negotiate a deal.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
Since taking over as the Rays‘ head of baseball operations, Matt Silverman has taken the somewhat unusual step of polling a small group of key players (including Evan Longoria and Alex Cobb) so that their voices can help inform his decision-making, Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reports. Silverman consulted with players about hiring new manager Kevin Cash, as well as on other moves. “It opened up conversations about their feelings not just on the manager position, but the organization and how it operates,” says Silverman. “And I believe those conversations led to some outcomes, and to better dialogue between the front office and the clubhouse. … There are certain things I learned that I wasn’t aware of, and wouldn’t have known, given my prior position [as team president].” Here’s more from the American League.
- Dayan Viciedo was taken aback by the White Sox‘ decision to release him, but he’s landed on his feet after signing a minor-league deal with the Blue Jays, the Associated Press reports. “I was slightly surprised because I thought I had an agreement in place to stay there, but I understand it’s a business,” Viciedo says. “You have good days, you have bad days. I took it in stride. I’m not upset. It kind of surprised me at first but everything had worked out and is OK.”
- Athletics manager Bob Melvin says outfielder Josh Reddick will be out for two weeks with a right oblique strain, MLB.com’s Jane Lee writes. Reddick will then have to take additional time to prepare to play, which means it’s questionable whether he’ll be ready for Opening Day. In the meantime, the Athletics will take looks at a variety of players in right field, including Rule 5 pick Mark Canha and newly-claimed (or, rather, re-claimed) former Red Sox farmhand Alex Hassan. Billy Burns, Jason Pridie, top prospect Matt Olson and perhaps even first baseman Ike Davis will also get looks. From the outside, though, the Athletics’ opportunity to get a better sense of what they have in Canha, who hit an impressive .303/.384/.505 with Triple-A New Orleans in the Marlins’ system last year, looks like the clearest silver lining to Reddick’s injury.
Rusney Castillo‘s strained oblique may cause him to miss a bit of Spring Training time, yet the injury isn’t considered to be particularly serious. Still, WEEI.com’s Rob Bradford posits that this setback might convince the Red Sox to give Castillo some extra minor league preparation time at the start of the season and give the center field job to Mookie Betts. Castillo told Bradford that he would be open to being in the minors if the team felt it necessary, and his long-term contract makes him secure about his role in Boston’s plans. “Of course there is a degree of comfort in that that I’m going be here for a while,” Castillo said. “At the same time, if you don’t want to be in the minor leagues ramp it up and work harder to not be there.”
Here’s some more from around the AL East…
- Orioles executive VP Dan Duquette spoke to reporters (including MASNsports.com’s Roch Kubatko) about the team’s release of Suk-min Yoon earlier today and Yoon’s subsequent return to the KBO’s Kia Tigers. Duquette confirmed that Yoon gave up the $4.15MM still owed to him under the Orioles contract in order to make the deal happen. “The good part of this is that this didn’t work, but we were able to correct the mistake, if you will, and we have that money available to invest in other players,” Duquette said.
- After a tumultuous year that has included Tommy John surgery, being drafted by the Blue Jays and then mentioned in trade rumors to acquire Duquette as Toronto’s new team president, Jeff Hoffman tells Sportsnet’s Shi Davidi that he is looking forward to just “putting on a uniform again” once he’s finished his rehab work. Hoffman provides a progress report on his recovery from his surgery last May.
- After years of struggling to find reliable left-handed relievers, the Yankees look to have solved the problem with Andrew Miller, Chasen Shreve and Justin Wilson all in the fold, Joel Sherman of the New York Post writes. Ironically, this comes at a time when there are only a few standout left-handed hitters amongst the Yankees’ AL East rivals, Sherman notes.
Catcher Eli Whiteside has opted to accept a coaching job with the Giants rather than taking one of several offers he had to continue playing, MLB.com’s Chris Haft reports. The veteran played in parts of six MLB seasons, including a three-year run in which he was a significant contributor for San Francisco. He will retire after getting one last short run in the bigs last year with the Cubs.
More from the NL West:
- Padres righty Josh Johnson has progressed to the point that he’ll throw to a catcher on flat ground, Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune reports. With his training program currently on track, Johnson is scheduled to throw a pen session for the first time by mid-March with a target of game action by June, if all goes according to plan. Johnson’s deal with San Diego promises him only $1MM but can increase all the way to $7.25MM if he maxes out his incentives.
- Fellow two-time TJ patient Cory Luebke is also hoping to return strong for the Padres, as MLB.com’s Corey Brock reports. The story details some of the ups and downs that Luebke has had in dealing with his two procedures. As with Johnson, 2015 is something of a make-good season for the lefty: his early-career extension is up after the season, when San Diego will have to decide whether to exercise a $7.5MM option or pay a $1.75MM buyout.
- The Rockies pursued utilityman Daniel Descalso not only because he would offer a versatile bench option, but because of his big-game experience, Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post writes. Skipper Walt Weiss explained that the former Cardinals infielder brought an underappreciated element to the squad. “All of that factored in quite a bit,” said Weiss. “I think we sometimes underestimate the value of that — guys that have played in big games, pennant races, and have won a World Series. Those types of players are valuable, and that’s a big reason why we brought Danny in here.”
- Alex Guerrero‘s contract and the Dodgers roster situation makes for quite a puzzle, as Dave Cameron of Fangraphs writes. On the one hand, Guerrero can refuse an optional assignment and has said he will do just that. On the other, if he is traded he will earn the right to opt out of his deal after the season. Cameron posits that the club could send Guerrero out in exchange for some savings on his 2015 tab, agreeing to remain responsible for post-2015 responsibilities while hoping he will opt out. The Angels, Blue Jays, Rockies, and Rangers all look like reasonable landing spots, in Cameron’s estimation.
Hector Olivera and Yadier Alvarez are the two biggest names to watch on the international market at present, but let’s take a look at some other notes while we wait to learn more on their situations:
- Kiley McDaniel of Fangraphs has a wide-ranging round-up of the latest from the upcoming July 2nd signing period, which has clarified somewhat with Yoan Moncada now in agreement with the Red Sox. Noting that slot money has gone up by about five to seven percent, as Baseball America’s Ben Badler details, McDaniel says that about five clubs seem to be on track to exceed their bonus allotments and “many more” will attempt to spend to their max.
- Uncertainty in U.S.-Cuban politics is dampening some teams’ interest in going over their pools and incurring severe spending restrictions for two years, per McDaniel. Depending upon how things progress, that might mean missing out on a sudden influx of talent. Nevertheless, it appears that overall spending will see significant increases; indeed, as McDaniel tweets, one team that he does not mention in his post is already believed to have about $7.5MM set to go out to six players — none of whom will be among the highest-earning prospects.
- McDaniel provides a ton of detail on July 2nd prospects, including Vladimir Guerrero Jr., who is said to be likely heading to the Blue Jays for a bonus that will top $4MM. Also expected to go over the $4MM mark are young slugger Jhailyn Ortiz, who is expected to land with the Phillies, and shortstop Wander Javier, whom the Twins are believed to be line to sign.
- While there is nothing new on Alvarez, Badler does explain that his situation — and that of fellow young righty Vladimir Gutierrez — could shape the future of Cuban amateur talent. Alvarez could test MLB’s historical unwillingness to grant exceptions to its timely registration rule, given the fact that he could not do so while in Cuba, and that would presumably set the precedent moving forward. A similar situation holds for Gutierrez, who could face an exceedingly long delay if he cannot establish residency in a third country in relatively short order.
MLBPA executive director Tony Clark is not yet willing to endorse an international draft, Jon Morosi of FOX Sports writes. “The idea of a worldwide anything or an international anything in a lot of ways sounds great in theory,” Clark says. He adds, though, that “to simply take a system that appears to work — and I say ‘appears’ purposely — appears to work in one place and plop it down in another is a dangerous proposition.” Clark suggests that the draft seems to work reasonably well in the U.S. and Canada, where players have high school degrees or even some college, and can therefore approach the draft from an educated perspective. Latin American players, though, often sign at much younger ages. Clark does add, though, that an international draft will be a “topic of discussion.” Here’s more from around the game.
- The Blue Jays‘ minor-league deals for Dayan Viciedo and Johan Santana aren’t risky, but those two players could cost over $9MM with incentives if the Jays do roster them. With that in mind, MLB.com’s Gregor Chisholm wonders why the Jays signed Viciedo and Santana (who presumably have some chance of making the team, and therefore earning their big-league salaries) rather than pursuing bullpen help. The Blue Jays made some big moves early in the offseason when they acquired Russell Martin and Josh Donaldson, but have been quiet lately, even though their bullpen is a bit thin. A cheap deal for someone like Burke Badenhop or Joba Chamberlain might have made sense, Chisholm suggests.
- On a related note, Blue Jays manager John Gibbons doesn’t seem overly enthused about the Viciedo addition, John Lott of the National Post writes. “He was available,” says Gibbons. “He’s got some big-league time in. Been successful, to a certain extent. Bring him to camp, see what he is.” Viciedo will play first base and third base in camp, as well as left field.
- Rule 5 pick David Rollins is excited to compete for a job as the second lefty out of the Mariners‘ bullpen behind Charlie Furbush, AJ Cassavell of MLB.com writes. Manager Lloyd McClendon doesn’t want a lefty specialist, but rather someone who can work multiple innings. That role might work for Rollins, who started 12 games last year for Double-A Corpus Christi in the Astros’ system.
SUNDAY, 3:45: If Viciedo fails to make the Blue Jays’ Opening Day roster and winds up at Triple-A Buffalo, he will receive $20K per month, reports Shi Davidi of Sportsnet.ca.
9:29am: There are no incentives in Viciedo’s deal, according to Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com (on Twitter).
9:18am: Viciedo will make $2.5MM if he reaches the big league roster, according to John Lott of the National Post (on Twitter).
8:02am: The Blue Jays confirmed the signing via press release.
SATURDAY, 7:16pm: The Blue Jays have signed outfielder Dayan Viciedo, reports Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (via Twitter). It is a minor league deal per Rosenthal (also Twitter). Viciedo, a career .254/.298/.424 hitter, was released by the White Sox earlier this winter. Chicago is still on the hook for 30 days termination pay on the $4.4MM owed him via arbitration. Rosenthal confirms that payment is separate from the Blue Jays’ agreement.
With trade acquisition Michael Saunders expected to miss five to six weeks, Viciedo could help to provide outfield depth. Shi Davidi of Sportsnet.ca tweets that the Jays will look to use Viciedo at left field, third base, and first base. He has limited major league experience at either infield position.
Viciedo is known for his power. He’s twice hit at least 20 home runs, and he’s reached that figure twice in the minors too. He’s best against southpaw pitchers with a career .291/.331/.507 line. Advanced metrics and scouting reports dislike his defensive skills, making him a better fit as a platoon designated hitter. If he makes the roster, Toronto can control Viciedo through the 2017 season.
David Ortiz told Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports that he’s extremely excited to have Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval in the Red Sox’s lineup alongside healthy versions of Dustin Pedroia, Shane Victorino, and Mike Napoli. “It’s going to make a huge difference.” Ortiz said. “Last year we had the big struggle with injuries. Pedroia struggled with injuries. Nap struggled with injuries. Even myself toward the end, I had a wrist problem. When you have pretty much the center of the lineup going through all those injuries, it’s hard to recover from the struggles we had offensively last year. Hopefully that’s not the case now. Everyone is healthy now. And you’ve got more thunder coming into the lineup.” Here’s more from the AL East..
- Andrew Miller turned down a four-year, $40MM deal from the Astros to join the Yankees on a four-year, $36MM this offseason, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe writes. While he believed that the Astros are headed in the right direction, he thought it would take them time to realize their goals. Miller also told Cafardo that the rival Red Sox made an excellent offer, but the Yankees’ situation was just too good for him to pass up. It’s believed that the Red Sox topped out at $32MM over four years. Miller recently spoke with MLBTR’s Jeff Todd about his free agent journey.
- The Angels will turn to Matt Joyce in the wake of Josh Hamilton‘s issues, but Cafardo wonders if they could call the Red Sox about Allen Craig or Shane Victorino. He also posits that the Blue Jays could have interest in talking with Boston after Michael Saunders‘ injury.
- The Rays made the right move in releasing thrice-suspended 2010 No. 1 draft pick OF Josh Sale before he anything else went wrong, Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times writes. Sale has run into a litany of problems over the last few years, including two suspensions imposed by MLB and one from the Rays. Of course, it also didn’t help that he had yet to play above Class A in five pro years.
- No one is expecting Johan Santana to revert back to his prime form, but scouts see the Blue Jays signing him as a smart, low-risk move, Cafardo writes. “He obviously isn’t the Santana of old, but I’m not sure there is a more competitive pitcher in the game, and he’s learned to pitch with less,” said one National League scout.
The $31.5MM bonus the Red Sox will reportedly pay Yoan Moncada has generated a variety of reactions from players around the league, Pete Abraham of the Boston Globe writes. Moncada’s bonus is well beyond what most other 19-year-old prospects might be able to make, since he was able to negotiate with all 30 teams. “It’s not right that a Cuban 19-year-old gets paid [$31.5 million] and the best 19-year-old in the entire USA gets probably 1/6 of that,” wrote Rays pitcher Drew Smyly. “Everyone should have to go through the same process.” An international draft would help standardize the system by which amateurs sign with teams, and new commissioner Rob Manfred seems to favor discussing it in the next round of CBA negotiations. Abraham polls Red Sox players about an international draft, leading to a large range of answers. Here’s Jackie Bradley Jr.’s: “I would have loved to be a free agent in college and made the best deal I could. Maybe I should have moved out of the country. If everybody was a free agent, you’d get what your real value is.” Here are more notes from the AL East.
- More than six years after being selected first overall in the 2008 draft, shortstop Tim Beckham is competing for a big-league job in Rays camp for the first time, Marc Topkin writes for Baseball America (subscription-only). With Ben Zobrist and Yunel Escobar now gone, the Rays now have more space in their middle infield. Asdrubal Cabrera will take one of the middle infield starting jobs, but Topkin suggests Beckham could be a reserve infielder or even a starter, particularly if the team decides it would be best if Cabrera played second base. Beckham, now 25, moved slowly through the minors and finally made his big-league debut in 2013 before missing most of last season due to a knee injury.
- The Blue Jays‘ pursuit of executive Dan Duquette was serious, but Duquette is back to work with the Orioles, writes MLB.com’s Barry M. Bloom. Duquette confirms that he could not leave the Orioles for Toronto because the two teams could not agree on a compensation package for him. This offseason, the Orioles made few big moves of their own and lost Nelson Cruz, Andrew Miller and Nick Markakis, although Duquette points out that the O’s should benefit from full seasons from Manny Machado, Matt Wieters and Chris Davis.
TODAY: Toronto announced that Saunders is only expected to be out five to six weeks after undergoing his procedure. The timetable moved up because the cartilage could only be removed, not replaced, Anthopoulos told reporters, including John Lott of the National Post (Twitter links). While that could lead to some longer-term knee troubles for Saunders, it will allow him to return to action much sooner.
YESTERDAY: Blue Jays outfielder Michael Saunders will miss approximately the first half of the season after tearing his meniscus, Shi Davidi of Sportsnet.ca reports on Twitter. Saunders was acquired for pitcher J.A. Happ over the offseason.
The news represents a disappointing start to camp for a club that had built plenty of positive momentum over the offseason. Saunders had seemed a solid replacement for outgoing free agent Melky Cabrera. He may yet be, but the club will have to wait for the summer to find out.
GM Alex Anthopoulos says that the club will give its internal options a chance initially to fill the void. At present, Davidi notes, the group in camp includes just three members of the 40-man (Jose Bautista, Dalton Pompey, and Kevin Pillar) along with non-roster invitees Ezequiel Carrera, Chris Dickerson, and Caleb Gindl. (Twitter links.)
Of course, Toronto will undoubtedly look hard at what is available via trade over the course of the spring. The group that it had compiled was already lacking somewhat in depth, making some kind of addition seem reasonably likely. But Anthopoulos will surely be in no rush, and could also look to work the waiver wire for a solution.