Toronto Blue Jays Rumors

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

Latest On Market For James Shields

Though the market for James Shields‘ services is reportedly strong — at least one $110MM offer is said to be in hand — the likeliest destinations for the veteran righty remain something of a mystery. Here’s the latest:

  • The Blue Jays are not negotiating with Shields, ESPN.com’s Buster Olney reports on Twitter. On the other hand, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reports (via Twitter) that the club would consider entering the fray if the price tag were to drop. That does not seem to be terribly likely, of course, if Shields does indeed already have significant interest at nine figures.
  • Though the Rangers met with Shields at the Winter Meetings, the club is not in position to sign him, as MLB.com’s T.R. Sullivan reports. A deal to bring Shields to Texas is “not in the cards,” says GM Jon Daniels, who notes that the team has “not really” been in touch with the Shields camp since December.

Quick Hits: Kusnick, Guerrero, Harang, Hart, Royals

In a revealing piece, Medium.com’s Joe Lemire profiles MLB agent Josh Kusnick’s rare birth defect and the life-threatening complications he faces to this day. Kusnick — the agent for Michael Brantley, Jeremy Jeffress, Steve Clevenger and Adrian Nieto, among others — was born with a defect called bladder exstrophy, which has led to 42 surgeries in his life despite the fact that he is just 32 years of age. Though Kusnick faces constant trips to the hospital, he remains in contact with his players while there, Brantley tells Lemire, and he even once negotiated a minor league deal for client Philippe Valiquette from his hospital bed. Lemire writes that Kusnick delayed his 43rd surgery in order to attend the 2014 Winter Meetings. I had the pleasure of meeting Josh at the meetings in San Diego and, along with the rest of MLBTR, would like to wish him the best of luck in his next operation on Wednesday of this week.

Here are some more notes from around the game…

  • Though he won’t be eligible to sign until July 2, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. has already drawn significant interest from the Mets, Blue Jays and Angels, reports MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez (on Twitter). His father, of course, is the same Vladimir Guerrero that won an MVP with the Angels in 2004 and made nine All-Star teams in a 16-year career that saw him bat .318/.379/.553 with 449 home runs.
  • The Braves made a similar offer to the one-year, $5MM contract that Aaron Harang signed with the Phillies early in free agency, reports David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (Twitter link). However, at the time, Atlanta was told that Harang had other offers for more money and more years.
  • Former Orioles and Indians GM Hank Peters, who passed away at the age of 90 this weekend, took a big gamble on John Hart, writes Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer. Peters plucked Hart — then a third base coach with managerial aspirations — off the diamond and gave him a front office gig because he felt strongly about Hart’s ability to evaluate players. Hart discusses the transition with Hoynes as well as his role in architecting the 1989 Joe Carter trade with the Padres. Hart assisted Peters in that deal prior to taking the GM reins himself and insisted that the trade couldn’t be made without acquiring both Sandy Alomar Jr. and Carlos Baerga — two critical components to the Indians’ 1995 World Series appearance.
  • The Royals have announced the retirement of longtime assistant general manager Dean Taylor. Taylor’s front office career began with the Royals back in 1981, as he worked his way from administrative assistant to assistant director of scouting. Taylor’s other stops around the game include working as an assistant GM during the Braves’ excellent run in the 1990s as well as Brewers GM from 2000-02. Taylor returned to the Royals in 2006 and spent the final eight seasons of his career there. Josh Vernier of FOX Sports Kansas City tweets that assistant GM J.J. Picollo will assume Taylor’s duties as vice president/assistant GM, and director of player development Scott Sharp has been promoted to assistant GM as well.

Cafardo On Shields, Zobrist, Uggla, Papelbon, Aoki

The return of Alex Rodriguez headlines the top ten baseball storylines in 2015, according to Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe. With the 39-year-old Rodriguez and his two degenerating hips returning after serving a 162-game suspension for his role in the Biogenesis scandal, Cafardo posits the best-case scenario for the Yankees would be if A-Rod cannot hold up physically or the team and/or MLB come up with more damaging material to keep him out of baseball for good. Also making Cafardo’s list, the start of Rob Manfred’s tenure as Commissioner and Pete Rose testing the waters of reinstatement in the wake of the retirement of Bud Selig, a staunch opponent of allowing the all-time hits leader back into the game.

In other tidbits from Cafardo’s Sunday Notes column:

  • It has been hard to gauge the market for James Shields because his negotiations have been private. However, a MLB source tells Cafardo the Red Sox, Cubs, Angels, Dodgers, Rangers, Blue Jays, and Giants have had discussions or shown interest in the right-hander. Cafardo adds the Giants have cooled on Shields after re-signing Jake Peavy, but remain open-minded.
  • The Giants, Nationals, Angels, and Cubs are seriously pursuing Ben Zobrist with the Rays‘ asking price being at least one top prospect and a mid-level one.
  • Dan Uggla is confident in returning to his former self after being diagnosed with oculomotor dysfunction (poor motion vision when moving the head or body), which was caused by being hit in the head by a pitch on two separate occasions. After a two-week exercise regimen, doctors have declared the second baseman’s motion vision normal. The Nationals, who signed Uggla to a minor league deal with a Spring Training invite the day after Christmas, have prior experience in dealing with oculomotor dysfunction, as Denard Span suffered through it in 2013. The Orioles and Rangers also expressed interest in Uggla.
  • Despite his less-than-stellar reputation, Cafardo finds it hard to fathom a team would not trade for closer Jonathan Papelbon. Cafardo notes Papelbon has found a way to keep getting batters out with diminished velocity as evident by his 106 saves over the past three seasons, including 39 (with just four blown saves) for a bad Phillies team last year.
  • Clubs are only offering outfielder Nori Aoki two-year deals. The Orioles have definite interest in Aoki, who also has some appeal to the Giants.

 



East Notes: Gibbons, Turner, Oliver

With the arrival of a new year comes a new season in Blue Jays manager John Gibbons’ contract, Shi Davidi of Sportsnet.ca writes. The new year guarantees Gibbons’ deal through 2016 and also adds a new option for 2017. Every new year adds a new season in Gibbons’ contract, and GM Alex Anthopoulos created the deal so that Gibbons would never have a lame-duck season on the horizon. CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman reported in September that the Jays would retain Gibbons, who is 157-167 in two seasons on the job. Here are more notes from the East divisions.

  • Nationals acquisition Trea Turner (who will be the PTBNL in the Wil Myers trade) was the best prospect dealt between the Winter Meetings and Christmas, writes John Manuel of Baseball America. Manuel mentions that Padres vice president of scouting operations Don Welke, a close associate of new GM A.J. Preller, came from the Blue Jays organization, which preached that shortstops must have excellent arms. Turner doesn’t, so the Padres probably didn’t view him as a shortstop in the long term (although Manuel does).
  • The Phillies hope to help Rule 5 pick Andy Oliver with his control, Jim Salisbury writes for Baseball America. Oliver posted a very high 6.6 BB/9 in 64 innings of relief for the Pirates’ Triple-A affiliate in Indianapolis last year, but with 12.0 K/9 and excellent velocity. “There aren’t many lefthanders sitting between 94 and 97 (mph) with a good slider,” says pro scouting director Mike Ondo. “Obviously strike one is going to be important, but he’s got two big weapons. If some things come together, we hope we have something.” Ondo adds that the Phillies will use their other Rule 5 pick, Odubel Herrera, primarily as an outfielder.

AL East Notes: Blue Jays, Orioles, Breslow

The Blue Jays only have about $9MM left to spend this offseason, Richard Griffin of TheStar.com writes. The team’s top priority is upgrading the bullpen, which means the Jays aren’t likely to spend most of that money on a second baseman or an additional bat. (Griffin notes on Twitter that the Blue Jays’ apparent lack of funds likely means they won’t get Stephen Drew, who has reportedly been asking for around $9MM.) Griffin suggests that GM Alex Anthopoulos might prefer to add a younger pitcher, which could limit the Jays’ interest in older free agent options like Francisco Rodriguez, Rafael Soriano or former team closer Casey Janssen. Instead, he could pursue trade options like Tyler Clippard, Tommy Hunter (although, as a reader points out, it does not seem likely that the Orioles would trade Hunter within the division), Tanner Scheppers, or one of any number of Athletics relievers. Here are more notes from the AL East.

  • The Orioles have recently been connected to Colby Rasmus, and Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com looks at the repercussions for other Orioles outfielders, and especially David Lough, if the O’s were to acquire another left-handed outfielder. The main reason for keeping Lough was his ability to play center field, but Rasmus has played center throughout his career. Separately, Kubatko notes that the Orioles will need to open a 40-man roster spot shortly to clear space for Delmon Young.
  • After struggling in 2014, Craig Breslow took an unusual road back to the Red Sox this offseason, Rob Bradford of WEEI.com writes. “In terms of the process, it was exciting, it was unsettling,” says Breslow, who agreed to a one-year, $2MM deal to return to Boston after posting a 5.96 ERA with 6.1 K/9 and 4.6 BB/9 in 2014. “[E]veryone will go through a career with one season being their worst. Now, the fact that mine came on the cusp of free agency, that’s not how you draw it up.” Breslow attended the Winter Meetings and sat in on discussions between his agent, Bob Baratta, and various teams, explaining his tough year and making a case for himself. “Ultimately even teams we diverged from mentioned their appreciation for my involvement and that I had left an impression on them,” Breslow says.

Sherman’s Latest: Drew, Rios, Myers

Here’s the latest from Joel Sherman of the New York Post:

  • The Blue Jays, Athletics, Cubs, White Sox and Angels are interested in Stephen Drew to play second base but don’t want to pay his $9MM-$10MM asking price, Sherman writes. There’s concern that Drew’s poor 2014 season marks the beginning of a serious decline. “Fine, you want to say June and July [last year] were spring training for him, well, how about August or September? There was never a time in which he looked like a major league hitter,” says one executive. The Yankees could have interest in him, but want to commit to Didi Gregorius at shortstop and could have concern Drew would provide an easy distraction from those plans, even if he’s signed as a second baseman. Earlier this month, we guessed Drew would get a one-year, $7MM deal.
  • The Royals signed Alex Rios this offseason even though Rios rejected a trade to Kansas City last summer, Sherman says. The Rangers tried to trade Rios to the Royals, but Rios requested that Kansas City exercise his 2015 option as a condition of the deal. The Royals said no, so Rios used his no-trade clause to stop the trade. Rios thus spent the entire season with the Rangers, refusing a chance to join a team in the midst of a playoff race.
  • There have already been rumors of the Padres trading Wil Myers to Philadelphia in a Cole Hamels deal, and Sherman writes that San Diego would, in fact, consider dealing Myers, who they might feel isn’t good enough defensively to handle center field.

AL Notes: Twins, K-Rod, Aoki, Scherzer

Twins youngsters Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano are still among the top prospects in the game, despite losing most of 2014 to injuries, writes Jim Callis of MLB.com. Buxton suffered a concussion and injuries to both wrists last season, while Sano missed the season after requiring Tommy John surgery. Callis doesn’t see a promotion for either prospect until next August or September since the pair have to make up for lost development time. Of course, considerations such as Super Two eligibility also come into play.

  • The Blue Jays have Francisco Rodriguez on their radar but still prefer to fill their ninth-inning void via trade rather than free agency, reports Jon Heyman of CBS Sports (Twitter link). Last week, Heyman reported that the Jays were prioritizing the closer position and looking at the trade market to fill the need. A few days later, MLBTR readers voted in favor of K-Rod when he was pitted against Rafael Soriano and Casey Janssen in a Free Agent Faceoff of the market’s top remaining closers. Of nearly 15,000 respondents, more than 39 percent preferred Rodriguez.
  • Earlier this morning, Jon Morosi of FOX Sports reported that the Orioles are maintaining some level of interest in both Colby Rasmus and Ichiro Suzuki, and he now adds Nori Aoki‘s name to that list as well (Twitter link). Baltimore’s interest in Aoki has been previously reported to be limited, though that was earlier this month when the market had more options available. Scarcity in the outfield may have increased Aoki’s appeal.
  • While there’s been some speculation connecting the Red Sox and Max Scherzer, WEEI.com’s Rob Bradford doesn’t believe that Boston will sign the ace right-hander. Bradford writes that the Sox have preferred Jon Lester to Scherzer from the start, and they clearly drew a firm line in the sand in regards to their negotiations with Lester. One source tells Bradford that he thinks connection to the Red Sox is simply a ploy by Scherzer and agent Scott Boras to pressure the Yankees into becoming aggressive with Scherzer.

Infield Market Notes: Asdrubal, Drew, Toritani

As we inch toward the new year, the market for middle infielders has yet to truly take off. Jed Lowrie has returned to Houston on a three-year contract, and Korean slugger Jung-ho Kang may or may not be Pittsburgh-bound after the Pirates submitted the most aggressive posting fee ($5MM). Here’s the latest on what’s left of the middle infield market…

  • The Yankees, Royals, Rays and Blue Jays have all kept in touch with Asdrubal Cabrera‘s camp, reports Jon Morosi of FOX Sports (on Twitter). Each of those clubs has an existing option at shortstop, meaning Cabrera would likely have to shift to second base to join any of those four teams. The Yankees and Blue Jays present the best hitting environments of those choices, if Cabrera is looking for a one-year deal, but he could simply go to whichever club is willing to offer the largest number of years, as well.
  • The Cubs are among the clubs that are showing interest in Stephen Drew, tweets Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. Chicago is somewhat of a surprising team to be linked to Drew, as they have Starlin Castro at shortstop and can use Javier Baez or Luis Valbuena at second base. Valbuena or Drew could also slot in at third base, but that spot figures to be assumed by top prospect Kris Bryant at some point in 2015.
  • In an update to his weekend piece on the Padres‘ interest in Japanese shortstop Takashi Toritani, Jeff Sanders of the San Diego Union-Tribune reports that the Friars have yet to make a formal offer to the 33-year-old. Toritani is Japan’s most durable player, having played every inning of his club’s past 1,444 games, and he comes with an excellent defensive reputation as well. He’s a career .285/.372/.412 with Japan’s Hanshin Tigers, though some question whether or not his bat can transfer to Major League Baseball.
  • Meanwhile, Heyman tweets that while the Padres and Blue Jays are still interested in Toritani, there’s a “decent” chance that he ends up returning to the Hanshin Tigers next season.

Cafardo On Drew, Swisher, Longoria, Gomes

In today’s column, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe writes that the Orioles are still the team to beat in the AL East, a largely stagnant offseason which included losing two top players.  The Orioles are, in part, banking on Chris Davis having a bounce back season in his walk year and they believe healthy seasons out of Manny Machado and Matt Wieters will elevate them.  More from Cafardo..

  • Agent Scott Boras thinks the market for Stephen Drew will heat up in January after teams have exhausted trade possibilities for a middle infielder.  Boras hinted to Cafardo that a personal issue may have contributed to his offensive decline last season, though he declined to elaborate.
  • The Indians would like to trade Nick Swisher after acquiring Brandon Moss from Oakland and the Rays, Blue Jays, Orioles, Padres, Brewers, and Cubs could all be possible trade partners.  Swisher is owed about $30MM on his deal, however, so Cleveland might have to foot some of the bill.
  • One National League GM told Cafardo that he inquired about Rays third baseman Evan Longoria and was rebuffed.  The Rays have Longoria under contract at $11MM this year and $11.5MM next year before his extension kicks in in 2017, running through 2023.
  • Cafardo writes that Jonny Gomes could wind up with former Red Sox Jon Lester and David Ross on the Cubs to add some veteran presence to a young outfield.  “He’s still an effective player. He works for a team that’s on the verge and on a team like the Cubs or Astros who need a veteran presence,” said one National League GM.
  • At some point, the Phillies might have to release Ryan Howard and eat more than $60MM in salary.  Still, it’s not surprising to hear that a GM told Cafardo that an American League team would scoop him up as a DH if he is free.

Quick Hits: Brewers, Tsao, Toritani

Here’s the latest from around the league:

  • The Brewers are on the lookout for outfield depth for their new Triple-A affiliate at Colorado Springs, Tom Haudricourt writes for Baseball America. Jeremy Hermida is headed to Japan to play with the Nippon Ham Fighters, and Caleb Gindl and Eugenio Velez have departed as minor-league free agents. The Brewers also (intentionally) allowed Sean Halton and Kentrail Davis to leave in the minor-league portion of the Rule 5 Draft. “We have to get to work and sign some free agents,” says assistant GM Gord Ash.
  • The Dodgers are about to sign righty Chin-Hui Tsao to a minor-league deal, Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times writes. The 33-year-old played for the Rockies and Dodgers in parts of four seasons from 2003-2007. He has not played pro ball since 2009, when he was banned from the Chinese Professional Baseball League in Taiwan after allegations that he helped fix games. Shaikin notes that the Dodgers have gotten the approval of MLB before attempting to sign Tsao. The righty was reportedly throwing in the mid-90s this winter.
  • The Blue Jays and Padres are interested in Japanese infielder Takashi Toritani, reports Brendan Kennedy of the Toronto Star. Toritani, a Scott Boras client, is an unrestricted free agent, so he can sign with any club. The Padres can offer Toritani a chance at the shortstop job, while Toronto’s opening is at second base. He may also opt to remain in Japan where he’s played in 1,444 consecutive games. The 33-year-old has been an on base threat in Japan. He’s hit a healthy .285/.372/.412 over his career. A decision is expected to wait until the new year.