Toronto Blue Jays Rumors

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

Brewers Still Discussing Papelbon; Jays Seen As Long Shots

FEB. 4: The holdup in talks with the Brewers currently stems from player compensation as opposed to financial compensation, reports Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. As such, Heyman speculates that the two sides may at least be on the same page in terms of how much money the Phillies would need to eat to facilitate a deal. The Brewers are believed to be the favorites to land Papelbon, should he be moved.

The Blue Jays, at this point, are viewed as a “major long shot,” according to Heyman, who cites finances as a significant stumbling block in Toronto’s talks. Heyman adds that, when reached earlier today, Amaro would only say, “We’re still having discussions with clubs.”

FEB. 2: The Phillies are still holding active negotiations regarding closer Jonathan Papelbon, GM Ruben Amaro Jr. tells Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com“Things are still alive,” said Amaro. “We’re still having discussion — and not just with one club.”

Though Amaro declined to name specific teams, the Phillies have recently been linked to the Brewers to varying degrees in various reports. Salisbury’s sources tell him that Milwaukee is “the most viable trade partner” for Philadelphia. (Indeed, the Brewers have given public indication that a deal is still a possibility.) The Blue Jays have also inquired, though Toronto’s interest is said to be “mild.”

As to whether a deal will get done, Salisbury says that the Phils are not interested in moving such a productive reliever — however pricey — without receiving a “quality prospect.” When asked whether he was optimistic of striking a deal, Amaro hedged: “I’m not sure. We’ll see. It’s complicated. There are a lot of different factors involved.”


Blue Jays Designate Chris Colabello For Assignment

The Blue Jays announced that they have designated first baseman/outfielder Chris Colabello for assignment in order to clear room on the 40-man roster for newly acquired left-hander Jayson Aquino.

Toronto claimed the 31-year-old Colabello off waivers from the Twins back in December. Colabello was a feel-good story for the Twins and for baseball fans in general over the past two seasons, making his big league debut at the age of 29 after spending seven season in the independent Canadian-American Association. Much was written about Colabello refusing to give up his dream, and the Massachusetts native made the most of an invitation to big league camp with the Twins in 2012 by posting gaudy numbers at Double-A and Triple-A before finally getting a look in the Majors.

Colabello enjoyed a big month of April this season, hitting .295/.343/.484 and driving in 27 runs, but much of that was attributable to a .379 BABIP, and he quickly saw his production deteriorate. While the former indy ball star is just a .214/.284/.364 hitter in 401 big league plate appearances, he’s authored a massive .319/.393/.574 batting line with 34 homers in 629 Triple-A plate appearances.


Rockies Deal Jayson Aquino To Blue Jays For Tyler Ybarra

The Blue Jays and Rockies have agreed to a swap of southpaws. The Rockies will acquire minor league lefty Tyler Ybarra, Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet.ca reports. In return, Toronto will add recently-designated hurler Jayson Aquino, his colleague Shi Davidi tweets.

Ybarra, 25, reached the Double-A level last year, tossing 53 innings and compiling a 4.42 ERA with 7.3 K/9 and 5.1 BB/9. The 2008 draftee has put up some impressive earned run totals and strikeout figures in the lower minors, though he also tallied around five free passes per nine.

Meanwhile, Aquino was in need of a new home after losing his place in Colorado. Just 22, Aquino has also made it to the Double-A level and is still being worked out as a starter. Once a top-ten organizational prospect, Aquino has fallen down the charts in recent seasons. In 107 frames at High-A and Double-A last year, he worked to a 5.13 ERA with 7.0 K/9 and 3.2 BB/9.



Free Agent Pitching Notes: Mulder, Zito, Coke

Here are a few pitching notes from around the game:

  • Long-time big leaguer Mark Mulder will not go after another comeback attempt this year, he tells ESPN.com’s Jerry Crasnick (Twitter link). The 37-year-old lefty has not seen MLB action since 2008 and had a brief spring stint with the Angels cut short last year with a rupture of his Achilles tendon.
  • Like Mulder, fellow southpaw Barry Zito made his name with the early-21st century Athletics. Though he remains on track with his own comeback bid, Zito will not be making a late-career return to Oakland, which was not among the teams to watch him work out today, per Joe Stiglich of CSNBayArea.com (via Twitter).
  • Free agent LOOGY Phil Coke threw recently for the Rangers and Blue Jays, his agent tells Anthony Fenech of the Detroit Free Press (Twitter link.) Coke worked to a 3.88 ERA over 58 frames last year with the Tigers.

AL East Notes: Shields, Yankees, Delmon, Blue Jays

The price tag on James Shields may be dropping to the point where it makes too much sense for the Yankees to ignore, opines Anthony Castrovince of MLB.com. Shields has never made sense for the Yankees at or in the vicinity of $100MM, Castrovince writes, but if his price tag is trending closer to that of Ervin Santana (four years, $55MM) than that $100MM plateau, the uncertainty and lack of stability in New York’s rotation makes them a logical destination. As Castrovince notes, the Yanks dished out four years and $52MM to Chase Headley shows that the team is still willing to spend on veterans at a price level with which they are comfortable, and Shields’ work ethic, leadership and durability make him a desirable rotation candidate in the Bronx.

Here’s more from the AL East…

  • The Yankees have a pair of very viable closer candidates in Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller, but MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch envisions Betances eventually locking down the closer role, with Miller likely ticketed to be the team’s top setup man. Hoch spoke with manager Joe Girardi, who did say that he’d like to have a set closer by the end of Spring Training. “I think guys like to know their roles, so I think if we can iron it out, I think it would be a good thing to do,” said Girardi. Using Betances in the ninth inning would cause his arbitration price to soar, although arbitration awards holds, strikeouts and ERA as well, so Betances looks like he’ll eventually be an expensive reliever regardless of his role.
  • As Eduardo A. Encina of the Baltimore Sun details, Delmon Young said at the Orioles‘ Fan Festival over the weekend that he entertained the idea of signing elsewhere and had the opportunity to do so, but his desire was always to return to Baltimore. “…my first goal was to come back here just because I like just being in a place where you’re guaranteed to have an opportunity to defend a division title,” said Young. “It could have been cool going to a different place and trying to win another one, but it’s always a lot better to defend what you earned the year before.” Young continued, explaining that he’s excited to have a larger role this year following the departure of Nick Markakis and Nelson Cruz, also adding that he’s much more comfortable in right field than left field.
  • Blue Jays manager John Gibbons spoke with Jim Bowden and Casey Stern on MLB Network Radio yesterday and acknowledged that the team has indeed talked about Jonathan Papelbon, Francisco Rodriguez and Rafael Soriano (Twitter link). Gibbons said GM Alex Anthopoulos has been in touch with Scott Boras regarding the two free agents, as well as Philadelphia counterpart Ruben Amaro Jr. regarding Papelbon. However, as Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet notes (Twitter link), the Jays aim to be thorough in their search, so it makes sense that they’d explore all avenues.

Deal Between Blue Jays, Belisario Falls Through

JAN. 30: The deal between Belisario and the Blue Jays has fallen through, reports Mike Wilner of Sportsnet (on Twitter). The two sides were very close to a deal before it fell apart. Belisario remains a free agent.

JAN. 29: The Blue Jays added some depth to their bullpen mix today, agreeing to a minor league contract with right-hander Ronald Belisario. Toronto has long been said to be looking at bullpen upgrades, with reports last night suggesting that the team was looking hard at the free agent market. Though Belisario’s spot isn’t guaranteed, the McNamara Sports Group client will compete for a job in Spring Training and will reportedly earn $1.7MM if he makes the team.

Belisario, 32, was designated for assignment back in November by the White Sox to make way for the claim of Onelki Garcia. He was one of several players to slot in at closer last year in Chicago, but failed to grab hold of the job. Belisario was ultimately charged with an unsightly 5.56 ERA on the year.

Though the bottom-line results weren’t pretty, Belisario’s peripherals are decidedly better. With 6.4 K/9, 2.4 BB/9, and a stellar 59.3% groundball rate, Belisario drew marks from ERA estimators in the low-to-mid three range. His ballooned run tallies may well have been the result of a very low 57.7% strand rate and a somewhat bloated .339 BABIP.

Belisario had been projected by MLBTR/Matt Swartz to earn $3.9MM in arbitration before losing his roster spot in advance of the non-tender deadline. Toronto saw former closer Casey Janssen lured away with a total $5MM guarantee, though the club is said to have about that much in remaining payroll space.

Jon Morosi of FOX Sports reported, on Twitter, that the Jays were making a strong push for Belisario. ESPN’s Jim Bowden reported the agreement and terms (Twitter links).


Blue Jays To Sign Ramon Santiago To Minor League Deal

5:00pm: Santiago will earn $1.1MM if he makes the big league roster, reports Jon Heyman of CBS Sports (Twitter link).

1:36pm: The Blue Jays and veteran infielder Ramon Santiago have agreed to a minor league contract with an invite to Major League Spring Training, tweets Sportsnet’s Shi Davidi.

Santiago, 35, spent the 2014 season with the Reds, hitting .246/.343/.324 with a pair of homers in 214 plate appearances. The Beverly Hills Sports Council client spent time at third base, second base and shortstop in Cincinnati, as he has done throughout his 13-year big league career. Santiago typically grades out as a plus defender at shortstop, per Ultimate Zone Rating and Defensive Runs Saved, and he’s been roughly average at second and third as well. His upside with the bat, however, is fairly limited, as evidenced by his lifetime batting line of .243/.314/.330.


Latest On Blue Jays’ Search For Relief Pitching

The Blue Jays are “in contact” with the representatives of multiple top free agent relievers, Jon Morosi of FOX Sports tweets. Among them are righties Francisco Rodriguez, Rafael Soriano, and Burke Badenhop.

With former Jays closer Casey Janssen now headed to the Nationals, Toronto officially must look elsewhere to build out its pen. The three names listed above are arguably the top three arms remaining, though several other options remain as well.

GM Alex Anthopoulos said earlier today that he is looking for many different ways to add talent to the relief corps, as Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet.ca reports. As things stand, Brett Cecil and Aaron Sanchez are perhaps the top two candidates to hold down the ninth inning, and Toronto is not sending signals that it feels an established closer is a necessity.

Payroll may be the driving factor at this point, writes Nicholson-Smith. With perhaps $5MM to $6MM in 2015 spending capacity remaining, that makes trade candidate Jonathan Papelbon a questionable fit. “When you see us linked to a player for days and days and back and forth, I’d say 9.9 times out of 10 there probably isn’t anything to it,” Anthopoulos said. “I can say we’re not going to be in the market for relievers making $10-plus million or more.”

Otherwise, Anthopoulos indicated that the team was in an opportunistic mode after getting a lot of work done earlier in the winter. “Most times the later you get in to the winter there’s potential for the prices to change on some of these guys,” he noted. One internal wild card, catcher Dioner Navarro, remains available in trade but seems destined to remain with the Jays unless a suitable offer comes in.


Latest On The Phillies’ Papelbon Trade Talks

JAN. 28: Haudricourt now tweets that he gets the sense the Brewers would like to find a way to make a Papelbon trade work, despite the fact that it would be complicated. Failing that outcome, a Francisco Rodriguez reunion is a fallback option for Milwaukee.

JAN. 27: While trade talks between the Brewers and Phillies regarding Jonathan Papelbon have slowed, MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki hears from two sources that the Phillies are still talking  to both Milwaukee and Toronto about Papelbon. Zolecki adds that the seriousness of the talks is unclear at this time, though Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports hears that Toronto’s interest is extremely limited (Twitter link). The Blue Jays would only acquire Papelbon if the financial risk associated with the transaction is “extremely limited,” per Rosenthal.

Additionally, ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick tweets that the Phillies have been in touch with an unknown AL club regarding Papelbon in the past few days. While that club could certainly be Toronto, it’s also possible that a second American League club could have kicked the tires on Papelbon.

The Blue Jays have repeatedly expressed interest in adding some experience to the back of their bullpen, though Papelbon is an imperfect fit for a number of reasons. For one, the Blue Jays are said to have only about $7MM remaining to improve their 2015 roster, and Papelbon is owed $13MM in 2015. Secondly, as CSN Philadelphia’s Jim Salisbury reported last week, Toronto is one of the team’s on Papelbon’s no-trade clause. Multiple reports indicated that Papelbon would require his $13MM vesting option to be guaranteed in order to approve a deal to a team on his no-trade clause, further muddying the financial situation for the Blue Jays.

As for the Brewers, talks with that team broke down due to financial concerns, and those concerns are still present, tweets Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. As he further notes, the ball is in Philadelphia’s court when it comes to a Papelbon trade, but the Phillies are strongly against letting his $13MM vesting option kick in, so it makes little sense for the Phillies to pay that money to facilitate a trade.

That scenario was one of the topics I discussed in today’s MLBTR Chat earlier this afternoon. The Phillies, as it stands, are on the hook for $13MM of Papelbon’s contract. If the team trades him and guarantees Papelbon’s vesting option, the acquiring club would owe the 34-year-old a total of $26MM. In that instance, even if the Phillies ate half of the money owed to Papelbon, they wouldn’t actually be saving anything. In fact, they may actually cost themselves money, as moving Ken Giles, the likely closer-in-waiting, into the ninth inning to open the 2015 season would surely cause his eventual arbitration price to rise.

It’s difficult then, to envision the Phillies paying anywhere close to $13MM of Papelbon’s salary without receiving a return that they feel is a significant upgrade to their farm system. The alternative would be to deal Papelbon to a club that is not on his no-trade list, with the acquiring club deploying him in a setup capacity. That could allow Philadelphia to save some money on Papelbon’s salary without the option coming into play. However, to this point, there haven’t been any indications that any of the 12 teams to which he cannot block a trade — the Red Sox, Rays, Royals, Angels, Mariners, Astros, Mets, Braves, Cardinals, Reds, Cubs and Padres — have any significant interest in trading for him.


AL East Notes: Monbouquette, A-Rod, Blue Jays, Orioles

Former Red Sox starter Bill Monbouquette passed away Sunday at age 78. The Massachusetts native tossed nearly 2,000 MLB frames, most of them with Boston, and notched a no-hitter in 1962. He was a three-time American League All-Star. MLBTR extends its sympathies to his family and friends.

Here are some recent notes from the AL East:

  • We’ve already heard it suggested that the Yankees could seek to invalidate Alex Rodriguez‘s home run milestone bonus clause, and ESPNNewYork.com’s Andrew Marchand now reports that the team is indeed attempting to craft a legal strategy to that end. If you are interested in thinking about what kinds of arguments the club might come up with, I addressed this very question in a series of posts last year regarding legal theories and remedies that teams could conceivably pursue against players suspended for PED use. The third part, in particular, covered A-Rod’s situation, while Part II (and, to a lesser extent, Part I) include useful background information.
  • The Blue Jays and Orioles now seem destined to return to the status quo in their front offices, at least for the coming season, and Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports says that both sides made missteps in the recent run of Dan Duquette-to-Toronto rumors.
  • For his part, once-and-still Blue Jays president and CEO Paul Beeston says that he is glad to still be with the team and that it is time to move on, as Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet.ca reports. Beeston added that he believes the ownership group would approve additional payroll if the club’s baseball leadership requests it.
  • As for the Orioles, it is time for Duquette and the organization to begin the process of re-establishing trust and normalcy, writes Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun. The sides were never close to agreeing on compensation, Connolly adds, and Baltimore is still keeping open the possibility of filing tampering charges against Toronto.