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Toronto Blue Jays Rumors
The Blue Jays have exercised their option on 1B/OF Adam Lind, Shi Davidi of SportsNet.ca tweets. The Jays will pay Lind $7.5MM for next season rather than a $1MM buyout. They’ll also have an option on his services for 2016 for $8MM or a $500K buyout.
Lind hit .321/.381/.479 in 318 plate appearances for the Jays last season, so picking up his option was probably an easy decision even though he’s a liability on defense and rarely hits against lefties. The move does not preclude a trade, however — Toronto recently claimed lefty first baseman Justin Smoak, potentially giving them another option at first and DH if they deal Lind. The Jays have reportedly already taken a number of calls on Lind this offseason.
The move comes as no surprise, since the Jays outrighted Santos twice last season. Santos had a strong season as the White Sox’ closer in 2011, leading to a three-year extension following the season, and then a trade to Toronto months later. The extension went sour almost immediately, as Santos struggled through shoulder troubles in 2012. He pitched well in 2013 but missed time that year, too, with a triceps injury. He then had forearm troubles in 2014 and battled control issues throughout the year.
The Blue Jays will exercise their team option on lefty starter J.A. Happ, paying $6.7MM rather than a $200K buyout, CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman tweets. Prior to the 2013 season, the Jays signed Happ to a one-year, $5.4MM extension for 2014 that included the option they’re exercising now. He can become a free agent after the coming season.
Happ pitched 158 innings for the Jays in 2014, with a 4.22 ERA, 7.6 K/9 and a 2.9 BB/9 that marked a significant improvement over his 2013 mark of 4.4. Happ also increased his average fastball velocity from 91.1 MPH to a career-high 92.7, perhaps an indication that he can continue to be helpful. He looks likely to be in the Jays’ rotation again in 2015.
The Yankees have hired longtime big league third baseman Eric Chavez as a special assignment scout, reports Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. Chavez retired at midseason this year but has expressed a desire to remain within the game. He’s had a close relationship with Yankees GM Brian Cashman and assistant GM Billy Eppler since playing with the Yankees in 2011-12. Heyman adds that Chavez was eyed by some clubs as a potential hitting coach, though it’s uncertain whether or not he’s interested in coaching gigs at this time.
A few other items on the Yankees and the rest of the AL East …
- In a piece for Baseball America, George King examines changes to the Yankees‘ player development structure and notes that the team is much happier with its current crop of minor league talent than it was two years ago. However, King also spoke to an NL scout who said the minor league system lacks depth beyond Luis Severino and Gary Sanchez, adding that he didn’t feel there was a true power-hitting bat that could play every day in the Majors. Baseball America’s Josh Norris released the Yankees’ list of Top 10 prospects today, which is headlined by Severino, outfielder Aaron Judge, shortstop Jorge Mateo, first baseman Greg Bird and Sanchez.
- The Red Sox declined reliever Craig Breslow‘s $4MM option after a poor 2014 season, but they could aim to bring him back at a lower price, Scott Lauber of the Boston Herald writes. “He has a lot of good qualities and we have a great relationship with him, so we’ll see what happens,” says GM Ben Cherington.
- The Toronto Maple Leafs, which are owned in part by Rogers Communications, signed defenseman Dion Phaneuf to a seven-year contract. As the Canadian Baseball Network’s Bob Elliott reports, agent Scott Boras wonders why the Blue Jays, which are owned in full by Rogers Communications, don’t sign players to seven-year deals. “If they can give one of their hockey players a seven-year deal, why can’t they give a seven-year deal to a baseball player?” asks Boras. Of course, the last Blue Jay to receive a seven-year contract was outfielder Vernon Wells, which might provide a partial answer to that question. The Jays haven’t been very active in recent years in signing key free agents to shorter deals, either, although they’ve made some splashy moves via trade.
The Blue Jays announced that they have signed veteran left-hander Jeff Francis to a minor league contract with an invitation to big league Spring Training. Francis is a client of Frontline Athlete Management.
Francis, 34 in January, split the 2014 season between the Reds, Athletics and Yankees, totaling 20 innings of work. He allowed 13 runs in that time for a 5.85 ERA, though he did post a strong 15-to-3 K/BB ratio as well.
Originally the ninth overall pick in the 2002 draft by the Rockies, the Canadian-born Francis has totaled a 4.95 ERA with 6.0 K/9 and 2.7 BB/9 in 1269 career innings between the Rockies, Royals, Red, A’s and Yankees. He’ll give the Jays some rotation depth to stash at Triple-A and could also serve as a relief option, as he did with the Rockies last season and in 11 of his 12 appearances in 2014.
The Blue Jays have claimed outfielder Andy Dirks off waivers, the Tigers announced via press release.
Dirks, 28, was expected to serve as Detroit’s primary left fielder this season in a platoon with Rajai Davis, but a back injury required surgery and wound up costing him the entire year. Dirks has a solid career slash line of .276/.332/.413, and he grades out as an excellent defender in left field, having compiled 16 Defensive Runs Saved and an UZR/150 mark of +5.1 in 1569 innings in left field.
With Melky Cabrera and Colby Rasmus both hitting the open market, Dirks makes for a very nice add to the team’s outfield depth if he can return to health in 2015 and beyond. He’s projected to earn $1.63MM in his first time through arbitration this offseason, per MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz, and he can be controlled through 2017 via the arb process.
12:32pm: Catcher Santiago Nessy will be the piece heading to K.C., Toronto announced.
11:51am: The Blue Jays have acquired pitcher Liam Hendriks from the Royals, reports Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (via Twitter). Hendriks, who had been designated for assignment by Kansas City, is expected to draw a catcher in return, per Rosenthal.
The 25-year-old righty originally came to the Royals from the Jays last summer (along with catcher Erik Kratz) in exchange for infielder Danny Valencia. Hendriks threw 32 2/3 MLB frames last year for both clubs, compiling a 5.23 ERA. His peripherals were more promising, however, as he struck out 6.3 and walked 1.9 per nine en route to a 3.84 FIP.
Hendriks owns a lifetime 5.92 earned run average in 188 2/3 frames. But he has been much better at the Triple-A level, compiling a 3.19 ERA over nearly 400 innings.
The Mariners announced that the Blue Jays have claimed first baseman Justin Smoak off waivers.
The waiver claim brings to an end what has to be characterized as a disappointing tenure in Seattle for Smoak, who four years ago was the centerpiece of a trade package that sent ace Cliff Lee from the M’s to the Rangers. Smoak, who turns 28 years old in December, showed flashes of promise in his time with Seattle, but he was unable to consistently string together stretches of productivity and never showed the power that Seattle hoped to be acquiring in that deal. In 1943 plate appearances with the Mariners, Smoak batted .226/.308/.384 with 66 homers.
Smoak avoided arbitration with the Mariners last season by agreeing to a one-year, $2.6375MM deal that contained a $3.65MM club option with a $150K buyout. Should that option be declined, Smoak will be eligible for arbitration. It seems likely then, that Toronto will decline the switch-hitting Smoak’s option and work out a smaller payday for his second trip through the arb process. The Blue Jays can control Smoak through the 2016 season if he turns it around following a change of scenery.
The somewhat surprising transaction further calls into question the future of Adam Lind with the Blue Jays. Toronto is reportedly receiving trade interest in Lind, whose club option for the 2015 season is valued at $7.5MM. Toronto now has another option to pair with Edwin Encarnacion in the first base/DH mix should the team move on from Lind. While Smoak clearly comes with less offensive certainty than Lind, he’ll come at less than half the price of Lind, giving the Blue Jays further resources for the offseason and arguably greater upside at the dish in 2015.
The Rays are compiling a list of managerial candidates and could announce a formalized list by the end of the week, writes Roger Mooney of the Tampa Tribune. The team’s goal is to have a new skipper in place by Thanksgiving, according to Mooney, who also notes that the Rays are taking the unusual step of asking their players on the qualities they would like in a new manager. “We don’t really bother ourselves with what is the norm,” Silverman explained. “We do what we think is right for our ballclub. They’re an important voice into who leads our clubhouse.”
More from the AL East…
- Joel Sherman of the New York Post adds to the recent Adam Lind trade speculation by writing that those looking to guess the first significant trade of the offseason would be wise to bet on the Blue Jays moving Lind. There are “strong indicators” that the Jays would like to reallocate the funds that are dedicated to Lind, so the team could very well exercise his $7.5MM club option and deal him. Sherman lists the Mariners and Athletics as potential fits, noting how well his platoon role fits the A’s model.
- Meanwhile, Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet tweets that he doesn’t see the Mariners as a fit for Lind given the team’s bulk of left-handed bats. While I agree that it’s an imperfect fit, Lind strikes me as a reasonable fit there if the club can find a right-handed bat to pair with him at DH.
- In his latest Yankees Inbox, Bryan Hoch of MLB.com writes that the team’s likely preference would be to retain David Robertson for one more season before handing the ninth inning over to Dellin Betances. That, of course, makes a qualifying offer likely, though I can’t envision any scenario where Robertson would accept the offer. Hoch also writes that Ichiro Suzuki will be seeking more at-bats than the Yankees have to give, even in a part-time role. Hoch wonders if he’d be a fit for an NL club who could use him off the bench and in the late innings while giving him occasional starts in the outfield as well.
Here’s the latest coaching news from around the majors…
- In addition to Seitzer, the Braves have announced the hiring of Jose Castro as the assistant hitting coach. Castro, 56, has worked as a minor league hitting coach or coordinator with the Expos, Marlins, Padres and Mariners from 1990-2010 and served as the Cubs’ quality assurance coach last season.
- The Braves have hired Kevin Seitzer as their new hitting coach, MLB.com’s Mark Bowman reports. The hiring could be officially announced as soon as today. Seitzer served as the Blue Jays‘ hitting coach in 2014, meaning Toronto now has a vacancy to fill. Seitzer also previously worked as a hitting coach with the Royals (2009-12) and Diamondbacks (2007).
- Seitzer and the Blue Jays couldn’t settle on a new contract, which led Seitzer to explore options elsewhere, Sportsnet.ca’s Shi Davidi reports. The Jays are now looking for a new hitting coach in addition to a new bullpen coach, though the rest of the coaching staff is under contract for 2015.
- The Athletics have hired Mike Aldrete as their new bench coach, Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle reports, with the hiring expected to be announced today. Aldrete, a Bay Area native, spent the last three seasons as the Cardinals‘ bench coach and four seasons prior to that as St. Louis’ assistant hitting coach.
- The Rays don’t know who their next manager will be, but they’re planning on keeping their current coaches, Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times writes. A new manager will usually add some of his own staff, but that won’t be the case with the Rays, who want to ensure continuity regardless of who manages next year. Topkin points out that could be good news for bench coach Dave Martinez, who could be a candidate for the managerial job.