Toronto Blue Jays Rumors

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

White Sox Claim Kyle Drabek

Right-hander Kyle Drabek has been claimed on waivers by the White Sox, the Blue Jays announced. Jon Morosi of FOX Sports tweeted minutes before the announcement that an unknown club had claimed Drabek, and Sportsnet’s Shi Davidi had originally tweeted that Drabek was packing up his locker and appeared to be on the move. Fellow righty Nate Jones has been placed on the 60-day DL to clear a roster spot, the White Sox announced.

The 27-year-old Drabek was once regarded as one of baseball’s top 30 prospects by both Baseball America and Baseball Prospectus, and he was the centerpiece of the trade that sent Roy Halladay from Toronto to Philadelphia. Injuries, however, have limited much of his ability to stay on the mound since being acquired by Toronto (he underwent Tommy John surgery in 2012), and he’s been ineffective when able to take the hill. In 172 1/3 big league innings, Drabek has a 5.27 ERA, an even more unsightly 5.41 FIP and an uninspiring 118-to-111 K/BB ratio.

Drabek has been effective over the past two Minor League seasons, however, and he’s had a strong Spring Training (7 IP, 2 ER, 3 BB, 7 K), though it’s tough to place too much emphasis on seven spring innings. Drabek is out of Minor League options, as MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes recently noted, meaning that he’d have to clear waivers before the Sox could send him outright to Triple-A.

The Sox may very well try to sneak Drabek through waivers, as the bullpen picture already contains David Robertson, Jake Petricka, Zach Duke, Daniel Webb, Zach Putnam, Javy Guerra and Dan Jennings, with Maikel Cleto and Eric Surkamp also serving as options.


Blue Jays Outright Scott Barnes

The Blue Jays announced that they’ve outrighted left-handed pitcher Scott Barnes, clearing a spot on the 40-man roster. This marks the first time that Barnes has been snuck through waivers this offseason. He was originally acquired by the Orioles from the Indians, then claimed by Rangers and then the Blue Jays.

The 27-year-old Barnes has a 5.20 ERA in a small sample size of 27 2/3 big league innings, but he has a nice track record and Triple-A and pitched well there in 2014. Last season, he notched a 3.69 ERA with 10.2 K/9 and 4.2 BB/9 while holding opposing lefties to a .191/.296/.255 batting line.


Quick Hits: Forbes, Yankees, Alvarez, Kluber

“Overall, baseball has never been as big or as profitable” as it is now, Forbes’ Mike Ozanian writes in the magazine’s annual valuation of MLB franchises.  The average value of a Major League team is $1.2 billion, a massive increase from Forbes’ last calculation (of $811MM) just a year ago.  Fifteen teams were valued at least a billion dollars, with the Yankees leading the way at $3.2 billion.  Here’s some more from around baseball…

  • Despite the Yankees‘ incredible value, Hal Steinbrenner said the team is not for sale in an ESPN radio interview with Michael Kay and Don LaGreca (hat tip to Anthony McCarron of the New York Daily News).  Selling the club is “not enticing in any way shape or form,” Steinbrenner said.  “It’s a family business. Many of us are involved from the family and we know this is what our dad would want, to carry on the tradition.”
  • Cuban right-hander Yadier Alvarez is drawing “serious interest” from the Nationals, The Washington Post’s James Wagner writes.  “The Nationals like Alvarez’s frame and stuff,” Wagner notes about the 18-year-old Alvarez, who is listed at 6’3″ and 175 pounds.  The Nats and Diamondbacks were cited as the top contenders for Alvarez by MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez last month, and if Alvarez will indeed be ineligible to sign until July 2, that will eliminate the D’Backs from contention due to penalties for going over slot in this signing period to land Yoan Lopez.  Even if Arizona is out of the running, however, the Nats will still have to bid against several other interested teams for Alvarez’s services.
  • The MLBPA has been encouraging players to look for other means of achieving guaranteed financial security rather than accept below-market extensions, FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal reports.  One of those means is taking out a “loss-of-value” insurance policy to protect against injury (Max Scherzer took out such a policy last season) and Rosenthal suggests that Corey Kluber could explore doing the same this year to gain some leverage in contract talks with the Indians.  Kluber could cash in by signing an extension now, but waiting even one season to get into his arbitration-eligible years would greatly increase the value of a multi-year deal, Rosenthal argues.  With the loss-of-value policy backing him up, Kluber would have fewer worries about getting hurt this season and missing out on a chance at a big contract.
  • Brady Aiken‘s Tommy John surgery will lower his draft stock and potentially make him a risk for teams picking near the top of the first round, though Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal thinks the Red Sox could take a chance on Aiken with the seventh overall pick.  The addition of a first-round caliber talent in Yoan Moncada and an overall deep minor league system gives Boston the luxury to take a risk on Aiken and hopes that, if he recovers, they’ll have fallen into a future ace.
  • Jake Fox is trying to land a regular minor league job with the Blue Jays, and the veteran talks to Sportsnet.com’s Arden Zwelling about some of the ups and downs of being a baseball journeyman.


AL Notes: Price, Ludwick, Lindstrom, Blue Jays

Academy Award-winning actor, Michigan native and huge Tigers fan J.K. Simmons will throw out the first pitch at the Tigers’ opener on April 6.  Simmons won a Best Supporting Actor Oscar last month for his role in Whiplash, and if you’ve seen the movie, you’ll agree that the Tigers should probably hold off on having Simmons give a pep talk to the rookies before the game.  Here’s the latest from around the American League…

  • The Tigers‘ chances of extending David Price aren’t good, Mlive.com’s Chris Iott opines, as there are simply too many reasons for Price to test the free agent market this winter.  Price could potentially find a $200MM+ contract next offseason, so it’s possible Detroit would have to top that level now in order to retain him.
  • The Rangers told outfielder Ryan Ludwick that he wouldn’t make the team, GM Jon Daniels told reporters (including MLB.com’s T.R. Sullivan).  Daniels described Ludwick as an “all-world guy” who he believes could help another team’s roster, though in the Rangers’ case, “as we look at it today, we thought other options in camp fit the roster better.”  Ludwick signed a minor league contract with Texas in February and, as an Article XX(B) free agent, would’ve been obligated to receive a $100K bonus if the Rangers wanted to keep him in the organization but not on the 25-man roster.
  • Matt Lindstrom is also an Article XX(B) free agent, and the Angels right-hander’s status could hurt his chances of making the roster since the Halos like to be flexible in sending relievers back and forth to the minors, MLB.com’s Alden Gonzalez writes.
  • Right-hander Steve Delabar told reporters (including Sportsnet’s Mike Wilner) that “it’s a shock to me” that he won’t be making the Blue Jays‘ Opening Day roster.  Delabar pitched well this spring but apparently lost his spot due to the emergence of Miguel Castro and Roberto Osuna, both of whom seem very likely to make the team.  Delabar was clearly upset by the demotion, and when asked if he would accept a change of scenery to a new team, he said “it could be considered, but I’m not saying that that’s what I’m asking for or anything like that. But if that was to happen… I feel like I’m a major-league player and I can help a bullpen.”
  • Blue Jays outfielder Michael Saunders won’t be ready for Opening Day, MLB.com’s Gregor Chisholm writes, though the reason isn’t due to a setback in his rehab from knee surgery.  The team and Saunders both want to make sure the outfielder is 100 percent when he takes the field, which could be as soon as Toronto’s home opener on April 13.  Saunders had surgery to remove 60 percent of his left meniscus after tearing the cartilage earlier this spring — a decision that accelerated his timeline to take the field from midseason to early April.  Manager John Gibbons has referred to the radically altered timeline as “kind of a miracle,” and Saunders has already been DHing in Minor League games, per Chisholm. However, he’s yet to play outfield defense or run the bases; he’s returned to the dugout rather than running after each at-bat in those games, as the focus is currently just on getting his timing down in a game setting.

NL West Notes: Bumgarner, Dodgers, Navarro

The Dodgers weren’t the only NL West team looking at Cuban right-hander Pablo Millan Fernandez, as MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez reports that the Giants and Padres also had interest.  The Rangers and Red Sox, two of the more aggressive teams on the international signing front in recent years, were also interested in Fernandez, who agreed to an $8MM bonus with Los Angeles yesterday.  Here’s some more from around the NL West…

  • Madison Bumgarner has no plans to approach the Giants about re-negotiating his contract and said he has no regrets over signing his five-year extension, the World Series MVP tells Andrew Baggarly of the San Jose Mercury News.  In April 2012, Bumgarner signed a deal that, at the time, paid him the highest average annual value of any contract given to a player between 1-2 years of service time.  The five-year, $35MM deal includes a $12MM vesting option for 2018 and a $12MM team option for 2019.  While those options could increase to $16MM based on Cy Young finishes, Bumgarner’s contract has obviously been a major bargain for the Giants.
  • The Brewers were one of a few teams interested in trading for Dodgers infielder Alex Guerrero, though nobody was interested in paying Guerrero the $14MM he’s owed through 2017, ESPN Los Angeles’ Mark Saxon reports.  Some teams were staying away from a trade and instead hoping L.A. would just release the Cuban prospect in the wake of his tough 2014 campaign.  A good Spring Training, however, has earned Guerrero a spot on the Opening Day roster and kept him in the Dodgers’ future plans.
  • The Dodgers won’t be considering extensions for Jimmy Rollins, Howie Kendrick or Juan Uribe until at least partway through the season, Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times writes.  All three veteran infielders are entering their walk years, but L.A. can afford to wait given the presence of Guerrero and Corey Seager, not to mention the possible signing of Hector Olivera.  For his part, Uribe says he wants to stay with the Dodgers beyond 2015.
  • Diamondbacks GM Dave Stewart told reporters (including MLB.com’s Steve Gilbert) and The Arizona Republic’s Nick Piecoro) that Dioner Navarro‘s $5MM salary is too much to fit into his team’s payroll.  The Snakes have been linked to the Blue Jays catcher for much of the offseason and they’re reportedly still scouting him, though Stewart said there isn’t any substance to those rumors.

AL East Notes: Navarro, Wieters, Matusz, Yankees

Here’s the latest from around the AL East…

  • The Diamondbacks still have interest in Blue Jays catcher Dioner Navarro, as Sportsnet’s Jeff Blair writes that the Snakes “have been trailing…Navarro for the better part of a week.”  Navarro himself recently said that he believed Arizona and Detroit were interested in acquiring his services, and both teams have room to upgrade behind the plate.
  • Matt Wieters will begin the season on the DL as he recovers from Tommy John surgery, and Orioles manager Buck Showalter told reporters (including MASNsports.com’s Roch Kubatko) that the lack of precedent for catchers recovering from the surgery is why the O’s pursued several backups this offseason.  “I think there’s a lot of unknown there. We’re hoping for the best,” Showalter said.  “They’ll have something to base the future on when the start trying to analyze this, because he’s been a model blueprint for rehab as far as what he’s done. We followed it to the letter of the law. Matt, if anything, has been above and beyond.”
  • Orioles southpaw Brian Matusz has been the subject of trade rumors in recent weeks, most notably in connection to the MetsMASNsports.com’s Roch Kubatko reports that New York indeed still has interest in Matusz but would need the O’s to cover part of Matusz’s $3.2MM salary.  Previous reports have suggested the Orioles would be add some cash to make a deal happen, so there could be a bit if the two sides can make the numbers line up.
  • Scouts haven’t been impressed with either Carlos Beltran or Stephen Drew this spring, Andy Martino of the New York Daily News reports.  Neither of the two Yankees veterans are hitting well, and there is also question about Beltran’s ability to play right field.  This is a particularly important Spring Training for Drew, as his loose hold on the second base job could be broken entirely given the presence of Rob Refsnyder and Jose Pirela.

Justin Smoak Looking Forward To Fresh Start

Entering his fifth major league season, Justin Smoak knows that he hasn’t accomplished everything that he set out to do when he was regarded as a top prospect.  He also believes, however, that it’s not too late to turn on the jets and fulfill his potential.

I’ve learned a lot over the years. I think I’ve had some good few weeks, a good month here and there, but I haven’t been the player that I know I can be and what a lot of people thought I was going to be, so it’s just about getting better and doing what I can day in and day out,” Smoak told MLBTR after the Blue Jays topped the Rays 3-0 in Dunedin. “I feel like I’m at a point where I’ve learned what works for me and I’ve learned a lot. I’ve just got to make it happen.”

Just four years ago, Smoak was the centerpiece of a trade package that sent ace Cliff Lee to the Rangers.  Smoak didn’t blossom into the fearsome bopper Seattle hoped he’d become, and last October, the Blue Jays claimed him off waivers.  Soon after, they declined Smoak’s $3.65MM option and non-tendered him, but he knew all along that he was still wanted in Toronto.

Yeah, that was the first conversation I had with them. That was already a known.  I knew that was going to happen, and I’m still arbitration-eligible, so I just tried to come to a deal and it ended up being what it is now,” Smoak said, referring to his one-year, $1MM pact.

Late last year, Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet learned from Smoak’s agent that he turned down more money elsewhere to sign with the Blue Jays.  Predictably, Smoak cited playing time as a reason for his decision, but not the only one.

Probably more just the opportunity, you know, the opportunity to play and be in this lineup and be in the American League East and some hitter ballparks, that was probably the number one thing for me,” said the 28-year-old.

Toronto could provide a springboard for Smoak to make that money back and then some, but, above all else, he believes the change of scenery will help him get his career back on track.

In Seattle, I had some good times and I learned a lot, but it’ll be a fresh start in Toronto and, hopefully, I’ll get things going here.”


Daniel Norris Tuning Out Trade Rumors

Long before people were eyeing Daniel Norris as the next spokesman for Dos Equis beer, he was a wanted man around baseball.  When the Cubs were shopping ace Jeff Samardzija last summer, Theo Epstein & Co. were reportedly targeting Norris as a centerpiece in a potential deal with Toronto.  Ultimately, of course, the Blue Jays stood pat and held on to one of the brightest young pitching prospects in baseball.  Through it all, Norris says he didn’t allow the trade talk to be a distraction, but he couldn’t avoid hearing about it on a daily basis.

At first it was like, I would never see it, but I would always get text messages from buddies back home like, ‘Dude, are you getting traded?’ and they’d send me screenshots of MLB Trade Rumors and I’m like, ‘What the heck?’  But, at the end of the day, it’s just about throwing a baseball,” Norris told MLBTR.  Whoever it’s for, whether it’s for the Blue Jays or for the Cubs, whatever, that’s all I can control. It’s not like I can say, ‘Hey, please don’t trade me, I like your organization.’ So you just have to take whatever is given to you.

Even as speculation mounted about the Blue Jays making a play for Samardzija and the potential pieces that could be involved in a swap, no one from the organization approached the young pitcher to let him know a trade was imminent.  His representatives at Excel Sports Management thought enough of the buzz to keep him apprised, but Norris wasn’t exactly waiting by the phone.

I got a call from my agent once when I was in Double-A and he said, ‘Hey, there’s a possibility you might get traded, it’s out there, I wanted to let you know,’ and I was like, ‘Okay, whatever,’ so that’s about the extent of it,” the pitcher explained.

By all accounts, the 21-year-old (22 in April) is the frontrunner to land the final spot in the Blue Jays’ rotation, but he refused to pat himself on the back for what he’s displayed this spring.  With some prodding, he acknowledged that he did well for himself in his Friday night outing when he allowed one run across 5 2/3 innings against the Rays, but he’s determined to improve on his command and delivery as the season draws near.  Norris hopes that if he has everything clicking to start the year, he can direct the conversation away from his fascinating off-field life and back to his pitching.

I don’t think it’ll be long before the focus is back on my playing again,” Norris said.  “I just want to go out there and take care of business.”


Dioner Navarro Addresses Trade Speculation

Dioner Navarro was gearing up for his second season as the Blue Jays’ starting catcher when Toronto decided to make a massive splash by signing Russell Martin in November.  Navarro, an offensively-gifted catcher is his own right, was understandably unhappy with the prospect of seeing less at-bats at a new position.  Navarro asked for a trade days after Martin’s arrival and weeks ago he said that the D’Backs and Tigers were among the teams that have called on him.  For now, however, he’s keeping his focus solely on the field.

No not at this point. I really try to stay away from it now [laughs],” Navarro told MLBTR when asked if he’s heard of additional clubs that have interest in acquiring him. “I already said my feelings about it, whatever happens is going to happen.”

Navarro had a chat with Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos earlier this offseason where both men were able to explain their positions.  In the weeks that have followed, Navarro said that he hasn’t heard from AA or anyone else in the front office about a potential deal.

No, I just had a conversation early during the offseason and we spoke our piece.  Since Spring Training started he expressed his feelings and I expressed my feelings and we’ll leave it at that.  We don’t need to be saying anything else, we gotta get ready for baseball season.

I think I’m at that point where I don’t even pay attention anymore, whether it’s here or somewhere else. I’m just trying to get ready and let my agent do what he’s got to do. If he gets something done, he’ll let me know,” the 31-year-old said.

In other words, if a trade is merely days away, Navarro doesn’t know about it.  The catcher also told MLBTR that he hasn’t given any thought to where he might potentially be a good fit.  In the interim, his plan is to do whatever is asked of him, even if he’s not all that gung ho about playing primarily in the DH spot.

There’s a little bit that I like about playing DH, but, I mean, I love playing behind the plate.  I love being in there every pitch every play, I love playing behind the plate, and I feel like myself behind the plate.  But, right now I want to help my team win.  In this case, if I stay with the Blue Jays I’d love to help them win and help them be in the postseason this year,” said Navarro.

It remains to be seen whether the Tigers, Diamondbacks, or another team will make a move for the well-traveled veteran, who will be a free agent again after the season.  Even if the outside interest is significant, a deal might not materialize for a while as Anthopoulos knows how valuable Navarro can be for a catching-needy team and is demanding a quality return for him.  In the interim, Navarro says he’s ready to give 100%, even if he’s only doing 50% of what he loves at present.


East Notes: Izturis, Marlins, Valdespin, Pineda

Prior to the start of Sunday’s game against the Rays, Blue Jays manager John Gibbons told reporters, including MLBTR’s Zach Links, that second baseman Maicer Izturis is progressing slowly from his strained groin injury.  “He was told [not to take part in] any activity for ten days, I would definitely think he’ll be out [for Opening Day],” Gibbons said. Izturis was in competition for the starting second base job, which is likely now down to one or more of Devon Travis, Ryan Goins, and Steve Tolleson, as MLB.com’s Gregor Chisolm writes. This year is an important one for the veteran Izturis, who at age 34 is entering the final guaranteed season of his contract with plenty to prove. (Toronto holds a $3MM option over him for next year.)

Here’s more from the east:

  • “Numerous teams” have been inquiring about Marlins pitching, MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro tweets. We heard talk yesterday that lefties Brad Hand and Andrew McKirahan were drawing interest.
  • Infielder/outfielder Jordany Valdespin has come a long way since his oft-contentious stint with the Mets and has a legitimate chance to make the Marlins Opening Day roster, Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald reports. The 27-year-old, who says his attitude turned after being told by his mother it was time to “grow up,” split last year between the bigs and Triple-A with Miami.
  • Yankees starter Michael Pineda is drawing rave reviews this spring, as George A. King III of the New York Post writes. Of course, the big question with Pineda is shoulder health. He was effective last year despite working in the low 90s, but this spring is said to be pushing his fastball back toward the mid-90s level that he deployed as a breakout rookie.