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Toronto Blue Jays Rumors
Yankees owner and managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner covered a number of topics in a recent chat with Bill Madden of the New York Daily News. Among other things, Steinbrenner credited the front office with having “better drafts of late,” naming prospects Greg Bird, Rob Refsnyder, and Aaron Judge as some of the players to show promise. He also addressed the team’s offseason spending, which — while still substantial — was not as extraordinary as it has been at times in the past. Steinbrenner noted that the team still put out a lot of money on the international market even as it missed on Yoan Moncada. He also gave some thoughts on the team’s future intentions in free agency: “I’m not saying we’ll never give another seven-year contract, but going in you know you’re probably only going to get three-four good years out of it. It remains my goal to get under that $189 million (luxury-tax threshold), but it’s not going to happen for at least two more years when these big contracts we have expire. But I’ve continued to say you shouldn’t need $200 million to win a championship.”
Here are some more links from the AL East:
- The Orioles continue to discuss contractual matters with starter Chris Tillman even after agreeing to an arbitration salary for 2015, Joel Sherman of the New York Post reports on Twitter. President of baseball operations Dan Duquette said earlier this year that the sides have “mutual interest” in an extension. MLBTR’s Charlie Wilmoth recently examined his extension case.
- Meanwhile, Orioles lefty Brian Matusz has seen his name come up in trade rumors. After tossing four scoreless frames today, he acknowledged the chatter, as MLB.com’s Britt Ghiroli reports. Matusz is still hoping to line up a starting role, but says he is most focused on providing value in any capacity. “I mean, it’s no secret. I’m well aware of talks and things going on,” said Matusz regarding the possibility of a deal. “But for me all I can control is what I can control. To be able to go out and pitch and get extended and throw all four pitches and mix. Be able to pitch my game is really what it’s all about.”
- Young lefty Daniel Norris seems to have all but established himself as the Blue Jays‘ fifth starter, Brendan Kennedy of the Toronto Star reports. While veteran Marco Estrada is still considered part of the competition, Kennedy says that it would take a major change to move Norris out of the role now. Both Norris and fellow youngster Aaron Sanchez would stand to put themselves on track to hit arbitration eligibility in 2018 before qualifying for free agency in the 2021 season, if they can hold onto their big league roster spots for all or most of 2015. (Norris 29 days of big league service at present, while Sanchez has 69 days.)
The Red Sox announced this morning that they’ve optioned catcher Blake Swihart and pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez to Triple-A Pawtucket. Swihart, of course, has attracted attention as a key name in Cole Hamels trade rumors, although the Red Sox have so far been unwilling to part with him. It comes as no surprise that he’ll evidently start the season in Pawtucket — he’s only played 18 games at the Triple-A level, and Christian Vazquez and Ryan Hanigan are set to begin the season as the Red Sox’ catchers. Here’s more from the East divisions.
- With the Phillies reportedly willing to pay $50MM of the $60MM remaining on Ryan Howard‘s contract, SB Nation’s Grant Brisbee examines which AL teams might have a use for Howard. He suggests the Indians and Blue Jays might be the best fits, and even then, it wouldn’t make sense for either team to pay $10MM.
- Free-agent closer Rafael Soriano has been working out in the Dominican, but he will soon stop by the Boras Sport Training Institute at St. Thomas University in Florida, CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman writes. (The institute hosted Boras clients Stephen Drew and Kendrys Morales while those players when through protracted free-agent periods last year, Heyman notes.) Soriano could then host a workout for interested teams. Heyman suggests that the Blue Jays, who will probably have Aaron Sanchez head from the bullpen to the rotation to replace the injured Marcus Stroman, could be the best fit for Soriano, who remains a free agent deep into Spring Training.
The Orioles got good news on Matt Wieters today, whose elbow X-ray came back clean, as Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun tweets. While his new UCL will obviously handled with care, that is good news for the top catcher in next year’s free agent class.
Here’s more from the AL East:
- Red Sox outfielder Rusney Castillo still hopes to be able to get enough work in this spring to be ready to make the Opening Day roster, as Scott Lauber of the Boston Herald reports. But with the time he has lost to an oblique strain, the outstanding play of Mookie Betts, and the team’s otherwise less flexible group of plausible big league outfielders, it seems that a stint at Triple-A is certainly possible — in spite of his huge salary. Castillo says he “wouldn’t feel bad about that at all if that’s the decision that’s made.” As Lauber notes, Boston’s outfield situation remains a fascinating story line as the season fast approaches.
- Another interesting situation to watch — the Blue Jays staff makeup — is gaining some clarity, as Brendan Kennedy of the Toronto Star reports. Aaron Sanchez is highly likely to open in the rotation, according to manager John Gibbons, with Marco Estrada and Daniel Norris still in the mix for the last starting spot. Meanwhile, it appears that fellow youngster Miguel Castro is headed for a slot in the pen. Those much-hyped arms all saw their timelines accelerated when fellow young right-hander Marcus Stroman went down to an ACL tear; he had successful surgery today.
- Meanwhile, Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos said today on The Fan 590 that the club could still look around for another option at first, as Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet.ca tweets. The team currently appears set to utilize Justin Smoak and, potentially, Daric Barton at the position when Edwin Encarnacion is in the DH slot. Given Encarnacion’s back issues, that could be more often than not in the season’s early going. The team’s decisions regarding catcher Dioner Navarro could also factor into things, as he could potentially take a bench role if he is not dealt.
- Rays owner Stuart Sternberg said today that he is still not seeing progress on stadium talks, as Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reports. Emphasizing that he sees a future for the organization in the greater Tampa area, Sternberg nevertheless expressed frustration with opposition that has been encountered from the St. Petersburg City Council regarding issues relating to the team’s quest to find a new park.
Jacoby Ellsbury will be kept out of baseball activities for about a week after an MRI revealed a strained oblique, though Yankees manager Joe Girardi told reporters (including ESPN New York’s Wallace Matthews) that the injury is “really mild.” Though the timing of the injury puts Ellsbury’s status for Opening Day in question, Girardi thinks Ellsbury will be able to play when the Yankees open the season on April 5. Here’s some more from around the AL East…
- The Rays are already facing injury issues within their starting rotation, and president of baseball ops Matt Silverman told reporters (including Roger Mooney of the Tampa Tribune) that the team will explore external options. “Those are conversations that will ramp up in the next couple of weeks as teams figure out what they have, what they need and where there may be some surplus,” Silverman said. If the Rays did acquire another starter, however, Silverman said that pitcher would likely go to Triple-A, as the team will be using its minor league depth to bolster the big league rotation.
- Nolan Reimold was offered minor league contracts by multiple teams but “there is no question [Baltimore] is where I wanted to end up,” he tells MASNsports.com’s Steve Melewski. The long-time Oriole is back with his original team after spending 2014 in the Blue Jays and Diamondbacks organizations, and Reimold said that Orioles VP of baseball operations Brady Anderson played a key role in his decision to return to the O’s.
- Blue Jays righty Miguel Castro has looked so good in camp that, in the battle for an Opening Day bullpen role, “there’s not much doubt left that it’s Castro’s job to lose,” MLB.com’s Gregor Chisholm writes. Part of this has to due with a lack of relief depth for the Jays, though the 20-year-old Castro has impressed, allowing only two hits in 6 2/3 shutout innings over four outings. Promoting Castro would be a bold move by Toronto, as Castro yet to pitch above the high-A ball level in his three pro seasons.
WEDNESDAY: The Blue Jays have officially announced the signing. Wolf will be in minor-league camp.
MONDAY: The Blue Jays have agreed to a minor league deal with veteran lefty Randy Wolf, according to Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register (via Twitter), who cites big league umpire Jim Wolf (Randy’s brother) as the source of the news. Wolf showcased for the Jays recently, as Gideon Turk of BlueJaysPlus.com tweeted. Wolf would earn $800K on the big league roster and can opt out on June 1, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com tweets.
Wolf, 38, tossed 25 2/3 innings last year for the Marlins, posting a 5.26 ERA with 6.7 K/9 against 2.1 BB/9. He also spent time in the Diamondbacks, Angels, and Orioles systems. Before all that happened, he turned down a chance to open the year as a member of the Mariners rotation because he refused to sign an advance-consent form late in the spring. (MLBTR’s Zach Links reported on the details of that situation here.)
For Toronto, the 15-year major leaguer represents another depth piece, joining Johan Santana and Jeff Francis as veteran southpaw options. One or more members of that grouping could conceivably provide some versatility at the MLB level by operating as a longman, LOOGY, and/or spot starter. With Marcus Stroman out for the year, the club is obviously looking to ensure it has arms lined up to last the season.
Blue Jays infielder Ramon Santiago will miss approximately ten weeks with a broken collarbone, GM Alex Anthopoulos told reporters, including MLB.com’s Gregor Chisholm (via Twitter). The 35-year-old, 13-year big league veteran had been in the mix for a utility role with Toronto.
Here’s more from the American League:
- Veteran Yankees hurler C.C. Sabathia worked in the low 90s today with his fastball, a scout tells Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News (via Twitter). Feinsand notes that Sabathia is well ahead of his build-up last year, which turned out to be by far his worst season as a professional. New York would be grateful if Sabathia could simply produce as a league-average starter, though the former Cy Young winner obviously has greater upside than that even at age 34.
- Angels backstop Chris Iannetta is working to improve his receiving this spring, MLB.com’s Alden Gonzalez reports. Iannetta says he was surprised to find that his framing numbers were sub-par. “I get really good reviews from umpires in what I do and how I work, and I see some discrepancies,” Iannetta said. “It’s disappointing. So my goal is to get as good as I can. Be in the top five, top 10, try to get better, see what the guys who do really well are doing mechanically.” Iannetta discusses in some detail how he approaches the dark art of manipulating balls into strikes, which has only recently been reduced to numbers (and translated into runs and wins). If he can show improvement in that department this year, Iannetta could have broad appeal as a free agent next winter given his above-average bat.
Right-handed power hitters carried the day in 2014, writes Joel Sherman of the New York Post. By the numbers, 12 of the top 16 power hitters batted right-handed. Several clubs including the Padres, Astros, Diamondbacks, and Blue Jays have committed to a mostly right-handed lineup in a search for more power. Unfortunately, right-handed power extends to the mound, where an influx of relievers are throwing over 95 mph with nasty secondary pitches.
Here’s more from around the game:
- Indians utility fielder Zach Walters has injured his oblique and will miss the next three to four weeks, reports Chuck Crow of the Cleveland Plain Dealer. Walters was acquired last season in exchange for Asdrubal Cabrera. The switch-hitter is a career .193/.253/.452 batter in 146 plate appearances, most of which came last season. He played five positions for the Nationals and Indians last season. Oblique injuries can be tricky to rehab, so expect the club to proceed slowly.
- Pirates infielder Jung-ho Kang has the work ethic and bat speed to succeed in the majors, writes Travis Sawchik of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. The South Korean star will make his major league debut this season. No former KBO hitter has succeeded in the majors, so Kang will aim to pave the road for future generations. He uses the exaggerated leg kick first popularized by Sadaharu Oh, but he quiets it with two strikes. FanGraphs swing expert Dan Farnsworth analyzed Kang’s swing earlier this winter (FG+ required), concluding “he has all the makings of an absolute monster.”
- Former number one draft pick Brady Aiken is expected to make his season debut with IMG Post Grad on Thursday, tweets Kiley McDaniel of FanGraphs. Aiken was selected by the Astros last June, but their agreement fell apart due to concerns about his pitching elbow. Aiken remains among the top prospects in the draft, although the Astros will presumably pass on selecting him with either of their top five picks.
The Rays are considered leaders in analytics, so perhaps it’s no coincidence they hired former catcher Kevin Cash, writes Michael Kolligian of MLB.com. Former catchers account for 12 of the last 19 World Series winning managers. Joe Torre is responsible for four of those victories. While there are a number of confounding variables, former catchers are always popular managerial candidates. Here’s more from the AL East.
- While most teams are quick to name a closer, the Yankees are taking a wait-and-see approach, writes Andrew Simon of MLB.com. New York has two excellent but unproven options in right-hander Dellin Betances and southpaw Andrew Miller. Selecting a closer could come down to bullpen composition, said manager Joe Girardi. “I think it’s affected by possibly losing someone out of your bullpen to a starting role. That changes things. So we’ve got to figure that out first, then we put the rest of it together.” To me, this means that Miller is more likely to close if Adam Warren earns a gig in the rotation. Betances provided great value in multi-inning appearances last season. If Warren returns to the pen, the Yankees may prefer Miller to be available for tough left-handed hitters.
- The trickle down effect from Marcus Stroman‘s season-ending injury could cause the Blue Jays to roster a third left-handed reliever, writes Gregor Chisholm of MLB.com. With Stroman out, prospect Aaron Sanchez is likely to make the rotation with lefty Brett Cecil filling in as the closer. Southpaw Aaron Loup is also expected to make the roster. Jeff Francis and Colt Hynes are internal options for the third lefty role. Externally, Cardinals reliever Sam Freeman and Nationals pitcher Xavier Cedeno were connected to the Mets earlier this evening.
- John Jaso suffered two concussions in the last two seasons that have put his career in jeopardy, writes Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times. Presently, Jaso feels fine, but he’s unsure if he can catch. Per Jaso, “if they were to say, ‘Here, catch tomorrow,’ I don’t know. That’s the scary part. Like I don’t know if I could take one, take 40 foul tips, what it would be…What I do know is that the longer I have between episodes, the stronger I’ll be. It’s letting the brain heal all the way again. You might think it’s gone, you might think you are all right, but it’s still there.“
The Red Sox‘ recent signing of Yoan Moncada finds its roots in one of GM Ben Cherington’s first decisions on the job, as Tim Britton of the Providence Journal writes. By promoting Eddie Romero to director of international scouting and soliciting more international input from VP of player personnel Allard Baird, Cherington was preparing to explore new ways for the team to make wise investments in new talent. “There are fewer and fewer opportunities to gain advantages,” says Cherington. “A lot of things have been leveled out, so attention to [international] areas was definitely a reaction to that.” The piece is too long to fully describe here, so be sure to give it a read.
- Moncada says he hopes to be in the big leagues in one year, he told reporters including Boston.com’s Steve Silva. But he seemingly acknowledged that goal was hardly a sure thing, or even his primary purpose. “I’m just looking forward to getting back on the field and playing baseball,” he said. “It’s been so long. … I want them to see me as a dedicated teammate and a good guy.”
- Veteran Blue Jays lefty Johan Santana is still passionate about his craft, as Ken Fidlin of the Toronto Sun writes. Indeed, that’s the reason that he is still trying to come back after a series of setbacks. Soon to turn 36, Santana is still building up strength with short throwing sessions (in both time and distance). “When it’s time to move on I’ll move on but I still feel that I can do this,” says Santana. “I had a great career, a lot of ups and downs but I’ve always had a positive outlook, through good days and bad days.”
- Fellow Blue Jays hurler Liam Hendriks is facing a different set of challenges, as MLB.com’s Gregor Chisholm writes. Out of options and adjusting to life as a reliever, Hendriks says he hopes to crack the Toronto pen out of camp — not least of which to script a worthwhile follow-up to a 2014 season after which he was named the best Australian ballplayer.
In his latest at WEEI.com, Rob Bradford takes an excellent look at Yoan Moncada‘s journey from Cuba to Boston, chronicling his relationship with agent David Hastings along the way. Hastings, a Tampa-based CPA, was introduced to Moncada through a client and couldn’t pass up the opportunity to represent him, but he admits to being stunned at the level of work that went into it. Hastings recalls that his printer ran out of paper as he printed 300+ pages of rules and regulations for representing a player. “Looking back, I don’t know how I did it. It became a life,” Hastings tells Bradford. Moncada and friend Carlos Mesa (a 27-year-old outfielder who became Moncada’s mentor and was also signed by Boston) became part of the Hastings family, writes Bradford. Hastings’ wife, Jo, who was born in Cuba, formed a quick bond with the pair at an apartment they had previously had built for Hastings’ mother-in-law. Bradford includes plenty of quotes from Sox international scouting director Eddie Romero and the details of a last-minute push to increase their original offer of $25MM. Asked if they could up their offer to $30MM, GM Ben Cherington and Romero tried to track down owner John Henry, who was at the Daytona 500. When Henry’s wife got a hold of him, his response spoke volumes about the team’s top-to-bottom interest in Moncada: “Go to 31.” Another $500K was tacked on shortly after, writes Bradford, and the two sides had their deal. Still, Bradford notes that Hastings was seemingly more concerned with Moncada’s well-being early in the negotiation process, asking where he would live, where he would eat, and who would help him transition to his new life before even attempting to get the Sox to up their offer.
Moncada’s introductory press conference will be held at 11:30 ET today, but in the meantime, here are a few more notes more from the AL East…
- Rusney Castillo may not be ready for Opening Day, writes MLB.com’s Ian Browne. Even if Castillo is healthy by that point, however, it’s not a guarantee that he’d make the Red Sox‘ 25-man roster, Browne notes. Mookie Betts has been excellent in camp thus far, and Hanley Ramirez and Shane Victorino are expected to man the outfield corners. Castillo’s injury status might make it more likely that both Allen Craig and Daniel Nava remain with the club as bench options, however. Manager John Farrell recently said the team fully expects Craig to remain on the roster, but the out-of-options Nava makes sense as a trade candidate on paper.
- Yankees ace Masahiro Tanaka fired two perfect innings and struck out two in his spring debut yesterday, writes Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News. While individual spring starts rarely carry significant meaning, this was Tanaka’s first test of his elbow a season after slightly tearing his UCL. “We’re aware that things could crop up at any time, but it’s been very positive,” said pitching coach Larry Rothschild. “I think (the injury) hasn’t affected him because he hasn’t felt anything. He’s going at it like it’s normal. He’s just going to pitch.” Tanaka used all of his pitches, including his splitter, in the outing.
- Marco Estrada tells John Lott of the National Post that his preference is to pitch out of the Blue Jays‘ rotation, but he’s happy to work in relief as long as the team is winning games. While Estrada’s ERA as a starter and ERA as a reliever last season were separated by nearly two full runs, Estrada doesn’t feel that indicates that he’s better deployed as a reliever; rather, he maintains that he corrected some mechanical flaws shortly after his move to the bullpen and feels that he’d have seen a similar turnaround even in the Brewers’ rotation. Estrada is in the mix for two open rotation spots, along with top prospects Aaron Sanchez and Daniel Norris, following the loss of Marcus Stroman to a torn ACL.
- Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet tweets that if the Blue Jays go with Brett Cecil as their closer, then manager John Gibbons would like to have a third lefty in his ‘pen in addition to Cecil and setup man Aaron Loup. Lefty options on the 40-man roster include Jayson Aquino, Scott Barnes, Colt Hynes, Rob Rasmussen and Norris. Non-roster lefties in camp include Jeff Francis, Andrew Albers and Johan Santana, though Santana isn’t expected to be healthy by Opening Day.