Toronto Blue Jays Rumors
The Athletics have claimed righty Marcus Walden off waivers from the Blue Jays and optioned him to Triple-A, the club announced. Walden was designated yesterday, and presumably hit the waiver wire immediately.
Walden, 25, has worked mostly as a starter in the minors, but had been throwing in relief at Triple-A to start the 2014 campaign. At Double-A last year, he worked to a 3.71 ERA in 162 1/3 innings, with 4.9 K/9 against 2.8 BB/9.
Toronto paid the cost of losing Walden's rights after some odd roster maneuvering. The club opened the year with Jeremy Jeffress on the active roster and then designated him with the intention of calling up Chad Jenkins to take his place. Jenkins was initially announced as being recalled, but that was not possible because he had not yet been on optional assignment for ten days. Walden took Jenkins's place, but that meant that he had to be exposed to waivers when a 40-man spot was needed.
The Blue Jays have issued a press release to announce a series of roster moves: Right-hander Marcus Walden has been designated for assignment in order to clear a 40-man roster spot for Munenori Kawasaki, who has been promoted to the Majors to take the 25-man roster spot of Maicer Izturis. Izturis, who is most likely out four to six months with a torn LCL, has been placed on the 15-day DL. Additionally, the club announced that right-hander Jeremy Jeffress, who was designated for assignment last week, has cleared waivers and been outrighted to Triple-A Buffalo.
Walden, who turned 25 near the end of the 2013 season, began the year at Buffalo but pitched just four innings prior to today's news. The former ninth-round pick allowed six runs in those four frames but posted a strong 3.71 ERA in 162 1/3 innings at Double-A New Hampshire in 2013. Walden misses few bats but has solid command, as evidenced by career ratios of 5.4 K/9 and 2.9 BB/9 in his minor league career.
The 32-year-old Kawasaki appeared in 96 games for the Blue Jays last season, quickly winning over fans and teammates with his quirky personality and his sense of humor. On the field, he batted .229/.326/.308 with a homer and seven stolen bases while appearing at both middle infield positions.
Jeffress has seen MLB time in five seasons, but has never logged more than 15 1/3 innings in any one season. The former No. 16 overall pick (Brewers) has yet to harness his big arm, as his career 6.7 BB/9 tally in the bigs would indicate. He did put up outstanding results last year, as he yielded one earned run with a 12-to-5 K:BB ratio in 10 1/3 Major League innings in addition to registering a 1.39 mark in his 32 1/3 minor league innings (8.4 K/9 against 3.6 BB/9).
The Blue Jays have announced that infielder Maicer Izturis' MRI revealed a "complete tear" of the lateral collateral ligament (LCL) in his left knee that will require surgery to repair. Izturis wil seek a second opinion before scheduling the surgery, which typically has a recovery time of four to six months, per the Jays' release.
Izturis, 33, got off to a respectable start this season, batting .286/.324/.314 in his first 38 plate appearances. However, as the National Post's John Lott tweets, the veteran infielder felt two "pops" in his leg after slipping down the dugout steps in Baltimore this weekend.
Izturis is in the second season of a three-year, $10MM contract signed with the Jays prior to the 2013 campaign. He struggled in his first year with Toronto, batting .236/.288/.310 despite owning a vastly superior .274/.336/.381 triple-slash line in the four-year span that preceded his free agency. The loss of Izturis further exposes the Jays' need for infield help, as Ryan Goins has little offensive upside, Jose Reyes is on the disabled list and Brett Lawrie has struggled at the plate in the early-going.
FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal has a new, lengthy notes column in which he begins by examining the early scrutiny of MLB's new instant replay system. He points to a pair of blatantly missed calls on Saturday in which conclusive evidence was seen on TV broadcasts of the games but apparently not by the umpires at MLB's Replay Operations Center in New York. An MLB spokesperson confirmed to Rosenthal that one of those calls was blown and added that the system would continue to work on improvement. Rosenthal reminds that John Schuerholz, one of the architects of the system, said it would be a three-year roll out. However, he adds that MLB can't expect any patience from fans, players or managers when home viewers are able to make better judgments than the umpires at the Relay Operations Center.
Here are some more highlights from his article, which also contains notes on Jose Abreu, struggling offenses around the league and the Dodgers' interleague schedule...
- Diamondbacks manager Kirk Gibson is the early front-runner for "first manager to get fired" due to the team's 4-11 start, but Rosenthal wonders what more Gibson can do with the pitching talent (or lack thereof) he has been given. GM Kevin Towers thinned out the rotation depth by trading Tyler Skaggs and David Holmberg this offseason, and the loss of Patrick Corbin compounded those moves. Rosenthal wonders how long the Snakes can wait before recalling Archie Bradley.
- One executive said to Rosenthal that any American League team with a need in the infield will have added incentive to work out a deal with Stephen Drew in order to prevent the Tigers from signing him. The AL Central powerhouse is currently going with Alex Gonzalez at short, and the results have been less than stellar.
- Yankees right-hander Hiroki Kuroda told Rosenthal (through his interpreter) that he's never considered retirement as heavily as he did this offseason. The most difficult factor for Kuroda wasn't the separation from his L.A.-based family -- they come live with him in the summer when his daughters are out of school -- but rather that he simply loves and misses Japan. Kuroda again left open the possibility of finishing his career back in Japan.
- Both the Angels and Twins have a need in the outfield with the likes of Josh Hamilton, Oswaldo Arcia and Josh Willingham on the disabled list, and both teams were interested in the recently DFA'ed Sam Fuld this offseason before he signed with the Athletics. Rosenthal reports that the A's will gauge trade possibilities for Fuld and wonders if the Halos and Twins could have interest.
- After signing a minor league deal in the 2012-13 offseason, Blue Jays right-hander Neil Wagner earned the pro-rated portion that deal's $525K salary while in the Majors last season. However, Toronto's pre-arbitration pay scale called for just a $506,250 salary in 2014, as it is based on service time rather than performance. Agent Jim Munsey and Wagner refused the deal, giving Toronto the freedom to renew Wagner's contract at $500K if they wished, which the team did. Said Munsey of the ordeal: "It's, obviously, disappointing that they cut Neil's pay after such a good season last year. And when we didn't agree to the pay cut, they cut it further in renewing him. Hard to cheer for that. ... The rules allow the Jays to reduce his pay. They also allow us to talk about that at arbitration." MLBTR's Zach Links recently looked at teams' calculation of pre-arbitration salaries.
- Though the Rays' rotation has been ravaged by injuries to Jeremy Hellickson, Matt Moore and Alex Cobb, the team is planning on using internal options rather than pursuing outside help.
April 13: The Blue Jays were not able to trade Jeffress, and have placed him on waivers, Shi Davidi of SportsNet.ca tweets.
April 4: The Blue Jays announced that they have designated reliever Jeremy Jeffress for assignment, tweets Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet.ca. In a corresponding move, the team recalled righty Marcus Walden to take his roster spot, the club announced.
Jeffress, 26, gave up three hits and a run tonight in what could have been his last appearance for Toronto. He has seen MLB time in five seasons, but has never logged more than 15 1/3 innings in any one season. Jeffress has yet to harness his big arm, as his career 6.7 BB/9 tally in the bigs would indicate. He did put up outstanding results last year, as he put up a 0.87 ERA in 10 1/3 big league frames (10.5 K/9 against 4.4 BB/9) and a 1.39 mark in his 32 1/3 minor league innings (8.4 K/9 against 3.6 BB/9).
The situation with Matt Moore's UCL injury is still up in the air, as the southpaw is waiting to have his MRIs examined by the Rays' team orthopedic physician, Moore told reporters (including MLB.com's Bill Chastain). Moore may test his elbow by playing catch in a few days, though isn't going to push it. "If there's any pain, it's not going to be something I'm going to try and work through," Moore said. "I think the goal is to get to a place where I don't feel pain. And if I can get to that in the next few days just playing catch, then it's a good sign to keep going. If not, then it's a sign in the [other direction]. I'm optimistic about playing catch."
Here's some more from around the AL East...
- The Yankees have been fined by Major League Baseball for tampering due to comments made by team president Randy Levine in regards to Mike Trout, The Los Angeles Times' Bill Shaikin reports. The amount of the fine isn't known. Levine cited Trout last December when discussing why the Yankees didn't match the Mariners' 10-year contract offer for Robinson Cano, saying "If it was Mike Trout, I’d offer him a 10-year contract, but for people over 30, I don’t believe it makes sense.” The Angels took exception to Levine's comments and asked the Commissioner's office to investigate the matter.
- Injuries to Mark Teixeira and David Robertson have left the Yankees thin at first base and in the bullpen, two positions that were thought to be lacking in depth going into the season. GM Brian Cashman reiterated to reporters (including MLB.com's Bryan Hoch) that the two positions would be "a developing story" through the season as the team didn't have enough budget space to acquire additional depth in the offseason. "We wanted to fix as much as we could, but acknowledged that we couldn't fix everything that needed to be addressed," Cashman said. "That's with the money we were in position to spend as well as the available talent. The better talent was really heavily in favor of the outfield rather than the infield."
- The Blue Jays' seeming halt on payroll looks to be an ownership response to how none of GM Alex Anthopoulos' big additions from the 2012-13 offseason have yet panned out, Richard Griffin of the Toronto Star writes. Rogers Communications, the Jays' parent company, is essentially saying to Anthopoulos, in Griffin's words, "Show us that the group you brought in last year is as good as you said it was and maybe then we can talk about additions." Griffin also doesn't think the Jays will undergo an Astros-esque total rebuild since Rogers wants to keep the team competitive in order to maintain the Jays' strong viewership numbers on Rogers-owned media outlets.
- In AL East news from earlier today on MLBTR, we collected some Red Sox Notes, and also learned that the Red Sox, Rays and Yankees are three of the teams who are believed to be interested in Joel Hanrahan.
Last week, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reported that several Blue Jays players were willing to defer their salary in order to help the team bring Ervin Santana on board, and it was later reported by Sportsnet's Shi Davidi that the group of Edwin Encarnacion, Jose Bautista, Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle and R.A. Dickey were the five who were willing to do so. Last night, Rosenthal added to the story, reporting that Santana was so close to heading to Toronto that the MLBPA had already approved the deferrals. Rosenthal again speculates on the possibility of Rogers Communications imposing a payroll limit on the 2014 Blue Jays, which would help explain their quiet offseason (which was previously examined by our own Mark Polishuk). Elsewhere in the AL East...
- The Boston Herald's Gerry Callahan opines that while Jon Lester is clearly the No. 1 starter for the Red Sox, he's not elite and isn't worth the money he could make on the open market. Callahan writes that another team will "get stupid" with Lester, offering him something in excess of $130-140MM, and if talks get to that point, then Boston would be wise to emulate the A's or Rays instead of the Dodgers or Yankees, and let their high-priced star walk.
- In a second column from Rosenthal, he looks at a number of topics that also pertain largely to the AL East, beginning firstly noting that we shouldn't expect to see the Yankees pursue any outside help after injuries to Mark Teixeira or David Robertson. The Yankees feel that both injuries will be short-lived, and therefore aren't looking strongly at Ryan Madson and/or Joel Hanrahan, nor are they considering trades for first basemen.
- Also of interest to Yankees fans will be Rosenthal's look at the rise of Yangervis Solarte -- a minor league signing who has experience an unlikely rise to prominence in the Majors. Solarte's agents, Chris Leible and Peter Greenberg of the Legacy Agency, recall that their initial representation of Solarte was merely a favor to his uncle, Roger Cedeno. At one point this offseason, the Yankees dropped out of the bidding for Solarte, who was highly sought after. However, he was recommended by three different scouts, and Leible encouraged him by advising that his best ticket to the Majors was in a utility role.
- Rosenthal also looks at the long road back to the Majors for Evan Meek, who signed a minor league deal with the Orioles this offseason only after calling his former Pirates manager (and current O's bench coach) John Russell and asking for a look. He ultimately auditioned for seven or eight clubs, but chose to go to Baltimore.
- Lastly, Rosenthal notes that the extension for Rays shortstop Yunel Escobar was "almost certainly" his own call rather than that of his agents at Miami Sports Management. He writes that Escobar seems to prefer even minor levels of security and would rather have his new guarantee than risk waiting until free agency to sign, even if the outcome could have been something along the lines of Omar Infante's four-year deal with the Royals this offseason.
5:43pm: Edwin Encarnacion, Jose Reyes, Jose Bautista, Mark Buehrle and R.A. Dickey were the five players who would have been willing to defer salary to sign Santana, SportsNet.com's Shi Davidi reports. Those are the five highest-paid players on the Jays' roster this season. The deferrals raise "very troubling questions" about the direction of the franchise, Davidi writes, wondering why the Jays did not come up with the money themselves.
10:50am: Ervin Santana certainly looked to be headed to the Blue Jays at one point this offseason, but late injuries to Braves right-handers Kris Medlen and Brandon Beachy prompted Atlanta to swoop in and sign him to a one-year, $14.1MM contract (the same figure Toronto had offered). According to the latest report from Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports, Blue Jays players were willing to defer their salaries in order to allow the club to sign Santana. Rosenthal adds that discussions never got past the "conversation" stage, however.
One agent told Rosenthal that he never took the situation that seriously, as the MLBPA wouldn't have allowed players to merely defer their salary without receiving some form of additional financial compensation. Still, as Rosenthal points out, the discussions raise some questions about the Jays' payroll flexibility for the 2014 season.
Two agents told Rosenthal that they heard talk of deferral from their players but were never approached by GM Alex Anthopoulos. While Anthopoulos declined comment to Rosenthal, team president and CEO Paul Beeston admitted to Mark Galloway of CBC Radio that there were some discussions about deferring salary for current players to accomodate Santana (Audio link). Said Beeston:
"Well, there was discussion about that, Matt. And to be very honest with you, I think if it would've gone that way, that would've been fine. But we are at $140MM right now. One thing that we do have is a very generous owner from the point of view of what they have committed to try to build the team."
Beeston was somewhat vague when asked by Galloway if ownership had capped spending at that $140MM mark, replying, "Well, we're a business. So the answer to that is we have a budget. So the answer is it's not a cap, because I think if we can increase our revenue, we can increase our expenses. But we run it as a business."
Beeston added that if money gets to the point where ownership isn't comfortable, other avenues such as trades or the farm system become avenues to improve the team. He offers high praise for Top 100 prospects Marcus Stroman and Aaron Sanchez, noting that they're excited to introduce them to the Major League fanbase and will need a combination of cost-controlled players to pair with the team's more expensive stars.
The Rays officially announced their six-year, $25.5MM extension with Chris Archer in a press conference today. The right-hander told reporters (including MLB.com's Bill Chastain) that the recent spate of pitching injuries around baseball influenced his decision to sign the contract. "I don't know if all the injuries -- the head injuries, the concussions, the elbow injuries, some shoulder injuries -- that have happened of late, I don't know if they've happened as a sign for me, but I took them as a sign for me, a sign of what's unknown," Archer said. "I sat down with my financial advisor. With this contract, I'm financially secure multiple times over again, through many generations. For me, that's all I ever wanted out of this game -- to be personally secure and have my family members secure as well."
Here's some more from around the AL East...
- Alex Cobb and Wil Myers would seem to be the next logical extension candidates for the Rays, MLB.com's Adam Berry writes. Cobb said he would "plead the fifth" when asked if he'd been approached by the team about a multiyear deal, while Myers said that he's just focused on playing and will let his agent handle any contractual business. Berry's piece also contains several quotes from Rays executive VP Andrew Friedman about his team's strategy of locking up its young stars.
- The Rays have had nine players suspended for PED usage and 14 players suspended for drug-related offenses overall since 2012 , Baseball Prospectus' Ben Lindbergh notes. Tampa Bay leads all teams in both categories, and the recently-suspended Alex Colome is the only the latest of several of the Rays' top prospects to be hit with a suspension. Lindbergh, however, believes this current spate of issues is only a matter of "chance," as the franchise doesn't have a glaring suspension record before 2012.
- The Mets haven't discussed making a move for Eduardo Nunez, Mike Puma of the New York Post tweets, and it's "too early to say if they will have interest" in signing the infielder to bolster their shortstop depth. The Yankees designated Nunez for assignment yesterday.
- Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos told reporters (including Brendan Kennedy of the Toronto Star) that he isn't looking for external shortstop help with Jose Reyes on the DL. Jonathan Diaz is currently filling in at short, and Anthopoulos doesn't think Reyes' injury will keep him out for too long.
- ESPN's Jim Bowden (Insider subscription required) doesn't think the Blue Jays will contend this season and the club should deal some top stars in order to restock the farm system. Edwin Encarnacion headlines Bowden's list of Toronto's ten best trade candidates, which also includes possible trade suitors.
- In other AL East news, we posted a collection of Red Sox Notes earlier tonight.
The Blue Jays have agreed to sign corner infielder Juan Francisco, according to a report from Hector Gomez of Dominican radio outlet ZDeportes (via Twitter). Francisco, 26, had spent camp with the Brewers but was released when he lost the battle at first to Mark Reynolds and Lyle Overbay. He is a client of Relativity Baseball.
Last year, in 385 plate appearances, the left-handed swinging Francisco hit .227/.296/.422 with 18 home runs while spending time at first and third (and being limited almost exclusively to facing righties). In parts of five years at the MLB level, Francisco has a cumulative .243/.300/.432 triple-slash and 32 long balls in 771 plate appearances. In addition to his struggles getting on base (last year, he had 138 strikeouts against 32 walks), Francisco's value has been limited by his defense. Though he graded out well in 2012, advanced metrics did not like his work at either of the corner positions last year.
Signed as an amateur free agent out of his native Dominican Republic back in 2004 by the Reds, Francisco broke into the bigs with Cincinnati before being dealt to the Braves for J.J. Hoover in 2012. He was shipped off to Milwaukee last year and tendered arbitration as a Super Two (the sides agreed upon a $1.35MM contract). With less than three years of MLB service time accrued, Francisco will come with three years of control, if the Jays choose to tender him.