Toronto Blue Jays Rumors
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.
After a very quiet offseason, the Blue Jays will rely on internal replacements and hope for better health in order to get back on track in 2014.
Major League Signings
- Dioner Navarro, C: Two years, $8MM.
- Adam Lind, 1B/DH: One year, $7MM (team option exercised).
- Casey Janssen, RHP: One year, $4MM (team option exercised).
- Total spend: $19MM
Notable Minor League Signings
- Munenori Kawasaki, Dan Johnson, Chris Getz, Andy LaRoche, Mike Nickeas, Steve Tolleson, Brett Carroll, Jonathan Diaz, Tomo Ohka
Trades And Claims
- Acquired C Erik Kratz and LHP Rob Rasmussen from the Phillies in exchange for RHP Brad Lincoln.
- Claimed LHP Brian Moran from the Mariners in the Rule 5 draft.
- Acquired an international bonus slot (worth $244K) from the Angels in exchange for LHP Brian Moran.
- Claimed RHP Liam Hendriks off waivers from the Orioles.
After star prospect Travis d'Arnaud was traded to the Mets as part of the R.A. Dickey trade, it seemed like J.P. Arencibia had a clear path as the Blue Jays' regular catcher for years to come. Instead, Arencibia wasn't even tendered a contract following a disastrous 2013 campaign that saw him hit only .194/.227/.365 with 148 strikeouts over 497 PA, not to mention below-average defensive statistics.
To fill the hole behind the plate, the Jays made Dioner Navarro their only notable free agent acquistion of the offseason, signing the veteran to a two-year, $8MM contract. Navarro's last starting role came with the Rays from 2007-09, and he served as a backup from 2010-12 with the Rays, Dodgers and Reds before enjoying a solid season with the Cubs in a platoon with Welington Castillo last year. The switch-hitting Navarro hit .300/.365/.492 with about three-quarters of his 266 plate appearances coming against right-handed pitching, even though he performed much better against southpaws (and over his career, has a .778 OPS against lefties and just a .650 OPS against righties).
Navarro will get the bulk of playing time against both types of opposing pitchers as backup Josh Thole will largely be limited to games when Dickey is on the mound. Thole's experience with the knuckleball helped him keep the backup job over new acquisition Erik Kratz, despite Kratz swinging a red-hot bat during Spring Training. No matter how the catching situation ends up shaking out, it almost can't help being an area of improvement given that Toronto catchers combined for -1.2 fWAR last season.
As expected, the Blue Jays exercised their team options on Adam Lind ($7MM) and Casey Janssen ($4MM), bringing the club's primary DH and closer back for another season. The Jays also picked up Mark DeRosa's $750K option, but the veteran instead decided to retire. Toronto fan favorite Munenori Kawasaki was also re-signed on a minor league deal and he'll begin 2014 at Triple-A Buffalo.
Last September, Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos cited his team's starting rotation as "the most glaring hole on this team and that’s the most glaring area we need to address." With Opening Day upon us, the Jays begin the 2014 season having added not a single notable starting pitching option to the roster. The most notable arm Toronto signed this winter ended up being Roy Halladay, who inked a one-day ceremonial contract so he could officially retire as a Blue Jay.
Anthopoulos ultimately didn't find any rotation help despite exploring several avenues for pitching upgrades. He almost finalized a trade with the Athletics that would've seen reliever Sergio Santos go to Oakland in exchange for left-hander Brett Anderson, but there was enough uncertainty over the oft-injured Anderson's health that the Jays eventually backed away (the A's later dealt Anderson to the Rockies). The Jays explored trading for Cubs right-hander Jeff Samardzija, though the Cubs' demands for both Marcus Stroman and Aaron Sanchez ended negotiations. There were talks between the Jays and Masahiro Tanaka's representatives, yet Toronto didn't submit a $20MM bid to officially negotiate with the Japanese ace.
Toronto holds both a protected top-10 draft pick (ninth overall) and a bonus selection (at 11th overall) for failing to sign top choice Phil Bickford last summer. Owning a pair of top-11 picks could've made the club more open to giving up their second-rounder to sign a free agent starter with draft compensation attached, yet this perceived advantage in the free agent pitching market never materialized for the Jays. They targeted available pitchers with draft compensation attached (Ervin Santana, Ubaldo Jimenez) or without (A.J. Burnett, Bronson Arroyo), but didn't make any deals.
As Anthopoulos explained to the media prior to Spring Training, the Jays simply weren't willing to pay a big price (either money-wise or player-wise in trades) since the club already felt it had quality rotation options in the organization:
“We wanted to add to the rotation, to add depth. But again, where some of the price points were, whether it was years or dollars or some of the acquisition costs in trades, I wouldn’t have felt good standing in a scrum and saying ‘We didn’t believe in the acquisition cost, we just did it but we don’t feel good about it.’ You need to feel good about those moves.”
“A guy like Drew [Hutchison] is not proven or established but you’re ultimately weighing how much better will these other guys be? Certainly they’re more established. But then you start talking about that many more years and that many more dollars. Does it make sense to do that? If we didn’t have guys we felt were talented and could contend for those (rotation) spots and could end up putting together good seasons for us, we might have said we’re going to go well beyond where we want to go (on free agents) because we have to."
Hutchison posted a 4.60 ERA (4.03 xFIP, 4.09 SIERA) with a 2.45 K/BB rate and a 7.5 K/9 in his 2012 rookie season before undergoing Tommy John surgery in August of that year. He returned to pitch in 10 minor league games last season and, after an impressive Spring Training, earned himself a spot in Toronto's rotation. J.A. Happ had been penciled into a rotation spot but suffered through a rough spring and is now on the DL, leaving long-time Blue Jay Dustin McGowan as the current fifth starter.
Given McGowan's lengthy injury history and Hutchison's short track record, this wasn't the rotation overhaul that the Toronto fanbase was hoping for back in October. Anthopoulos' strategy seemed to be using the qualifying offer system to his advantage, waiting until the asking prices for pitchers like Jimenez and Santana had been drastically reduced, and then sign one (or even both) at a team-friendly cost.
The strategy seemingly almost worked in Santana's case. The veteran righty had reportedly agreed to a contract with Toronto, but, before he took his physical with the Jays and officially signed his deal, the Braves made a late offer and Santana instead signed a one-year, $14.1MM contract to go to Atlanta. (Anthopoulos hinted that this was the timeline of events in a recent interview with the Toronto Star.) This scenario outlines the risk that Anthopoulos took in playing the waiting game, as the Braves weren't even in the market for pitching until Brandon Beachy and Kris Medlen both underwent season-ending Tommy John surgeries.
Beyond pitching, the Jays did nothing to address their hole at second base. The team explored a big splash at the position in Ian Kinsler, though talks with the Rangers never turned into anything serious, especially since Texas asked for Edwin Encarnacion. (As it happened, the Rangers indeed landed their desired slugging first baseman for Kinsler when they swapped him to the Tigers for Prince Fielder.)
With no notable new faces, the Jays look to be going with the unheralded Ryan Goins as the primary second baseman, with Maicer Izturis getting the bulk of starts against left-handed pitching. Goins projects as a below-average hitter (a .679 OPS in 418 Triple-A plate appearances, and a .609 OPS in 121 PA with the Jays last season) but will provide value with his glove if he displays the same excellent defense he showed in 2013. Izturis, meanwhile, is looking to rebound from a dreadful -0.9 rWAR season. The second base situation looks to be below-average at best, and perhaps the weakest position on any contending team at worst.
For a team coming off two injury-plagued seasons in a row, the Jays have very little depth. Valuable backup outfielder and stolen base threat Rajai Davis departed for a two-year contract with the Tigers, and the Jays' four current bench players are either coming off terrible seasons (Izturis, Thole) or are unproven commodities (Kratz, Moises Sierra). This is an under-the-radar deficiency that leaves the Jays particularly reliant on good health, especially considering that their four AL East rivals are regularly able to find production from bench players and minor league signings.
It was also a quiet winter for the Blue Jays on the extension front. Colby Rasmus is the team's most prominent extension candidate as he enters his last year under contract, yet Anthopoulos said the team is comfortable waiting until later in the season to decide about offering the center fielder a new deal. Rasmus was reportedly on the trade market for pitching this offseason, so it seems like the Jays aren't totally sold on him as a long-term piece (or they don't think he'll re-sign).
Deal Of Note
Casey Janssen doesn't have the eye-popping fastball or strikeout numbers that usually mark a top closer, yet he has excelled in the role since taking over as closer during the 2012 season. Janssen has quietly been one of baseball's best relievers over the last three seasons, posting a 2.46 ERA, 8.9 K/9 and 4.47 K/BB in 172 IP between 2011-13, and notching 56 saves in 2012-13. With this track record, picking up a $4MM team option on Janssen's services for 2014 was a no-brainer for the Blue Jays.
The righty's name didn't surface in any trade rumors this winter, as while a number of teams were looking for ninth-inning help, the closer market was rich with several experienced free agent names. This isn't to say that Toronto would've wanted to trade Janssen anyway --- it was Santos, after all, who was almost dealt twice (once for Anderson, and once as part of a three-team deal involving the Rangers). The Jays' deep bullpen has a few potential closing options waiting in the wings, so if the team falls out of the race by midseason, Janssen could be a name to watch at the trade deadline. Santos will get an early shot at saves since Janssen will begin the season on the DL with a back strain.
In a way, Anthopoulos took a lesser risk in swinging those major trades with the Marlins and Mets in the 2012-13 offseason than he did in making virtually no moves this past winter. Nobody expected the Jays to generate as many headlines this offseason as they did with last year's blockbusters, yet it was a surprise to see the club do so little to address what are still major question marks at second base and in the rotation.
Anthopoulos denied speculation from the media (and agent Scott Boras) that Rogers Communications, the team's ownership group, was limiting payroll. While nobody expected the Jays to have another $35.5MM payroll boost, only the Pirates spent less on free agents than the Jays did this winter. Since Toronto also didn't add any big salaries in trades or via contract extensions, the team was significantly outpaced by all four of its division rivals in terms of winter spending, even the small-market Rays.
Rather than a lack of funds, it would seem that Anthopoulos simply couldn't connect on most of the moves he wanted to make this offseason. Will the lack of transactions keep the team in the AL East basement? As I wrote in my Toronto offseason outlook last October, "the Jays believe they already have the nucleus of a winning team....the Blue Jays may not be as far away from contention as they seem if they get some good health luck," so just getting the first-choice lineup on the field might be the biggest key to the season.
That, of course, is easier said that done. The Jays had the second-most DL stints of every team in baseball last year, and the fourth-most player days lost to the disabled list altogether. They have a veteran team with an overall checkered injury history, and the team plays its home games on an artificial surface. While it's likely Toronto will cut down on injuries just by avoiding flukes (i.e. Melky Cabrera's spinal tumor), the lack of roster depth means that the Jays' season could essentially be ruined by one major injury.
The Blue Jays certainly aren't perceived to be World Series contenders as they were a year ago (though many of the same faces are returning), yet on paper they're also better than their 74-88 record from last season. Even an average performance from the rotation will get the Jays back over the .500 mark, but challenging for a playoff spot in a stacked division will be a taller order.
Photo courtesy of Kim Klement/USA Today Sports Images
SATURDAY: Tuiasosopo has cleared waivers and been outrighted to Triple-A, according to the MLB.com transactions page.
WEDNESDAY: The Blue Jays have notified out-of-options outfielder Matt Tuiasosopo that he will not make the roster, tweets MLB.com's Gregor Chisholm. Brendan Kennedy of the Toronto Star tweeted this morning that this appeared likely, since Tuiasosopo's locker had been packed up.
While the precise transaction that will result has yet to be reported, it seems likely that he will ultimately hit the waiver wire. The outfielder was claimed off of waivers by Toronto less than a week ago, but faced an uphill battle to unseat Moises Sierra as the club's fourth outfielder. If he makes it through waivers, the Jays would like to stash Tuiasosopo in Triple-A, Kennedy tweets.
We covered a couple of Yankees items as part of a New York Notes post earlier today, so now let's take a look around the rest of the AL East...
- Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos said the team is open to possibly extending the contracts of Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion and Jose Reyes, the GM tells The Toronto Star's Richard Griffin. Bautista (33) and Encarnacion (31) are contracted through 2015 and the Jays have team options on both players for 2016, while Reyes (30) is locked up through the 2017 season. Extensions would take any of the trio well into their late-30's, yet Anthopoulos points to David Ortiz and Carlos Beltran as older players who are still big hitters.
- Also as part of the wide-ranging interview, Anthopoulos discusses his disappointment over the Ervin Santana non-signing, restocking the farm system and more.
- Grady Sizemore will be the Red Sox center fielder on Opening Day, manager John Farrell told reporters (including Scott Lauber of the Boston Herald). Star prospect Jackie Bradley was widely presumed the favorite to take over from Jacoby Ellsbury as Boston's new center fielder this season, yet Bradley struggled to hit in Spring Training and will start the year at Triple-A. Sizemore, meanwhile, enjoyed a big spring and proved he was healthy after missing the last two seasons. Sizemore signed a $750K minor league deal with Boston this winter that could be worth as much as $6MM if Sizemore meets all the incentives.
- Farrell said that Sizemore will still receive regular rest in order to keep him fresh. Since this will free up some outfield playing time, FOX Sports' Jon Paul Morosi wonders if the Red Sox could be in the market for a right-handed hitting outfielder who can play all three OF spots.
- Red Sox sports-medicine coordinator Dan Dyrek played an important part in both convincing Sizemore to sign with Boston and in getting him back in playing condition, Sizemore tells Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal. Dyrek was “the first guy who has understood not only how it happened but what caused it and how to fix it and how to prevent it from happening again,” Sizemore said.
- The Orioles plan to have Jonathan Schoop on the Opening Day roster, FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal tweets. Schoop will play both second and third base, splitting time with Steve Lombardozzi and Ryan Flaherty, respectively. The 2014 Baseball America Prospect Handbook ranked Schoop as the fifth-best prospect in the Baltimore farm system, and Schoop fought his way onto the 25-man roster thanks to a huge Spring Training.
MLBTR's Offseason In Review series continued earlier today with my look at the Orioles' winter moves, covering everything from the Ubaldo Jimenez and Nelson Cruz signings to the lack of progress on extensions for Chris Davis, J.J. Hardy and Matt Wieters. Here's some more from around the AL East...
- Yankees GM Brian Cashman told reporters (including ESPN New York's Wallace Matthews) that he's "hearing from a lot of people about" catchers John Ryan Murphy and Austin Romine. The Yankees have been shopping their catching depth for weeks, and now that Francisco Cervelli has won the backup job, Murphy and Romine could be more expendable. Cashman, however, doesn't feel pressure to move either players. "They’re assets. We’re not in any position where we have to do anything, but if something made sense, we’d consider it. But right now, we’re happy with what we’ve got," Cashman said.
- Rays manager Joe Maddon told reporters (including Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times) that he has informed Wilson Betemit and Jayson Nix that they won't be making Tampa's Opening Day roster, in order to give the two players extra time to find another Major League opportunity. The two veterans signed minor league deals with the Rays earlier this winter and have the ability to opt out, though Betemit told Topkin that he would play for Tampa's Triple-A affiliate if he couldn't find a roster spot elsewhere (Topkin believes Nix feels the same way).
- Mark Lowe is also open to returning to the Rays, the veteran right-hander tells Joe Smith of the Tampa Bay Times. Lowe's family lives in the Tampa area and he praised the Rays organization, saying that he would be willing to pitch at Triple-A unless, like Betemit and Nix, he finds a job with another team. The Rays granted Lowe his release earlier today after he was also told he wouldn't make the 25-man roster.
- The Blue Jays' decision to make Dustin McGowan their fifth starter raises concerns about whether McGowan is up to the task both performance-wise and health-wise, Sportsnet.ca's Shi Davidi writes. Since McGowan made the rotation almost by default given how the Jays' other options struggled, Davidi wonders "if he and the Blue Jays are playing a game of Russian Roulette with his career" by returning McGowan to a starting role before he's even fully stretched out. The injury-plagued McGowan missed three of the previous four seasons with shoulder and knee surgeries but pitched effectively over 25 2/3 innings out of the bullpen in 2013.
- Corey Brown didn't invoke the opt-out clause in his minor league contract with the Red Sox and will report to the club's Triple-A club, Peter Abraham of the Boston Globe reports.
We'll keep tabs on the day's minor moves here:
- Outfielder Trent Oeltjen tweets (via Rotoworld) that he has signed with the Diamondbacks. Oeltjen, 31, has not appeared in the big leagues since 2011 with the Dodgers, but he has hit well at the Triple-A level, putting up a line of .255/.345/.483 for the Angels' Triple-A Salt Lake affiliate last season.
- The Orioles have released lefty Aaron Laffey, MASNsports.com's Steve Melewski tweets. Laffey pitched just 12 2/3 innings in the big leagues in 2013, spending most of it struggling at Triple-A, but he pitched 100 2/3 innings for the Blue Jays in 2012.
- The Rockies have released pitcher Bobby Cassevah, MLB Daily Dish's Chris Cotillo tweets. Cassevah, who accumulated a 3.20 ERA with 4.7 K/9 and 4.6 BB/9 from 2010-2012 in the Angels bullpen, is currently rehabbing an injury.
- Veteran lefty Randy Wolf has requested, and received, his release from the Mariners, MLB.com's Greg Johns tweets. Wolf was attempting a comeback after missing the entire 2013 season. He last appeared in the big leagues in 2012, when he pitched for the Brewers and Orioles. The Mariners told Wolf he had made the team, but he did not want to sign a 45-day advance consent release, Johns notes.
- The Blue Jays have signed pitcher Shawn Hill from the York Revolution of the Atlantic League, MLive.com's Chris Iott tweets. Hill, 32, last appeared in the big leagues in 2012 with the Jays. He posted a 5.51 ERA with 5.0 K/9 and 2.8 BB/9 in 150 1/3 innings with the Tigers' Triple-A Toledo affiliate in 2013.
- The Padres have acquired catcher Adam Moore from the Royals in exchange for cash considerations, tweets Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star. The 29-year-old has seen bit action at the MLB level in each of the last five years. In his longest stint, a 2010 run with the Mariners, Moore managed only a .513 OPS in 218 plate appearances.
Charlie Wilmoth contributed to this post.
After a busy transactional day yesterday, here are some American League notes that we did not quite get to:
- The Orioles are trying to decide what to do with Rule 5 pick Michael Almanzar, who looks to be unlikely to make the club's Opening Day roster. One possibility is a trade of the rights to the former Red Sox third base prospect, tweets Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe. But that scenario could be complicated by the fact that Almanzar is dealing with a knee problem that will require an MRI, as MLB.com's Adam Berry reports. Of course, if Almanzar were to require a DL trip to start the year, it would offer Baltimore some added time to sort things out. Manager Buck Showalter said the team would not use the injury as pretext, however, emphasizing that Almanzar would only go to the DL if the injury required it.
- The Athletics raised some eyebrows by spending significant cash on relievers this offseason, taking on the salaries of Jim Johnson ($10MM) and Luke Gregerson ($5.065MM) while committing $7MM to Eric O'Flaherty over two years. For the notoriously tight-fisted, analytical ballclub, this spending pattern led to an obvious question: what edge had GM Billy Beane found this time? As Yahoo's Jeff Passan reports, the explanation may be fairly simple. With limited payroll to add to a ready-to-win roster, the club simply got the best "bang for its buck (Beane's words) while avoiding long-term commitments. Of course, as Passan notes, the team also knows that allowing Johnson to rack up the saves will result in arbitration savings on in-house relievers like Ryan Cook and Sean Doolittle.
- With just days remaining until the deadline to settle on an Opening Day roster, the Blue Jays still have several roster battles taking place. As Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet.ca writes, there still seems to be plenty of wiggle room in the final composition of the Toronto club. The rotation has two spots in play given J.A. Happ's struggles, the middle infield mix could be impacted by the recent injury to Jose Reyes, the backup catching situation is still not finalized, and the fourth outfielding spot is suddenly open to a last-minute competition between Moises Sierra and the newly-added Matt Tuiasosopo. Of course, as Nicholson-Smith notes, options will play a big role in the final determinations and no MLB roster is static throughout the season.
While there haven't been any extension talks (and won't be) between the Royals and James Shields, Jon Heyman of CBS Sports writes that it's not completely out of the question for Shields to re-sign their ace this coming offseason. However, in order to do so, the team will need to make the postseason, he adds. Royals executives have said that they might take a loss this year due to the team's record payroll, but they also believe that a postseason run could push them into the black, according to Heyman. That type of turnaround could keep them in the bidding to retain Shields, who will hit free agency entering his age-33 season.
Here's more on baseball's Central divisions...
- Close to 25 scouts were on-hand to watch Jeff Samardzija's start against the Mariners yesterday, writes Bruce Levine of 670thescore.com. According to Levine, the Blue Jays had three scouts present to watch the Cubs' Opening Day starter, including director of pro scouting and former Cubs GM Ed Lynch.
- Pirates GM Neal Huntington tells Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review that he is not interested in making a trade for a backup catcher despite the injury to Chris Stewart (Twitter link). That suggests that Tony Sanchez will open the season as Pittsburgh's secondary backstop.
- Bill Brink of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette looks at the Pirates' bullpen surplus, wondering if a trade of Vin Mazzaro or Bryan Morris (neither has minor league options remaining) is on the horizon. Brink writes that right-handers Stolmy Pimentel and Jeanmar Gomez (both also out of options) will open the season in the bullpen, leaving Morris and Mazzaro as logical trade candidates.
- The Twins have named former first-rounder and top prospect Kyle Gibson their fifth starter, reports La Velle E. Neal III of the Minneapolis Star Tribune. That means that out-of-options starters Scott Diamond, Sam Deduno and Vance Worley are out of luck. Deduno will start the season in the bullpen, while Worley has already been placed on outright waivers (the expiration of those waivers has come and gone, but there's yet to be a report on his status). It's unclear at this time what Diamond's fate will be.
- Cardinals shortstop Pete Kozma is trying not to focus on trade rumors surrounding his name, he tells Joe Strauss of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Strauss speculates that with the decision to option Tyler Lyons to Triple-A Memphis, GM John Mozeliak could look to acquire a long reliever via trade.
- Other news from the game's Central divisions today included the Tigers' acquisition of Andrew Romine from the Angels as well as the news that flamethrowing setup man Bruce Rondon will be the latest victim of Tommy John surgery. Also, Indians minor league signee David Aardsma was granted his release.
The Blue Jays have claimed outfielder Matt Tuiasosopo off waivers from the Diamondbacks and released left-hander Luis Perez in order to clear room on the 40-man roster, according to Alex Seixeiro of Sportsnet (on Twitter).
The 27-year-old Tuiasosopo spent the 2013 campaign with the Tigers, batting .244/.351/.415 with seven homers in 191 plate appearances. That was by far his best season at the plate, having spent parts of three years with the Mariners but slashing just .176/.234/.306 in 210 PAs with Seattle.
As a right-handed swinger, the natural assumption would be that Tuiasosopo could platoon with Adam Lind, but that's not necessarily the case; Tuiasosopo has actually been less effective against opposite-handed pitching than same-handed pitching throughout his career, and that was the case in 2013 as well. He batted just .216/.336/.371 against lefties -- clearly demonstrating a keen eye at least -- and a robust .313/.389/.521 against right-handers. The latter of those splits came in a sample of just 54 plate appearances and was bolstered by a .481 batting average on balls in play, which is sure to regress going forward.
Perez, 29, tallied just five innings for the Jays last season and allowed a pair of runs in the process as he returned from Tommy John surgery. He was an important part of the club's bullpen in 2012 prior to that operation, posting a 3.43 ERA with 8.4 K/9, 3.4 BB/9 and 47.8 percent ground-ball rate in 42 innings. He's held lefties to a .239/.311/.341 batting line in his career, but he underwent surgery this January to remove some scar tissue from his surgically repaired elbow.