Toronto Blue Jays Rumors
In this morning's roundup of news out of the American League East, Alex Burnett spoke with Shi Davidi of Sportsnet about the waiver process that ultimately took him from the Blue Jays to the Orioles. As trying as his brief pit stop with Toronto was, he feels even more for Casper Wells, who took a three game detour with the Blue Jays without playing once. “It happened pretty quickly for me, guys like Wells were in limbo forever, he hasn’t been able to do anything,” said Burnett. “I think it’s something that should maybe be brought up in the next players’ association meeting. It is a bad situation when it carries on as long as it has for some people.” Here's more on the Blue Jays and other notes out of the AL East..
- While the Blue Jays' usage of the waiver wire is starting to attract attention from around baseball, Matt Eddy of Baseball America spoke to one agent who said that he believes GM Alex Anthopoulous is up front with players who may get DFA'd shortly after being claimed. Agent Matt Sosnick also came to the defense of AA, saying, "I’d be very skeptical of somebody who said that Alex lied or misled them. I have a hard time believing that that’s the case.”
- It's not just players that aren't thrilled about the way the waiver system can be used, some clubs have lobbied for a rule change that would force teams to keep players claimed on waivers for a set period of time, sources tell Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. However, other clubs don't want to lose flexibility, according to a source, and the union almost certainly would oppose restricting player movement. Players who get knocked off of from 40-man rosters receive major league pay and service time while designated for assignment. Rosenthal spoke to Anthopoulos about his frequent waiver claims, and the GM noted that the Jays have lost players as well. He explained that the Jays' former Triple-A affiliate, the Syracuse Chiefs, aligned with the Nationals in part because Toronto did not provide a winning club. Now on a two-year contract with Buffalo, Anthopoulos is trying to provide a competitive team. As Eddy pointed out, however, many of Anthopoulos' waiver claims are with the Double-A club.
- Carl Crawford is thriving with the Dodgers and the outfielder attributes that in part to being able to leave a tough situation with the Red Sox behind, writes Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.com. The outfielder explained that a number of factors including injuries and self-imposed pressure hounded him in Boston and took offense to the perception that he wasn't working hard enough to get back on track.
The Orioles entered the eighth inning of yesterday's game with a lead and held on to pick up the victory. That might not seem all that noteworthy on the surface, but as MLB.com's Matthew Leach writes, yesterday marked the 100th straight win in games where the Orioles have held a lead through seven innings. Leach examines all the aspects of the Orioles' roster that have led to their improbably success with late inning leads. Here's more on the AL East...
- Alex Burnett spoke candidly with Shi Davidi of Sportsnet.ca regarding the waiver process that led him to end up in the Orioles' organization, and he didn't sound happy about his brief stint with the Blue Jays. Burnett said he was "shocked" to be designated for assignment by Toronto and wondered what the point of his claim was. He also adds that he's had to have his car shipped across the country twice, break two leases and send his pregnant wife home because the constant moving would have been too difficult. Burnett said he's thankful that his process has been relatively quick, and he feels bad for Casper Wells, who spent the better part of three weeks in waiver limbo. Burnett hopes that the process will be brought up at the next Players Association meeting. MLBTR's Charlie Wilmoth recently looked at the waiver process in depth.
- Davidi notes that the silver lining for these players is that they do collect a Major League salary and Major League service time while they are on waivers.
- ESPN's Jerry Crasnick spoke with an AL scout regarding Orioles' right-hander Jake Arrieta and was told, "I know 29 teams that would be takers" (Twitter link). Arrieta's raw stuff draws consistent praise despite poor results. He was optioned to Triple-A yesterday.
- Danny Knobler of CBS Sports also talked to scouts regarding Arrieta, who said that he has "electric stuff." Knobler writes that Arrieta is simply too talented for the Orioles to give up on.
- Another scout told Andy Martino of the New York Daily News that the Yankees should be very concerned about Ichiro Suzuki: "His timing is all off. He looks terrible." Ichiro signed a two-year, $13MM contract with the Yankees this offseason.
Ortiz, 40, appeared in one game for the Jays. That one outing marked Ortiz's first appearance in the big leagues since 2011. Ortiz spent the 2012 season pitching for the Yankees' Triple-A affiliate in Scranton. In 12 seasons in the big leagues, Ortiz has a 4.93 ERA with 5.6 K/9 and 3.1 BB/9 while pitching for the Angels, Reds, Nationals, Twins, Rockies, Dodgers, Cubs and Jays.
Ron Gardenhire is in the last year of his contract and the Twins have lost 99 and 96 games the last two seasons, but don't expect him to be dismissed anytime soon, says Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports. "I expect Ron to be on this job for a long time," says Twins GM Terry Ryan. "I don't consider it lame duck at all." Here are more notes from the American League.
- Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos says he has been so active on the waiver wire because he wants the Jays to field a good team in Triple-A Buffalo, Tyler Kepner of the New York Times writes (on Twitter). Earlier today, the Jays claimed pitcher Aaron Laffey, marking the Jays' 21st waiver claim since mid-October, as Richard Griffin of the Toronto Star noted earlier today (also on Twitter).
- Outfielder Casper Wells will be rusty as he tries to get his season started with the Athletics, John Hickey of the Bay Area News Group writes. The Mariners designated Wells for assignment near the beginning of the season. The Blue Jays claimed him, but he never played a game for them, and then they too designated him for assignment. That left Wells in limbo for several more days until the Jays traded him to Oakland. At that time, Hickey notes, Wells hadn't played a game in almost a month, and he hadn't faced live pitching since taking batting practice with Toronto. "The rules hurt guys like me in this position, not seeing live pitching," says Wells. "It’d be nice to stay fresh. But I haven’t had any real at-bats in a month. I’ve done all that I could with that situation." Wells entered with the A's up 13-0 in Tuesday night's game against the Red Sox, and flied out. MLBTR wrote this weekend about how MLB's waiver claim rules hurt players like Wells.
The waiver claim kings have struck again. The Blue Jays announced today they've claimed lefty Aaron Laffey off waivers from the Mets, transferring shortstop Jose Reyes to the 60-day DL. Laffey had been designated for assignment by the Mets on Sunday.
Laffey tossed 100 2/3 big league innings for the 2012 Jays, but lose his 40-man roster spot in October and later joined the Mets on a minor league deal. The 28-year-old made four appearances for the Mets this year.
The Blue Jays have been the most active team on the waiver wire, as recently pointed out by our own Steve Adams. MLBTR's Charlie Wilmoth recently asked if excessive adds and drops this season should lead baseball to reevaluate the way that the waiver system works.
The Blue Jays have traded outfielder Casper Wells to the Athletics in exchange for cash considerations, according to a team press release. The A's transferred Scott Sizemore to the 60-day disabled list in order to create room on the 40-man roster. Wells is out of options and cannot be sent to the minor leagues, so an additional 25-man roster move will have to be made by the A's.
The Blue Jays claimed Wells, 28, off waivers from the Mariners after he was designated for assignment at the end of Spring Training. Wells didn't appear in a single game at any level for the Jays, however, as he was DFA'ed by Toronto just five days after being claimed.
Wells is capable of playing all three outfield positions and has posted a strong .264/.349/.489 batting line versus left-handed pitching in his career. Last night, MLBTR's Charlie Wilmoth highlighted Wells as an example of players being left in limbo by the waiver process as he wondered whether or not the waiver system needs to be updated.
If you follow transactions closely, you may have noticed that the Toronto Blue Jays are among MLB's most active teams, particularly with regard to waiver claims. This is a curiosity, and it's amusing to watch for transactions enthusiasts, but it's also becoming a small problem. To see why, here's a list of selected transactions involving the Blue Jays from mid-March to mid-April.
- March 16: Jays claim Guillermo Moscoso from the Royals.
- March 22: Jays claim Todd Redmond from the Orioles.
- March 27: Cubs claim Moscoso from the Jays.
- March 29: Jays claim Alex Burnett from the Twins and Clint Robinson from the Pirates.
- April 6: Jays promote Dave Bush and designate Jeremy Jeffress for assignment.
- April 7: Jays claim Edgar Gonzalez off waivers from the Astros.
- April 8: Jays claim Mauro Gomez off waivers from the Red Sox and designate Bush for assignment.
- April 9: Jays outright Bush to Triple-A Buffalo.
- April 10: Jays claim Casper Wells from the Mariners and designate Burnett for assignment.
- April 12: Orioles claim Burnett. The Jays announce that Gonzalez has cleared waivers, and is outrighted to Triple-A Buffalo.
- April 15: Jays designate Wells for assignment.
- April 16: Jays outright Jeffress to the minors.
Ideally, waiver claims should allow a player who doesn't have a spot on one team's 40-man roster to find a spot on another team's 40-man roster. The Blue Jays, however, are using the process not (or at least not primarily) to improve their 40-man roster, but to improve their minor-league depth by claiming players from other teams and trying to sneak those players through waivers later.
From mid-March to mid-April, the Jays claimed Moscoso, Burnett, Gonzalez and Wells, and then removed them from their roster almost immediately. They were successful in getting Gonzalez through waivers, and he's now pitching at Triple-A Buffalo.
None of this qualifies as a tragedy, but it's still an issue that should be corrected. For one thing, players are subjected to unnecessary periods of waiver limbo, in which they aren't playing and aren't sure where they'll be headed next. Of course, these periods of time are part of being a ballplayer, but they should be limited whenever possible.
Take the case of Casper Wells. Wells isn't a great player, but he posted 1.2 wins above replacement in 2012. He should be a Major Leaguer. But thanks to the waiver claims process, he has yet to appear in a professional game this season. The Mariners designated him for assignment March 31, and the Jays' claim didn't come through until ten days later. Then, five days after that, the Jays dropped Wells from their roster without him having appeared in a game for them, and he hasn't yet resurfaced. The waiver wire has effectively kept Wells out of professional baseball for the better part of a month.
Also, the Jays' use of waiver claims enables them to beef up their minor-league depth at virtually no cost. And the only way other teams have to defend themselves against the Jays' strategy is to do exactly what the Jays are doing, which would lead to more waiver claims, and more periods of waiver limbo. The Astros signed Edgar Gonzalez as a free agent last year; if he's going to be pitching in the minor leagues so soon after being designated for assignment, it should be in Houston's system, not Toronto's.
Of course, what the Jays are doing is currently within the rules. It even makes sense, to a degree, even though it mostly amounts to wheel-spinning. And maybe the Jays feel they have greater flexibility at the back end of their roster than other teams feel they have.
Also, the Jays aren't the only teams subverting the waiver claims process. Sometimes teams even do it together:
- November 18, 2011: Pirates claim Brian Jeroloman from the Blue Jays.
- November 21, 2011: Pirates designate Brian Jeroloman for assignment.
- November 23, 2011: Blue Jays claim Brian Jeroloman from the Pirates.
- December 11, 2011: Blue Jays designate Brian Jeroloman for assignment.
From the outside, this seems harmless, but it couldn't have been easy on Brian Jeroloman.
Major League rosters need to be flexible. A key injury, or a series of injuries, could occur at any time, and a team in a tough spot needs to be able to react. But the Blue Jays' use of the waiver claim system is frivolous and unsustainable (in that a class of players would be trapped in waiver loops indefinitely if other teams imitated the Jays), and it's unfortunate for the players involved.
For now, this is a minor problem. But it's still a problem, and it would be an easy one to fix. If a team claims a player, it ought to be required to keep that player on its 40-man roster for 30 days. That way, a waiver claim carries a small but real cost. Such a rule would have little effect on waiver claims by weaker teams like the Astros, since there would be little harm in a team in the Astros' situation committing to keeping a player on its roster for 30 days. And it would prevent already-strong teams like the Jays from trying to use the waiver claims process to supplement their minor-league systems, rather than to improve their Major League rosters.
Earlier today, Jim Bowden of ESPN.com (Insider sub. req'd) looked at five early season surprises and wondered if they'd be able to sustain it across the entire year. The list begins with Paul Maholm of the Braves and Bowden notes that he wound up there only after Ryan Dempster used his no-trade clause to block a deal to Atlanta. The Braves instead traded prospects for another Cubs starter in Maholm and it worked out for them in a big way. The Braves later used the prospects offered in the Dempster trade to acquire Justin Upton from the D'Backs and Maholm has been more successful since the deal. Here's more from around baseball..
- Royals General Manager Dayton Moore spoke with ESPN's Buster Olney (audio link) on his latest podcast about his moves this winter. Moore explained that he pulled the trigger on the December deal for James Shields because he felt that the club needed to win through pitching. Meanwhile, he expects big things out of Wade Davis once he gets back into the flow of being in the rotation.
- While Russell Martin's offense hasn't shown up yet in 2013, the club's biggest free agent acquisition of the winter has shown something very important in Pittsburgh, writes Jeff Sullivan of Fangraphs.
- In his latest mailbag, a reader asked Richard Griffin of the Toronto Star if the Blue Jays should look to sign someone in the wake of injuries to Jose Reyes and Brett Lawrie. In Griffin's eyes, there's no one on the open market right now that could step in and make a difference right away.
David Ortiz says the timing of his likely return to the Red Sox's lineup Friday is unrelated to the structure of his contract, Alex Speier of WEEI.com reports. Under his current two-year, $26MM contract, Ortiz is guaranteed $11MM in 2014, but that number would rise to $13MM if he spends 21 to 40 days on the disabled list due to his Achilles injury in 2013. It would further increase to $15MM if he spends 20 or fewer days. Thursday was Ortiz's 19th day on the DL this season. If he is not activated before Saturday, he will lose $2MM in 2014. "I just found out about [the contract clause] a couple of days ago," says Ortiz. "If I would be limping or hurting still, it is what it is. But I’m going back now because I feel ready and I want to be playing for my ball club." Here's more from the AL East.
- At age 40, Ramon Ortiz is back in the big leagues, Steph Rogers and Evan Peaslee of MLB.com note. Ortiz's appearance with the Blue Jays on Wednesday was his first Major League outing since September 2011, when he was with the Cubs. "I know guys who are coaches and managers in the big leagues [or] the Minor Leagues. When they see me, they say 'Ramon, you're still playing?'" Ortiz says. Ortiz made 27 starts for the Yankees' Triple-A affiliate in 2012, then signed a minor-league deal with the Jays in December.
- Yankees pitcher Phil Hughes could get $70MM as a free agent next winter, the New York Daily News' Mark Feinsand argues (on Twitter). Feinsand compares Hughes to Anibal Sanchez, who got five years and $80MM from the Tigers in December. Sanchez, though, had xFIPs of 3.25 and 3.60 in his last two seasons before free agency; Hughes' xFIPs in the last two years were 4.90 and 4.35. Peripheral numbers might not matter much in an arbitration hearing, but they matter in free agency. Feinsand is correct to note that the two players have pitched in very different park and league contexts, but the numbers still strongly suggest that Sanchez is the far better pitcher. Of course, much will depend on the way Hughes pitches in 2013. Hughes does not crack Tim Dierkes' 2014 Free Agent Power Rankings.
The Blue Jays were involved in some of the biggest trades of the offseason, but things could have played out differently had it not been for a last-minute extension between the White Sox and Jake Peavy. Shi Davidi of Sportsnet.ca writes that the Blue Jays were close to acquiring Peavy from the White Sox prior to the signing of that two-year, $29MM extension.
The White Sox would've sent $4MM to Toronto along with Peavy in exchange for a player or players whose value exceeded a compensatory draft pick in the eyes of Chicago GM Rick Hahn. Effectively, the Jays were looking at getting Peavy on a one-year, $18MM. Presumably, this is the near-deal that Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos was referring to back in January.
Peavy himself acknowledged to Davidi that he had heard "some rumblings" about discussions between White Sox and another team, but went on to say that he wanted to remain in Chicago as he felt he had "unfinished business" with the South Siders.
Davidi notes that while the trade didn't end up going through, it helped to lay the groundwork for the Blue Jays' eventual blockbusters with the Marlins and Mets. Anthopoulos and president Paul Beeston had to obtain permission from ownership to exceed payroll to acquire Peavy, and that permission carried over into the eventual trades to acquire Jose Reyes, Josh Johnson, Mark Buehrle and R.A. Dickey.