Toronto Blue Jays Rumors
Jim Bowden of ESPN and MLB Network Radio spoke with multiple agents and executives over the weekend and got contradictory takes on the reasons for so many top free agents remaining unsigned (ESPN Insider required and recommended). Agents told Bowden that they (and the MLBPA) feel that the heightened media coverage resulting from social networking has damaged players' market values. Reports from media members about how teams value players and whether or not they've made offers to players could be violations of the CBA, those parties told Bowden. Meanwhile, executives said to Bowden that the market is simply full of players with baggage (draft pick compensation, PED usage, inconsistent performance) and added that agents entered the offseason with unnatural expectations for their clients.
Here are just some of the highlights from a jam-packed column from the former Nationals and Reds GM...
- Max Scherzer and Jon Lester are the two most likely candidates from next year's crop of free agent starting pitchers to sign an extension, Bowden writes. Despite the fact that Scherzer is a Scott Boras client (Boras prefers his clients to test the open market), Scherzer seems to want to remain loyal to the Tigers. However, Bowden notes that an extension would still need to be somewhere close to Scherzer's market value, which Bowden pegs at a whopping $196MM over seven years.
- The Red Sox have made a two-year offer to Stephen Drew, one source told Bowden. The value of that reported offer is unclear, as is the date on which it was made.
- The Nationals have discussed Jose Lobaton trades with the Rays as they look to add a backup catcher for Wilson Ramos. Lobaton figures to be expendable for the Rays, as they project to have a strong defensive tandem of Ryan Hanigan and Jose Molina behind the dish. Shedding Lobaton's $950K salary would seem to be more beneficial to the tight-budgeted Rays than most teams, particularly if they don't have a roster spot for him.
- The Dodgers are pushing for an infielder over another starting pitcher and hope to have a deal done within the next 48 hours. Los Angeles isn't likely to bid on any of the remaining free agent starters unless they're willing to take a short-term deal, as Dan Haren did to play near his hometown.
- Kendrys Morales is the most likely free agent to be this year's version of Kyle Lohse, writes Bowden. He notes that the Orioles -- who still have about $15MM to spend -- and Mariners remain interested in the switch-hitting Scott Boras client. Both are still in on Nelson Cruz as well. MLBTR readers seem to agree with the Morales/Lohse comparison; in the poll I conducted earlier this morning asking which Top 50 free agent would be the next to sign, he drew the fewest votes.
- The Royals and Indians are both highly unlikely to be able to lure back their respective free agent pitchers, Ervin Santana and Ubaldo Jimenez. The Blue Jays are a likely landing spot for both pitchers.
It might not be likely that the Blue Jays will sign A.J. Burnett, but in some respects, he would be a very good fit for them, writes Ben Nicholson-Smith of SportsNet.ca. Burnett won't require the team that signs him to forfeit a draft pick and likely wouldn't want a long-term deal, and he arguably performed better in 2013 than all the other remaining free-agent pitchers, like Ervin Santana, Ubaldo Jimenez and Bronson Arroyo. A return to Toronto might be a longshot for Burnett, though -- he would likely prefer to be closer to his home in Maryland, and had previously said he was deciding between pitching for the Pirates and retiring. Here are more notes from the AL East.
- Orioles executive vice president Dan Duquette brushed aside a report that his team was "all-in" on Burnett, saying that he was "not sure where that report came from," MASNsports.com's Roch Kubatko reports. The Orioles do, however, remain very interested in signing a veteran starting pitcher. "Some of these young pitchers who we really like should be able to help us later on in the season, but if we could sign a veteran starter, I think that would help fill out our ballclub," he said.
- Emilio Bonifacio, who the Royals designated for assignment in a surprise move today, could make an interesting candidate for the Yankees' open bench infielder job, Mike Axisa of River Ave. Blues writes. If they want to acquire him, though, they'll likely need to do so via trade, since the Dodgers also need infield help and could make a trade for him themselves.
Jim Bowden of ESPN and MLB Network Radio said on MLBN's Inside Pitch show today that the Blue Jays expect to land one of Ervin Santana or Ubaldo Jimenez (Twitter link from MLB Network Radio). While Toronto has yet to make a formal offer to either right-hander, the team has had discussions with each former AL Central hurler's camp. More from around the league...
- Mark Saxon of ESPNLosAngeles.com writes that the Dodgers' lack of infield depth could be troubling when the season gets underway. Of particular concern is Cuban signee Alexander Guerrero, who could struggle with the transition from shortstop to second base. The Dodgers have little in the way of alternatives, with Chone Figgins, Dee Gordon and light-hitting Miguel Rojas as the primary in-house candidates. Saxon also wonders how many games Hanley Ramirez can stay healthy for, and asks if the Dodgers are relying too heavily on Juan Uribe.
- JJ Stankevitz of CSN Chicago looks at the savvy scouting of Joe Siers and Daraka Shaheed of the White Sox -- the two scouts who pushed the team to pluck lefty Jose Quintana off the scrap heap following his release from the Yankees organization. General manager Rick Hahn wasn't shy about his praise for Quintana, who he feels has exceeded expectations and become a strong No. 2 starter behind Chris Sale. "He doesn't have to improve in my book," Hahn said. "If he does, fantastic. He certainly has the aptitude and athleticism and now the knowledge of the league that it's not unrealistic to expect the improvement. ...if he's this guy for the next several years we'll be very happy."
- The Blue Jays will move waiver claim Brent Morel from third base to second base, Morel told Bruce Levine of 670thescore.com (Twitter link). Toronto claimed the former White Sox top prospect off waivers earlier this year. The move isn't all that surprising given Toronto's lack of depth at the keystone.
- Bowden writes (Insider subscription required) that Athletics GM Billy Beane and Rays GM Andrew Friedman are the GM stars of the offseason. While Yankees GM Brian Cashman spent the most money, and Rangers GM Jon Daniels made the second-most noise with acquisitions of Prince Fielder and Shin-Soo Choo, Bowden feels that the two small-market GMs shined above all others. In particular, he praises Beane's stockpiling of elite bullpen arms and Friedman's decision to resist the pressure to deal David Price.
Here are some notes from around the game's eastern divisions:
- Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos hopes his club can benefit from the qualifying offer system given its array of draft picks, Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet.ca reports. With two protected first rounders, the Jays would stand to lose only a second-round choice by signing a free agent who comes burdened with draft pick compensation. "It's significant," said Anthopoulos. "I think if we had to give up a first round pick, it would changes thngs in a significant manner. I think that's where the draft pick compensation component is impacting some of these clubs." Though he said that "there's still value with the second round pick ... and you still build that into an offer," Anthopoulos explained that "it's not close to the value of round one."
- Mets GM Sandy Alderson says he is "still looking for more players," reports ESPNNewYork.com's Adam Rubin, but emphasized that he likes the club as currently constituted. "I think we've spent the fifth-most of any team in Major League Baseball on free agents this offseason," said Alderson. "And we might do something else before Spring Training starts."
- Meanwhile, two New York starting pitching options -- the recently signed John Lannan and Daisuke Matsuzaka -- have opt-out provisions in their contracts, Rubin reports. Lannan has a June 14 date in his deal, while Matsuzaka has the standard Type XX(B) contract (for minor league free agents with six-plus years of service), which includes a June 1 opt-out.
- The Phillies should act on their reported interest in free agent starter A.J. Burnett, opines Todd Zolecki of MLB.com. With Roberto Hernandez a puzzling addition and international signee Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez still a "huge wild card," in Zolecki's view, the Phils should go hard for Burnett unless the club really does not believe it is a likely contender.
- We heard earlier today that the Orioles and Rays are also possible contender's for Burnett's services.
- The Orioles are interested in bringing back Jason Hammel, but probably are not his likely landing spot since they would not guarantee him a starting role, reports Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun. Baltimore executive VP Dan Duquette also acknowledged that "it would be nice" if the club could announce a significant addition at the team's fan event on Saturday, but of course emphasized that the event would not sway the decisionmaking.
- Baltimore announced a pair of international signings: 17-year-old Mexican Carlos Diaz and 16-year-old Dominican Jomar Reyes. As MLB.com's Brittany Ghiroli reports (Twitter links), both teenagers are expected to start out in the Gulf Coast League. Duquette said that multiple other clubs were involved, and labeled Diaz and Reyes as "potential everyday major league players that can hit in the middle of the lineup." The indicated said that the two received "substantial" bonuses, Connolly reports on Twitter.
The Blue Jays almost finalized trades that would've seen them acquire Ian Kinsler from the Rangers and Brett Anderson from the Athletics earlier this winter, but both deals ended up as "near-misses," Sportsnet's Shi Davidi reports.
Kinsler, of course, was part of the offseason's biggest blockbuster to date, when he was traded to the Tigers in exchange for Prince Fielder and $30MM. Before that deal occurred, however, the Jays' proposed swap for the second baseman fell through due to Kinsler's partial no-trade clause that allowed him to block deals to up to 10 teams. It's unknown what the Jays would have given up for Kinsler, though I would guess it would've been on a much lesser scale than Fielder; it wouldn't have made much sense for Toronto create another hole in the lineup by dealing the likes of Jose Bautista or Edwin Encarnacion.
The Jays had long been rumored to be suitors for Anderson and they discussed a trade with the A's that would've sent Sergio Santos to Oakland in return for the southpaw. Anderson's extensive injury history, however, ended up dimming Toronto's interest and Anderson was instead traded to the Rockies in December. Interestingly, the Jays also had Santos tabbed to go to the Rangers as part of a potential three-team deal in November that was scuttled when another player in the deal failed his physical.
Second base and the starting rotation were the Blue Jays' two biggest areas of need going into the offseason, so had these two would-be deals gone through, GM Alex Anthopoulos' winter shopping could have essentially been complete. With January almost over, however, the Jays are still looking for rotation upgrades and a Ryan Goins/Maicer Izturis platoon is still penciled into the keystone position.
The Blue Jays haven't made any offers to free agent starters but that could change in the near future, FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal reports. The Jays have considered such options as Ubaldo Jimenez, Ervin Santana, A.J. Burnett and Bronson Arroyo, and have also looked at adding starting pitching (such as the Rays' David Price and the Cubs' Jeff Samardzija) in trades. While Jimenez might not be Toronto's top choice, the team has nevertheless looked into his medical records and other "extensive background work" on the right-hander.
Here's some more from general manager Alex Anthopoulos, who spoke to reporters at the Jays' state of the franchise event tonight. All of Anthopoulos' comments are from the Twitter feeds of Sportsnet's Ben Nicholson-Smith and Shi Davidi...
- Anthopoulos noted that any of four free agent starters (Santana, Jimenez, Burnett, Arroyo) could "all be a significant improvement" to the Jays' rotation.
- The idea of pursuing a free agent is becoming more appealing to the club, Anthopoulos said, since prices are beginning to drop.
- In terms of internal pitching prospects, Anthopoulos praised Marcus Stroman, comparing the 22-year-old righty to Athletics right-hander Sonny Gray. While ideally Stroman would spend 2014 in the minors, Anthopoulos believes Stroman is ready for the majors now. Stroman made solid showing in recent top 100 prospects lists from Baseball Prospectus (ranked 27th), MLB.com (r55th) and ESPN's Keith Law (58th), and Baseball America considers Stroman to be the second-best prospect in Toronto's system, behind only Aaron Sanchez.
- Pitching seems to be Toronto's focus, as Anthopoulos said the club isn't actively pursuing position players. We heard yesterday that the Jays were "in the mix" for Stephen Drew to fill their hole at second base.
- Anthopoulos said the team has had dialogue with most of the top free agents and continues to talk with both free agents and with other teams about trades, though "I don't know that I'd say were close on anything."
Brian Roberts spoke with Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun yesterday about his decision to join the Yankees and leave an Orioles organization that was the only one he'd ever played for professionally. Roberts explained that he decided to join a new club in part because "the opportunity to be an Oriole wasn't there anymore." The second baseman indicated that Baltimore never approached him about a return. "We really didn't have any conversations about [a return]," said Roberts. "I don't think it's my place as a player to necessarily go to an organization and ask for a job." Roberts had nothing but positive things to say about his time with the Orioles, but said he is excited at the chance to don pinstripes. "[W]e felt like that was the best opportunity when it came to everything we were looking for, when it came to an opportunity to play and an opportunity to win and several other things that our family was looking at."
Here are some more notes from the American League:
- The Mariners are "in on" closer Fernando Rodney, tweets Tim Brown of Yahoo Sports. Seattle was said to have interest in Rodney during the Winter Meetings. As Brown notes, other clubs in pursuit of the former Ray reportedly include the Mets and Orioles.
- While the Yankees may be done adding significant players before the start of the season, ESPN's Buster Olney explains (Insider subscription required and recommended) that New York could potentially add a talented player in a trade-deadline salary dump. Olney lists several players who could conceivably become available for little more than salary relief, depending upon their team's performance.
- Among the players on that list is Blue Jays starter Mark Buehrle, who Olney says was dangled in trade talks within the past year. Olney calls the southpaw a "plow horse ... being paid like a racehorse." The sturdy-but-unspectacular Buehrle is owed $37MM over 2014-15 under his backloaded deal. Moving the 34-year-old's contract could represent an easy way for the team to shed dollars if it is not in contention, says Olney.
- Meanwhile, the Blue Jays are still talking with the Cubs about acquiring pitcher Jeff Samardzija, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reports. Indeed, Toronto has been the "most aggressive team" with regard to Samardzija, according to Bruce Levine of 670thescore.com (via Twitter), although Chicago is still working to extend him even as the team explores trade options.
- The Blue Jays are "in the mix" for shortstop Stephen Drew, presumably viewing him as a second base option. Nevertheless, the Red Sox remain the favorites to land him, as they prefer to play Xander Bogaerts at third and appear willing to give Drew multiple years. Boston could dangle an opt-out clause of some kind to sweeten things for Drew, Heyman adds. There was a competing report last night on the Yankees' interest, but Heyman says that the club "seem[s] more interested in Drew than ever" after landing Masahiro Tanaka.
- Toronto, says Heyman, figures to be a major threat to land any of the prominent remaining free agents. As he explained further today, the Jays -- armed with two protected first-round draft picks -- may have made the strategic decision to wait out the market for players that are burdened with draft pick compensation. Likewise, as Heyman wrote today, the Mariners could still figure in on the top of the remaining free agent crop.
- Kendrys Morales is among the players who Heyman says could land with either of those clubs. The Jays like Morales, but presumably would need to deal first baseman/DH Adam Lind to bring him on board. Likewise, the Rangers could potentially be involved, but would likely have to flip Mitch Moreland for a Morales signing to fit. If one of those clubs did land Morales, the Pirates might be a club that could swoop in on the trade market, says Heyman.
- The market for Nelson Cruz is looking thin, Heyman says. Cruz may not want to play in Safeco Field, and other possible landing spots like the Orioles and Rangers are focused on pitching.
- Turning to the mound, Heyman said that Ubaldo Jimenez may now be willing to drop his salary demands and could ultimately land in the three-year, $39MM range. The Blue Jays and Orioles are the most likely clubs to sign Jimenez, according to Heyman, with the O's still concerned about burning a draft pick. Meanwhile, the Indians could still get involved if the price on Jimenez falls even further.
Here are today's minor moves from around baseball:
- Left-hander Erick Hurtado has signed a minor-league deal with the Blue Jays, Matt Eddy of Baseball America reports. The 19-year-old has limited professional experience, logging just 12 1/3 innings in two seasons for Astros and Yankees affiliates, but stands an imposing 6' 4".
- The Pirates have brought in catcher Erick Fernandez on a minor-league deal, according to Eddy. The 25-year-old was released by the Nationals on July 22. He has a career .224/.294/.264 line in three seasons for Nationals affiliates.
- The A's inked catcher Dusty Brown to a minor-league contract, Eddy reports. Brown saw sporadic Major League playing time from 2009-2011, but hasn't reached the big leagues since and did not play at all in 2013.
- The Angels have signed catcher Anderson de la Rosa to a minor-league deal, per Eddy. The 29-year-old catcher has never reached the majors, spending his entire career in the Brewers system.
- The Brewers have signed outfielder Jeremy Hermida and infielder Joe Thurston to minor-league contracts, according to a team release. Hermida, formerly an everyday player with the Marlins, played the entire 2013 for Triple-A Columbus in the Indians organization, batting .247/.365/.416. Thurston collected 307 plate appearances for the Cardinals in 2009 and last appeared in the big leagues in 2010. He played in Mexico in 2013.
- Pitcher Barry Enright tweets that he has signed with the Phillies. Enright, who will be 28 in March, struggled in 2013, posting a 7.12 ERA with 6.0 K/9 and 3.7 BB/9 in 116 1/3 innings with Triple-A Salt Lake. He also appeared in four games with the Angels. The righty pitched in the Diamondbacks rotation for parts of the 2010 and 2011 seasons.
Aaron Steen contributed to this post.
According to separate reports, both the Orioles and Blue Jays are active in the market for starting pitching. Both clubs have been fairly quiet in free agency to date, at least in terms of dollars committed. (Baltimore gave $4.5MM to Ryan Webb, but otherwise has not promised much above league minimum for any players; Toronto has given out only one MLB contract, guaranteeing $8MM to Dioner Navarro.)
The Orioles have had "recent, active dialogue" with several starters, including sought-after names like Ervin Santana, Ubaldo Jimenez, and Bronson Arroyo, according to Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun (via Twitter). As Connolly recently reported, the club's interest in closer Fernando Rodney may take a backseat to starting pitching in terms of priority.
Meanwhile, Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos says that the club is "not done yet," as Sportsnet.ca's Ben Nicholson-Smith reports. Noting that plenty of options remain, Anthopoulos expressed hope in making new acquisitions, but cautioned that, "at the same time we're not going to force anything." The Toronto GM said that the club likes the upside of several of its in-house starting options, including the rehabbing Brandon Morrow. He also warned that players with draft-pick compensation attached -- which can refer only to Santana and Jimenez, among pitchers -- could remain unsigned "into February and even into March."
With Masahiro Tanaka off of the market and Matt Garza seemingly close to following him, the starting pitching dam may finally have burst. As I noted on Tuesday, the long delay in Tanaka's situation has left an unprecedented number of substantial free agent business left to complete just weeks before the start of Spring Training -- especially with respect to a number of quality rotation options.