Toronto Blue Jays Rumors
As MLBTR's Tim Dierkes reported today (Twitter links), some of the four remaining draft-compensation free agents may prefer to wait until after the draft to sign than agree to a sub-market deal. Dierkes notes that the high-risk strategy would threaten their former clubs with not receiving a compensation pick, which could increase the impetus for re-signings. It took until March 25th for the last compensation-bound player (Kyle Lohse) to reach agreement in 2013.
Of course, while carrying compensation is a hindrance, players only come to know its burdens after turning down a sizeable, one-year qualifying offer from their former club (this year, for $14.1MM). For many other free agents, an offer of any kind is all they are really looking for. Established big leaguer Tim Byrdak, now 40, is among them. He posted an image of a handwritten flyer on his Twitter account earlier today, advertising himself to GMs as a "high mileage but very serviceable," "late model LHR" that "comes with warranty" (via ESPNNewYork.com's Adam Rubin).
Here are some more notes on an increasingly sparse market:
- Though a return of Johan Santana to the Twins was beginning to look like a foregone conclusion, writes LaVelle E. Neal III of the Star-Tribune, several other clubs have recently expressed interest in the 34-year-old. Minnesota is certainly still in the hunt, with assistant GM Rob Antony telling Neal that he was waiting to hear back from Santana's agent in their latest round of talks. Noting that the Orioles have also seen the two-time Cy Young recipient throw of late, Neal says that Santana could be planning a showcase of sorts to allow more clubs to see his progress as he recovers from a second significant shoulder procedure.
- Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said today that the club made strong runs at Matt Garza and Ubaldo Jimenez before they signed elsewhere, Shi Davidi of Sportsnet.ca reports. "There were a couple of [trades] in the works that ended up falling through," said Gibbons, "and then with the free agents, there's a little bit of a bidding war out there, it's not automatic that you're going to get those guys." Gibbons declined to comment on current free agent starter Ervin Santana, other than to say that the club likes his arm.
- Do not expect Toronto GM Alex Anthopoulos to go beyond the team's internal valuation to sign Santana, writes Richard Griffin of the Toronto Star. Griffin argues that the Orioles' signing of Jimenez to a Garza-like contract -- while giving up a first-round pick to do so -- has undermined the Jays' apparent plan to wait out the market for compensation-bound starters and leverage the club's protected first-round choices.
- Former Nationals and Twins righty Shairon Martis is weighing two minor league offers along with the possibility of playing abroad, tweets Chris Cotillo of MLBDailyDish.com. Though he made his debut in 2008, the native of Curacao is still just 26 years of age.
Here are today's minor moves from around the league...
- The Mets announced that they've inked right-hander Buddy Carlyle to a minor league deal. The 36-year-old last appeared in the Majors in 2011 with the Yankees and has a career 5.58 ERA in 253 1/3 innings. Carlyle, who did not receive an invitation to Major League Spring Training, spent 2013 with the Blue Jays' Triple-A affiliate and posted strong numbers: a 3.86 ERA with 12.2 K/9 and 3.2 BB/9 in 56 innings of relief.
- Speaking of the Blue Jays, their Triple-A affiliate announced that it outfielder Brett Carroll has been signed to a minor league deal. Carroll didn't receive an invite to big league Spring Training. The 31-year-old was set to play for the Atlantic League's Lancaster Barnstormers as recently as last week but will now head to Buffalo instead. Carroll slashed .222/.328/.404 in 89 games for the Pirates' Triple-A affiliate in 2013. He last appeared in the Majors with the Nats in 2012.
After a quiet offseason for the Orioles, the team pounced in mid-February, officially announcing a three-year deal for righty Suk-min Yoon yesterday but more significantly (from a financial standpoint, at least) agreeing to a four-year, $50MM contract with Ubaldo Jimenez. Baltimore surrendered the No. 17 pick in this year's draft to issue the largest contract for a pitcher in franchise history. Some early reactions and fallout in the wake of the Jimenez pact...
- Deep down, the Indians never really wanted Jimenez back in Cleveland, writes Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer. While the team admired Jimenez's work ethic and felt he was a positive presence in the clubhouse, they didn't feel his wild performance swings were worth the trouble. Hoynes points out that it's a bonus that Baltimore landed Jimenez, because their forfeiture of the No. 17 pick allows Cleveland to move from No. 22 overall to the No. 21 overall pick in the first round.
- ESPN's Keith Law writes that despite the associated risk, the contract is a win for the Orioles (ESPN Insider required and recommended). He feels the $12.5MM annual value can end up being a bargain for a pitcher that at times shows three pitches which grade as a 60 or better on the 20-80 scale. Additionally, it allows Kevin Gausman to work on the consistency of his slider in the minors, which he will need in order to thrive as a Major League starter.
- Law's colleague Buster Olney reports that the Orioles upped their offer from three to four years under the belief that the Red Sox and Blue Jays were both aggressively pursuing Jimenez. However, his sources indicate that neither club actually made an offer (Insider required). Olney points out some risks, such as Jimenez's struggles in limiting the running game, and he also opines that the O's should be more willing to lose further draft picks by pursuing Nelson Cruz, Kendrys Morales and perhaps even Stephen Drew.
- MLB.com's Britt Ghiroli runs down what the Jimenez signing means for other pitchers in the organization. Chris Tillman, Wei-Yin Chen and Miguel Gonzalez are locks (health-permitting), she writes, but Yoon, Bud Norris and out-of-options Zach Britton will battle for the fifth slot. Gausman is almost certainly ticketed for the minors, she writes. Ghiroli also reports that manager Buck Showalter said he prefers an everyday DH and that the best deals often happen in late spring, suggesting that someone such as Morales could be a fit after all.
- The Jimenez signing should help to discredit the feeling that Orioles owner Peter Angelos is not willing to spend to win, writes the Baltimore Sun's Peter Schmuck.
- The Sun's Eduardo A. Encina writes that the Orioles' recent international signings made it slightly easier for executive vice president Dan Duquette to surrender the No. 17 pick, as he felt the club added some additional high-upside talent with those moves.
- Jimenez turned his career around by relying less on his fastball and more on his offspeed stuff -- most notably his splitter, writes Eno Sarris of Fangraphs. Jimenez entered the 2013 season having thrown his split just three percent of the time over his career but threw it 14 percent of the time in 2013 with a 17 percent swing-and-miss rate, which helped offset his diminished velocity. If that trend continues, the $12.5MM annual value can be a bargain, Sarris concludes.
- The Orioles and Jimenez have been working on this deal for a long time, but things came together quickly yesterday when Baltimore conceded and added a fourth year, writes MASNsport.com's Roch Kubatko.
- Joel Sherman of the New York Post tweets that with Jimenez and Matt Garza each landing four-year, $50MM contracts, Ervin Santana's agents now have a great deal of pressure in trying to match that figure. Sherman also spoke to an executive who called Jimenez the "ultimate crapshoot," noting that Baltimore could be getting a star or a bust. That same exec wondered if Jimenez will struggle facing more patient lineups in the AL East (Twitter links).
Ervin Santana's list of suitors includes not only the Blue Jays, Orioles and Mariners (all of whom have been connected to Santana in the past week), but also the Indians, Rockies, Royals and other teams, CBS Sports' Jon Heyman writes. Heyman cautions that it's possible that some teams may merely be trying to get Santana on a cheap deal, however.
The Royals would like Santana to return, Heyman writes. The Indians may also be a possibility, although they might be more likely to re-sign Ubaldo Jimenez (which itself seems unlikely). The Reds and Phillies could also be possibilities, although those seem more speculative.
The Blue Jays and Mariners would appear to have an edge in pursuit of Santana, since both teams could be competitive, and neither team would lose a first-round draft pick if they signed him. Perhaps the takeaway here, however, is that, with spring training camps opening and with Santana as one of five qualifying-offer players still on the market, there is plenty of uncertainty, and the team that signs him might not end up being one of the obvious contenders.
As camps open around the game, let's take a look at a few notable free agents who remain unsigned:
- Though long-time shortstop Derek Jeter is now set to retire after the year, and the club faces questions around the infield, the Yankees are still not interested in adding Stephen Drew, reports Andrew Marchand of ESPNNewYork.com. Marchand notes that the club could have its eye on a bigger fish as an eventual replacement for Jeter, suggesting the possibility of looking at next year's free agent market or trying to trade for a big-contract star like Troy Tulowitzki or Jose Reyes. But the availability of those options remains unclear, especially given that the Yanks possess a farm that most regard as below average. And while 2015 currently promises a nice crop of free agent shortstops -- headlined, at present, by Hanley Ramirez, J.J. Hardy, and Asdrubal Cabrera -- it is far from certain that all of those players will reach the open market.
- Echoing Marchand on the Yankees' interest, ESPN.com's Buster Olney told WEEI's Mut & Merloni (via WEEI.com's Jerry Spar) that Drew's market looks poor. The Pirates make sense in theory, says Olney, but the club seems very unlikely to give up its first-round pick to land him. Olney opines that the shortstop's best bet, at this point, could be to wait and see if a contender loses an infielder to injury. Though he agrees that Drew faces difficult market, Jonathan Bernhardt of Sports on Earth argues that Drew and agent Scott Boras should instead act quickly to speed up negotiations and get the best deal possible.
- Of course, one obvious landing spot all along has been the Red Sox, who could use Drew to bolster the left side of the infield without giving up a pick (other than the one they stand to gain should he sign elsewhere). As WEEI.com's Alex Speier reports, however, Boston has settled into the position that it would be interested in a one-year arrangement. That could take the form of a straightforward one-year deal, or could be structured with a low-value player option for a second season (like Adrian Beltre's 2010 deal) that would spread the contract's luxury tax impact.
- The Twins, who have been mentioned as a dark horse suitor for both Drew and outfielder Nelson Cruz, likely have sufficient payroll space to make an addition, reports Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN. But the team is not willing to meet the demands currently being floated on those players, and has not been in recent contact on either.
- Bean Stringfellow, the agent for starter Ervin Santana, rejected an apparent rumor that the Blue Jays had offered his client a three-year, $27MM deal, reports John Lott of the National Post. Stringfellow also dismissed the rumor that he had earlier demanded five years and $112MM for Santana. Though some clubs may hope to wait out the market for prices to fall, Stringfellow says he is not concerned by that possibility. "The calendar doesn't really affect us in that regard," he said. "The teams need the pitching by Opening Day. That's when the bell rings. I think a lot of clubs might think that as [Opening Day] gets closer, the price comes down. I would simply say to that, 'You're not filling your need for pitching, so I don't know why our value is any less when your need is still as great as what it was.'"
- Though Jays' GM Alex Anthopoulos declined to comment on any offers to Santana, he said that the club would remain true to its internal valuations of free agents. "We just haven't been able to line up on value, on years and dollars," Anthopoulos added with regard to the team's possible targets.
- Another team that is reportedly dabbling in the starting pitching market is the Mariners. The club is not just looking at top options like Santana and Ubaldo Jimenez, reports Chris Cotillo of MLBDailyDish.com (via Twitter), but is casting a "wide net" in its search for an arm.
- Free agent reliever Ryan Madson is looking for a major league deal, sources tell MLB.com's Todd Zolecki. Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. said that he received good reports from Madson's recent throwing session, but did not leave the impression that Philadelphia was the likely landing spot. "Our reports were good when we saw him," said Amaro, "so he's going to sign somewhere." As Zolecki notes, Philly may be unwilling to give out a major league deal, especially given Madson's injury history and the recent signing of A.J. Burnett.
Cuban shortstop Aledmys Diaz and Cuban right-hander Odrisamer Despaigne held a showcase at the Padres' Spring Training complex today, MLB.com's Corey Brock tweeted earlier. Jesse Sanchez of MLB.com reported (via Twitter) that more than 20 teams had scouts on-hand to see the pair. Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports reports that the Yankees, Cardinals, Blue Jays, Mariners, Padres and Giants were all there to scout Diaz (Twitter links). According to the San Diego Union-Tribune (on Twitter), Diaz could command as much as $20-30MM as a free agent. However, he is ineligible to sign until next week (Feb. 19) at the earliest. Here's more on the international market...
- Chris Cotillo of MLB Daily Dish tweets that Diaz could look to choose a club as soon as Friday or Saturday of next week.
- Sanchez adds that Diaz and Despaigne have also schedule four more showcases in Florida, beginning this weekend, in order to allow clubs whose Spring Training facilities are in that state easier scouting access. Despaigne's next showcase will come in Port Charlotte, Fla. on Saturday, according to Sanchez (Twitter links). The Rays' Spring Training complex is in Port Charlotte, for what it's worth.
- The Dodgers continued their aggressive approach on the international front today, signing 18-year-old Panamanian outfielder Carlos Mosquera, according to Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times (on Twitter).
- Cuba sent a team to the Caribbean Series in Venezuela for the first time since 1960, writes Baseball America's Ben Badler (subscription required and recommended). As such, Major League scouts flocked to the series in order to get a first-hand look at some of the talent. Badler says that most scouts left underwhelmed, but four players -- outfielder Alfredo Despaigne, second baseman Jose Fernandez, third baseman Yulieski Gourriel and right-hander Norge Ruiz -- each jumped out. Badler provides scouting reports for each, with the write-ups on Ruiz and Despaigne being lengthier than those on Fernandez and Gourriel. Previously, Badler has written that Ruiz, 19, is establishing himself as a rising star.
11:38am: MLBTR's Tim Dierkes reports (via Twitter) that there's "no way" Santana signs today. Dierkes' source says that there are three to four teams with serious interest.
10:59am: Shi Davidi of Sportsnet.ca hears from a source that Santana did indeed move closer to striking a deal this weekend. However, the Blue Jays "aren't the ones driving the sudden turn in his market," according to Davidi.
7:58am: The Orioles aren't close to a deal with Santana at this time, a source tells Jim Bowden of ESPN and MLB Network Radio (Twitter link).
MONDAY, 7:12am: Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN tweets that there's no interest in Santana from the Twins, but he hears that the Orioles, Mariners, Dodgers, Yankees and Indians have all inquired on Santana within the past few days. Of course, the Dodgers signed Paul Maholm over the weekend, so they may no longer be in the market for another starter.
SUNDAY: Free agent starting pitcher Ervin Santana seems to finally be heading toward a deal, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports writes. The Blue Jays and the Orioles have both been in touch with Santana. Chris Cotillo of MLB Daily Dish, meanwhile, tweets that the Orioles will strongly pursue Santana or Ubaldo Jimenez this week.
Santana, of course, is coming off a strong 2013 season in which he posted a 3.24 ERA, 6.9 K/9 and 2.2 BB/9 in 211 innings with the Royals. His path to a new team has been blocked, however, first by the uncertainty regarding Masahiro Tanaka's destination, and now by the fact that the team that signs him will have to forfeit a draft pick. As Rosenthal points out, the Jays' No. 9 and No. 11 picks are protected, which means they would only have to forfeit their No. 49 overall pick. The Orioles would lose their top draft choice, at No. 17.
Rosenthal notes that the Orioles are unlikely to be able to sign A.J. Burnett, as reports earlier this weekend indicated. They were among the finalists for Bronson Arroyo, but Arroyo recently agreed to terms with the Diamondbacks.
It's hard to believe that Roberto Alomar isn't even the best player with an "A" name born on February 5th, but those are the breaks when you share a birthday with the legendary Hammerin' Hank Aaron. Happy birthday to both Hall of Famers, as Aaron celebrates his 80th birthday while Alomar turns 46 today. Here's some news from around the baseball world...
- In his latest article for his Gammons Daily site, Peter Gammons opines that several of the free agents whose markets are hurt by being tied to draft pick compensation (such as Ubaldo Jimenez, Kendrys Morales and Stephen Drew) may have been better served by accepting qualifying offers from their former teams and using those one-year deals as pillow contracts to multiyear deals next winter. The qualifying offer issue isn't nearly as big a problem facing the game, Gammons believes, as the issue of smaller-market teams having fewer avenues to signing amateur and international talent. "The system rewards a top five market like Houston for losing, and punishes the Rays, Indians and Athletics for being highly competent small markets," Gammons writes.
- Also from Gammons, he notes that Scott Boras, Drew's agent, "is invested" on getting the Red Sox to re-sign the shortstop to a three-year deal that includes an opt-out clause. Such a clause would create a possible pillow contract situation for Drew, and also possibly clear room for prospect Deven Marrero to soon take over at short in Boston (Marrero also happens to be a Boras client).
- Six teams were interested in right-hander Chaz Roe when he elected free agency earlier today, MLB Daily Dish's Chris Cotillo reports (Twitter link). Roe has narrowed his choice down to two of the six clubs.
- Athletics director of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi was recently promoted to the role of assistant general manager, and Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle profiles Zaidi's impressive (and unconventional) rise up the ranks. The 37-year-old Zaidi is highly regarded around baseball, and he's credited within the A's organization as being a key figure in the club's use of platoons and the signing of Yoenis Cespedes.
- The Twins "have expressed zero interest" in signing Cuban shortstop Aledmys Diaz, 1500 ESPN's Darren Wolfson reports (Twitter links). It's possible the Twins could still make a move, Wolfson notes, as the club did heavily scout Diaz last year. The Twins were one of several teams linked to Diaz last offseason but their interest had cooled due to Diaz's asking price.
- Ken Davidoff of the New York Post shares his predictions on where the seven top remaining free agents on the market will land.
- The fates of Jimenez, Ervin Santana, A.J. Burnett and Bronson Arroyo could impact the Red Sox, as teams that come up short in signing any of the free agent hurlers could approach the Sox about a trade for their excess starters, Michael Silverman of the Boston Herald writes. This scenario wouldn't include the Blue Jays or Orioles, however, as the Red Sox aren't interested in sending pitching to division rivals.
Here are a few notes out of Toronto:
- The Jays put some traded-for international spending money to use today in signing Dominican righty Hansel Rodriguez for $330K, explains Ben Badler of Baseball America. After selecting lefty Brian Moran in the Rule 5 draft, Toronto flipped his rights to the Angels in exchange for the 81st overall bonus slot, which boosted the team's total allotment just high enough to add Rodriguez without triggering any penalties.
- GM Alex Anthopoulos has extended at least one player in each of his four winters at the helm of baseball ops, notes Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet.ca. Previous deals were mostly made with arb-eligible players, which could make Colby Rasmus, Brett Cecil, and Esmil Rogers potential candidates. But with no indications that talks have taken place, says Nicholson-Smith, that streak could come to an end this time around. "We don't mind paying a little more to be sure we get a little more information," Anthopoulos said in December. "I think we're getting to that position now."
- The shift in favor of the American dollar against the Canadian variety is beginning to have an impact on Canadian sports teams, writes Sportsnet.ca's Michael Grange. "It won't affect our plans for this year, we're already locked and loaded (with regard to payroll)," said Jays president Paul Beeston. "But it will affect our bottom line, that's for sure."
Several 2015 free agents will need to play well enough this year to counteract the poison pill of a qualifying offer, writes Buster Olney of ESPN.com (Insider link). Shin-Soo Choo managed the feat last year, putting up a big enough season that the sacrifice of a draft pick did not substantially limit his market. Barring a big setback, Max Scherzer has probably already done the same, according to Olney. Others, however, still have work to do to avoid a potentially heavily constrained market. Among them, in Olney's estimation, are Justin Masterson, Chase Headley, David Ortiz, Asdrubal Cabrera, James Shields, Jed Lowrie, Hanley Ramirez, and Brett Gardner.
Here are some notes from baseball's eastern divisions:
- The Blue Jays are not just the most active buyer on the free agent starting pitching market, but actually hold a "commanding position" in the same, Olney asserts in the same piece. Toronto's beneficial draft-pick situation and cash position have left it in the driver's seat, able to name a price and wait for one of the top remaining starters to accept that it's the best they can do.
- Jays president Paul Beeston discussed his baseball and business philosophies in a wide-ranging interview with Richard Griffin of the Toronto Star. Saying that "economics will follow the winning," Beeston said that, though the team is "not in the business to lose money, ... we're not in the business to make money either. We make the money we'll plough it right back in ... ." He also complimented club ownership, saying they greenlighted payroll additions in cases like Aroldis Chapman (as an international free agent) and last year's major trades with the Marlins and Blue Jays. As for GM Alex Anthopoulos, Beeston credited the 36-year-old with pulling off deals last year that everyone in the front office supported and said the experience had been a learning experience for all involved.
- The Nationals could still follow suit on the last two off-seasons and make an unexpected, late free agent splash, writes Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post, who looks at the team's current commitments for 2014 and 2015. Washington was willing to pay $12MM over two years to reliever Grant Balfour, and cleared additional cash by backloading the two-year deals of Jordan Zimmermann and Ian Desmond. Though the club could stand to add another catcher, no attractive free agent splashes remain. Kilgore wonders, however, whether a run at A.J. Burnett would make sense, especially given his preference to play near his Maryland home.
- Unless the Phillies elect to utilize Marlon Byrd as the backup center fielder, Darin Ruf does not appear to have a clear shot at a roster spot, writes Todd Zolecki of MLB.com. Ruf could still be optioned down to start the year, but he is 27 years old and is not in need of seasoning. Though limited defensively, Ruf carries a .838 career OPS through 330 MLB plate appearances.