The Blue Jays have let teams around the league know that they’re open to offers on rental players like Marco Estrada, Francisco Liriano, Joe Smith and J.P. Howell, according to Robert Murray of FanRag Sports. The Jays are less open but not entirely closed off to the idea of moving lefty J.A. Happ and first baseman/outfielder Steve Pearce, each of whom is affordably signed through the 2018 season, he adds. Toronto president Mark Shapiro recently suggested that the Jays still have enough pure talent to contend, though he also acknowledged that the club’s poor first half would require them to be open-minded. Certainly, it doesn’t seem as though the Jays are looking to tear things down entirely, and given their recent links to players like Dee Gordon, it’s possible that Toronto is even open to shedding short-term salary but still amassing some long-term assets to help beyond 2017. The 33-year-old Liriano, after all, has struggled all season, while Estrada limped into the All-Star break and the two relievers mentioned are presently on the disabled list.
More from the American League…
- There’s simply no place for Pablo Sandoval on the Red Sox’ roster, writes WEEI’s John Tomase. The team still has a few days to make a decision on Sandoval, as his rehab window from an eyebrow-raising DL placement due to an ear infection doesn’t expire until Monday. However, Tomase argues that the writing has been on the wall from the moment the Sox placed Sandoval on the DL this past time. Deven Marrero and Tzu-Wei Lin are sound defensively, and even if neither can hit all that much, they’re both likely to outproduce Sandoval until Rafael Devers is ready or until president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski enlists some outside help on the trade market. Tomase notes that for all of his struggles in Boston, Sandoval has put in the effort to try to make the arrangement work. But, Tomase surmises, the team simply cannot exhibit any more patience at this point after giving Sandoval multiple chances to turn his career around.
- MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand tweets that the Tigers are not actively shopping right-hander Justin Verlander, though he adds that a source says the team could be “talked into moving him” before the non-waiver deadline. That’s not all that surprising to hear, as Verlander is in the midst of one of his worst seasons and is owed nearly $70MM between now and the conclusion of the 2019 season. He also has a full no-trade clause, further complicating matters. While Verlander has been popular on the rumor circuit due to his name value, he doesn’t stand out as a realistic trade candidate given that contract, no-trade protection, his results and the Tigers’ likely desire to receive quality prospects in return.
- Tigers skipper Brad Ausmus is fully aware of the rumors surrounding his club but hopes that the front office doesn’t trade away any big league talent prior to the non-waiver trade deadline, writes Evan Woodbery of MLive.com. Ausmus believes the Tigers’ roster is markedly better than its record and is optimistic of a second-half turnaround. “Offensively, I do think part of the story is — I know how it sounds and I hate to say it — we’ve hit a lot of balls hard, significantly more than anyone else, that ended up being outs,” said Ausmus. “That can change games if a potential big hit becomes an out. We haven’t hit the ball as poorly as our numbers say.” Per Woodbery, Ausmus made an appeal to owner Chris Ilitch, though the manager concedes that it’s possible that some players will be moved.
- Blue Jays first baseman spoke to Sportsnet’s Shi Davidi about his remarkable turnaround in 2017. Smoak tells Davidi that at the suggestion of GM Ross Atkins, he sat down with a sports psychologist for the first time this offseason and developed a revamped mental approach to the game to go along with modifications to his swing path that were made with hitting coach Brook Jacoby. Smoak adds that he’s actually cut down on his swing at the plate, which has led to more power. “When you would see me coil, or you’d see the whole number on the back of my jersey, it was because I’m trying to hit the ball 500 feet,” he explains. “I’m big enough and I’m strong enough that if I square it up it’s going to have a chance. You don’t have to hit it 400 feet every time, they can barely go out, too.” The more reserved approach at the dish has helped him to recognize breaking balls more effectively, which Davidi explains is readily apparent in his plate discipline metrics. I’d highly recommend checking out the column in full, as it’s a great look at the transformation that Smoak has undergone.