The latest from Toronto…
- Russell Martin reflects on a tough year in an interview with Sportsnet.ca’s Jeff Blair, and needless to say, the veteran catcher is hoping for better things in 2019 for both himself and his team. Martin hit just .194/.338/.325 over 352 plate appearances this season, an unimpressive slash line that could end up being his final number, as Martin has barely played in September due to the Jays’ desire to give playing time to younger catchers Danny Jansen, Luke Maile, and Reese McGuire. Martin has seen additional time at third base this year and even performed spot duty as a shortstop and left fielder, though in regards to his future as a catcher, “I’d like it to be a competition and force [the Jays] to make a decision” in 2019, he said. Martin is owed $20MM next season, his last under contract, though he isn’t likely to receive more than a backup catcher or overall utilityman role since the Blue Jays are in rebuilding mode.
- Blair’s piece also includes the notable item that the Braves had interest in Martin last offseason while trying to find a trade partner for a Matt Kemp deal. Atlanta ended up sending Kemp to the Dodgers in a fascinating five-player trade that had major salary ramifications for both teams, and resulted in a big on-field impact as well in 2018, as Kemp enjoyed a comeback season and Charlie Culberson and Brandon McCarthy both contributed to the Braves’ NL East-winning campaign. Last winter, however, the Braves were simply trying to get Kemp off the books, and it’s interesting to wonder what type of “bad contract swap” could’ve been cooked up between the Braves and Jays, particularly with former Toronto GM Alex Anthopoulos running Atlanta’s front office. If Martin had ended up a Brave, he likely would’ve seen a lot more third base time this season, as the Braves already had Tyler Flowers and Kurt Suzuki as a very productive tandem behind the plate.
- “I’m actually enjoying the game more than I did for my entire tenure in Houston,” Ken Giles tells The Toronto Star’s Rosie DiManno about his first eight weeks in a Blue Jays uniform. Giles came to the Jays as part of the controversial deadline deal that sent Roberto Osuna to the Astros, and continued his season-long trend of excelling in save situations but pitching poorly in non-save appearances. While his results may not have differed, Giles said his comfort level is much higher in Toronto than in Houston, as “it was like the communication was lost” this year with the Astros. “I just felt trapped there. I didn’t feel like myself there. Overall, I felt out of place,” Giles said. The Blue Jays, by contrast, “stayed patient with me. I said, hey, I want to work on this thing till I’m comfortable….Pitching, you can’t just try to fix everything at once. For me, I had to take baby steps to get my groove back. The Jays allowed me to do that.“
- Giles projects to be the Jays’ closer in 2019, though the bullpen as a whole will need some attention this offseason, Sportsnet.ca’s Ben Nicholson-Smith writes. Toronto is expected to look at adding veteran relievers in trades and free agency to bolster a unit that could face a heavy workload next season, given that the Jays will be planning on a young and inexperienced starting rotation. As well, veteran additions (as well as incumbent relievers like Giles) could also be turned into trade chips at the next July deadline, such as how the Jays have dealt the likes of Seunghwan Oh, Joe Smith, and John Axford over the last two years.