We’ll kick off the weekend with a few notes from the AL East:
- The Blue Jays are likely to enter 2020 with Randal Grichuk as their top option in center field, GM Ross Atkins confirmed (via Shi Davidi of Sportsnet). That’s not terribly surprising, as the always-sparse free agent market for center fielders has been almost completely picked over. Grichuk is coming off a disappointing 2019, the first season of a five-year extension he inked last April. Despite a career-high 31 home runs, he managed only a .232/.280/.457 line (90 wRC+) over 628 plate appearances. That at least seemed to open the door for an outside addition for the Jays, who have made some improvements around the roster this offseason. Between Grichuk’s right-handed pop and favorable Statcast ratings defensively, it seems he’s earned another opportunity to improve upon his lackluster plate discipline.
- Brendan McKay is entering 2020 with a slightly more aggressive pitching plan than he had previously, reports Juan Toribio of MLB.com. McKay will work every fifth day this spring in hopes of carrying that schedule into the regular season, Toribio notes. Last season, he was limited to mound work every six days as he worked up to a career-high 122.2 innings across three levels. A two-way star at the University of Louisville, McKay will continue to see some action at DH and perhaps at first base, Toribio notes, although that’ll be worked in judiciously around his pitching schedule to keep him fresh. From the outside, Tampa’s rotation looks to be spoken for by Charlie Morton, Blake Snell, Tyler Glasnow, Yonny Chirinos and Ryan Yarbrough. Teams can’t rely on the same five starters to take them through an entire season, of course. So while an initial bullpen role or demotion to Triple-A Durham is still on the table for McKay, Toribio notes, the southpaw seems a good bet to start for manager Kevin Cash at some point next season.
- Orioles reliever Richard Bleier is at full strength entering spring training, reports Roch Kubatko of MASN. The 32-year-old was sidelined by shoulder soreness early in 2019, perhaps contributing to his career-worst 5.37 ERA in 53 appearances last year. Kubatko unsurprisingly characterizes the soft-tossing ground-ball specialist as an essential lock to make Baltimore’s Opening Day roster. If Bleier can regain the form that saw him post a sub-2.00 ERA in both 2017 and 2018 (albeit with less inspiring peripherals), he’d be a solid trade chip for the rebuilding club. Bleier is making just $915K this season and comes with two additional years of team control.