Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins met with the media today and addressed a number of topics, including qualifying offers for the team’s free agents, his club’s offseason needs, Jason Grilli’s club option and much, much more. Sportsnet’s Ben Nicholson-Smith was among the many on hand and relayed a number of highlights from Atkins’ media session (all links to Twitter)…
- The Blue Jays, as has been widely expected, will issue qualifying offers to both Edwin Encarnacion and Jose Bautista barring some form of unforeseen injury popping up between now and the point at which that decision must formally be made. The Jays are “still working” on determining whether they’ll make a QO to Michael Saunders, who enjoyed a massively productive first half of the season before flaming out in the season’s final months. Toronto would, of course, receive a compensatory draft pick for any free agent that rejects the one-year, $17.2MM qualifying offer and signs with a new team. The Jays will “do everything” they can during contract talks with Encarnacion and Bautista in the exclusive five-day window they have with their own free agents following the completion of the World Series. Atkins added that he still feels Bautista can be an effective defensive outfielder.
- Atkins described right-hander Jason Grilli’s affordable $3MM club option as “as near to a no-brainer” as you’ll find in baseball, per Nicholson-Smith. The soon-to-be-40-year-old Grilli came over to the Jays in a minor swap back on May 31 after struggling with the Braves through the first two months of the season and rebounded tremendously with Toronto. In 42 innings with the Blue Jays, Grilli posted a 3.64 ERA with 12.4 K/9 against 4.9 BB/9. Those numbers would’ve been better had Grilli not served up six runs in his final 1 2/3 innings of the regular season (he had a 2.45 ERA in Toronto prior to that stretch), but he was terrific in the postseason, tossing 3 2/3 scoreless innings with three punchouts, one hit and no walks.
- Kevin Pillar had a thumb injury this season but played through the pain, the GM revealed. Surgery is being considered to remedy Pillar’s hand, but even if he goes under the knife he’s expected to be ready for Spring Training. A thumb injury could help to explain Pillar’s power outage over the season’s final couple of months. While he’s never exactly been a slugger, Pillar went homerless over his final 78 games of the season, hitting .270/.311/.333 in that time. Even with the thumb injury, Pillar was very arguably the best defensive player in Major League Baseball this season. His +21 marks in both Defensive Runs Saved and Ultimate Zone Rating ranked third and second among all players at all positions, with only Adam Eaton of the White Sox topping him in both categories. But, much of Eaton’s defensive work came in right field after being moved out of center partly due to poor defensive ratings there last season.
- There are no plans to stretch closer Roberto Osuna out to try him as a starter again, so it would seem that the 22-year-old phenom has laid claim to the Toronto closer’s gig for good. Osuna came up as a starter through the minors, of course, but he wound up closing games in 2015 out of necessity and has been one of baseball’s best stoppers since assuming that role. Over the past two years, he has a 2.63 ERA with 9.8 K/9 against 1.9 BB/9 in 143 2/3 innings.
- Rule 5 pick Joe Biagini, on the other hand, could be stretched back out and given a look in the rotation, Atkins said (via Brendan Kennedy of the Toronto Star). Selected out of the Giants organization, the 26-year-old Biagini was perhaps the best pick of this year’s Rule 5 class, totaling 67 2/3 innings with a 3.06 ERA to go along with 8.2 K/9, 2.5 BB/9 and a 52.2 percent ground-ball rate. Biagini was a starter with in the Giants’ minor league system and could give the Jays some valuable rotation depth if the team elects to go that route.
- Of course, if Toronto does move Biagini to a starting role, it’ll only further the need for bullpen help. Atkins said the team expects to address that need this winter and is willing to go to three or more years for the “right” free agent reliever, per Nicholson-Smith. The Jays are set to lose Brett Cecil and Joaquin Benoit to free agency this winter.
- Generally speaking, Atkins said the Jays will look to potentially add “more balance, more platoon advantage and potentially more speed,” via Nicholson-Smith. The Jays feel that the free-agent market suits their needs well (Twitter link), as the team has a good amount of starting depth but needs to add some corner outfield/first base/DH types, which are indeed fairly plentiful this winter.