Toronto Blue Jays – MLB Trade Rumors Mon, 19 Mar 2018 21:08:39 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Marcus Stroman Expected To Make Season Debut April 1 Sun, 18 Mar 2018 04:42:51 +0000
  • Shoulder inflammation has troubled Blue Jays star Marcus Stroman this spring, but the right-hander told reporters Saturday that he’ll be available during the team’s first turn through the rotation this year. After throwing a pair of scoreless frames Saturday in his first spring outing of the year, Stroman said (via “I thought [Saturday’s game] went really well. I’m ready to rock — just progress over the next two starts and looking forward to pitching against the Yankees on [April 1].” Needless to say, that’s welcome news for the Jays, for whom Stroman delivered 201 highly effective innings in 2017 (3.09 ERA), thanks in part to an excellent 62.1 percent groundball rate.
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    Thomas Pannone Gets 80-Game Suspension Sat, 17 Mar 2018 23:01:14 +0000
  • Major League Baseball has given Blue Jays pitching prospect Thomas Pannone an 80-game suspension without pay after he tested positive for Dehydrochlormethyltestosterone, a performance-enhancing substance, per Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet. Pannone, a 23-year-old southpaw, ranks as’s No. 20 Jays prospect. Acquired from the Indians in last summer’s Joe Smith trade, Pannone divided 2017 between the high-A and Double-A levels, where he combined for a 2.36 ERA with 9.3 K/9 against 2.2 BB/9 over 144 2/3 innings and 25 appearances (all starts).
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    Blue Jays Claim Sam Moll Sat, 17 Mar 2018 19:48:56 +0000 The Blue Jays have claimed lefty reliever Sam Moll off waivers from the Mariners; both teams’ PR accounts have announced the move.

    It’s been a busy year for the 26-year-old Moll, who began last season with the Rockies, end it with the Athletics, and has since been the object of a waiver hot-potato game between Pirates, Mariners and now the Blue Jays. Seattle GM Jerry DiPoto had spoken back in September of plans to convert Moll back to a starter even though he hasn’t pitched in that capacity since his professional debut in 2013. Instead, he’ll join his fourth team of the winter and hope he can earn a shot in Toronto, presumably in the bullpen.

    The Athletics gave Moll his first taste of MLB action last season in the form of a September call-up. He make 11 appearances with the club, although he recorded one or no outs in six of them. Moll ended the season having allowed eight earned runs in 6 2/3 innings, though he did manage to strike out seven hitters. There’s some upside for Moll. He throws a fastball in the mid-nineties, which he mixes with a slider.

    After being selected in the third round of the 2013 draft by the Rockies, Moll rose steadily through the minor league ranks. He managed to exceed a 50% ground ball rate in two consecutive seasons with Colorado’s Triple-A affiliate before the Athletics acquired him in August of 2017 for cash considerations.


    Blue Jays Sign Danny Espinosa To Minor-League Deal Sat, 17 Mar 2018 13:33:00 +0000 The Blue Jays have signed infielder Danny Espinosa to a minor-league deal with an invite to spring training, Gregor Chisholm of reports. Tim Brown of Yahoo Sports was first to report that Espinosa had been spotted in the Jays’ camp.

    The Yankees signed the 30-year-old switch-hitter to a minor-league deal earlier in the offseason. At the time, he seemed to have at least an outside shot to crack the Bombers’ roster as the team’s second baseman or utility infielder. That door closed to a sliver, however, when the club acquired Brandon Drury from the Diamondbacks, and slammed shut when the club signed veteran Neil Walker to a one-year, $4MM deal. With safer options in place, the Yanks released the veteran infielder; they had little reason to keep Espinosa around, who struggled to a .197/.286/.344 batting line with a 31.6% strikeout rate across the past two seasons.

    A week ago, it would have seemed that Espinosa had even less of a chance to break through with the Jays. But following the news that Troy Tulowitzki is unlikely to be ready for opening day, there’s at least an opportunity for Espinosa to compete for an infield job in Toronto. That competition will be stiff, though; Devon Travis, Aledmys Diaz and Yangervis Solarte would seem to be firmly ahead of him on the depth chart.

    Espinosa’s best seasons came with the Nationals from 2011-2012. During those seasons, he amassed 1,316 plate appearances and hit .242/.319/.408 with 38 homers and 37 steals. He was worth 6.8 fWAR during that span in part due to his sparkling defense at second base.

    Alford Out Three To Six Weeks With Hamstring Strain Fri, 16 Mar 2018 14:16:06 +0000 Blue Jays outfield prospect Anthony Alford will miss the next three to six weeks with a Grade 2 hamstring strain, writes Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet. Obviously, that takes the highly touted 23-year-old out of consideration for a spot on the Opening Day roster, though he was likely facing an uphill battle in that regard anyhow, given the crowded outfield mix in Toronto and a presumptive desire for Alford to get everyday at-bats. A third-round pick in 2012, Alford has been lauded as one of the game’s top 100 prospects by virtually every major outlet in the past three seasons. He’s viewed as a key piece of the Blue Jays’ future, although despite making his MLB debut last season, he still has just three Triple-A games and 68 Double-A games on his minor league resume. The injury could cost him as much as a month of the season, but it still seems quite plausible that he could return to the big leagues late in the 2018 season with more minor league seasoning.

    Tulo Won't Be Ready For Opener; Axford, Clippard Likely To Make Roster Wed, 14 Mar 2018 03:58:55 +0000 Blue Jays skipper John Gibbons signaled on Monday that Troy Tulowitzki won’t be ready for Opening Day, writes’s Jon Morosi“I think you can write Tulo off [for Opening Day] right now,” said Gibbons of his shortstop, who is currently dealing with a bone spur in his right heel. Tulo’s lack of availability likely means the Jays will carry just seven relievers to open the season Morosi notes, which will allow the team to bring four middle infielders — Devon Travis, Aledmys Diaz, Yangervis Solarte and Gift Ngoepe — when they break camp.

    Meanwhile, both John Axford and Tyler Clippard are likely to make the Blue Jays’ bullpen after signing minor league deals, per Morosi. Gibbons praised a new two-seam fastball that Axford has been utilizing as well as improved control from the veteran righty. “What’s jumped out at me is he’s keeping that thing in the zone,” said Gibbons. “What little I’ve known in the past, at times he could scatter, but really that hasn’t happened at all this spring. That’s encouraging. And he still throws really, really hard.”

    Alex Anthopoulos On Jays Tenure, Braves Future Tue, 13 Mar 2018 02:56:47 +0000 Current Braves and former Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos joined’s Mark Feinsand for a wide-ranging podcast chat. It’s a great listen in full for fans of either of those organizations or anyone interested in learning more about Anthopoulos’s path in the game.

    Anthopoulos opened up on some key elements of his time in Toronto now that a few years have passed. He served as GM there from 2010 to 2015 before moving on to a stint with the Dodgers front office and then landing the GM gig in Atlanta last fall.

    While the end to his perch atop the Jays’ baseball ops department was obviously bittersweet, particularly as it came right on the heels of a bitter ALCS loss, Anthopoulos also made abundantly clear that he feels no ill will at all toward current club president Mark Shapiro. Rather, he says, the fit just did not seem optimal and he elected not to sign a five-year offer to remain.

    Anthopoulos answered a bevy of questions about some of the key deals swung during his tenure, going all the way back to the organization’s admitted good fortune of landing of pre-breakout stars in Edwin Encarnacion and Jose Bautista. Of note, he acknowledged — as he was not really willing to do at the time — that Bautista might not have been extended in early 2011 had it not been for the earlier swap that took Vernon Wells’s extension off the books. (Anthopoulos also acknowledged feeling some unease after many big moves, including the Bautista extension and even the acquisition of Josh Donaldson.)

    There’s plenty more historical examination in the chat, including the recruitment of Russell Martin. That deal went down when the Jays decided to offer an additional season and $8MM in guaranteed money, boosting the organization’s offer over the four-year, $74MM scenarios that other teams had dangled. Among other memorable moves, Anthopoulos explains the trade deadline double-play that landed Troy Tulowitzki (link) and David Price (link). That mid-season, go-for-it maneuver came about because the team (correctly) believed it had a rare chance at a big run if only it could shore up its run prevention.

    Anthopoulos says he received interest from a number of clubs after deciding to leave the Jays, but his decision ultimately boiled down to one between the Astros and Dodgers. In the end, he cites his longstanding relationships with president of baseball ops Andrew Friedman and GM Farhan Zaidi as the primary decisions to choose the opportunity presented by the Dodgers.

    Likewise, in moving on to Atlanta, Anthopoulos said he was convinced not only of the state of the organization’s resources but also that it’d be enjoyable to work under team chairman Terry McGuirk. The international signing scandal that opened the GM seat cost the organization some prospects, but Anthopoulos suggests that does not change the overall trajectory of the team, which he says is loaded with young talent.

    The Braves certainly have not engaged in a ton of momentous dealmaking since Anthopoulos took over, but he did discuss the massive salary-swapping arrangement he worked out with the Dodgers. It helped, he acknowledged, that he had just been with the Los Angeles organization, as he knew its intentions and had plenty of trust with its leadership. While both sides explored other possibilities before pulling the trigger on the deal, Anthopoulos says it was the “only deal that was going to make sense” for the Braves involving Matt Kemp.

    Moving Kemp to clear the way for the eventual call-up of Ronald Acuna was the “number one priority from a player standpoint,’ says Anthopoulos. Reallocating salary commitments to the 2018 season functioned to create ample “financial flexibility” for the organization moving forward. It seems the goal for the coming season is to develop and assess young players before deciding whether and how the organization “might need those dollars” it freed for the future.

    At spring camp, Anthopoulos says, he’s focused on getting to know the young players who are vying to become parts of the organization’s future. Some, he acknowledges, may end up being traded. The spring offers a chance to gain new insight on the “human element,” Anthopoulos says, calling that one of the many elements he has gained additional appreciation for over his decades in the game.

    Blue Jays Release Ezequiel Carrera Sun, 11 Mar 2018 14:52:31 +0000 MARCH 11: The Blue Jays have now elected to release Carrera, according to Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet (Twitter link).

    MARCH 1: The Blue Jays announced that outfielder Ezequiel Carrera has been outrighted after clearing waivers. He had recently been designated for assignment but will now return to camp as a non-roster invitee. That’s the best possible result for Toronto, which had to expose Carrera to the waiver wire in order to add reliever Seung-hwan Oh.

    It appears that Carrera has accepted his assignment, as he would have had the right to opt instead for free agency. The fact that the remainder of the league passed on claiming him isn’t promising, though that would’ve meant stepping into a $1.9MM arbitration salary.

    It is not immediately clear whether Carrera is still playing pursuant to that arb agreement, or whether instead the team now controls him on alternative terms such that he’d earn at a different rate if he stays with the club into the start of the season. Regardless, the Jays will owe Carrera at least thirty days’ worth of termination pay (just over $300K).

    The Jays are obviously fond of the 30-year-old, who has appeared in 332 games with the organization over the past three seasons. He has never been better than 2017, when he turned in a healthy .282/.356/.408 batting line in 325 trips to the plate while also adding eight homers and swiped ten bags.

    Still, later developments in the offseason evidently led the club to go in a different direction. The signing of Curtis Granderson — the only other left-handed-hitting outfielder who seems likely to be in the mix in the early portion of the season — certainly didn’t help Carrera’s cause. And the acquisition of Randal Grichuk likely took away the possibility of a strict platoon scenario. With the switch-hitting Dalton Pompey and lefty-swinging Dwight Smith Jr. also in the mix, the Jays obviously felt they did not need to keep another southpaw bat on the 40-man roster.

    Blue Jays Sign Tyler Clippard Wed, 07 Mar 2018 17:19:43 +0000 The Blue Jays have announced a minor-league deal with righty Tyler Clippard. It includes an invitation to MLB camp.

    Clippard only just turned 33 and has a long history of outstanding bullpen production. While his fastball velocity has continued to dwindle, Clippard is coming off of a season in which he posted a healthy 14.0% swinging-strike rate that sits above his career average.

    Of course, there are other areas of concern, too. Clippard worked in the zone just 40.6% of the time, a personal low, while doling out free passes at a rate (4.6 per nine) not seen since he was still establishing himself with the Nationals.

    Then, there’s the fact that Clippard’s hidden weapon — the ability to induce infield flies — was no longer quite as potent. (He ended the year with a 10.3% infield fly rate, lowering his career rate to 16.0%.) A few more of those pops have been squared up and turned into long balls, perhaps owing in part to his reduced velocity, with an assist from the increasingly springy baseball that Clippard and others are throwing.

    The end result wasn’t pretty, as Clippard finished with a 4.77 ERA, marking the first time he finished a full season having allowed more than four earned per nine. He bounced between three organizations and was not selected to participate on the Astros’ World Series roster despite landing in Houston late in the season.

    Despite the struggles, it’s easy to justify giving Clippard another look. Entering the 2017 season, after all, he had compiled 587 2/3 innings of 2.77 ERA ball as a major-league reliever. Notably, too, he was still quite effective against lefties last year, holding them to a .213/.311/.366 slash. The change-up artist has long carried reverse platoon splits and dominated southpaw hitters.

    As the Roster Resource Blue Jays depth chart shows, there ought to be a solid opportunity for Clippard to earn a job in Toronto, especially if the organization thinks it can use him in a somewhat more specialized manner against lefty hitters. That said, Clippard will have quite a lot of competition in camp, as the long list of non-roster pitchers in the above link shows.

    Troy Tulowitzki Unlikely To Be Available For Opening Day Sun, 04 Mar 2018 16:14:51 +0000 It doesn’t look like Troy Tulowitzki will be in the Blue Jays’ lineup on Opening Day, as manager John Gibbons told reporters (including’s Arden Zwelling) today.  “I don’t expect he’ll be ready. But he’s moving in the right direction,” Gibbons said, referring to Tulowitzki’s rehab from a severe ankle injury suffered last July.  Toronto made a point of acquiring infield depth this winter given the lengthy injury histories of both Tulowitzki and Devon Travis this winter, and thus Yangervis Solarte or Aledmys Diaz are now the top shortstop candidates with Tulowitzki likely to miss at least some time at the start of the season.

    Minor MLB Transactions: 3/3/18 Sat, 03 Mar 2018 19:23:30 +0000 We’ll keep track of today’s minor moves in this post…

    • The Blue Jays announced that they’ve signed right-hander Nick Tepesch to a minor league deal; he’ll report to the club’s spring training camp. Tepesch began his MLB career with the Rangers in 2013, and went on to pitch 219 innings for the club to the tune of a 4.56 ERA from 2013-2014. However, he missed the entirety of the 2015 season with shoulder issues that eventually resulted in thoracic outlet syndrome surgery in August. The Rangers elected to non-tender Tepesch after that season, and he hasn’t managed to latch onto an active roster spot for an MLB club since, despite getting a shots at the major league level with the Dodgers, Twins and Blue Jays.
    Atkins Confident In Oh's Health Wed, 28 Feb 2018 06:25:19 +0000
  • An issue with Seung-hwan Oh’s physical in Texas didn’t cause the Rangers to pull their offer entirely, writes Sportsnet’s Arden Zwelling, but the Rangers did change their offer to Oh after his examination. That prompted Oh to further explore the market, at which point he latched on with the Blue Jays on a one-year, $2MM deal with an option for the 2019 season. GM Ross Atkins didn’t express any concern over Oh’s medical status, per Zwelling. “We feel really good about our process and about the information that we had prior to Texas and after Texas coming out,” said Atkins. “Our due diligence suggests that with his emphasis on strength and conditioning, his emphasis on how he takes care of himself, that he should be able to help us.”
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    Injury Notes: Gurriel, Frazier, Gausman, Stroman, Thornburg, Eaton Tue, 27 Feb 2018 19:13:14 +0000 The Astros have shipped first baseman Yuli Gurriel to Houston so his injured hand can be evaluated, Jake Kaplan of The Athletic reports (Twitter link). At this point, the situation is more or less a mystery, with no real indication how the issue arose or just what the club is concerned about. Clearly, though, the team’s training staff has found cause to get a closer look from a specialist.

    Here’s more on some injury situations from around the game:

    • Yankees outfielder Clint Frazier has been diagnosed with a concussion, tweets’s Bryan Hoch. Frazier made a leaping catch in yesterday’s Grapefruit League game against the Pirates and stumbled a bit before falling backwards and hitting his head against the base of the left-field wall (video link). Manager Aaron Boone said Frazier will be down for “a few days” and acknowledged the seemingly optimistic nature of that timeline. Frazier is far from a lock to make the Opening Day roster in New York with Brett Gardner, Aaron Hicks, Giancarlo Stanton, Aaron Judge and Jacoby Ellsbury all on the roster, but he remains a key potential long-term piece for the Yanks.
    • It seems that Orioles righty Kevin Gausman has largely shaken off a home-plate collision yesterday, Roch Kubatko of writes. The young starter, who is a key factor in the team’s hopes for the coming season, says he “feel[s] pretty good” on the whole despite slamming into Tigers youngster Jeimer Candelario. For the time being, at least, Gausman is expected to take the ball for his next scheduled spring outing.
    • The outlook is at least a bit more worrisome for Blue Jays righty Marcus Stroman. Per’s Gregor Chisholm, shoulder inflammation is holding Stroman back. Though he has already been cleared by an MRI of structural concerns, Stroman will rest up in hopes of moving past a problem that has evidently been going on for a few weeks. The key Jays hurler says he’s hoping to be fully ramped up for “the very beginning of the start of the season,” even if it’s not Opening Day, though surely the organization will proceed with caution.
    • The Red Sox will welcome reliever Tyler Thornburg back to the hill for the first time since he underwent surgery to address thoracic outlet syndrome, Pete Abraham of the Boston Globe reports on Twitter. A bullpen session is just one of many steps back, of course, and Thornburg still has some hurdles to clear. He has yet to pitch competitively for the Boston organization (excepting brief spring action last year) since coming over in a trade in advance of the 2017 season.
    • Indications are that Nationals outfielder Adam Eaton is largely progressing well after a long layoff for a torn ACL. As Mark Zuckerman of writes, though, Eaton has yet to appear in game action. That appears to be less a reflection of Eaton’s surgically repaired joint than it is a planned effort to build him up deliberately. “We’re going to take it and be methodical and do it right for the first time and make sure I’m overcooked, so to speak, before I go out there.” While it’s surely tempting to max out Eaton’s reps after a lost season, skipper Davey Martinez emphasized the primary goal is to have Eaton at full speed come Opening Day.
    • The rival Mets are reporting shoulder and back soreness for Yoenis Cespedes and Jacob deGrom, respectively, but those don’t seem to be real concerns at this point, as’s Anthony DiComo reports. However, the New York organization is likely to hold back first baseman Dominic Smith for a while after he was diagnosed with a strained quad. He already seemed to face a difficult task of cracking the Opening Day roster, so this setback is not likely to help the cause. (New reliever Anthony Swarzak just left his relief appearance with an apparent calf injury, as Mike Puma of the New York Post was among those to tweet, though details are sparse at this time.)
    Blue Jays Designate Ezequiel Carrera Tue, 27 Feb 2018 00:03:35 +0000 The Blue Jays have designated outfielder Ezequiel Carrera for assignment, per the organization (h/t Ben Nicholson-Smith of, via Twitter). The roster spot was needed for righty Seung-hwan Oh, whose signing is now official.

    With Curtis Granderson and Randal Grichuk entering the Jays’ outfield mix this winter, Carrera lacked a clear path to a significant role. Though it seemed possible he might sneak in as a fifth outfielder, particularly since Granderson is the only Toronto outfielder who hits from the left side, that would have meant squeezing the infield or pitching depth. Clearly, that’s not the direction the Jays front office decided to go.

    [RELATED: Updated Blue Jays Depth Chart]

    Carrera, 30, turned in a useful season at the plate in 2017. Over 325 plate appearances, he slashed .282/.356/.408 with eight home runs and ten steals. That said, the outfielder’s lifetime offensive output (89 wRC+) is not quite as impressive and he needed a .358 batting average on balls in play to post his  personal-best slash. While metrics soured on his glovework last year, Carrera has graded as an above-average corner outfielder in the past and has spent plenty of time in center.

    It’s hardly an exciting profile, but Carrera could conceivably draw interest. He’s slated to earn a not-insignificant $1.9MM this year via arbitration, though, so interested teams may prefer to pursue him as a free agent than claim him or trade for him. Unless another organization takes over the contract, the Blue Jays will owe Carrera thirty days of pay (just over $300K).

    Blue Jays Sign Seung-Hwan Oh Mon, 26 Feb 2018 23:58:58 +0000 Feb. 26, 5:58pm: The Toronto organization has announced the signing. He’ll earn $1.75MM for 2018, per Bob Nightengale of USA Today (via Twitter), with a $250K buyout on a $2MM option that vests upon seventy appearances. The deal also includes $1.5MM in possible incentives.

    12:08pm: Oh has passed his physical, tweets Nicholson-Smith. The move, then, should be officially announced in the near future.

    Feb. 25: The Blue Jays have agreed to sign right-hander Seung-hwan Oh, FanRag Sports’ Robert Murray reports (Twitter link).  The deal is a one-year contract that will guarantee Oh $2MM in 2018,’s Ben Nicholson Smith reports (Twitter links), plus there is a vesting option for 2019.  Oh is a client of Rosenhaus Sports Representation.

    The contract is contingent on Oh passing a physical, which could still be a notable obstacle given that a deal between Oh and the Rangers fell through earlier this month.  The Rangers’ deal with Oh called for a $2.75MM guarantee, plus a $4.5MM club option (with a $250K buyout) for 2019.  As per Sung Min Kim of the Sporting News (via Twitter), however, Oh’s MRI revealed some inflammation in his throwing elbow that wasn’t considered serious enough to scuttle the deal altogether, though the Rangers tried three times to re-work the terms.  Oh’s representation didn’t want to re-open talks, and thus no contract was finalized.

    Sep 7, 2017; San Diego, CA, USA; St. Louis Cardinals relief pitcher Seung-Hwan Oh (26) rubs down the ball during the seventh inning against the San Diego Padres at Petco Park. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

    Oh came to Major League Baseball in the 2015-16 offseason after 11 seasons as a top closer in both the Korean Baseball Organization and Nippon Professional Baseball.  He made an immediate impact on the Cardinals’ bullpen, posting a 1.92 ERA, 11.6 K/9, and 5.72 K/BB rate over 79 2/3 innings and taking over the Cards’ closer job.  Oh’s follow-up campaign, however, wasn’t nearly as successful, as his troubles with the home-run ball (1.5 HR/9) led to his removal from ninth-inning duty last summer.  Beyond just the increase in homers, Oh also saw his grounder rate (40% to 28.7%), strikeout rate (down to 8.19 K/9), and swinging strike percentage (18% to 12.9%) drop from his 2016 numbers, and he posted a 4.10 ERA over 59 1/3 IP.

    While it was a tough year for Oh, his stats didn’t crater to the point that a turn-around isn’t out of the question, or that his problems weren’t due to a normal sophomore slump.  His hard-hit ball rate actually dropped from 2016 to 2017, for instance, even though his overall contact rates increased.  Moving to Rogers Centre and the AL East might not be much help to Oh’s home run issues, of course, and since he is 35 years old, there’s also the chance that Oh is simply starting to decline.

    [Updated Blue Jays depth chart at Roster Resource]

    Still, the reasonable $2MM price tag makes Oh a decent risk for a Jays team that was known to still be looking around for bullpen help.  Oh won’t be asked to be a “Final Boss” (his old KBO nickname) in Toronto with Roberto Osuna firmly holding down the closer’s job, though he’ll step right into the setup mix alongside Ryan Tepera and Danny Barnes (not to mention longer-shot non-roster invites like John Axford or Al Alburquerque).  Joe Biagini could also again step into a meaningful bullpen role, though the Jays are currently stretching the righty out as a starter in Triple-A to provide depth and occasional spot-start duty.

    Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images

    Travis Fully Healthy As Spring Training Gets Underway Thu, 22 Feb 2018 16:18:01 +0000
  • Blue Jays second baseman Devon Travis missed the final 100 games of the 2017 season following knee surgery, but he’s healthy and participating in a full slate of baseball drills thus far in Spring Training, writes Sportsnet’s Ben Nicholson-Smith“You watch him move around, and if you didn’t know he’d had an injury, you wouldn’t think anything of it,” said manager John Gibbons. “Really, he looks that good.” Travis only just began running in January but has worked his way up to being able to go full speed, though he implies that he’s tempering the aggression of his workouts rather than pushing himself unnecessarily at this point. Injuries have limited Travis to 213 games over the first three seasons of his big league career.
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    Blue Jays Notes: Bullpen, Backup Catcher, Tulo Wed, 21 Feb 2018 03:11:58 +0000
  • The Blue Jays are still seeking upgrades after last week’s signing of lefty Jaime Garcia to round out the rotation, and GM Ross Atkins suggested to Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet that there’s a strong likelihood that they’ll make a move before Opening Day (Twitter links). Atkins somewhat candidly said he felt there’s about a 90 percent chance the Jays have another addition in store, citing a reliever as the likeliest pickup. Notably, Atkins added that improving at backup catcher, where light-hitting Luke Maile projects as the reserve behind Russell Martin, “is less likely at this point.”
  • Troy Tulowitzki is making progress from last year’s ankle injury, which included torn ligaments in his foot as well as a compression factor, writes Nicholson-Smith in a full column. However, he has yet to begin running this spring. Tulowitzki’s goal is to be ready for Opening Day, though the 33-year-old veteran said he’s not putting any timelines on his recovery and won’t risk a setback by pushing himself too far. He fielded grounders thrown to him by the coaching staff today, though the drills “weren’t designed to test his range too much” just yet, per Nicholson-Smith. Even if Tulo isn’t ready for Opening Day, the Blue Jays are much better prepared from a depth vantage point up the middle, where they’ll have offseason trade acquisitions Yangervis Solarte and Aledmys Diaz backing up Tulowitzki and Devon Travis.
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    Josh Donaldson Expects To Test Free Agency Tue, 20 Feb 2018 19:15:57 +0000 TODAY: The Toronto front office evidently isn’t giving up its hopes of working something out. GM Ross Atkins tells Ben Nicholson-Smith of (Twitter links) that he believes the team has simply not “realized a deal yet” with Donaldson — suggesting the emphasis falls on the word “yet.”

    Whether an agreement can ultimately be struck may depend upon whether the sides can agree to a way of “sharing risk,” says Atkins. It seems the organization will also need to find a way to draw Donaldson and his reps to the bargaining table while respecting his stated desire to turn his focus to preparing for the season.

    YESTERDAY: Blue Jays fans have long hoped that 2015 AL MVP Josh Donaldson would ink a long-term deal to remain with the club beyond the 2018 campaign, but the third baseman acknowledged to reporters today that he expects to reach free agency after initial extension talks didn’t prove fruitful (link via Sportsnet’s Ben Nicholson-Smith).

    “We’re not quite there,” said Donaldson. “…not at the same type of area, the same ballpark.” Donaldson added that an extension is not a “major focus” for him at this time and said he’s “turning the page” on the matter and shifting his focus to the 2018 season. The Athletic’s John Lott tweets that Donaldson did suggest talks could “ramp back up” if things change, but it sounds like the Jays and Donaldson’s representatives at MVP Sports aren’t especially close at the moment.

    Blue Jays GM Ross Atkins spoke two weeks ago about the possibility of signing Donaldson to a long-term contract, revealing that while the two sides hadn’t conversed at the time, the team had done its homework in determining a valuation for Donaldson that they’d take to negotiations. Said Atkins at the time: “…We have come up with a clear walkaway that we would be willing to commit to him to extend (the contract) for him to remain a Blue Jay probably for the rest of his career.” Evidently, that (still-unknown) offer level was not sufficient to interest the star.

    Donaldson, 32, rebounded from a pedestrian start to his 2017 season to post a ludicrous .302/.410/.698 slash and 22 homers through his final 227 plate appearances last season. That brilliant stretch brought him to a final batting line of .270/.385/.559 and 33 home runs on the year overall. Donaldson, unsurprisingly, expressed to Nicholson-Smith, Lott and others that he feels he can maintain an elite level of play for years to come (Twitter links). “I truly believe that where I’m at today, I have longevity in this game performing at a high level,” said Donaldson.

    Donaldson will play out his final season of team control on a $23MM salary that is a record for a player on a one-year deal in the arbitration process. Barring a revival of negotiations, he’s in line to hit free agency in advance of his age-33 season. Donaldson was, of course, something of a late bloomer, as he didn’t cement himself as a big league regular until his age-27 season. The fact that he’ll reach free agency a couple of years later than many of his peers only stands to present further hurdles for the two sides to clear in determining contract length and annual value.

    Blue Jays Notes: Smoak, Biagini, Estrada, Granderson Mon, 19 Feb 2018 03:14:27 +0000 Justin Smoak’s breakout 2017 season ended with a whimper, as the Blue Jays first baseman dealt with fatigue and a then-undisclosed injury. Gregor Chisholm of reports that Smoak dealt with patella tendinitis in one of his knees during the season’s final two months, during which he produced just a .211/.311/.406 batting line. However, the former top prospect made some adjustments to his offseason workout routine to try and avoid similar struggles in 2018. “I feel like I’ve done some things this offseason to make that better, and I just have to keep doing the things that I was doing to keep it strong and try to alleviate that pain.” The 31-year-old will try to build on a surprisingly dominant 2017 season during which he earned his first All-Star appearance and hit a career-high 38 homers. Though Smoak had been near replacement level for his entire career, he was worth 3.4 fWAR last year; whether that production is sustainable will be an interesting storyline to watch this season.

    More news from up north…

    • Though right-hander Joe Biagini endured his fair share of struggles last season, Blue Jays pitching coach Pete Walker has faith in him (h/t Ben Nicholson-Smith of “I still envision him as a quality major-league starter,” says Walker. A Rule 5 Draft pick of the Jays back in 2015, Biagini has just two full seasons and 18 MLB starts under his belt. Though his 5.34 ERA last season wouldn’t seem to offer much promise on the surface, it doesn’t tell the entire story, either. Biagini showed flashes of potential last season by going at least seven innings on four separate occasions, including a September start during which he struck out ten Orioles hitters and posted an 87.5% ground ball rate. If he can harness some of that ability, he may yet become a valuable member of Toronto’s rotation.
    • In retrospect, right-hander Marco Estrada feels good about his decision to sign a one-year deal with the Blue Jays (via Nicholson-Smith). “I’m blessed and happy that I was able to take care of that stuff early so I had none of those headaches and none of the stress about where I was going to end up,” Estrada said earlier this week. “It was really nice to enjoy this off-season.” Outfielder Curtis Granderson, who is one of two elected MLBPA Player Representatives, also offered his views on the offseason to this point. “Everything is still moving up. Revenue is at an all-time high. Minimum salaries are at an all-time high,” he said. “As long as everything continues to move in the right direction, in the same direction, I think it’s going to be a good thing.”
    Blue Jays Notes: Bullpen, Stroman Sat, 17 Feb 2018 04:42:24 +0000
  • The Blue Jays are still in the market for pitching after signing Jaime Garcia, Ben Nicholson-Smith of reports (Twitter links). With the rotation set, though, the club is now looking at the bullpen, with GM Ross Atkins saying there are still some funds available to work with. Interestingly, per Atkins, the team does not seemingly intend to use Joe Biagini in a relief role. Instead, the provisional plan seems to be for him to work as a starter through camp and remain stretched out when the season opens, even if that means working at Triple-A.
  • Blue Jays starter Marcus Stroman may not have enjoyed his arbitration experience, but that doesn’t mean he’s unhappy with the organization. As Nicholson-Smith writes, Stroman expressed today a keen interest in pursuing a long-term deal. Saying he loves everything about playing for Canada’s team, Stroman indicated that he’s “hoping to have talks soon” with the front office. It’s not immediately clear how likely it is that the 26-year-old will find common ground with the organization, but clearly he’s open to the idea. As a 3+ service-class pitcher who turned in a top-quality 2017 effort, Stroman could conceivably look to last winter’s Carlos Martinez contract as a comp.
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    Blue Jays Sign Jaime Garcia Thu, 15 Feb 2018 21:53:29 +0000 The Blue Jays have inked lefty Jaime Garcia to a one-year deal worth a guaranteed $10MM. That includes a $8MM salary for the coming season as well as a $2MM buyout on a club option valued at $10MM.

    Sep 13, 2017; New York City, NY, USA; New York Yankees starting pitcher Jaime Garcia (34) pitches against Tampa Bay Rays in the second inning at Citi Field. Mandatory Credit: Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

    Garcia, a client of Moye Sports Associates, can also reportedly earn up to $2MM annually in incentives based upon innings pitched. He’ll receive $500K upon reaching 150, 160, 170, and 180 frames in a given season.

    With the move, Toronto has seemingly completed its starting five for the coming season. Garcia will presumably step in at the back of a rotation that also includes quality youngsters Marcus Stroman and Aaron Sanchez along with veterans Marco Estrada and J.A. Happ.

    [RELATED: Updated Blue Jays Depth Chart]

    Garcia, 31, rated among the winter’s fifty best free agents in the estimation of MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes. We predicted that Garcia would be able to command a two-year contract at a $8MM annual salary. While this deal falls short of our best guess in terms of a guarantee, it does include avenues for Garcia to end up earning more.

    The results haven’t been all that exciting for Garcia over the past two seasons. While his 4.55 ERA since the start of 2016 isn’t terribly appealing, it’s notable that Garcia has accumulated 328 2/3 innings in that span — nearly as many as he registered over the prior four seasons. He has also continued to generate grounders on over 55% of the balls put in play against him and boosted his swinging-strike rate to 11.1% last year.

    So long as Garcia is able to maintain his health, then, he figures to represent a useful addition to the Toronto staff. The shoulder problems that haunted him in 2013 and 2014, especially, have not been a limiting factor of late. Garcia averaged a career-high 91.3 mph with his fastball in 2017.

    SB Nation’s Chris Cotillo (inclusion of options and incentives, via Twitter), Jon Heyman of Fan Rag (total guarantee, Twitter link), and Bob Nightengale of USA Today (incentives detail, Twitter link) reported contract details.

    Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

    Blue Jays Win Arbitration Hearing Against Marcus Stroman Thu, 15 Feb 2018 18:44:21 +0000 The Blue Jays won their arbitration hearing against right-hander Marcus Stroman, reports Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports (via Twitter). Stroman will receive the $6.5MM salary submitted by the team rather than the$6.9MM salary submitted by his representatives at the Legacy Agency (as can be seen in MLBTR’s 2018 Arbitration Tracker). It still marks a healthy $3.1MM raise from last year’s $3.4MM salary.

    Stroman, 27 in May, turned in his second straight 200-inning season for the Jays in 2017, working to a strong 3.09 ERA with 7.3 K/9 against 2.8 BB/9 through 201 frames. At a time when the league was surrendering home runs at historic levels, Stroman continued to limit the long ball, averaging just 0.9 HR/9 — thanks, in large part, to an MLB-best 62.1 percent ground-ball rate.

    He’ll return to a rotation that will also feature Aaron Sanchez, Marco Estrada and J.A. Happ, with the fifth spot still up for grabs. Toronto could potentially add a fifth starter from an abnormally deep pool of unsigned players at this stage of the offseason. If not, prospects Ryan Borucki heads up the team’s list of rotation options on the 40-man roster now that Joe Biagini is likely moving back to the bullpen.

    The Blue Jays control Stroman, a Super Two player who was in his second trip through the arb process, through the 2020 season.

    Blue Jays Sign Craig Breslow To Minor League Deal Wed, 14 Feb 2018 02:30:10 +0000 Feb. 13: Breslow’s spring opt-out date is March 22, per Bob Nightengale of USA Today (Twitter links). He can also earn up to $700K worth of incentives if he makes the big league roster. The Blue Jays have formally announced the deal.

    Feb. 12, 11:59am: Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet reports that Breslow would earn a $1.25MM base salary if he makes the team (Twitter link). He’d also have the opportunity to earn more through incentives and has an opt-out date near the end of Spring Training.

    11:33am: The Blue Jays are in agreement with left-handed reliever Craig Breslow on a minor league contract, tweets Robert Murray of FanRag Sports. Breslow, who is represented by the Baratta Partners, will vie for a bullpen job in Major League Spring Training.

    Toronto has been stockpiling bullpen options on minor league deals lately, as they’ve now added Breslow, John Axford (link) and Jake Petricka (link) in the past week alone. Toronto also added Al Alburquerque on a minors pact earlier this winter. The 37-year-old Breslow will give the Jays an option to compete alongside Aaron Loup, Matt Dermody, Tim Mayza and fellow non-roster pitcher Chad Girodo for a spot as a lefty in the ’pen.

    Breslow opened the 2017 season with the Twins on the heels of a winter in which worked to alter his mechanics and lower his arm slot. He didn’t fare particularly well in Minnesota (5.23 ERA in 31 innings), although that was largely due to the fact that other injuries throughout the bullpen (and some short outings from the rotation) early in the season forced the Twins to use Breslow against right-handed opponents far more than would be preferable. Breslow faced twice as many righties as lefties in 2017, and they clobbered him at a .330/.393/.542 clip. However, lefties were utterly befuddled against Breslow, hitting just .196/.294/.286.

    Blue Jays, Stroman Held Arb Hearing Yesterday Tue, 13 Feb 2018 14:15:53 +0000
  • Beyond all the other uncertainties permeating the game this spring, there are still a fair number of unresolved arbitration cases, as our 2018 MLB Arbitration Tracker shows. As Ben Nicholson-Smith of notes on TwitterBlue Jays righty Marcus Stroman had his hearing yesterday, though results aren’t yet known. Meanwhile, Orioles starter Kevin Gausman is still hoping to work something out rather than heading for a hearing tomorrow, as Roch Kubatko of tweets.
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    Minor MLB Transactions: 2/12/18 Tue, 13 Feb 2018 05:39:39 +0000 Here are the day’s minor moves:

    • The Brewers announced the addition of outfielder Quintin Berry on a minor-league arrangement. And the team also re-signed right-hander Hiram Burgos to a minors deal, Chris Cotillo of SB Nation tweets. Berry, now 33, is chiefly known for late-season and postseason stints as pinch runner and defensive replacement, but he did earn a brief trip up to the majors last year with Milwaukee. The 30-year-old Burgos has still yet to play with another organization, though he has only received six total MLB outings with the Brewers, all of which came in 2013. He struggled to a 6.06 ERA in 62 1/3 total frames in the upper minors last year, but did still carry 9.2 K/9 against 2.9 BB/9.
    • Lefty Matt Tracy will join the Blue Jays on a minor-league pact, per Cotillo (via Twitter). Tracy, who came to the professional ranks as a 24th-round pick by the Yankees, has just one MLB appearance under his belt but will offer a swingman depth option. The 29-year-old spent last year with the Twins organization, working to a 4.71 ERA in 84 innings spread over three levels of the minors.
    Blue Jays Prospects Hit With Spate Of PED Suspensions Sat, 10 Feb 2018 05:25:03 +0000
  • John Lott of The Athletic examines the seven recent PED suspensions doled out to Blue Jays Latin American farmhands in a subscription-only post. Of course, there are lots of difficult issues surrounding this subject, due in large part to the difficult incentive system facing these young players. In the case of the Toronto prospects, they were caught using the kinds of unsophisticated substances that MLB deputy commissioner Dan Halem says are easy to detect. Of course, this isn’t a problem facing only the Blue Jays. The Latin American signing and development system, which typically involves so-called buscones and very youthful players, has long been riddled with problems.
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    Blue Jays Sign John Axford To Minor League Deal Fri, 09 Feb 2018 19:34:14 +0000 Feb. 9: The Blue Jays have announced the signing.

    Feb. 8, 8:54pm: Axford has indeed agreed to a minor league contract with an invite to Major League Spring Training, tweets Shi Davidi of Sportsnet.

    7:46pm: The Blue Jays and free-agent right-hander John Axford are in agreement on a contract, reports Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic (via Twitter). The Canadian-born Axford is represented by the Beverly Hills Sports Council. Details of the arrangement aren’t yet clear, though given his rough 2017 season, it’s possible that Axford agreed to a minor league pact with a Spring Training invite.

    Axford, 34, struggled with the A’s last season in the second year of a two-year, $10MM contract, pitching to a 6.43 ERA with a 21-to-17 K/BB ratio in 21 innings out of the Oakland ’pen before being designated for assignment and released. However, he’s a year removed from a solid 3.97 ERA with 8.2 K/9, 4.1 BB/9 and 0.82 HR/9 with a 54.2 percent ground-ball rate through 65 2/3 innings in 2016.

    Those numbers are largely in line with the overall production that Axford posted from 2013-16 in 241 innings with the Brewers, Cardinals, Indians, Pirates, Rockies and A’s. Axford has long shown the ability to miss bats (career 10.2 K/9) but has also had some longstanding issues in finding the strike zone with regularity (4.6 BB/9). His penchant for racking up strikeouts has led to multiple stints as a closer, as he’s saved 144 games in the Majors, including a 2011 campaign in which he led the National League with 46 saves for Milwaukee.

    [Related: Toronto Blue Jays depth chart]

    If he ultimately joins the Toronto relief corps, Axford would add an experienced arm to a group that largely lacks a track record. Roberto Osuna, of course, has emerged as one of the game’s top young relievers, and southpaw Aaron Loup has more than five years of big league service time under his belt. But, right-hander Ryan Tepera is the only other reliever on the roster with more than two full years of big league service time.

    Joe Biagini, Carlos Ramirez, Danny Barnes, Matt Dermody and Tim Mayza are all 40-man options, but Biagini is the most experienced of the bunch and has not yet established himself in the Majors after a rocky 2017 campaign (mostly spent in the rotation). The Jays do have some veteran options that’ll be in camp as non-roster invitees this spring, including Al Alburquerque and and Jake Petricka (who reportedly agreed to a minor league deal earlier today).

    Blue Jays Reportedly Interested In Andrew Cashner Fri, 09 Feb 2018 16:45:44 +0000 The Blue Jays are showing “continued interest” in free-agent righty Andrew Cashner, tweets’s Jon Morosi, though he’s one of several starters they’re eyeing. The Jays have a need for a fifth starter to round out their rotation, and Morosi suggests that they’re hoping to fill that vacancy on a one-year deal. It’s not a surprise to see the Jays (or any team, for that matter) preferring a one-year term on the free-agent market, but Cashner reportedly entered the offseason in hopes of securing a three-year pact.

    It’s possible that the crawling pace of the offseason has lessened his demands to an extent, but there’s been no indication that Cashner is willing to jump on a one-year offer to date. The 31-year-old made 28 starts for the Rangers last season and posted a 3.40 ERA, albeit one that looks to be largely smoke and mirrors. Cashner’s 4.64 K/9 rate was the second-lowest in the Majors, and his 3.46 BB/9 rate was worse than the league average. Overall, his K%-BB% of just 3.1 percent was the worst of any qualified pitcher in baseball, leading fielding-independent metrics like xFIP (5.30) and SIERA (5.52) to paint an unflattering picture of his work.

    The said, Cashner’s fastball averaged better than 93 mph, his 48.6 percent ground-ball rate was comfortably above the league average, and he demonstrated the home-run suppression skills he’s shown for much of his career despite a move to a hitter-friendly setting in Arlington (0.81 HR/9). Cashner did rely less on his four-seam fastball with the Ranges than he ever has in previous seasons, instead favoring more cutters/sinkers. Some clubs may believe that altering that pitch selection a bit could restore some his strikeout prowess.

    The Blue Jays currently project to have Aaron Sanchez, Marcus Stroman, J.A. Happ and Marco Estrada in the top four spots of their rotation. Joe Biagini was their most frequent fifth starter in 2017, though he struggled in a move to the rotation after enjoying success as a reliever in his 2016 rookie season, when he was a Rule 5 pick. Prospect Ryan Borucki is close to big league ready and could conceivably step into the mix, though it stands to reason that the Jays would prefer to ease him into a big league job rather than throw him directly into the fire in the season’s first couple of weeks (without much of a veteran fallback option in place, should he struggle).

    Blue Jays To Sign Jake Petricka Thu, 08 Feb 2018 16:25:37 +0000 The Blue Jays have agreed to a minor-league deal with righty Jake Petricka, according to Chris Cotillo of SB Nation (via Twitter). He’ll have the opportunity to earn a $1.3MM base salary with $500K in incentives if he can crack the MLB roster.

    Petricka, 29, is a former second-rounder who has delivered good results at times in the majors. Between 2013 and 2015, he posted a 3.24 ERA with 6.1 K/9 and 3.8 BB/9 over 144 1/3 innings. Despite the middling strikeout and walk figures, Petricka allowed only five home runs in that span. With a mid-nineties sinker, he has traditionally delivered big groundball rates (61.5% career).

    Unfortunately, injuries and performance lapses arose more recently. A hip procedure cost Petrickamost of 2016. And he managed only 25 2/3 innings last year, allowing twenty earned runs but also posting a 26:6 K/BB ratio. He ultimately underwent a nerve transposition and flexor tendon debridement procedure in October of 2017.

    At the time of that surgery, it was estimated Petricka would need to lay off for at least three or four months. The White Sox ended up non-tendering him rather than working out an arbitration salary. (He projected to earn $1.1MM.) With just over four years of MLB service on his clock, Petricka could still be tendered a contract in the future.

    Petricka’s current status isn’t fully clear, but in all likelihood he’ll be handled with some care as he works back to full health. Whether or not he’ll have a real shot at earning a MLB pen job in camp, Petricka could well represent an interesting option for the Jays at some point in the coming season.

    Diaz On Trade To Blue Jays Thu, 08 Feb 2018 05:45:39 +0000
  • Aledmys Diaz tells Sportsnet’s Ben Nicholson-Smith that he informed the Cardinals early in the offseason that he’d prefer to be traded if the team couldn’t find more regular at-bats for him in St. Louis. The Cards obliged that wish, though the trade that sent Diaz to the Blue Jays doesn’t necessarily create an immediate path to regular playing time, either. Diaz, though, spent much of the 2017 season in the minors, and it seems certain that the Jays envision him as a big league piece to at least fill a reserve capacity. “It’ll be nice to look down the bench and see a little more firepower,” said manager John Gibbons of the additions of Diaz and Yangervis Solarte. Indeed, that duo should be a more productive pairing than Ryan Goins and Darwin Barney, each of whom signed minor league deals elsewhere this offseason. And, with a pair of injury question marks up the middle in the form of Troy Tulowitzki and Devon Travis, it’s certainly not difficult to see Diaz and Solarte both getting their fair share of reps in 2018 with Toronto.
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    Quick Hits: Aardsma, Coke, Market Analysis Tue, 06 Feb 2018 05:08:45 +0000 Former MLB righty David Aardsma has announced on his podcast that he’s officially calling it quits as a ballplayer and joining the Blue Jays front office as coordinator of player development. The 36-year-old, a former first-round draft pick, last pitched in the majors in 2015 and spent some time at Triple-A in the following season with the Toronto organization. Over nine years with eight MLB organizations, Aardsma ran a 4.27 ERA over 337 frames. He’ll surely be remembered best for a two-year run with the Mariners in which he closed out 69 games and maintained a 2.90 ERA. MLBTR — which once hosted Aardsma on its own podcast — wishes him the very best in his new pursuit.

    Here are a few more stray notes from around the game:

    • Lefty Phil Coke is hoping to reinvent himself as a knuckle-baller, according to Chris Cotillo of SB Nation (via Twitter). The 35-year-old, a nine-year MLB veteran, spent some time last year with Japan’s Orix Buffaloes but has had a tough time gaining traction in recent seasons. Coke had long utilized a varied arsenal and shown good velocity from the left side, so he ought to have some interesting potential accompanying tools to go with his new knuckler.
    • Of course, looking at the state of the market is just not possible without examining the general lack of action. Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic again offers some worthwhile perspective in a subscription piece, chiding both the player and team sides for “bickering” over pace-of-play discussions when what’s needed is a joint commitment to evolving the game — and, no doubt, an effort to deal with the dangerous rise in labor tension.’s Jerry Crasnick, meanwhile, asks whether certain unsigned free agents could actually decide to open their own spring camp. Different players and agents have different takes on the concept; what’s most notable, perhaps, is the fact that it’s even a topic of conversation at all.
    • Even if there’s a resolution to the current impasse, it seems there’ll likely be a broader, ongoing conversation about where the game of baseball is headed when it comes to player-team relations. Baseball America’s J.J. Cooper argues that the current rules regime creates skewed incentives that do not reward teams that try to contend but come up a bit short. He discusses a few possible ideas, promoting in particular a “tank tax” that docks organizations in the draft if they put together consecutive sub-70-win campaigns. Cooper suggests this kind of mechanism could function similarly to the soccer approach of relegation. Ultimately, the MLBPA may need to begin considering more drastic measures, Nathaniel Grow writes at Fangraphs. He raises the possibility that the union could strategically disband to open the door to an antitrust lawsuit. While that threat might be utilized first as a means to gain leverage in future CBA talks, Grow explains that it could be a realistic option at some point.
    • Those interested in getting the full range of opinions on top prospects from around the game will want to check out the latest top-100 lists. The Baseball Prospectus staff and Fangraphs’ Eric Longenhagen and Kiley McDaniel have graded out the game’s best pre-MLB players from their perspectives.
    Ross Atkins On Josh Donaldson, Free Agency Mon, 05 Feb 2018 17:29:16 +0000 There may not have been any formal extension negotiations between the Blue Jays and Josh Donaldson, but that doesn’t mean the Jays haven’t been exploring the possibility internally. To the contrary, GM Ross Atkins said at a recent PitchTalks event that the Blue Jays have placed their own valuation on Donaldson and suggested that the team has a good idea of how far it’d go in an effort to extend the former AL MVP (subscription link via The Athletic’s John Lott).

    “We do have that number,” said Atkins during his presentation. “We have come up with a clear walkaway that we would be willing to commit to him to extend (the contract) for him to remain a Blue Jay probably for the rest of his career.”

    Unsurprisingly, Atkins didn’t delve into the specifics of what that number would entail. Donaldson said recently that to his knowledge, the Blue Jays hadn’t engaged his agents at MVP Sports in extension talks, though one can imagine that the team will explore that possibility in the coming weeks once Spring Training gets underway. That’s typically the timeframe for players and clubs to negotiate extensions, though Donaldson could be one of the tougher players to pry away from free agency.

    The 32-year-old got off to a slow start in 2017 but finished with an absurd .302/.410/.698 slash and 22 homers over his final 227 plate appearances, and he’s been on the short list of the AL’s best players for the past half decade. While Donaldson will hit the open market at an older age than most premier free agents, he’d still be primed for a massive contract in free agency, assuming a typically excellent year at the plate and in the field.

    On a related note, Atkins also addressed the excruciatingly slow free-agent market, noting that teams appear to be less inclined than ever to push past their comfort levels to win the bidding on a player, calling it “good business to walk away and not [exceed] your value.” Atkins also touched on the fact that free agency tends to reward older players, noting that the “aging curve has been potentially overcompensated in the past.” Atkins did note that the Jays value experience (their signing of Curtis Granderson certainly seems to back that up). While other teams throughout the league surely do as well, it does seem as though the dollar amount associated with that value has declined in precipitous fashion.

    How highly the Jays value the experience of Donaldson (financially speaking, that is) and how they’ll proceed with him will continue to be a pressing topic in Toronto for the next six months or more. If no long-term pact is worked out this spring, the question will shift from one of signing Donaldson long term to one of whether the Jays should trade the well-rounded slugger this summer.

    Should the team finds itself buried in the AL East, that’ll be a fairly easy question, but if not, the Jays could face the unenviable task of balancing the short-term benefit of chasing down a Wild Card spot with the long-term benefit of bolstering their farm system with a franchise-altering trade of their best player. The Jays would have the option of making a qualifying offer to Donaldson and recouping some value in the 2019 draft, of course, but they’d almost certainly be able to top that value on the summer trade market.

    Roberto Osuna Loses Arbitration Case Sat, 03 Feb 2018 19:02:19 +0000 Blue Jays closer Roberto Osuna has lost his arbitration case, according to Bob Nightengale of USA Today Sports. The right-hander had filed for a $5.8MM payday in his first trip through the arbitration process, but he’ll instead take home the $5.3MM salary that Toronto filed for. That amount represents about a $4.75MM raise in his first arb year, and falls just $300K shy of the $5.6MM figure projected by MLBTR’s Matt Swartz.

    Osuna has shown excellent command of the strike zone over the course of his three MLB seasons, evidenced by his phenomenal 6.15 career K/BB ratio (a figure that ranks third among qualifying relievers from 2015-2017). He’s posted a solid 2.86 ERA during that time, though ERA estimators such as FIP (2.69), xFIP (3.23) and SIERA (2.64) don’t quite agree on his true talent level. Regardless, Osuna is one of the top closers in the game of baseball, and he’ll be rewarded for it this season.

    Fellow first-time arb-eligible closer Ken Giles will earn $4.6MM after winning his case. Giles has tossed 36 1/3 more big league innings than Osuna with better run prevention, strikeout and ground ball results. However, the arbitration process values saves heavily, and because Osuna has 95 career saves (30 more than Giles), he’ll out-earn his Houston counterpart by over half a million dollars this season.

    Osuna was an international signing of the Blue Jays in 2011. He pitched his way onto the big league roster out of spring training camp in 2015 at the age of 20, and earned his first career save just two and a half months later. He’s been an anchor at the back of the Jays’ bullpen ever since. Barring an extension, he’s set to pitch three more seasons with the team prior to reaching free agency following the 2020 season.

    Potential SP Options For Blue Jays Fri, 02 Feb 2018 20:44:40 +0000
  • With the Blue Jays seeking a starting pitcher and likely not having the funds to land a top free agent, Gregor Chisholm of lists potential options for the club. Given that the Jays have in the neighborhood of $10MM to spend, Chisholm explores Jason Vargas, Chris Tillman, Andrew Cashner and Jaime Garcia as possible fits. Other choices could include Brett Anderson (in whom the Jays do have interest), Jeremy Hellickson, Clay Buchholz and old friend Francisco Liriano.
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    Blue Jays Notes: Anderson, Catching Wed, 31 Jan 2018 17:28:37 +0000
  • The Blue Jays and Brett Anderson have “some mutual interest” in a reunion,’s Ben Nicholson-Smith reports, though Toronto is still considering other starting pitching options ahead of the veteran southpaw.  Anderson signed a minor league pact with the Jays last summer after he was let go by the Cubs, and ended up tossing 33 1/3 innings for Toronto over seven starts, posting a 5.13 ERA, 5.9 K/9 and 2.44 K/BB rate.  Nicholson-Smith’s piece contains several other available pitchers that could be fits for the Jays as they look for rotation depth.
  • In another piece from Nicholson-Smith, he writes that the Blue Jays are still looking for catching help, most likely a veteran on a minor league deal that can compete with Luke Maile for the backup job behind Russell Martin.  Further help could come from within the organization, however, as some evaluators feel prospects Danny Jansen and Reese McGuire could be ready for big league promotions by midseason.
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    Details On Yelich Trade Talks Between Marlins, Blue Jays Sat, 27 Jan 2018 19:20:33 +0000 The Blue Jays were “the only other team that came close” to acquiring Christian Yelich from the Marlins before the outfielder was dealt to the Brewers, SiriusXM’s Craig Mish reports (Twitter links).  “Several variations” of trade packages were discussed between the Jays and Marlins, including some deals that would’ve seen Toronto take some extra money off Miami’s payroll.  What ended talks between the two sides was the Jays’ refusal to deal Vladimir Guerrero Jr.  It was no secret that the Marlins were demanding a big return for Yelich, and it also isn’t surprising that the Jays balked at moving Guerrero, one of baseball’s very best prospects.

    Pompey Discusses Concussion Recovery, Lost 2017 Season Thu, 25 Jan 2018 19:53:12 +0000
  • Blue Jays outfielder Dalton Pompey spoke with Arden Zwelling of Sportsnet about his lost 2017 season. The former top prospect was once heralded as the center fielder of the future in Toronto but struggled in his first exposure to the Majors and was scarcely able to play at all last season. Pompey suffered a concussion playing for Canada in the World Baseball Classic that effectively prevented him from any sense of normalcy for the first few months of the season. The outfielder explains that he had to wear sunglasses everywhere he went, wasn’t able to use his phone or watch television and, certainly, was not participating at baseball activities for several months. A knee injury in his first rehab game back from the concussion more or less ended his 2017 campaign entirely. Pompey still has a minor league option remaining, Zwelling notes, but he has a long way to go to prove he can still be a long-term piece for the Jays. The column is well worth a full look, as it features an in-depth look at concussion symptoms, featuring interviews with not only Pompey but also recently retired first baseman Justin Morneau, whose career trajectory was dramatically altered by a 2010 concussion.
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    Minor MLB Transactions: 1/25/18 Thu, 25 Jan 2018 16:12:34 +0000 Here are Thursday’s minor moves from around the league…

    • The Blue Jays announced that they’ve signed righty Rhiner Cruz to a minor league deal and invited him to Major League Spring Training. The 31-year-old Cruz was the top overall selection in the Rule 5 Draft by the Astros back in 2011 and spent much of the two subsequent seasons in Houston’s bullpen. Cruz averaged better than 95 mph on his fastball but was unable to harnes his velocity in the Majors, working to a combined 5.31 ERA with 6.6 K/9, 4.7 BB/9, 1.18 HR/9 and a 37.1 percent ground-ball rate in 76 1/3 innings. Cruz scarcely pitched from 2015-16 but returned with an intriguing 2.84 ERA, 11.2 K/9, 4.3 BB/9, 0.53 HR/9 and a 40.3 percent grounder rate in 50 2/3 innings for Atlanta’s Triple-A affiliate last season. Toronto also announced its previously reported minor league deal with veteran righty Al Alburquerque this morning.
    Blue Jays Interested In Chris Tillman Wed, 24 Jan 2018 19:53:50 +0000
  • The Blue Jays have expressed some level of interest in righty Chris Tillman, according to Jon Morosi of MLB Network (Twitter link). Several other organizations are reportedly eyeing a pitcher who may be the top bounceback candidate on the market. There was nothing at all to like about his 2017 work, but the 29-year-old Tillman has a long history of solid innings and might represent an excellent value if his shoulder can stay fit.
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    Looking At The Blue Jays' Roster Mon, 22 Jan 2018 04:21:01 +0000
  • The Blue Jays roster is broken down by’s Shi Davidi, who feels that another move or two might be in the offing given a lack of 25-man spots.  Aledmys Diaz, for instance, may have to start the year in the minors if the Jays are to fit five outfielders and Kendrys Morales on the roster.  Moving an outfielder is a more realistic option than trading Morales, as a rival executive “couldn’t envision a possible landing spot” for the veteran hitter.  Morales is coming off a sub-replacement season (-0.6 fWAR) last year and is owed $23MM through 2019, giving him very little trade value.  Toronto still has some more moves to come on the pitching side, and Davidi speculates that Seung-hwan Oh or Tyler Clippard could fit the Jays’ needs in the bullpen.
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    Blue Jays Focused On Pitching, Backup Catching Depth Sun, 21 Jan 2018 01:09:45 +0000
  • The Blue Jays have addressed their position player group in recent weeks with the additions of Randal Grichuk, Curtis Granderson, Yangervis Solarte and Aledmys Diaz. The club still has around $10MM left to spend, and it’s primarily focused on finding a fifth starter and bolstering its bullpen, per Gregor Chisholm of The Jays also “remain in the mix for backup catching depth,” Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet writes. For now, Joe Biagini is penciled in as Toronto’s No. 5 starter behind Marcus Stroman, Aaron Sanchez, J.A. Happ and Marco Estrada. Biagini has spent the majority of his two-year career in the bullpen, however, and could shift back there in the event of an outside acquisition. In doing so, he’d presumably help a unit that lost reliever Dominic Leone in the Grichuk trade.
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    AL East Notes: Orioles, Donaldson, Rays Sat, 20 Jan 2018 20:57:02 +0000 There’s no official decision yet regarding where Manny Machado will play in 2018, but one could come as soon as this weekend. Roch Kubatko of provides some insight into Orioles manager Buck Showalter’s thought process in determining the young star’s position. Showalter has spoken with both Machado and Tim Beckham in regards to Baltimore’s infield alignment, and though nothing is definite yet, Kubatko seems to have confidence that the O’s will grant Machado’s wishes to move him to shortstop this coming season, which would in turn push Beckham to third base or into a super utility role. Showalter also offers some very honest evaluations of Mike Moustakas as well as the price points of some of the high-end free agent pitchers on the market. In addition, he delves into Baltimore’s catcher situation.

    A few other notes out of the AL East…

    • Josh Donaldson told reporters today that, to his knowledge, his agent has not been engaged with the Blue Jays regarding a potential contract extension (hat tip to Gregor Chisholm of This doesn’t necessarily eliminate the possibility that extension talks have taken place, but it certainly casts doubt on it. Donaldson has been the third most valuable player in baseball by fWAR (21.4) since he was traded to Toronto prior to the 2015 season, Though he started off slowly last season, he still managed an excellent .270/.385/.559 batting line for the campaign while hitting 33 homers. He’d be one of the marquee free agents of an impressive 2018, though the fact that he’ll be nearly 33 by the beginning of November will detract from his value in comparison with players like Bryce Harper and Machado.
    • Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times points out that the Rays are in a position to enter 2018 with both a higher payroll than last season and less talent on the roster overall. Of course, there’s still plenty of time for the team to make more moves. Topkin cites the lack of activity industry wide as a factor that has “paralyzed” the organization, but believes that once the “dam finally breaks,” they’ll have a lot of things to address. He quotes GM Erik Neander, who describes the team’s to do list as similar to what it was at the outset of the offseason. Topkin mentions a number of candidates who could possibly be traded in order to cut payroll for the team, including closer Alex Colome and the recently-acquired Denard Span. From my own standpoint, it’s not unfair to wonder whether Tampa Bay has any chance to compete with the Yankees and Red Sox as things stand now, let alone if the team continues to make cuts to a payroll that’s one of the lowest in baseball. That can only increase the trade speculation surrounding Chris Archer, Colome, and others on the roster.
    Blue Jays May Consider Dealing Pearce, Carrera Sat, 20 Jan 2018 00:36:50 +0000 After acquiring Randal Grichuk earlier today, the Blue Jays appear slated to utilize him as the primary option in right field, GM Ross Atkins tells Ben Nicholson-Smith of (Twitter links). That said, the team believes it can play Grichuk in any of the three spots, with that versatility increasing his appeal. What’s of greater interest, perhaps, is what the move means for the rest of the unit. It’s possible, Atkins suggests, that the Jays will entertain negotiations with other organizations regarding Steve Pearce and Ezequiel Carrera, though the team is also open to sporting a five-outfielder mix on the Opening Day roster.

    Blue Jays Acquire Randal Grichuk From Cardinals For Dominic Leone, Conner Greene Fri, 19 Jan 2018 21:19:31 +0000 The Blue Jays have agreed to acquire outfielder Randal Grichuk from the Cardinals, per a Toronto announcement. Righties Dominic Leone and Conner Greene will go to St. Louis in return.

    Grichuk becomes the second St. Louis player to move to the Jays via trade this winter, joining infielder Aledmys Diaz. Grichuk also joins Stephen Piscotty as young outfielders who have been swapped out in recent months. This time last year, that trio of departures would have registered as quite a surprise. As things developed, though, those players appeared quite likely to depart.

    The Cardinals entered the current offseason determined to upgrade a position-player mix that included quite a few useful pieces but relatively few high-level performers. With the acquisition of Marcell Ozuna, the Cards added a player they feel will take them to the next level. With Dexter Fowler and Tommy Pham also expected to command near-everyday time, the move for Ozuna left Grichuk and Piscotty without obvious roles.

    Sep 8, 2017; St. Louis, MO, USA; St. Louis Cardinals left fielder Randal Grichuk (15) against the Pittsburgh Pirates at Busch Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

    Grichuk turned in a highly promising 2015 season, racking up 17 home runs and a .276/.329/.548 slash in 350 plate appearances. Even then, though, there were some signs of worry — in particular, a 110:22 K/BB ratio.

    Since that effort, Grichuk has faded. The right-handed-hitting outfielder is still putting the ball out of the yard at a strong rate. But he has only a .287 on-base percentage and league-average overall offensive output in his 920 plate appearances since the start of the 2016 season.

    That said, perhaps there’s still some upside in the bat; he’s still only 26 years of age, after all. And Grichuk continues to provide good value with his glove, generally grading as a slightly above-average performer in center and in the corners. While he’s not much of a stolen-base threat, Grichuk has also rated as a quality overall baserunner.

    [RELATED: Updated Blue Jays Depth Chart]

    Toronto will pick up three years of control over Grichuk, who’s slated to earn $2.6MM in his first season of arbitration eligibility. He’ll join an outfield mix that already includes a right-handed-hitting center fielder in Kevin Pillar, a corner righty in Steve Pearce, and two left-handed-hitting pieces in Ezequiel Carrera and newly-signed veteran Curtis Granderson. Some platoon matches are to be expected from this group; in that regard, it’s worth noting that Grichuk has carried fairly notable reverse splits in the majors. Of course, it’s still possible the Blue Jays’ outfield unit will undergo some changes before all is said and done.

    In return, the Cardinals will add some useful assets. Leone, a 26-year-old righty, has bounced around the league some but is fresh off of an excellent 2017 season. In 70 1/3 innings, he posted a 2.56 ERA with 10.4 K/9 and 2.9 BB/9. He’ll join an increasingly deep relief corps that perhaps will still be boosted by another late-inning arm.

    [RELATED: Updated Cardinals Depth Chart]

    Apr 7, 2017; St. Petersburg, FL, USA; Toronto Blue Jays relief pitcher Dominic Leone (51) throws a pitch during the first inning against the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

    Leone has had similar success previously — in his 2014 debut with the Mariners — but struggled notably in the ensuing two seasons. All said, though, there’s plenty of reason to think he’ll continue to represent a quality asset. In 2017, he delivered his average fastball at 94.9 mph, recorded a personal-high 14.5% swinging-strike rate, and tamped down on the homers that had come to plague him.

    Better still, the cutter-heavy Leone was equally effective against both righty (.208/.267/.357) and lefty (.181/.261/.366) hitters. The Cards will have the ability to control him for four more seasons. Leone reached arbitration as a Super Two, agreeing earlier this winter to a $1.085MM salary for the 2018 season.

    Greene is a notable part of the deal as well. Still just 22 years of age, Greene has long been credited with interesting tools. He is said to possess a big heater, quality change, and useful slider. That said, there’s still quite a bit of polish needed and questions persist as to whether Greene will make it as a starter.

    Last year, Greene struggled to a 5.29 ERA in his 132 2/3 innings at Double-A, managing only 6.2 K/9 against 5.6 BB/9 on the year. That showing obviously did not help his stock. Still, the Jays placed him on the 40-man roster at the end of the season in order to protect him from the Rule 5 draft.

    It seems reasonable to expect that Greene will be given another chance to work out the kinks as a starter in the upper minor. But he might also take up a place on the Cards’ relief depth chart.

    Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

    Market For Eduardo Nunez Reportedly Picking Up Fri, 19 Jan 2018 18:34:56 +0000
  • Also via Heyman, Eduardo Nunez is seeing his market “heat up” a bit. There are as many as eight teams that have shown interest in Nunez of late, including the Mets, Yankees, Red Sox, Blue Jays, Giants, BravesBrewers and Royals. (Alex Pavlovic of NBC Sports Bay Area recently suggested that a reunion with San Francisco wasn’t likely, implying that Nunez can receive superior offers elsewhere.) Heyman joins others that have recently reported that Nunez is on the Mets’ radar as a second base option. The Yankees, Red Sox, Braves and Brewers all make varying degrees of sense as well, though it’s tougher to see a clear fit with the Jays, Giants and Royals for various reasons. Toronto has already added Aledmys Diaz and Yangervis Solarte this winter (with Troy Tulowitzki and Devon Travis both still on board as well), while the Giants picked up Evan Longoria and are reportedly striving to remain under the luxury tax threshold. Nunez would almost certainly put them over, as they’re within less than $5MM of that point at present. As for the Royals, they could use a versatile infielder, but they’re also gearing up for a rebuild.

    • Also via Heyman, Eduardo Nunez is seeing his market “heat up” a bit. There are as many as eight teams that have shown interest in Nunez of late, including the Mets, Yankees, Red Sox, Blue Jays, Giants, BravesBrewers and Royals. (Alex Pavlovic of NBC Sports Bay Area recently suggested that a reunion with San Francisco wasn’t likely, implying that Nunez can receive superior offers elsewhere.) Heyman joins others that have recently reported that Nunez is on the Mets’ radar as a second base option. The Yankees, Red Sox, Braves and Brewers all make varying degrees of sense as well, though it’s tougher to see a clear fit with the Jays, Giants and Royals for various reasons. Toronto has already added Aledmys Diaz and Yangervis Solarte this winter (with Troy Tulowitzki and Devon Travis both still on board as well), while the Giants picked up Evan Longoria and are reportedly striving to remain under the luxury tax threshold. Nunez would almost certainly put them over, as they’re within less than $5MM of that point at present. As for the Royals, they could use a versatile infielder, but they’re also gearing up for a rebuild.