Toronto Blue Jays – MLB Trade Rumors 2020-05-30T00:39:48Z WordPress Steve Adams <![CDATA[The Jays Turned A Free Agent Whiff Into An Elite Pitching Prospect]]> 2020-05-27T21:25:02Z 2020-05-27T20:21:52Z The 2016 season was a pivotal year for the Blue Jays. Fresh off an ALCS loss to the Royals in 2015, the Jays entered the year with reigning MVP Josh Donaldson set to play out his age-30 campaign and a series of notable free agents, headlined by Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion. They’d surrendered two MLB-ready arms — Daniel Norris and Matthew Boyd — for a David Price rental the prior summer and parted with another top pitching prospect (Jeff Hoffman) to escape their commitment to the declining Jose Reyes and swap him out for Troy Tulowitzki. Some of the dreaded “closing window” narratives were surrounding the club, and the Jays were clearly in win-now mode.

Toronto again made the playoffs, again won a Division Series matchup over the Rangers … and again fell to an AL Central club in the League Championship Series — this time the Indians. The offseason came around, and Toronto made issued a pair of no-brainer qualifying offers to Bautista and Encarnacion, who were two of the top bats on that winter’s market.

From the begining, Encarnacion seemed to be the bigger target. Bautista had dropped some jaws in Spring 2016 when talking about his asking price on a long-term deal, but Encarnacion was younger and seemingly more affordable. Toronto was aggressive early in the winter, reportedly putting forth a four-year offer that carried in the vicinity of $80MM of guaranteed money. There were some expectations that winter that Encarnacion could best that mark — we at MLBTR pegged him for four years at a slightly higher annual rate — and his camp seemed to prefer to explore the market before taking that offer. That decision blew up in Encarnacion’s face, though, as Toronto pivoted almost instantly and signed Kendrys Morales to a three-year, $33MM deal. By Nov. 18, it appeared Encarnacion had been replaced.

There were still some rumors about a potential reunion even after Morales was signed, but it never seemed likely that the Jays would commit to Morales at DH and Encarnacion at first base — tying up long-term dollars in a pair of sluggers best suited for DH work. Encarnacion drew varying levels of interest from the Astros, Yankees, Red Sox and Rangers, but in the end, his market bizarrely came down to a bidding war between two of the game’s smaller-payroll clubs: the Athletics and the Indians.

Oakland likely saw a chance to add a premium bat at an affordable rate. Encarnacion’s market had collapsed to the point where he was reportedly mulling a shorter offer with a roughly $25MM annual value (presumably a two-year deal) with the A’s. The Indians, fresh off a World Series loss, were in go-for-it mode with extra cash thanks to that deep postseason run. Encarnacion signed a three-year, $60MM deal with Cleveland that contained a fourth-year option which would get him to the $80MM mark he’d previously passed up.

The Jays took some heat from the deal both among media pundits and their fans. Encarnacion was the clear better player and ultimately cost less than twice what Toronto gave Morales. And from an on-field perspective, those criticisms were 100 percent valid. Over the first two years of each player’s three-year pact, here’s how they performed:

  • Morales: .249/.318/.442, 49 home runs, 40 doubles in 1079 plate appearances (103 OPS+, 102 wRC+; 0.8 bWAR, -0.4 fWAR)
  • Encarnacion: .252/.358/.490, 70 home runs, 36 doubles, two triples in 1248 PAs (123 OPS+, 123 wRC+; 4.7 bWAR, 3.3 fWAR)

Neither one played out the third year of his contract with the team that signed him. Morales was traded to the Athletics on the eve of Opening Day 2019, and Encarnacion had been moved to the Mariners in a complex three-team deal that sent Carlos Santana back to Cleveland with Yandy Diaz and others landing in Tampa Bay.

Many onlookers will say that the Encarnacion camp misread the market after their initial talks with teams. Some would argue that it was the Jays who misread things when they pivoted to Morales so quickly. You can argue that both parties failed to properly evaluate the free-agent landscape.

Encarnacion got his $60MM and then signed for another $12MM with the White Sox this winter, so he ultimately didn’t fall much shy of that reported four-year, $80MM sum. With the benefit of hindsight, it looks like the Jays came away with the short end of the stick — at least until you consider the compensatory draft pick they netted when Cleveland inked Encarnacion. Because the guarantee was greater than $50MM, the Jays’ comp pick landed between Round 1 and Competitive Balance Round A. That pick proved to be No. 28 overall, which Toronto used to select right-hander Nate Pearson.

Not only is Pearson now the runaway top Blue Jays’ prospect — he’s one of the best pitching prospects on the planet. The 23-year-old ranks among the 10 best prospects in baseball at Baseball America, and FanGraphs, drawing considerable praise for his blistering triple-digit heater and a deep arsenal of secondary pitches. When ranking Pearson as baseball’s No. 8 overall prospect this winter, FanGraphs’ Eric Longenhagen wrote that he’s personally seen Pearson’s slider climb as high as 95 mph, adding that the pitch generally sits in the low 90s. Jim Callis and Jonathan Mayo of write that Pearson has “as high a ceiling as any pitching prospect in the game.”

It’s true that Pearson has yet to demonstrate the ability to make 30 starts in a season, although that’s due largely to a fractured forearm sustained when he was hit by a comeback line drive. Pitchers who throw this hard will always give some onlookers a red flag, and Pearson did have a screw put into his right elbow during high school. He was healthy in junior college, though, and the Jays diligently kept his innings count down in 2019 after he threw just 22 innings in 2018. Pearson reached 101 2/3 frames last year, spinning a dominant 2.30 ERA with 10.5 K/9, 2.4 BB/9, 0.70 HR/9 and a ground-ball rate near 40 percent. He also topped out at Triple-A in his first full, healthy pro season and is widely expected to make his MLB debut in 2020.

Not every draft pick is guaranteed to be a hit, as evidenced by the Jays’ actual, organic first-round pick in the same 2017 draft that produced Pearson. Shortstop Logan Warmoth, selected out of UNC six picks prior to Pearson, has managed a .255/.332/.346 batting line in 947 pro plate appearances. He was a high-end draft prospect but doesn’t currently rank inside Toronto’s top 30 farmhands at or their Top 38 at FanGraphs. Not exactly ideal for a recent first-rounder.

Luckily for the Jays, Encarnacion’s decision not to take their four-year offer — which would’ve run through the 2020 season — both saved them some cash and gave them a second bite at the first-round apple in 2017. And thanks to their scouting department’s decision to take a chance on a towering, flamethrowing righty in spite of a high school elbow scare, the Jays have a potential ace in the making who is on the cusp of reaching the big leagues.

Anthony Franco <![CDATA[Blue Jays Including More Staff In Draft Process In 2020]]> 2020-05-24T16:38:00Z 2020-05-24T16:38:00Z
  • Yesterday, the Blue Jays guaranteed their employees there would be no furloughs or layoffs through at least October 1. Team president Mark Shapiro tells John Lott of the Athletic the organization’s ability to keep people on-board enables them to deploy staff in unconventional ways. Most notably, minor-league coaches and analysts, who in a normal setting would have daily gameday responsibilities, have been brought into the Blue Jays’ draft process this year. Those coaches and player development staff have taken on a larger than normal role in evaluating potential selections’ mechanics and projections, Shapiro tells Lott.
  • ]]>
    Anthony Franco <![CDATA[The Blockbuster That Brought The Tigers Their Most Valuable Trade Chip]]> 2020-05-24T17:55:01Z 2020-05-24T14:46:21Z The Blue Jays were the talk of the 2015 trade deadline. A few days after bringing in star shortstop Troy Tulowitzki from the Rockies, the Jays struck for the top rental starting pitcher on the market: Tigers’ left-hander David Price. Amidst a seven-year run of pristine durability and general excellence, 2015 was perhaps Price’s peak season. At the time of the deal, he was sitting on a 2.53 ERA over 146 innings.

    It was a fascinating swap for a number of reasons. The 52-51 Jays were only 1.5 games above the Tigers in the standings, making the organizations’ decisions to take diverging approaches at the deadline particularly interesting. At the time, Fangraphs gave the talented, but to that point underperforming, Toronto club a 48.9% shot of reaching the postseason, while the Tigers’ playoff odds sat at a lowly 9.7%. In that context, it makes sense then-Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopolous considered the time right to push his chips in; it’s equally sensible then-Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski pivoted his organization toward a rebuild.

    Just as notable was the steep acquisition cost. The Jays sent the Tigers a trio of left-handed pitching prospects, led by Daniel Norris, who had entered that season as Baseball America’s #18 overall prospect. He’d had some strike-throwing issues in the minors, but Norris looked the part of a potential power mid-rotation starter.

    Unfortunately, Norris has never really made good on that immense promise. In four-plus seasons in Detroit, the former second-rounder has a cumulative 4.56 ERA/4.41 FIP in 396.1 innings. His once-dominant stuff has waxed and waned in that time. Norris quietly had a strong second half in 2019, particularly after being limited to three innings per start in August. Perhaps there’s hope yet for the 27-year-old to find his niche.

    Even if Norris hasn’t turned out the way Detroit fans may have envisioned, the Tigers have gotten plenty of long-term value from the Price deal. Matthew Boyd was arguably viewed as the third piece at the time, behind Norris and Jairo Labourt. (Labourt, then a well-regarded low minors starter, never panned out, even after moving to the bullpen). Boyd had already reached the majors but was viewed as a back-of-the-rotation type. Suffice it to say most didn’t envision him emerging as one of the game’s premier strikeout artists, but that’s exactly what he did in 2019. Among pitchers with at least 100 innings, Boyd ranked thirteenth in strikeout rate (30.2%) while maintaining his long-lauded control (6.2% walk rate).

    Boyd’s 4.56 ERA didn’t match up with those strong peripherals, mostly due to an abundance of home runs. Indeed, he’s a fly ball pitcher who may always serve up a few too many longballs to be a top-of-the-rotation arm. As much as any pitcher in baseball, Boyd could stand to benefit if the ball is less lively than it has been in recent seasons. More than ever, though, teams covet pitchers with swing-and-miss stuff. Between his four-seamer and slider, Boyd has a pair of bat-missing weapons.

    With the Tigers yet to emerge from the rebuild the Price trade symbolically kicked off, Boyd himself could be on the move in the near future. Detroit didn’t actively look to trade him last offseason, but the club also seems unlikely to contend by 2022, his final season of team control. He’ll no doubt pique contending teams’ interest and would bring back a much stronger return than his ERA might otherwise suggest.

    As for the Jays, their story has been told many times, although their fans may not mind hearing it once more. They stormed back in the second half, not only securing a playoff berth but erasing a seven-game deficit to win the AL East. Toronto knocked off the Rangers in the ALDS that year in one of the more memorable series in recent history. Their magical second-half run came to an end in the ALCS at the hands of the eventual World Series champion Royals. Price was instrumental to that success, tossing 74.1 innings of 2.30 ERA ball in the season’s final two months. He parlayed his longtime excellence into a seven year, $217MM deal with the Red Sox that offseason.

    All told, the trade looks like a win for both sides. The Blue Jays got an elite two months from an ace to help propel them to a division title. The Tigers have gotten plenty of valuable innings over the longer term. Indeed, they got their high strikeout, mid-rotation southpaw out of the deal, even if it wasn’t the player anyone expected to it be.

    TC Zencka <![CDATA[Coronavirus Notes: Upcoming Negotiations, Furloughs, Angels, Brewers, KBO]]> 2020-05-23T16:06:44Z 2020-05-23T14:15:24Z It’s make-or-break time for MLB and the MLBPA on forging a path to baseball in 2020. With some significant negotiations looming this week, ESPN’s Jeff Passan runs through some of the biggest questions facing the league. The battle between players and owners is rife with potential roadblocks, and it’s not just the conditions of 2020 that are at stake. With the CBA renegotiation still in the (what-now-feels-like distant) future, both sides are aware of the impact any concession can make to the bigger picture. The way this week’s negotiations are handled could reveal the potential the two sides have of forging an effective working relationship moving forward. One would think now would be an ideal time for opposing sides to come together, and yet it’s just not as simple as that when billions of dollars are at stake. There are countless people and opinions to take into account on both sides of the aisle. While we await a loaded week of negotiations, let’s check in on how teams are handling their non-player-and-coach employees…

    • Teams are taking a variety of approaches when it comes to their employees in the wake of COVID-19, but the Angels have come under fire for taking a more drastic approach than most, per The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal. The Angels will be furloughing employees from nearly every department, including, in the words of Rosenthal, “weakening its amateur scouting department heading into the draft.” The optics aren’t great here for the large-market Angels, especially when clubs like the Brewers, Giants, and Phillies have made commitments to retaining their staff at least through October. The Blue Jays also recently made the decision to keep employees’ on their full-time salaries through October 1, tweets John Lott, a frequent contributor to The Athletic. The Brewers have been the most aggressively pro-employee, per Rosenthal, committing to keeping their staff on through the entirety of the baseball season. The pro-employee approach is laudable, though not necessarily all that shocking coming out of Milwaukee. The Brewers have increasingly stepped into the spotlight in recent years as a progressive organization, from the supportive atmosphere provided players to making special efforts to get Milwaukee residents in to see games to their very team-building approach. The Angels, meanwhile, might find tough sledding ahead when it comes to signing undrafted amateur players. Without their typical scouting infrastructure in place, those relationships will be harder to build in an open market, and it’s possible the decisions being made by ownership today will have far-reaching consequences for the organization’s future.
    • The Rays, meanwhile, are readying to return to the field. Camp will re-open on Monday for a small collection of 15 to 20 players, per Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times. Those players involved will still be keeping a separation of six feet from other players, and workouts will be limited. Still, it’s a positive sign to see players start to congregate again around a playing field. It’s also, no doubt, a risky proposition, but so long as safety precautions are followed and we don’t see a breakout of cases among these players, these workouts could be a harbinger of more baseball to come.
    • Baseball is back already in some places of the world, of course. The KBO is about 17 games into their 2020 season, and they’re about to get a lot more popular. A new deal was announced for ESPN to become the English-language home of KBO games set to broadcast around the world, per ESPN’s Santa Brito. Play-by-play announcers will continue to provide commentary while social distancing. ESPN will soon be broadcasting KBO games “throughout Canada, Mexico, Central America, the Caribbean (including the Dominican Republic), Europe, Middle East, Africa, and parts of Asia.”
    Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Oakland’s Meager Return For A Superstar]]> 2020-05-19T10:15:02Z 2020-05-19T06:00:53Z One of the highest-profile trades of the previous decade saw the Athletics send third baseman Josh Donaldson to the Blue Jays for a four-player package consisting of infielders Brett Lawrie and Franklin Barreto, right-hander Kendall Graveman and lefty Sean Nolin in November 2014. The return at the time seemed underwhelming for an Oakland team that was then coming off its third consecutive playoff berth. Donaldson was highly instrumental in the team’s success in two of those last three seasons – he combined for 13.0 fWAR from 2013-14 – and he wasn’t due to reach free agency until after 2017. Even a low-budget club like the A’s should have been able to keep Donaldson in the fold for at least a little while longer, but they decided against it, to their detriment.

    Donaldson, whom many now know as the “Bringer of Rain,” saw his star continue to rise in Toronto. He played for the Jays from 2015-18, during which he slashed .281/.383/.548 (150 wRC+) with 118 home runs and 22.2 fWAR. There were few better major leaguers during that stretch than Donaldson, who took home the AL MVP in 2015 – the first of two straight seasons in which Toronto went to the ALCS. Meanwhile, the A’s won fewer than 70 games in those two years and endured another sub-.500 campaign in 2017 before finally returning to relevance the next season. Oakland has since found its answer at third in the great Matt Chapman.

    Despite Chapman’s emergence, has the Donaldson trade been worth it from the A’s standpoint? It doesn’t look like it.

    The players Oakland got for Donaldson have combined for 3.8 fWAR in their uniform. Lawrie, once a seemingly can’t-miss prospect, spent one underwhelming season as an Athletic before they traded him to the White Sox in December 2015. Barreto was also considered a superb prospect in his younger days, but the now-24-year-old has done nothing in the majors so far. Graveman was useful with the A’s from 2015-18, during which he turned in 441 1/3 innings of 4.38 ERA ball, but was never more than a back-end starter with the team. He’s now a member of the division-rival Mariners. And Nolin, who only pitched for Oakland during a 2015 season in which he registered a 5.29 ERA over 29 innings, is now with the Seibu Lions of Nippon Professional Baseball.

    As of now, it seems fair to call the Donaldson return an enormous disappointment for the Billy Beane-led A’s, who typically know what they’re doing. If there’s one potential silver lining, though, it’s J.B. Wendelken. The righty reliever joined the A’s in a trade with the White Sox for Lawrie in December 2015, and has since turned into a solid reliever. Going back to 2018, Wendelken has logged a 2.55 ERA/3.01 FIP with 8.76 K/9 and 2.55 BB/9 in 49 1/3 innings. Among 523 pitchers whom hitters amassed at least 100 plate appearances against last year, he ranked sixth in expected weighted on-base average (.234), placing him a couple points behind the excellent Josh Hader.

    Wendelken hasn’t racked up a large amount of major league experience yet, but if the A’s are going to get anything from deciding to deal Donaldson, he may be their best hope. For the most part, barring a eureka moment for Barreto, the return that Oakland originally received is a lost cause. Donaldson’s still humming along, though. He was good enough as a Blue Jay and then an Indian for the Braves to sign him to a $23MM guarantee going into 2019, and he was so effective in Atlanta last season that Minnesota gave him a four-year, $92MM guarantee over the winter.

    Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Ryu Accounts For Half Of Blue Jays’ Future Payroll Guarantees]]> 2020-05-16T00:11:36Z 2020-05-15T21:24:17Z 2020 salary terms are set to be hammered out in the coming days. But what about what’s owed to players beyond that point? The near-term economic picture remains questionable at best. That’ll make teams all the more cautious with guaranteed future salaries.

    Every organization has some amount of future cash committed to players, all of it done before the coronavirus pandemic swept the globe. There are several different ways to look at salaries; for instance, for purposes of calculating the luxury tax, the average annual value is the touchstone, with up-front bonuses spread over the life of the deal. For this exercise, we’ll focus on actual cash outlays that still have yet to be paid.

    We’ll run through every team, with a big assist from the Cot’s Baseball Contracts database. Next up is the Blue Jays:

    Blue Jays Total Future Cash Obligation: $122.07MM

    *Includes remaining signing bonus payout to Randal Grichuk

    *Includes remaining obligation to Troy Tulowitzki (released)

    *Includes buyout on 2021 club option over Chase Anderson

    (click to expand/view detail list)

    Tim Dierkes <![CDATA[Which 15 Players Should The Blue Jays Protect In An Expansion Draft?]]> 2020-05-14T05:23:12Z 2020-05-13T21:00:43Z The last MLB expansion draft took place on November 18th, 1997.  Each of the 28 existing teams was able to initially protect 15 players, with the Devil Rays and Diamondbacks mostly alternating picks to fill their new rosters.

    The first round consisted of one player being taken from each of the 28 teams, giving the Devil Rays and D’Backs 14 players each.  At that point, each of the 28 teams was able to protect an additional three players.  After the completion of the second round, each team added another three players to their protected list.  In the third round, the Rays and D’Backs would each take an additional seven players, with each new club ending up with 35 in total.

    Detailed rules can be found here, but basically each team’s best prospects were not eligible for the draft.  Still, about a quarter of the players chosen were minor leaguers.  Also, players with no-trade clauses or ten-and-five rights had to be put on protected lists unless they waived those rights.  And there would be no reason to protect players eligible for free agency.

    We thought it would be fun to determine each team’s current 15-player protected list, as if a new two-team expansion draft is scheduled for November.  For simplicity’s sake, only players with MLB experience will be eligible for our mock expansion draft.

    So far, we’ve done the Yankees and Red Sox.

    Next up, we’ll shape a 15-player protected list for the Blue Jays.

    Free agents Matt Shoemaker, Ken Giles, Joe Panik, and Anthony Bass will be excluded.  Chase Anderson and Rafael Dolis have club options for 2021.  For this exercise, we won’t force the Jays to use protected spots on them, even though they might prefer to retain one or both.

    I’ve decided to make any Baseball America top 100 prospect with a 2020 ETA eligible for this mock expansion draft, under the assumption that they would reach the Majors this year.  I’ll also automatically put such players on the team’s protected list.  That means we’ll add the Blue Jays’ Nate Pearson here, and I’ll make adjustments to include the Yankees’ Deivi Garcia and the Red Sox’ Bobby Dalbec.

    Hyun-Jin Ryu automatically takes another of the Blue Jays’ 15 spots due to his no-trade protection.  After Pearson and Ryu, that leaves 13 more players to protect.  I’ll also put these four players on the list:

    Vladimir Guerrero Jr.
    Bo Bichette
    Cavan Biggio
    Lourdes Gurriel Jr.

    That leaves nine spots for these 24 players:

    Anthony Alford
    Ryan Borucki
    Jonathan Davis
    Yennsy Diaz
    Brandon Drury
    Derek Fisher
    Wilmer Font
    Sam Gaviglio
    Randal Grichuk
    Teoscar Hernandez
    Danny Jansen
    Anthony Kay
    Elvis Luciano
    Reese McGuire
    Billy McKinney
    Thomas Pannone
    Sean Reid-Foley
    Tanner Roark
    Jordan Romano
    Travis Shaw
    Rowdy Tellez
    Trent Thornton
    Jacob Waguespack
    T.J. Zeuch

    With that, we turn it over to the MLBTR readership! In the poll below, please select exactly nine players you think the Blue Jays should protect in our upcoming mock expansion draft. Click here to view the results.

    Create your own user feedback survey

    Mark Polishuk <![CDATA[Quick Hits: Draft, Player Salaries, Blue Jays]]> 2020-05-09T21:20:02Z 2020-05-09T21:20:02Z Some items from around the sport…

    • The league’s decision to limit this year’s amateur draft to five rounds is explored by The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal (subscription required), who notes that the players’ union turned down a proposal from MLB to have a ten-round draft, with the signing bonuses attached to the picks in rounds 6-10 reduced to half of their usual value.  The gap between the cost of full bonuses and half-bonuses was relatively minor, only around $500K per team, yet the MLBPA “did not want to set the precedent of altering the March deal, knowing the league will likely seek a similar opening next week and ask for additional sacrifices.”  This is in reference to the public discord that has already taken place between MLB and the union about the possibility of reduced player salaries should the season begin without any fans in attendance.
    • Speaking of salaries,’s Buster Olney points out that some players managed to avoid the financial crunch that most of the players around baseball will face under the terms of the March agreement between the league and the MLBPA.  Those with deferred contracts will take less of a financial hit in 2020 since they’ll be getting their money down the road, while other players (i.e. Dellin Betances) who had up-front signing bonuses in their contracts have already received those full payments.  Zack Cozart will receive the full $12.167MM salary owed to him in 2020 since the Giants released him in January, whereas Cozart would have had his salary greatly reduced had he still been on San Francisco’s roster at the time of the shutdown.
    • While nothing has been decided about the location of any possible 2020 games for any team, restrictions on the Canada/U.S. border adds another layer of difficulty to the possibility of Blue Jays games in Toronto,’s Shi Davidi writes.  International visitors to Canada are currently subject to a mandatory 14 days of either self-isolation or quarantine upon arriving in the country, depending on whether or not they show any coronavirus symptoms.  While the Jays have had some discussions with civic and provincial officials about the feasibility of playing games at Rogers Centre, Davidi notes that the club could end up playing regular season games at its Spring Training facility in Dunedin unless the situation changes (such as “expected advancements and the wide-scale deployments of rapid-result diagnostic testing”).
    Mark Polishuk <![CDATA[Anthopoulos Discusses Acquiring Troy Tulowitzki In 2015]]> 2020-05-03T00:47:51Z 2020-05-03T00:47:51Z In a recent radio appearance on Sportsnet 590 The Fan’s Lead Off show (audio link available, with geographic restrictions), current Braves GM Alex Anthopoulos discussed one of the signature moves from his tenure as the Blue Jays’ general manager — namely, the blockbuster trade that brought Troy Tulowitzki and LaTroy Hawkins from the Rockies to the Jays in July 2015, with Jose Reyes and three well-regarded pitching prospects going to Colorado.

    Anthopoulos said initial talks with the Rockies began during the 2014-15 offseason, as “we had concerns with Jose Reyes’ defense at the end of 2014.”  Reyes was coming off a rough year of glovework, posting a minus -3.3 UZR/150 and minus-14 Defensive Runs Saved over 1243 2/3 innings as Toronto’s shortstop.  As per those two metrics, Reyes had been a subpar defender for multiple seasons, though Anthopoulos said the decline in the shortstop’s range was becoming a particular issue for the Jays.

    By comparison, Tulowitzki was a much more accomplished defender, in the eyes of both the advanced metrics and in terms of hardware (two Gold Gloves and three Fielding Bible Awards between 2007-11).  The +4.2 UZR/150 and +2 DRS that Tulowitzki posted in 2015 made him a major upgrade over Reyes — as Anthopoulos noted, Tulowitzki didn’t make a single error as a Blue Jay during the 2015 regular season and postseason.

    After a loss to the Phillies on July 28, 2015, the day of the Tulowitzki deal, Toronto had only a 50-51 record and sat eight games out of first place in the AL East.  Anthopoulos still felt confident that his club could break out, however: “We lost a ton of games just because we were not playing good defense, and all the pieces were there to have a great team.”

    Anthopoulos cited Tulowitzki and Ben Revere (picked up in a less-heralded deadline day deal with the Phillies) as major elements to the defensive turnaround, and of course the Jays’ other headline-grabbing trade to land David Price from the Tigers also helped on the run-prevention front.  The rest was history — after that July 28 loss to Philadelphia, the Blue Jays went on a 43-18 tear over the rest of the regular season to clinch the team’s first AL East title and playoff berth since 1993.

    For me, the key was just shoring up the defense across the board,” Anthopoulos said.  “From Tulo, to getting Ben Revere in left and not having Chris Colabello and [Danny] Valencia on the corners in the outfield when [Jose] Bautista was out DHing.  Just becoming a better defensive club, that really made the whole team get to where we should have been the entire year, when you’re looking at runs scored [and] runs against.

    While things obviously worked out for Toronto, losing Reyes was no small issue to his former teammates.  “It’s not like the clubhouse was elated…we knew they would be jarred” Anthopoulos said, adding that Reyes’ “work ethic was fantastic” and that the shortstop was “so well-liked without our clubhouse.”

    Still, some version of Reyes-for-Tulowitzki was a constant within the Jays’ talks with the Rockies, as Anthopoulos said “we were adamant that Reyes had to be part of the deal going back.”  Beyond the practical element of filling each team’s need at shortstop, including Reyes in the trade helped offset some of the added financial costs Toronto faced in taking on Tulowitzki’s contract.  Tulowitzki was owed a minimum of $98MM from 2016-20, while Reyes earned $48MM through the 2017 season — two seasons of salary and then a $4MM buyout of his $22MM club option for 2018.  As it happened, Reyes forfeited roughly $7.09MM of that salary due to a suspension under the domestic violence, sexual assault, and child abuse policy, and he was released by Colorado in June 2016.

    For more on the Tulowitzki trade, Jeff Todd recently took a longer-term view of the transaction as part of MLBTR’s YouTube video series, making the case that it was something of a win-win deal for both the Blue Jays and Rockies, even though “both were left a little bit shy of what they really expected to get.”

    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[10 MLB Teams Whose Business Initiatives Face Coronavirus Hurdles]]> 2020-05-02T03:35:02Z 2020-05-02T02:34:53Z Like most every person or business, all thirty MLB teams face tough questions during the time of COVID-19. Some are relatively similar for all ballclubs, but there are obviously quite a few unique issues — some more pressing than others.

    Dealing with the implications of this pandemic is probably toughest for organizations that are in the midst of executing or planning major business initiatives. We’ll run down some of those here.

    Angels: The team has been cooking up potentially massive plans to develop the area around Angel Stadium. Fortunately, nothing is really in process at the moment, but it stands to reason that the project could end up being reduced in scope and/or delayed.

    Athletics: Oof. The A’s have done a ton of work to put a highly ambitious stadium plan in motion. Massive uncertainty of this type can’t help. It isn’t clear just yet how the effort will be impacted, but it seems reasonable to believe the organization is pondering some tough decisions.

    Braves: Luckily for the Atlanta-area organization, the team’s new park and most of the surrounding development is already fully operational. But with the added earning capacity from retail operations in a ballpark village comes greater exposure to turmoil.

    Cubs: Like the Braves, the Cubs have already done most of the work at and around their park, but were counting on big revenue to pay back what’s owed (and then some). Plus, the Cubbies have a new TV network to bring up to speed.

    Diamondbacks: Vegas?! Vancouver?! Probably not, but the Snakes do want to find a new home somewhere in Arizona. That effort is sure to be dented. Plus, the team’s recent initiative to host non-baseball events at Chase Field will now go on hiatus.

    Marlins: The new ownership group has had some good vibes going and hoped to convert some of the positivity into a healthy new TV deal. That critical negotiation will now take place in a brutal economic environment.

    Mets: So … this is probably not an optimal moment to be selling your sports franchise. The Wilpon family is pressing ahead with an effort to strike a new deal after their prior one broke down (at the worst possible time).

    Orioles: That bitter television rights fee dispute that just won’t stop … it’s not going to be easier to find a resolution with less cash coming through the door. It was already setting up to be a rough stretch for the Baltimore org, with past TV money due to the Nationals and more bills to come, even while going through brutally lean years on the playing field.

    Rangers: The new park is now built. While taxpayers footed much of the bill, the club still has to pay back a $600MM loan. Suffice to say the Rangers (and municipal authorities) anticipated game day revenues of more than $0 in year one when they planned out the loan repayment method.

    Rays: The club’s preferred Ybor City option flamed out and it is currently engaged in a somewhat confusing effort to split time between the Tampa Bay area and Montreal. Existing hurdles to that arrangement seem only to be taller in the age of the coronavirus.

    Others: We may be missing some, but it seems most other organizations are engaged more in usual-course sorts of business initiatives rather than franchise-altering efforts. For instance, the Nats have an interest in that TV deal as well. The Red Sox have been working to redevelop areas around Fenway Park. The Blue Jays are dabbling in future plans. And the Dodgers have a new TV rights deal, though that came to fruition after the pandemic hit and may not be impacted any more than any other existing carriage arrangements.

    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Ryan Borucki Making Progress In Recovery From Elbow Injury]]> 2020-05-01T22:23:41Z 2020-05-01T22:23:41Z Blue Jays southpaw Ryan Borucki is throwing off of a mound without issue, Blue Jays pitching coach Pete Walker tells Shi Davidi of (via Twitter). Walker says he expects Borucki to “be right in the mix” on the MLB staff if and when the 2020 campaign gets underway.

    Any time you see a pitcher shut down with elbow tightness, it’s hard not to fear the worst. But indications of late have been that Borucki was feeling better and improving. Now it seems clear he’s ramping back towards full speed.

    There’s certainly no reason to rush the process for the southpaw, who celebrated his 26th birthday at the end of March. With no reason to anticipate a near-term resumption of Spring Training — let alone the launch of the regular season — there’s ample time to build up slowly.

    That only makes the news of this progress more encouraging, as it seems he’s allowing his body to dictate the pace. Walker says that Borucki’s left arm “feels great.” A little added rest may confer long-term benefits for the the former 15th-round draft pick, who only made six starts at all levels in 2019 owing to bone spurs in his pitching elbow.

    The Jays are no doubt anxious to see a fully healthy Borucki back on the hill. He showed quite well in his first MLB action, throwing 97 2/3 innings of 3.87 ERA ball in 2018. While the Toronto organization added a bunch of new arms to its rotation mix, there’s little question that some need and opportunity will arise at some point, and Borucki figures to be among the top candidates to step in when the time comes.

    Mark Polishuk <![CDATA[Inside The Jays' Mental Performance Department]]> 2020-04-26T13:13:25Z 2020-04-26T13:13:25Z
  • The Blue Jays have made mental performance a major aspect of their player development system at both the Major League and minor league levels, with eight-year MLB veteran John Lannan was hired as the newest member of the six-person mental performance department this past January.  As The Athletic’s John Lott (subscription required) writes, Lannan went back to school to study sports psychology after retiring in August 2017, and realized the subject matter was instantly relatable to the modern player.  “Once I was going into all these deep dives into sports psychology, it just brought to mind a lot of situations throughout my career, where it started to make sense why I might have felt the way I felt and what I could have probably done about it if I’d known more about the subject,” Lannan said.  Lott outlines the Jays front office’s philosophy about the benefits of mental performance, and how the department’s role has now evolved with players stuck at home waiting out the pandemic.
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    Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Mark Shapiro Discusses Ticket Refunds ]]> 2020-04-25T00:36:15Z 2020-04-25T00:36:15Z
  • As a result of the season postponement, two fans recently filed a lawsuit against all 30 MLB teams and ticket companies StubHub, Ticketmaster, Live Nation, and Last Minute Transactions because they haven’t been able to get a refund for tickets purchased for 2020. The Blue Jays are not among the teams that have refused to give fans their money back, however, president Mark Shapiro told Gregor Chisholm of the Toronto Star. “We have fielded every single call and whenever there has been a hardship, or a circumstance, that has necessitated a refund, we have refunded those tickets,” said Shapiro, who added, “We have not fought any of those and will continue to do that.” Shapiro’s under the impression that the league’s “very close” to announcing “a broader policy on refunds and exchanges.”
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    Steve Adams <![CDATA[The Blue Jays’ Uncertain Outfield Mix]]> 2020-04-22T00:40:18Z 2020-04-21T23:36:53Z When the Blue Jays were at their peak in 2015-16, the outfield wasn’t much of an issue. Jose Bautista was holding down right field as one of MLB’s most feared hitters — the brash owner of a .243/.372/.499 slash line that underscored his patience at the plate and his thunderous power. In center field, Kevin Pillar was a staple on highlight reels thanks to a superhuman defensive prowess that led to his gaudy 38 Defensive Runs Saved in that two-year stretch. Pillar’s .272/.309/.388 slash wasn’t particularly impressive, but paired with his world-beating defense, that made him a plenty valuable player on the whole.

    Left field was a bit shakier, if only because of persistent injury troubles for the since-retired Michael Saunders. More often than not, Saunders was in the lineup, though the Jays also trotted out Ben Revere, Ezequiel Carrera and Danny Valencia at times. That was the closest they’ve come to any real inconsistency in that time.

    That continuity feels like a distant memory now, as the Jays have since turned over their entire outfield mix on multiple occasions and yet still don’t have much certainty. It appears likely that 2019 breakout slugger Lourdes Gurriel Jr. will get the first look in left field whenever play resumes. His 2019 season at the plate was undeniably impressive — .277/.327/.541, 20 homers in 343 PAs — but it also came in a season that was skewed by a juiced ball. Gurriel’s glovework didn’t rate well, either, though he’s a converted infielder so perhaps there’ll be an uptick with more experience.

    Center field seems likely to go to Randal Grichuk, though at this point that’s because of his contract more than his recent play. The Jays signed Grichuk to a surprising extension last spring, and Grichuk responded with a career-worst .232/.280/.457 slash. That .280 OBP was the worst in baseball among qualified hitters. Even without a 2020 season, Grichuk would still be owed $29MM from 2021-23, so he’s sure to get a chance (or multiple chances) at redemption — but a replacement-level showing in year one of the deal isn’t what the Jays had in mind.

    The remaining outfield options (in alphabetical order):

    • Anthony Alford, drafted in third round (2012): A two-sport star who could’ve pursued a career in football as well, Alford has received just 59 plate appearances in the past three seasons and now finds himself out of minor league options. Alford was a top 100 prospect each year from 2016-18, but he’s yet to even hit in Triple-A and now has no clear path to playing time in such a crowded mix.
    • Jonathan Davis, drafted in the 15th round (2013): Davis will turn 28 in a few weeks and has just 122 MLB plate appearances to his credit (with a .185/.264/.259 slash). Davis runs well and has shown a patient eye at the plate in the upper minors, but he’s been a roughly average bat in Triple-A and seems more like a fourth outfielder than a big league regular.
    • Brandon Drury, acquired from Yankees in exchange for J.A. Happ: As recently as 2016-17, Drury looked like a solid multi-positional piece with the D-backs. Since hitting .275/.323/.453 in that stretch, though, he’s been traded to the Yankees and then the Jays, hitting just .210/.261/.362 in 533 plate appearances along the way. Drury popped up an astonishing 21 times in just 447 plate appearances this past season, and his strikeout rate has risen from 20 percent in ’16 to 25.3 percent in ’19.
    • Derek Fisher, acquired from the Astros in exchange for Aaron Sanchez, Joe Biagini: With George Springer, Josh Reddick, Michael Brantley, Jake Marisnick and Kyle Tucker all ahead of him during his time with Houston, Fisher never got much of a chance. Like McKinney, he’s not fooled by Triple-A pitching (career .289/.379/.520), but Fisher has whiffed in nearly 37 percent of his 419 Major League plate appearances — including a 40.2 percent mark in 107 PAs with Toronto. He, too, is out of minor league options.
    • Teoscar Hernandez, acquired from the Astros in exchange for Francisco Liriano: Hernandez came to the Jays as an exit-velocity darling and still makes plenty of good contact, but his hard-hit rate and average exit velo did trend in the wrong direction last year. His strikeout issues aren’t as pronounced as those of Fisher, but Hernandez has punched out at a 32 percent clip in just shy of 1000 Blue Jays plate appearances.
    • Billy McKinney, acquired from Yankees in exchange for J.A. Happ: A former first-round pick (Athletics, 2013), McKinney has been traded from Oakland to Chicago to New York to Toronto — never receiving a real big league opportunity prior to Toronto. He’s since appeared in 120 games and taken 404 plate appearances with the Jays, but he’s mustered a tepid .227/.289/.437 slash in that stretch. McKinney has consistently hit Triple-A pitching, but that hasn’t stopped the Jays from acquiring new outfield options to join the competition.

    The Jays have a potential breakout candidate in left field (Gurriel), a rebound candidate in center (Grichuk) and what seems competition brewing in a make-or-break year for many of their remaining players. The DH spot will give them some extra opportunities to evaluate all of their options from an offensive standpoint, but they’ll also want to get a look at Rowdy Tellez in that spot.

    Both Alford and Fisher need to remain on the big league roster or else be exposed to waiver, while Hernandez and McKinney each have just one option year remaining. Drury is more of a utility option than an everyday piece in the outfield, but he was already in danger of being non-tendered this winter and is down to his final option year as well.

    On the whole, it’s a rather underwhelming cast of characters despite the club’s considerable efforts to bring together a mix of intriguing, often post-hype outfield candidates. Between this group’s eroding minor league options and talk of Cavan Biggio eventually moving to the outfield — although defensive metrics thought his work at second base was plenty good in ’19 — it’s possible that no one from this set of players will be a part of the next contending outfield unit in Toronto.

    The Jays already made one aggressive, win-now move this winter when they signed Hyun-Jin Ryu, and team president Mark Shapiro recently indicated that the Jays could use a center field upgrade. If this group can’t get it done whenever play resumes, it seems likely that Shapiro, GM Ross Atkins and the rest of the front office will be left with little choice other than pursuing more established options now that the club is moving away from its rebuilding phase.

    Anthony Franco <![CDATA[Jose Bautista Discusses Comeback Attempt]]> 2020-04-19T16:44:16Z 2020-04-19T16:24:44Z
  • Last month, ESPN’s Jeff Passan reported that José Bautista had been eyeing a return as a two-way player. While his hope of representing the Dominican Republic in the Olympic qualifying tournament was dashed by the event’s postponement, Bautista doesn’t appear to be giving up his two-way dream. He tells Sportsnet he would consider trying the dual role in the 2021 World Baseball Classic. Interestingly, he seems open to the idea of representing Team Spain (his father is a Spanish citizen, thus granting him eligibility), Sportsnet adds, if the Dominican team doesn’t offer him a roster spot. The former Blue Jays’ star admitted it’d be a long shot for him to ever pitch in the majors, but noted he’d be “ready just in case.”
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