The talk of last year's offseason after making a pair of blockbuster trades, no team entered 2013 with higher expectations—and wound up being as disappointing—as the Toronto Blue Jays.
Anything that could have gone wrong seemingly did go wrong for the Jays in 2012, and while the team still has a handful of prospects that it could use as trade chips to improve heading into 2014, the incredible depth that the farm system once had is no longer there.
Does that mean that the Jays will become players in free agency? Or will GM Alex Anthopoulos spend most of the winter working the phones, trying to find the pieces his team needs on the trade market?
Keep it here for the answers to those questions and more as we'll be bringing you the most up-to-the-minute rumblings about the Jays along with analysis and everything else that comes with it. While the post date will always show as November 1, simply click through for the latest from the rumor mill on the Jays as they put their roster together for 2014.
All the juicy rumors and analysis follow, but consider this your one-stop shop for all the comings and goings in Toronto this winter, including the status of the team's free agents.
Blue Jays Free Agents
RHP Casey Janssen (Nov. 1: Team picked up $4 million option)
2B/SS Munenori Kawasaki (Nov. 1: Team declined $1 million option; Dec. 24: Re-signed)
1B/DH Adam Lind (Nov. 1: Team picked up $7 million option)
RHP Ramon Ortiz
Nov. 15: Signed 1B/DH Dan Johnson to a minor-league deal with an invite to spring training
Dec. 2: Signed C Dioner Navarro to a two-year, $8 million deal
Dec. 11: Signed RHP Tomo Ohka to a minor league deal
Dec. 24: Re-signed IF Munenori Kawasaki to a minor league deal with an invite to spring training
Now that Japanese pitching star Masahiro Tanaka has been posted, many teams are likely to be interested in negotiating for his services.
However, when asked by Brendan Kennedy of the Toronto Star whether or not the Blue Jays had serious interest, general manager Alex Anthopoulos adroitly skirted the issue.
“I have said that we’re definitely going to inquire on any free-agent pitchers that are out there,” Anthopoulos said.
So much for getting a straight answer.
According to Kennedy, the Jays were more likely to try and acquire a star pitcher via the trade market rather than free agency. But that was earlier this offseason, and with Tanaka now out there for the taking, those plans could certainly change.
Anthopoulos is clearly keeping any further plans close to the vest, but he did tell Kennedy that plans could change.
“I would say it’s 50-50 at this point,” he said. “Free-agent prices tend to change as the winter goes along. I don’t know that I’d say one is more likely than the other at this point.”
Update: Thursday, Dec. 12 at 10:20 p.m. ET
The Cubs are asking Toronto for its top two pitching prospects, right-handers Aaron Sanchez and Marcus Stroman, along with another prospect, in exchange for Samardzija, says the Toronto Sun's Bob Elliott.
That's a steep price to pay, something that GM Alex Anthopoulos, while not directly addressing the Samardzija rumors, alluded to about potential deals that the team has been working on:
We have some things we can do, things we can say yes to, but the acquisition price doesn’t work for us right now. I don’t know if I could quantify how far off that they might be. We continue to have dialogue, so if you want to look at that as encouraging, I don’t know. It’s not so far out of the realm that we won’t continue to have talks.
While the Blue Jays didn't make any significant moves at the Winter Meetings, they certainly laid the groundwork for a number of potential deals down the road.
--End of Update--
Update: Sunday, Nov. 24 at 11:02 a.m. ET
The Blue Jays are working on a deal for Samardzija and are putting together a package of young players to send to the Cubs, according to ESPN Chicago's Bruce Levine.
GM Alex Anthopoulos, a guest on MLB Network Radio, would not confirm that he's pursuing the Chicago ace. But he did confirm that the Blue Jays are in talks on potential starters, though he emphasized that the team had not made an offer to anyone yet.
--End of Update--
It's unclear what the Cubs want in return and the Blue Jays haven't officially expressed their interest yet, but Sportsnet's Shi Davidi says that Toronto is expected to make a strong push to try and acquire right-handed starter Jeff Samardzija from the Cubs at some point this offseason.
Samardzija, 28, pitched to a 4.34 ERA and 1.35 WHIP for the Cubs in 2013, striking out a career-best 214 batters in a career-high 213.2 innings of work over 33 starts, the first time that he's cracked the 200-inning plateau in his six-year career.
Under team control through the 2015 season, Samardzija is sure to be one of the hottest names on the rumor mill as the offseason rolls along, and he's already been linked to the Diamondbacks, though those talks are believed to have gone nowhere and are, for all intents and purposes, dead in the water.
Whether the Blue Jays have the prospects that the Cubs are seeking in return for him, considering that much of the team's minor league depth was traded away last winter, remains to be seen. But acquiring a front-line starter via trade, rather than as a free agent, seems to be Toronto's preference at this point.
Thursday, Dec. 12 at 8:40 p.m. ET
The Blue Jays and Royals have discussed a deal that would have sent Billy Butler and prospects to Toronto, sources tell The Globe & Mail's Jeff Blair. While nothing is imminent, as Reid says things haven't moved past the discussion phase, and it's unknown what Kansas City wanted from Toronto, trying to acquire Butler could be a sign that another move is imminent.
Pittsburgh is known to have talked to the Blue Jays about 1B/DH Adam Lind and moving the long-time Blue Jay would open a spot for Butler, who with a career .298/.364/.459 slash line, would represent a pretty significant upgrade at the position for the Blue Jays.
Sure, Butler had his worst season in years in 2013, hitting .289 with 15 home runs, 82 RBI and a .787 OPS—the first time since 2008 that he posted an OPS under .822. But those are still pretty decent numbers—and his track record says he's likely to improve upon them.
Tuesday, Dec. 10 at 10:18 p.m. ET
The Blue Jays are trying to sell high on Colby Rasmus and have offered him to at least two teams in an attempt to land some starting pitching, according to a report from Bob Elliott of the Toronto Sun.
Rasmus, 26, put together his best season in Toronto last year, hitting .276 with 22 home runs, 66 RBI and an .840 OPS, the latter the second-highest mark of his career and best OPS since 2010 while he was still with the Cardinals.
For the Blue Jays to land the pitcher they seek, they may need to package Rasmus with another player (Sergio Santos possibly?) to entice a team to take a chance on the talented but erratic center fielder.
Monday, Dec. 9 at 5:44 p.m. ET
Sources tell Fox Sports's Jon Morosi and Ken Rosenthal that the Blue Jays had agreed to a three-team trade a few weeks ago that would have sent Sergio Santos to the Rangers, but the deal fell apart when another player failed a physical.
It is not known who the Blue Jays would have received, whether that was the player who failed his physical, and who the third team involved was.
What we can take from this, though, is that there is a market for Santos—and the Blue Jays are more than willing to move him in the right deal.
Monday, Dec. 9 at 4:55 p.m. ET
The Blue Jays were one of the teams with a large contingent at workouts for Cuban shortstop Aledmys Diaz, according to Yahoo! Sports' Jeff Passan, who says that some teams view him as a future second baseman.
Declared a free agent in December of 2012, Diaz won't be eligible to sign with teams until Feb. 19 due to a year-long suspension for falsifying his age.
B/R's prospect guru Mike Rosenbaum gave a quick scouting report on Diaz back in January:
At 6’1”, 185 pounds, Diaz, who will participate in a showcase for major league scouts later this month, has a projectable frame with the potential to add strength as he continues to develop. He’s regarded as a quality defender with solid range and a strong arm—attributes that could also also make him serviceable as a third baseman. The utility of his hit tool has mixed reviews, but he does have power potential.
The 23-year-old isn’t the next Yoenis Cespedes, though he had played in Cuba’s premier league, Serie Nacional, since 2007 before defecting last summer. Therefore, Diaz will likely require at least a half-season, possibly even more, at Triple-A before debuting in the major leagues.
Monday, Dec. 9 at 12:42 p.m. ET
Lind, 30, is due to make $7 million this season as the Blue Jays picked up the first of the three option years that remained on his contract. He had his best season in years last year, hitting .288 with 23 home runs, 67 RBI and an .854 OPS over 143 games for the Blue Jays.
Expected to be the team's Opening Day designated hitter, moving Lind may enable the Blue Jays to plug another hole on the roster, whether it be in the starting rotation or at second base, where Macier Izturis is currently the team's best option.
Wednesday, Dec. 4 at 9:02 p.m. ET
Toronto is one of seven teams that is confident that it can put together an enticing enough package to pry David Price out of Tampa Bay, sources tell Yahoo! Sports' Jeff Passan.
With the Winter Meetings set to begin next week, the trade market for Price, who is under team control through the 2015 season, is expected to heat up towards the end of this week.
Regardless of the package that Toronto could put together, it's fair to wonder whether the Rays would actually deal Price within the division, as strengthening one of its rivals would certainly be a risky move.
The Toronto Blue Jays moved one step closer to solving their issues behind the plate on Monday.
According to FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal, the Jays agreed to a two-year, $8 million deal with free-agent catcher Dioner Navarro.
Navarro had a resurgent year as a backup for the Chicago Cubs in 2013, hitting .300 with 13 home runs, 34 RBI and a career-high .856 OPS.
Navarro figured to get paid after putting up stellar numbers in limited playing time, and the Blue Jays were clearly looking to make an upgrade behind the plate with J.P. Arencibia struggling mightily last season.
If Navarro is able to match or surpass his production seen in 2013, his deal could wind up looking like a steal for the Blue Jays.
Thursday, Nov. 21 at 11:02 p.m. ET
Sportsnet's Shi Davidi says that the Blue Jays and Dodgers discussed a potential deal involving All-Star center fielder Matt Kemp at the GM Meetings in Orlando, Florida, earlier this month. While the talks didn't amount to anything, Davidi notes that teams are leaning more towards shaking their rosters up via the trade market than by signing a high-priced free agent.
Clearly, the Blue Jays are exploring every possible avenue to improve the roster—even if the player in question plays a position that the team doesn't necessarily need to upgrade.
What does it all mean?
Simply put, don't be surprised if, as the offseason rolls along, that players like Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion, Colby Rasmus and Casey Janssen, among others, find their names circulating on the rumor mill far more often than they have in the past.
Update: Sunday, Nov. 17 at 11:28 a.m. ET
While much of the recent talk surrounding Jose Bautista has been to debunk some rumors, the question remains—would Toronto trade him in the right deal? The answer, courtesy of the Boston Globe's Nick Cafardo:
Rumors that Bautista could be dealt for pitching have persisted for a couple of offseasons but the Blue Jays haven’t wanted to break up the Bautista-Edwin Encarnacion dynamic in the middle of the order. The Jays are desperate for at least two starting pitchers and dealing Bautista may land them one. “It’s a name we’re hearing through backchannels right now, but wouldn’t be surprised if he’s available” said an NL general manager.
That said, it's safe to say that it would take a front-of-the-rotation starter—say someone like Jeff Samardzija—for Toronto to seriously considering moving Bautista, who despite his recent injury woes, remains one of the premier power hitters in baseball.
--End of Update--
Update: Wednesday, Nov. 13 at 6: 17 a.m. ET
CBS Sports' Jon Heyman took to Twitter to confirm that Shi Davidi was right to be skeptical of the rumor from the beginning:
"Just to clear something up, #blueJays arent trading jose bautista for dom brown. not even close."
--End of Update--
Update: Wednesday, Nov. 13 at 12:31 a.m. ET
For what it's worth, Sportsnet's Shi Davidi is "skeptical" about the rumored deal involving Bautista heading to Philadelphia.
--End of Update--
Update: Tuesday, Nov. 12 at 11:53 p.m. ET
Howard Eskin of Fox 29 in Philadelphia tweets that the Blue Jays and Phillies are "deep in talks" about a deal that would send Bautista to Philadelphia in exchange for a package that includes outfielder Domonic Brown.
Brown, 26, broke out for the Phillies in 2013, hitting .272 with 27 home runs, 83 RBI and an .818 OPS.
While landing Brown would be a solid move, especially when you consider Bautista's recent injury woes, Toronto's biggest needs are bolstering the rotation and finding a long-term answer at second base. Unless Cliff Lee or Cole Hamels is part of the deal, the Phillies are ill-equipped to fill either void.
Moving Bautista—arguably the team's most valuable trade chip—without addressing one, if not both of those areas, doesn't make a whole lot of sense.
--End of Update--
CBS Sports' Jon Heyman wondered aloud whether the Blue Jays would consider moving Edwin Encarnacion or Jose Bautista to bolster the team's pitching staff and now Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe reports that teams have been calling—on Bautista at least.
During a radio appearance with Greg Brady and Jim Lang on Sportsnet 590 back in September, GM Alex Anthopoulos wouldn't rule out a deal for either of his superstar bats:
"I always [listen on every player], and I tell the players that and I've had players ask me. As a policy, we don't have no-trade clauses on this team, and the question always comes up, 'Well, do you think I might get traded?' and so on. I tell them, 'Look, if I can guarantee you wouldn't get traded, I'd be very comfortable giving you a full no-trade, and we wouldn't have to have this discussion.'"
Going back even further, to the non-waiver trade deadline at the end of July, Danny Knobler (formerly of CBS Sports) reported that the Rangers had expressed interest in both sluggers, and with the Rangers looking to move one of their middle infielders, it's far to wonder whether those talks may be revisited now.
Update: Wednesday, Nov. 13 at 10:26 a.m. ET
The New York Post's Joel Sherman reports that Santana's agents are seeking a five-year, $112 million deal and are comparing him to former AL Cy Young Award winner Zack Greinke.
It's hard to imagine that the Blue Jays would be interested at that price, and chances are that the team will look elsewhere to bolster its rotation.
--End of Update--
Despite a report from Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal that Ervin Santana is seeking a five-year deal in excess of $100 million, the Blue Jays have interest in the soon-to-be 31-year-old right-hander, according to Sportsnet's Shi Davidi.
Santana had a terrific season for the Royals in 2013, pitching to a 3.24 ERA and 1.14 WHIP, and he's arguably the cream of the crop when it comes to starting pitchers on the free agent market this winter.
That said, his asking price is astronomical, and his career numbers at Rogers Centre—a 4.15 ERA and 1.44 WHIP over eight starts—certainly don't scream "I'm worth $20 million a year!" at anyone.
Should his reported asking price drop, the Blue Jays could be players for his services, as adding Santana to a rotation that already boasts Brandon Morrow, R.A. Dickey and Mark Buehrle would certainly help Toronto contend in the AL East in 2014.
The offseason's first official week was, well, really quiet in Toronto, with the rumor mill providing not even a hint as to what GM Alex Anthopoulos is working on—or thinking about—to improve what was one of the most disappointing teams in baseball last year.
Shi Davidi of Sportsnet.ca caught up with Toronto's GM and, while Anthopoulos offered no specifics, he said that he and the rest of the front office have been busy:
The information you get now is so preliminary in terms of the market, most free agents haven’t even gotten offers, or are just fielding calls from teams letting them know there’s interest. Things change so quickly, but I’d say right now there’s a chance at both. It seems like with all the different things we’re looking to do, half of the scenarios are in free agency, half of the scenarios are in trade.
Even after trading away a big chunk of the team's farm system last winter in trades with the Marlins and Mets—trades that Davidi notes began to be discussed at the GM Meetings which take place next week—Anthopoulos believes that the Blue Jays can still deal prospects without mortgaging their future:
We always keep an eye on what we have, and we know we have two high draft picks (ninth and 11th) coming up next year, that certainly helps. The other thing is we have some strength at the lower levels of the minor leagues, especially on the Bluefield team and in the Gulf Coast League. The prospects that are further away typically don’t carry as much value, rightfully so, but we’re pretty high on some of those guys. It takes a few years to build their value in the industry and those aren’t players that necessarily are going to be a centre-piece to a deal either way.
Until the Blue Jays do something, none of this means anything. But that Anthopoulos is indeed working multiple angles has to be encouraging for a frustrated Blue Jays fanbase that has waited far too long for its team to return to contention in what, really, remains a wide-open AL East.
Toronto apparently expressed interest in Beckham during the regular season, and talks have again begun to heat up. Merkin and Chisholm opine that a potential deal could be expanded to include either Hector Santiago or John Danks, two of Chicago's starting pitchers that are thought to be available.
A package of prospects would likely have to head back to Chicago for a deal, whether for Beckham by himself or for Beckham and one of the aforementioned starters, though to this point no names on Toronto's side are thought to have been bandied about.