It’s possible the Blue Jays could weigh a run at star free agent outfielder J.D. Martinez, Jon Heyman of Fan Rag writes. At the moment, that seems like a fairly tenuous connection; Heyman explains that the team has “at least considered” Martinez but may also be hesitant to participate in a bidding war to get him. But that’s more than we’ve heard of at least some other conceivable landing spots for the best hitter on this year’s open market; the Cardinals, for instance, are said not to have much inclination to pursue him.
As detailed earlier this morning at MLBTR, the deadline for Major League clubs to add players to the 40-man roster in order to protect them from next month’s Rule 5 Draft is tonight. Because of that, there will be literally dozens of moves between now and 8pm ET as teams make final determinations on who to protect and who to risk losing in next month’s Rule 5 draft. This process will lead to smaller-scale trades, waiver claims and DFAs, but for some clubs the only necessary moves will simply be to select the contracts of the prospects they wish to place on the 40-man roster. We’ll track those such moves in this post…
- Heading onto the Blue Jays’ roster, per a club announcement, are righty Connor Greene, lefty Tom Pannone, first baseman Rowdy Tellez, and catchers Dan Jansen and Reese McGuire.
- The Rays have selected the contracts of righties Brent Honeywell, Diego Castillo, Yonny Chirinos, and Jose Mujica, lefty Ryan Yarbrough, first baseman/outfielder Jake Bauers, and outfielder Justin Williams, according to Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times.
- The Diamondbacks placed lefty Jared Miller on the MLB roster, Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic reports on Twitter.
- A list of six players is heading onto the Reds’ 40-man, per Zach Buchanan of the Cincinnati Enquirer (via Twitter): infielders Alex Blandino and Shed Long, outfielder Jose Siri, and righties Jose Lopez, Jesus Reyes, and Zack Weiss.
- The Padres and Brewers have joined the teams announcing their additions. For San Diego, lefties Jose Castillo and Brad Wieck are heading to the 40-man. Milwaukee has selected shortstop Mauricio Dubon, catcher Jacob Nottingham, and righties Marcos Diplan and Freddy Peralta.
- The Marlins and Yankees just struck a trade relating to their 40-man maneuvering, and each announced their selections shortly thereafter. Miami is placing outfielder Braxton Lee on the MLB roster along with righties Merandy Gonzalez, Pablo Lopez, and James Needy. New York, meanwhile, will select righties Albert Abreu, Domingo Acevedo, and Jonathan Loaisiga to the 40-man along with outfielder Billy McKinney and infielders Thairo Estrada and (last but not least) Gleyber Torres.
Click to check in on other teams that have selected players to their 40-man rosters …
The Blue Jays have acquired infielder Gift Ngoepe from the Pirates, per club announcements. The talented defender changes hands as the clubs go about trimming their 40-man rosters in advance of the Rule 5 draft. A player to be named later or cash will head to Pittsburgh in return.
Ngoepe, 27, became the first African-born player to reach the majors when he debuted in 2017. Though he moved around in Pittsburgh, Ngoepe has spent the bulk of his minor-league time at shortstop and is regarded as a proficient middle infielder.
Ngoepe could function as an optionable utility piece in Toronto. But he’ll need to boost his offensive production to hold down a steady job in the bigs. In his first 63 MLB plate appearances, Ngoepe slashed just .222/.323/.296. He has never shown all that much punch in the minors, either, with a .221/.295/.362 composite batting line over three seasons at Triple-A, but clearly some major-league organizations still think there’s some hope for improvement.
The Indians announced today that they’ve claimed infielder/outfielder Rob Refsnyder off waivers from the Blue Jays and designated left-hander Kyle Crockett and Dylan Baker for assignment. Cleveland has also selected the contracts of right-hander Julian Merryweather and infielders Willi Castro, Yu Chang and Eric Stamets. That series of moves fills the Indians’ 40-man roster and leaves the Blue Jays’ 40-man roster at a total of 33 players.
The 26-year-old Refsnyder split the 2017 season between the Yankees (who originally drafted him in 2012) and the Blue Jays but struggled to a composite .170/.247/.216 slash line. While Refsnyder has long turned in intriguing offensive stats in the minors, he’s batted just .233/.306/.311 in 320 big league plate appearances. At one point, Yankees fans hoped that Refsnyder could hold down the team’s second base job in the Majors, but he’s now split his time fairly equally between second, first base and left field in the Majors.
Crockett, 25, was a fourth-round pick back in 2013 and was the first player from that draft class to reach the Majors, debuting in 2014. While he turned in a promising 1.80 ERA with 8.4 K/9 against 2.4 BB/9 in 30 innings that season, he’s struggled to a 4.84 ERA with 8.7 K/9 against 3.8 BB/9 in 35 1/3 big league innings since then. To his credit, Crockett has allowed just a minuscule three homers in 65 1/3 MLB innings and has held lefties to a .614 OPS in 167 plate appearances. Righties have knocked him around at a .280/.373/.452 clip, though.
Baker, 25, has scarcely pitched since the 2015 season due to injuries, including Tommy John surgery. The 2012 fifth-rounder has tossed just 21 1/3 innings across three levels in the past three minor league seasons combined, though he’s posted a 3.58 ERA in 241 2/3 innings in his minor league career when healthy.
Chang (No. 4), Castro (No. 9) and Merryweather (No. 12) each ranked within the Indians’ top 30 prospects, according to Jim Callis and Jonathan Mayo of MLB.com.
The Blue Jays announced that minor league outfielder Harold Ramirez and right-hander Chris Rowley have been outrighted off the 40-man roster after clearing waivers. The pair of moves creates some additional room on the 40-man in advance of tonight’s 8pm ET deadline to protect players from next month’s Rule 5 Draft.
Ramirez, 23, came to the Blue Jays alongside Reese McGuire and Francisco Liriano in a trade that sent Drew Hutchison to the Pirates in 2016. The Bucs were widely panned for parting with a pair of intriguing prospects in a trade that looked largely fueled by a desire to shed Liriano’s contract, but Ramirez flopped in his first full season in the Toronto organization. Once considered to be among the game’s top 100 prospects, the 23-year-old hit just .260/.320/.358 in 489 plate appearances at the Double-A level this past season.
The 27-year-old Rowley made his big league debut this season after working to a combined 2.24 ERA with 7.3 K/9 against 2.0 BB/9 in 116 1/3 innings between Double-A and Triple-A (albeit against younger competition). Rowley tallied 18 2/3 frames for the Jays but was tagged for 14 runs on 24 hits (four homers) and 10 walks with 11 strikeouts in that time.
The Blue Jays are the favorites to sign 15-year-old Dominican shortstop Orelvis Martinez, who scouts expect will receive the highest bonus of any player signed in next year’s July 2 international signing market, Baseball America’s Ben Badler writes (BA subscription required and recommended). Badler recently attended an MLB showcase for Dominican players and provides brief scouting breakdowns on some of the talents involved, plus the teams already connected to them in signing rumors. Besides Toronto and Martinez, the Giants, Tigers, Mariners, Rays, Indians, Royals, and Cubs were also linked to the seven other prospects featured in Badler’s report.
The Orioles seem to be casting a wide net in their hunt for starting pitching, as they have been cited as having interest in quite a few arms already. While the organization has become known for doing a good portion of its business later in the offseason, perhaps it’ll be more aggressive on some pitchers this time around. In any event, the latest name connected to the O’s is righty Alex Cobb, with Jon Morosi of MLB Network tweeting that the team has interest in a hurler who long tormented them in the division. Cobb won’t come cheap, but could be an option if Baltimore decides it’s able to add a more significant contract. The primary goal, though, will be to ensure there’s enough depth on hand in the rotation.
More from the eastern divisions:
- The Mets are the current poster child for the concept that you can never have enough pitching depth. Even on the heels of a tough season in which the club’s vaunted rotation collapsed, though, GM Sandy Alderson says he’ll consider dealing arms, as Mike Puma of the New York Post reports. While there’s still a need to “be careful” not to thin the staff out too far, Alderson is obviously also looking for ways to improve with a limited amount of payroll flexibility. Odds are that the team’s most prominent pitchers won’t be dangled, but Puma suggests Robert Gsellman, Seth Lugo, or Rafael Montero might conceivably be discussed.
- While there’s nothing the Nationals can do to get out from under their 2018 commitment to Matt Wieters, the team will look for ways to improve behind the plate. Jorge Castillo of the Washington Post writes that the plan is to reduce the veteran’s role. Of course, that would mean relying more heavily on another player, and the team’s top internal alternatives (Pedro Severino and Raudy Read) are hardly sure things. An external acquisition will surely at least be considered; I ran through some other possibilities after the Nats were bounced from the postseason.
- The Blue Jays are aiming for depth in their pitching staff, Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet.ca writes. Lefty Robbie Ross is among the arms they are interested in, he reports. Certainly, Toronto has had a chance to see Ross up close over the past several years, which he has spent with the Red Sox. He was limited by injury in 2017 but turned in 55 1/3 innings of 3.25 ERA pitching in the prior campaign. Toronto isn’t limiting itself to lefty relievers, though; Nicholson-Smith says the club is looking at basically every type of hurler out there.
- Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times has the latest on the Rays’ efforts to land a new ballpark. Owner Stuart Sternberg expressed optimism about a prospective site in Hillsborough County, but there are plenty of challenges still to be dealt with. Among them: the club “might only cover $150 million of the projected $800 million cost,” Topkin writes. Those interested in learning more about where things stand will want to give the link a full read.
- The Blue Jays announced last night that they’ve brought back former first-round pick Deck McGuire on a minor league contract and invited him to Major League Spring Training. Toronto selected McGuire, now 28 years of age, with the 10th overall pick back in 2010. The former Georgia Tech star tore through Class-A Advanced with the Jays but began to struggle upon reaching Double-A and was ultimately traded to the A’s for cash considerations in 2014. McGuire has since pitched in the upper levels of the Dodgers and Cardinals systems, and in 2017 he made his big league debut with the Reds after turning in a terrific season in Double-A. McGuire tossed 168 innings with a 2.79 ERA, 9.1 K/9 and 3.1 BB/9 for Cincinnati’s Pensacola affiliate, and he impressed in a brief sample of MLB innings as well. Through 13 2/3 frames with the Reds, McGuire allowed four earned runs (2.63 ERA) on 10 hits and two walks with 11 strikeouts.
The Blue Jays and Mets have both reached out to the representatives for free-agent center fielder Lorenzo Cain, tweets ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick. Crasnick also lists the Rangers, Mariners and Giants as more speculative fits for Cain’s services.
While both Toronto and New York already have standout defensive center fielders in Kevin Pillar and Juan Lagares, respectively, adding Cain to the outfield mix in either organization could create an elite defensive unit. The Blue Jays have a more pronounced need in the outfield, though young Teoscar Hernandez and Anthony Alford could both work their way into regular roles next year. The Mets would appear to be more set with Yoenis Cespedes and Michael Conforto both in the mix alongside Lagares, but Conforto’s status is something of a question mark following shoulder surgery. Speaking purely speculatively, acquiring Cain could also allow either club to trade from its stock of outfielders.
Cain, 32 next April, hit .300/.363/.440 with 15 homers and 26 steals in 645 plate appearances with the Royals in 2017. While he’s never turned in a below-average season in the outfield by virtually any defensive metric, this past season was his weakest in that regard. Defensive Runs Saved pegged him at +5 runs in center field, while Ultimate Zone Rating had him at +1.6. Statcast’s new Outs Above Average metric still pegged Cain as one of baseball’s truly elite outfielders; he ranked fifth among all outfielders with a sterling mark of +15.
Cain will reportedly reject the Royals’ $17.4MM qualifying offer, meaning he’ll cost any club that signs him some resources in next year’s draft. Specifically, the Jays and the Mets would forfeit their second-highest pick and $500K worth of next year’s international signing pool in order to sign Cain, as MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes recently explained. The Rangers would face that same penalty, while the Mariners would only need to forfeit their third-highest selection. Of the teams listed by Crasnick, the Giants would pay the steepest penalty — forfeiting their second- and fifth-highest draft selections as well as $1MM worth of international spending money. San Francisco is “juggling a lot of balls” at present, per Crasnick.
The Royals, meanwhile, would land a compensatory draft pick after the first round so long as Cain signs a contract worth more than $50MM in total guarantees. That seems exceedingly likely to be the case, wherever he signs. In the off-chance that Cain somehow comes up shy of $50MM, Kansas City’s comp pick would come after Competitive Balance Round B in next year’s draft.
- One key need for the Blue Jays is to find a quality middle infielder to supplement the team’s injury-prone duo of Troy Tulowitzki and Devon Travis, as Shi Davidi of Sportsnet.ca writes. The team is looking for a player that is capable of handling more-or-less full-time duties, even if that may not ultimately be required. “Our priority is complementing our infield in some way with versatility, someone that can not just play when needed, but someone who can potentially get 600 plate appearances across our infield in some form or fashion,” GM Ross Atkins explains, while also noting that such a player could supplement the outfield mix as well. As Ben Nicholson-Smith further explores, finding that sort of player could well come at a cost. Several rival general managers suggested that they won’t easily part with assets that could meet Toronto’s specifications. As Nicholson-Smith tweets, pitching depth remains on the team’s wish list, too, though it may not be as critical as adding the above-described player and filling at least one outfield vacancy.