Toronto Blue Jays – MLB Trade Rumors 2018-11-13T14:01:50Z WordPress TC Zencka <![CDATA[Charlie Montoyo's Path To Toronto]]> 2018-11-12T17:03:17Z 2018-11-12T17:03:17Z
  • New Blue Jays manager Charlie Montoyo followed a relatively straight path to his first managerial gig, but that doesn’t mean it was easy – or quick. The straight-shootin’, bongo-playin’ skipper was a career minor-leaguer as a player, a Triple-A Hall-of-Famer as a manager, and yet, when he finally got his opportunity as a third-base coach for Kevin Cash’s Rays, the promotions came quickly. Sportsnet’s Arden Zwelling charts Montoyo’s career path from the first scholarship he earned as a ballplayer from Puerto Rico through his 18 seasons managing in the Rays minor-league system. It’s a longer profile, but well worth a read for Blue Jays fans who want to get excited about what Charlie Montoyo brings to Toronto: he’s a stern developer of young talent, a keen innovator of fielding shifts and an earnest baseball lifer.
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    Mark Polishuk <![CDATA[Offseason Outlook: Toronto Blue Jays]]> 2018-11-09T07:16:59Z 2018-11-09T00:57:47Z MLBTR is publishing Offseason Outlooks for all 30 teams. Click here to read the other entries in this series.

    The youth movement is on in Toronto, as the Blue Jays will look to continue trading veterans and picking up controllable pieces for the future.

    Guaranteed Contracts

    Arbitration Eligible Players (projections via MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz)

    Free Agents

    [Toronto Blue Jays Depth Chart; Blue Jays Payroll Overview]

    It’s pretty unlikely that any player the Blue Jays acquire this winter will have as much impact on the franchise as Vladimir Guerrero Jr., who is expected to make his long-awaited MLB debut sometime early in 2019. The precise timing isn’t yet known, but there’s no question the club will wait until it is no longer possible for Guerrero to achieve a full year of MLB service time. The consensus top prospect in the sport, Guerrero represents the next generation of Jays baseball, when he and a host of other intriguing youngsters from Toronto’s farm system will theoretically become the core of the Jays’ next contending team.

    Until those prospects arrive and develop, however, the Jays will spend their time (perhaps the next two seasons, as per GM Ross Atkins’ rough timeframe) figuring out who will be playing alongside them.  The club already began dealing some of its veterans once it faded out of contention last season, and it’s safe to assume the Blue Jays will be open to moving any and all remaining established names to make way for younger talent.

    Since the Jays currently have a lot of options for both the infield and outfield spots, Atkins has already said that the team will prioritize moving some of its excess position players to add pitching.  The rotation is perhaps the biggest concern heading into 2019, as the Jays are poised to deploy a highly uncertain starting five. Marcus Stroman and Aaron Sanchez are still in the mix. Otherwise, the unit is slated to be made up of largely untested hurlers — Ryan Borucki, and then some combination of Sean Reid-Foley, Sam Gaviglio, Thomas Pannone, and perhaps Jon Harris or Jacob Waguespack.

    Stroman received trade interest last summer, even while in the midst of a down year that saw the right-hander post a 5.54 ERA over 102 1/3 IP while battling shoulder and blister issues. The Jays would be selling low on Stroman if they dealt him this offseason, and are perhaps more likely to explore a trade (if at all) during the season, provided the righty is healthy and showing some of his 2017 form.  Sanchez is an even greater longshot to be moved, as his stock has fallen after pitching only 141 innings total in 2017-18 due to persistent finger, nail, and blister problems.

    Given that even the veteran names in the rotation aren’t certainties, Toronto will look at adding at least one experienced arm on a short-term contract, similar to their signing of Jaime Garcia last winter (obviously with better results, the team hopes).  Ervin Santana, Josh Tomlin, Drew Pomeranz, or Martin Perez are a few bounce-back candidates that could conceivably fit as targets on one-year deals, not to mention a familiar face like Marco Estrada, though Estrada’s own struggles in 2018 may lead the Blue Jays to pursue someone with more upside.

    If the Jays looked at pitchers beyond one-year commitments, another old friend like J.A. Happ could be a possibility, should Happ value a familiar environment over a chance to compete for the playoffs in 2019.  Pitchers like Anibal Sanchez, Gio Gonzalez, or Lance Lynn could fit. Looking to the future a bit, the Jays could consider Garrett Richards, who will miss 2019 recovering from Tommy John surgery but should be ready for 2020 when Toronto is a step closer to contention.  Getting even more creative with their starters, the Jays could potentially even use an “opener” for one of the rotation spots, though that is far from a certainty.

    Any veteran starter the Jays acquire, of course, could also become a trade candidate at the deadline, and the same goes for any reliever the team might pick up.  The Blue Jays have signed and then flipped a number of inexpensive free agent relievers over the last two offseasons (Seunghwan Oh, Joe Smith, John Axford), so expect them to target similar bullpen arms this winter.  In terms of in-house relievers that could be traded, incumbent closer Ken Giles is the biggest name, though he might be another player who the Jays wait to properly shop until he improves his value during the season.  Giles posted a 4.65 ERA over 50 1/3 total innings with the Astros and Blue Jays in 2018, with some excellent peripherals (9.5 K/9, 7.57 K/BB rate) but also very poor numbers when not pitching in save situations.

    The question of “when should an asset be traded?” will certainly linger over Toronto’s offseason, particularly in the wake of the relative lack of return the Jays received for Josh Donaldson last summer, when the former MVP could’ve netted much more prior to his injury-riddled 2018 season.  The Jays obviously aren’t going to rush to move a player purely as a reaction to Donaldson’s situation, though selling high on a few players now would make sense given the Blue Jays’ projected timeframe for contention.

    Randal Grichuk, for instance, played quite well in his first year in Toronto, though he might not be part of the team’s future since he is eligible for free agency after the 2020 season.  Justin Smoak is only under contract through 2019, so it might make sense for the Jays to deal him this winter and create room to give Rowdy Tellez a longer look at first base.  Teoscar Hernandez offers five years of control and a lot of power, though his high strikeout totals and near-unplayable outfield glove could make him someone the Jays see as less of a long-term roster piece and more as someone to be dealt in a package for a true long-term asset.

    Of course, the Jays would undoubtedly be much more open to dealing Troy Tulowitzki, Kendrys Morales, or Russell Martin, though these high-priced veterans are each more or less immovable.  Morales rebounded from a poor 2017 to post above-average hitting numbers (112 OPS+, 108 wRC+) last year, but it would take more than decent numbers to drum up much trade interest in a DH-only player with a $12MM salary.

    Martin has at least a little theoretical trade value, perhaps in a swap of bad contracts with a team that needs a catcher, though even that scenario could be hampered by a larger-than-usual number of decent veteran catchers available in free agencyDanny Jansen is slated for the bulk of catching duties for the Jays next season, leaving Martin as a well-paid backup and veteran mentor to Jansen, Luke Maile, and Reese McGuire (plus maybe some backup infield duty).

    After missing all of the 2018 season due to heel injuries, Tulowitzki has no trade value whatsoever, and it remains to be seen exactly what the Jays will do with Tulowitzki if he is able to take the field come Opening Day.  The shortstop doesn’t appear open to a position switch, and while Lourdes Gurriel Jr. can play several positions around the diamond, the Jays are obviously interested in giving Gurriel more time at shortstop given his status as a franchise building block.  One answer could be to deploy Gurriel at third base until Guerrero is promoted, giving the Jays a few weeks to see if Tulowitzki can still contribute, but there is simply so much uncertainty around Tulowitzki’s health that the Blue Jays will consider anything they can get from him in 2019 as a bonus.

    With Gurriel penciled in at shortstop, Aledmys Diaz or Brandon Drury are the favorites to be the pre-Guerrero third baseman, and both players should also vie for playing time with Devon Travis at second base.  Travis stayed healthy in 2018 but wasn’t very productive, while Drury only played 26 MLB games last season.  The Jays would be selling low on either, and could just keep everyone around to compete for the job in the short-term while keeping second base warm for prospects Bo Bichette or Cavan Biggio (or maybe even Gurriel, depending on who ends up playing where in the future).  Toronto already declined a club option on Yangervis Solarte and will likely part ways with him, given their other infield options.

    More trade possibilities abound in the outfield, as any of Grichuk, Hernandez, or Kevin Pillar could be playing elsewhere on Opening Day.  Pillar’s elite center field glove showed some decline last season, dropping to a negative value (-2) in Defensive Runs Saved with only slightly positive grades from UZR/150 (+2.5) and Statcast’s Outs Above Average (+1).  Pillar has never been a productive hitter, so if he isn’t offering excellent defense, he doesn’t bring much to the table as an everyday player.  At a projected $5.3MM arbitration salary, a case can be made for Pillar as a non-tender candidate, with some combination of Grichuk, Anthony Alford or Billy McKinney then handling center field. That said, it’s also quite possible that another club would like to take a shot on Pillar at that price, particularly since he has another season of arb eligibility remaining. He’s also a candidate to stay and play in hopes that he’ll be of interest at the trade deadline.

    Though the Jays have just under $113MM in payroll commitments in 2019, that number drops to under $21MM the following year, and Gurriel is the only player under contract beyond the 2020 season.  This opens up more trade possibilities for the team, as Toronto could absorb a large salary from another team in order to also acquire some prospects or MLB-ready talents.

    There’s really no shortage of what the Blue Jays “could” do this winter now that the rebuild is fully on, though it’s probably safer to expect a few deals and modest free agent signings (like last offseason) rather than a huge overhaul.  As noted, the Jays have so many possible trade candidates still looking to rebuild value (Stroman, Sanchez, Giles, Travis, Pillar) that much of the real heavy lifting on the trade front might not take place until the middle of the 2019 season.

    The Jays have already made one intriguing move this winter, however, in hiring Charlie Montoyo as the team’s new manager.  Montoyo is a well-respected baseball man with 22 years of experience in the Rays organization as a minor league manager and a coach on the Major League staff, though he has no prior ties to either the Jays, Atkins, or team president Mark Shapiro.  This makes Montoyo a completely fresh voice within the dugout, and thus perhaps a fitting choice to steward the Blue Jays into their new era.

    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Blue Jays Hire Dave Hudgens As Bench Coach]]> 2018-11-08T01:32:01Z 2018-11-08T01:24:45Z The Blue Jays announced Wednesday that they’ve hired Astros hitting coach Dave Hudgens as manager Charlie Montoyo’s new bench coach. Hudgens, 62 next month, becomes the third member of Houston manager A.J. Hinch’s staff to be hired away by another organization since season’s end. Bullpen coach Doug White was recently named the Angels’ new pitching coach, and assistant hitting coach Jeff Albert took an offer from the Cardinals to become their new hitting coach.

    Hudgens has plenty of experience on a big league coaching staff, having served as a hitting coach with the Athletics and Mets in addition to the ’Stros. In total, he has 12 seasons as a big league hitting coach under his belt, though this will be his first stint as a Major League bench coach.

    A former first baseman, Hudgens had a six-year minor league career and made a brief, six-game cameo in the Majors with the 1983 Athletics. In addition to his work as a hitting coach in the Majors, he’s worked as a minor league manager and roving hitting coordinator. He also spent six years as the Athletics’ assistant director of player development in the late 90s and early 2000s.

    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Blue Jays Meet With J.A. Happ's Agent]]> 2018-11-07T04:42:05Z 2018-11-07T04:42:05Z
  • The Blue Jays met with J.A. Happ’s representatives today, tweets Sportsnet’s Shi Davidi. General manager Ross Atkins tells Davidi that Happ is “one of my favorite people in baseball” before also acknowledging that there’ll be ample competition for his services this offseason. Happ just turned 36, but despite the fact that he’s entering the later stages of his career, he remained as effective as ever in 2018. The veteran southpaw turned in 177 2/3 innings of 3.65 ERA ball with a career-best 9.8 K/9 mark against 2.6 BB/9 and 1.37 HR/9 with a 40.1 percent grounder rate. Happ’s 10.4 percent swinging-strike rate was also the highest of his career, while his 31.7 percent chase rate was his second-best mark as a big leaguer. Fellow lefty Rich Hill received a three-year guarantee that stretched into his age-39 season a couple of years ago, so it’s conceivable that Happ could also find three-year offers (which would run into his age-38 campaign).
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    Ty Bradley <![CDATA[Blue Jays Fire Hitting Coach Jacoby, First-Base Coach Leiper]]> 2018-11-03T21:34:43Z 2018-11-03T21:34:43Z The Blue Jays have fired hitting coach Brook Jacoby and first-base coach Tim Leiper, according to a report from John Lott of The Athletic, later confirmed by GM Ross Atkins. Both coaches had a year remaining on three-year contracts signed prior to the 2017 season.

    The firings are the first in what could be wholesale changes for the staff under new manager Charlie Montoyo, per the report. Montoyo, formerly the bench coach in Tampa, has deemed the assembly of a quality staff “very important” as he enters his first season as manager in the bigs.

    Jacoby, 58, had manned the post since the start of the 2015 season.  Prior to his tenure with Toronto, the 12-year big league veteran held the same position in Cincinnati for seven seasons.

    His dismissal is a bit of a surprise for a Toronto team that received encouraging 2018 production from several first-year players in the wake of serious injuries to Josh Donaldson and Troy Tulowitzki.  Rookies Billy McKinney, Lourdes Gurriel Jr., Danny Jansen, Rowdy Tellez, and Dwight Smith Jr. all performed at an above-league-average rate this season, albeit in limited samples, and reclamation projects Aledmys Diaz and Randal Grichuk, stalled Cardinals both, again flashed the ability that had catapulted each to regular status in St. Louis.  As a team, the Blue Jays’ 101 wRC+ tied for 8th in the major leagues, a marked improvement over last year’s paltry output.  Still, it’s a lineup that, under Jacoby’s watch, failed to produce a single breakout star, and witnessed the rapid diminishment of once-promising second baseman Devon Travis, plus the total collapse of former regular Yangervis Solarte.

    Leiper, 52, was a longtime manager in the minor leagues before being appointed to John Gibbons’ staff prior to the 2014 season.

    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Blue Jays Outright Shafer, Cruz, Guerrieri, Petricka]]> 2018-11-02T20:25:01Z 2018-11-02T20:00:56Z The Blue Jays announced today that they have outrighted four players from their 40-man roster. Justin Shafer will remain in the organization after clearing waivers, while fellow right-handed hurlers Rhiner Cruz, Taylor Guerrieri, and Jake Petricka were all sent into free agency after going unclaimed.

    Shafer, 26, made his big league debut in ’18 but allowed three runs in 8 1/3 innings while issuing a troubling seven walks in that time. He struggled as a starter in the low minors but has posted solid ERA marks as a reliever in Double-A (2.75, 75 1/3 innings) and Triple-A (1.49 ERA, 42 1/3 innings). Shafer has still averaged under eight punchouts per nine innings and walked nearly four per nine innings in the upper minors, though.

    Cruz, 32, has bounced around the league on minor league deals since he was a top pick in the 2011 Rule 5 Draft. He posted an ERA north of 6.00 in his rookie season with the Astros following that selection and has never found his footing in the big leagues, as he owns a 5.20 ERA in 79 2/3 frames.

    Guerrieri was one of the top prospects in baseball with the Rays before arm injuries tanked his status. He posted video game numbers between Class-A Advanced and Double-A as a 22-year-old in 2015 but has yet to find success in the upper minors (4.86 ERA in 66 2/3 Triple-A innings) since making it back to the mound. He threw 9 2/3 innings with the Blue Jays this year and allowed five runs on nine hits and four walks with eight strikeouts.

    Petricka has the most experience of the names in question here, and he posted a 4.53 ERA with a respectable 8.1 K/9 against 3.2 BB/9 in 45 2/3 frames out of the Toronto ’pen in 2018. The longtime White Sox reliever has a lifetime 3.98 ERA in 223 2/3 MLB frames but would’ve been arbitration-eligible this winter. The Blue Jays, rather than pay him a raise on 2018’s $1.3MM base salary, opted to cut him loose early and give him a jump start on finding a new club in free agency.

    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Tigers Claim Dixon From Reds, Fernandez From Blue Jays]]> 2018-11-03T04:09:08Z 2018-11-02T19:05:42Z The Tigers announced Friday that they’ve claimed infielder Brandon Dixon off waivers from the Reds and left-handed reliever Jose Fernandez off waivers from the Blue Jays.

    It stands to reason that the Detroit organization will continue to look for ways to find value from roster castaways from other organizations. In this case, they’ll take a look at a pair of players who earned first-time MLB promotions in 2018 but failed to impress at the game’s highest level.

    Dixon, 26, raked in his second attempt at Triple-A but racked up 43 strikeouts and limped to a .574 OPS in his first 124 plate appearances in the big leagues. The former third-rounder is capable of playing the corners in both the infield and outfield but also has experience at second base, potentially making him a versatile piece if he can earn a shot with the Tigers.

    As for Fernandez, he’ll turn 26 right as camp opens, just in time to push for a job in the Detroit pen. He’s exclusively a reliever and occasionally threw multiple innings in the upper minors last year, working to a 2.97 in 60 2/3 frames over 44 appearances. Though he has allowed a few too many free passes in recent years, Fernandez gets some swings and misses. He also showed a 94+ mph heater from the left side.

    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Blue Jays Decline Option On Yangervis Solarte]]> 2018-10-31T23:54:54Z 2018-10-31T23:11:18Z The Blue Jays announced that they’ve declined their $5.5MM club option on infielder Yangervis Solarte, per a team announcement. He’ll instead earn a $750K buyout. However, because Solarte does not yet have six full years of Major League service, he’ll remain on the Blue Jays’ 40-man roster as an arbitration-eligible player for the time being. It seems decidedly unlikely, though, that he’ll reach arbitration with the Jays. MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz projected Solarte for a $5.9MM salary through arbitration, and it’d obviously make little sense for Toronto to buy out an option that was already cheaper than what he might otherwise earn in arbitration.

    Solarte, 31, was acquired from the Padres last offseason in exchange for prospects Jared Carkuff and Edward Olivares. At the time, he was coming off a fairly productive four-year run to open his big league career, having batted a combined .267/.327/.419 (105 OPS+) through 2061 plate appearances with the Yankees and Padres (with most of that work coming as a Padre, where pitcher-friendly Petco Park was his home).

    Solarte seemed poised for a solid offensive season but instead faceplanted with a .226/.277/.378 slash in 506 PAs with Toronto. He did swat 17 home runs, but his OBP woes and career-worst defensive ratings led WAR to view him as a sub-replacement-level player in 2018. It’s possible that Toronto could try to cut Solarte loose and try to bring him back at a lower rate, but it’s also possible that he’ll simply be passed through waivers and, upon clearing, hit the open market as a free agent.

    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Blue Jays To Exercise Club Option On Justin Smoak]]> 2018-10-30T23:36:44Z 2018-10-30T23:01:09Z The Blue Jays will exercise their $8MM club option on first baseman Justin Smoak, reports’s Jon Morosi (Twitter link). The decision to do so over a $250K buyout seemed rather straightforward on the heels of a second consecutive strong season for the switch-hitting slugger.

    [Related: Toronto Blue Jays depth chart]

    Smoak, 32 in December, broke out with a massive .270/.355/.529 batting line and 38 homers in 2017, and while he didn’t quite replicate that production in 2018, he still enjoyed a strong performance at the plate. In 594 plate appearances, he hit .242/.350/.457 with 25 big flies and 34 doubles in the heart of the Toronto batting order.

    Smoak’s initial two-year, $8.5MM extension with the Blue Jays back in the summer of 2016 drew some criticism but ultimately proved to be a feather in the cap of GM Ross Atkins and president Mark Shapiro. His option value jumped from $6MM to $8MM this season when he reached a combined total of 1100 PAs between the 2017-18 seasons, and he’ll now give the Jays either an affordable middle-of-the-order bat for the 2019 season or an interesting trade chip to market to other clubs this winter or next summer. While slugging first basemen generally haven’t been valued as much in recent seasons as they were even five years ago, Smoak still ranks among the game’s most productive hitters over the past two seasons and is a legitimate bargain at that modest one-year commitment.

    Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Heyman: Blue Jays Aren't Certain To Pick Up Justin Smoak's Option]]> 2018-10-29T02:32:54Z 2018-10-28T03:24:10Z
  • Surprisingly, despite his quality production from 2017-18 and his reasonable price tag for next season, the Blue Jays aren’t certain to exercise first baseman Justin Smoak’s option, according to Heyman. Toronto must decide whether to bring back Smoak for $8MM or cut him loose and pay $250K. But if the team’s uninterested in retaining Smoak, perhaps it’ll pick up the soon-to-be 32-year-old’s option and shop him to first base needy-clubs. MLBTR’s Mark Polishuk recently took a look at several teams that could pursue a deal for the switch-hitting Smoak, who slashed .242/.350/.457 (121 wRC+) with 25 home runs in 594 PA this year.

    • Surprisingly, despite his quality production from 2017-18 and his reasonable price tag for next season, the Blue Jays aren’t certain to exercise first baseman Justin Smoak’s option, according to Heyman. Toronto must decide whether to bring back Smoak for $8MM or cut him loose and pay $250K. But if the team’s uninterested in retaining Smoak, perhaps it’ll pick up the soon-to-be 32-year-old’s option and shop him to first base needy-clubs. MLBTR’s Mark Polishuk recently took a look at several teams that could pursue a deal for the switch-hitting Smoak, who slashed .242/.350/.457 (121 wRC+) with 25 home runs in 594 PA this year.
    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Blue Jays Hire Charlie Montoyo As Manager]]> 2018-10-25T20:07:14Z 2018-10-25T20:03:55Z 3:03pm: The Jays announced the hiring. Montoyo received a three-year contract with a club option for a fourth season.

    1:53pm: The Blue Jays will hire Rays bench coach Charlie Montoyo as their new manager, reports Shi Davidi of Sportsnet (via Twitter). Montoyo will become the second member of the Rays’ staff to be hired away today, as the Twins named Tampa Bay Major League field coordinator Rocco Baldelli their new manager this morning.

    Charlie Montoyo | Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

    Montoyo, 53, is a decorated minor league skipper who has spent a hefty 18 seasons managing in the Rays’ minor league ranks. He joined the big league coaching staff in December 2014, initially serving as the organization’s third base coach before being named Tom Foley’s successor as bench coach last offseason. His experience and the generally strong reputation the Rays’ staff has within the organization helped to make Montoyo a popular managerial candidate this offseason, as he also interviewed with the Reds and was linked to other vacancies as well.

    Born in Puerto Rico, Montoyo was a sixth-round pick of the Brewers back in 1987 and had a 10-year playing career in the minors. He received the briefest of calls to the Majors with the 1993 Expos, appearing in four games and tallying just five trips to the plate. His playing career wrapped up in 1996, and he joined the Rays organization almost immediately thereafter, first being hired on Oct. 31 that year.

    Montoyo is only three years younger than the man he’ll replace, John Gibbons, but he comes from a different background, having spent more than two decades with an organization that has often spearheaded experimental tactics and strategies. He’ll give the Blue Jays a bilingual skipper with considerable experience running a clubhouse (albeit at the minor league level) and a deep understanding of the increasing role that data plays not only in informing roster construction but also in the day-to-day performances and training regimens of a big league roster. It’s not yet clear what his hiring will mean for the remainder of the Blue Jays’ coaches, though it’s typical for newly hired skippers to bring in some of their own hires to round out their staffs.

    The Jays are at a pivotal crossroads as an organization, as while they haven’t fully declared any intention to embark on a rebuild, they’re also faced with the reality that the core which brought them to the ALCS just a few years ago has faded away. Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion have departed. Josh Donaldson was traded in August, and Marcus Stroman, Aaron Sanchez and Kevin Pillar are suddenly just two years from free agency.

    Given that level of turnover and a stacked division featuring a pair of 100-win teams and the 90-win Rays team from which Toronto is hiring Montoyo, it seems likely that a youth movement is on the horizon for the league’s lone north-of-the-border club. That likely made it all the more imperative for GM Ross Atkins and president Mark Shapiro to hand-pick a leader to develop a unified vision for the organization’s culture and direction moving forward.

    TC Zencka <![CDATA[Blue Jays’ Managerial Search Enters Second Round]]> 2018-10-23T22:53:40Z 2018-10-23T22:50:40Z Since announcing the departure of manager John Gibbons, the Blue Jays have begun their search for a new skipper as they look to return to contention for the first time since back-to-back playoff appearances in 2015 and 2016. The search is now well underway, with the Jays narrowing a broad list of candidates to a smaller group that warrants closer consideration.

    As of Oct. 18, the Blue Jays were “believed to be down to five candidates,” per Shi Davidi of He cited Astros bench coach Joe Espada, Rays field coordinator Rocco Baldelli, Cubs bench coach Brandon Hyde and Giants director of player development David Bell as finalists, though Bell’s name is obviously no longer in play since he’s been hired by the Reds as their new manager. Here’s where things presently stand…

    Latest Update – October 23

    • Rays bench coach Charlie Montoyo interviewed with the Jays today, per Fancred’s Jon Heyman (Twitter link). It’s not clear if it was a second interview and Montoyo had already emerged as one of the reported finalists or if the Jays set up additional interviews after the Reds hired Bell (a reported Jays finalist) away. That brings the Blue Jays to 15 or more candidates interviewed for the managerial vacancy.

    Full summation of the Blue Jays’ managerial search below:

    Read more

    Mark Polishuk <![CDATA[Looking For A Match In A Justin Smoak Trade]]> 2018-10-22T04:09:29Z 2018-10-22T02:09:52Z The last two offseasons haven’t been too kind to the classic first base-only slugger, as teams have been increasingly less keen to spend their free agent dollars or trade assets on a player who is only viable at a single position (and the easiest position on the field to fill, at that).  As Jeff Todd recently noted in his Market Snapshot of this offseason’s first base options, there are many more intriguing everyday first basemen available in trades than in free agency, though even many of the top potential trade chips carry question marks.

    For instance, it isn’t clear whether or not the Diamondbacks would actually be willing to trade face of the franchise Paul Goldschmidt, or if they’ll take a less drastic approach to their offseason maneuvering.  Jose Abreu has been mentioned in trade rumors for a couple of years now, though the White Sox have been unwilling to deal their clubhouse leader, plus Abreu’s stock may have dropped coming off the worst of his five MLB seasons.  The likes of Brandon Belt, Wil Myers, or Carlos Santana carry pricey multi-year commitments, while other first base options might only be suited for platoon duty (i.e. Eric Thames, Justin Bour), might be too hard to acquire in a trade due to years of control (i.e. Jose Martinez), or have yet to prove themselves at the Major League level (i.e. Greg Bird, Dominic Smith).

    This leaves Justin Smoak standing out as perhaps the clearest, and most decidedly available, first base upgrade of the offseason.  Unlike the D’Backs or White Sox, the Blue Jays are certainly to open to all offers on their veterans, after having already unloaded much of their experienced talent last season.  Contract-wise, Smoak is a fit in virtually any payroll, as he is controlled only through the 2019 season (via a club option that the Jays will certainly exercise) and at a price of just $8MM.  That makes him a decidedly less expensive proposition than Belt and company, or even players like Goldschmidt ($14.5MM club option) and Abreu (a projected $16MM salary in arbitration) who are also controlled only through 2019.

    Smoak’s option will bring the total value of his contract to three years and $16.25MM, and getting some good young talent back for Smoak in a trade would be the icing on the cake of what has proven to be a shrewd extension for the Jays.  Once a top-ranked prospect, Smoak still hadn’t found consistency at the MLB level when the Jays acquired him off waivers from the Mariners after the 2014 season, or even when he signed that extension partway through the 2016 season.  Upon taking over the everyday first base job in the wake of Edwin Encarnacion’s departure, however, Smoak has enjoyed a late-career breakout, cracking 63 homers and hitting .256/.353/.495 over 1231 PA since the start of the 2017 season.

    Smoak brings no value on the basepaths (-7.3 BsR in 2018), and the advanced metrics are somewhat mixed on his fielding, as he has alternated between above-average and below-average UZR/150 and Defensive Runs Saved totals in each of the last four seasons.  Beyond just that middling glovework, Smoak — who turns 32 in December — can’t play elsewhere in the field.  A team in need of offense, however, could be willing to overlook these drawbacks for a switch-hitter who has created 28 percent more runs (128 wRC+) than the average big league hitter over the last two seasons.

    Let’s check out which teams make sense as potential Smoak suitors this winter.  After writing off the teams that are rebuilding and/or are already set at first base (Dodgers, Giants, Padres, Reds, Brewers, Cubs, Cardinals, Phillies, Nationals, Mets, Marlins, Braves, Rangers, Athletics, Royals, White Sox, Indians, Tigers, Orioles), that leaves us with…


    • Angels: They almost surely belong in the previous category since Albert Pujols and his hefty contract ($87MM remaining) are still on the books through the 2021 season.  Pujols has, however, been the second-worst qualified player in baseball over the last two seasons as judged by the fWAR metric (-2.0 fWAR), and he’ll be asked to play even more first base since Shohei Ohtani will take an increasing number of DH at-bats in 2019.  The thought is that the Angels will look for a part-time first baseman, though there’s at least a slim chance that they could look to acquire a regular like Smoak and relegate Pujols to the role of a highly-paid bench bat.
    • Pirates: It’s too early to tell if the Bucs will make a full-fledged push to contend in 2019, and if they do, they arguably already have a first baseman in Josh Bell.  Through two full seasons, however, Bell has just 1.5 fWAR total due to defensive and base-running shortcomings, plus his power numbers dropped off considerably last season.  I wouldn’t expect Pittsburgh to give up early on a young and controllable player, plus the Pirates would need to carve out some payroll space elsewhere to afford Smoak.
    • Diamondbacks: Well, if GM Mike Hazen plans to “be creative” with his offseason moves and doesn’t want a full rebuild, Arizona could deal Goldschmidt, and then acquire Smoak in a separate trade.  This keeps first base strong for the D’Backs while also saving $6.5MM in salary.  That said, this scenario is admittedly a little far-fetched.
    • Yankees: Luke Voit and Bird comprise New York’s current first base options, though it wouldn’t be surprising to see Miguel Andujar in the mix if the Yankees add a more defensively-adept third baseman (hint hint).  Between these internal options and more position-juggling if the Yankees re-signed Andrew McCutchen or added another outfielder, trading for Smoak seems like it would be pretty far down their list of options.
    • Red Sox: Mitch Moreland is still under contract for 2019, and with J.D. Martinez locked into the DH spot, Boston is likely to just look for a right-handed hitting first baseman (potentially a re-signed Steve Pearce?) as a platoon partner rather than look for a full-timer.

    Potential Suitors

    • Rays: Smoak has a better track record than C.J. Cron, who the Rays are likely to cut ties with this offseason, though it isn’t clear if Smoak fits Tampa’s desire for an “impact” bat to hit from the right side of the plate (the Rays already have left-handed hitters Ji-Man Choi and Jake Bauers in the first base/DH mix).  Cron was also actually slightly more productive than Smoak in 2018, with a 2.1 fWAR and 122 wRC+ to Smoak’s 1.7 fWAR and 121 wRC+, and since Smoak earns more than Cron’s projected $5.2MM arbitration salary, the Rays might want more of a substantial upgrade.
    • Twins: This team has enough needs that they could take a step back to reload in 2019 rather than aim to contend.  If they do decide to make a push in a weak AL Central, however, a new first baseman could be required if Joe Mauer retires.
    • Astros: DH Evan Gattis and utilityman Marwin Gonzalez are scheduled for free agency, leaving a couple of holes in Houston’s lineup.  Yuli Gurriel might be able to step into Gonzalez’s utility role, so even if he still gets some time at first base, it leaves room for another player like Smoak in the mix.  If the Astros still have long-term plans for A.J. Reed, he wouldn’t be blocked by Smoak stepping in for just one season.
    • Mariners: The first base/DH situation in Seattle is very much up in the air, considering Nelson Cruz’s free agency, Ryon Healy’s struggles in his first year with the M’s, and where the team plans to play Robinson Cano and Dee Gordon in 2019.  Shifting Gordon back to his old second base spot and moving Cano into a second base/first base/DH timeshare would be a more defensively feasible, and likely wouldn’t create room for a player like Smoak unless Healy was dealt.  One can’t truly rule out any scenario when it comes to trade-happy GM Jerry Dipoto, however, and bringing Smoak back to Seattle could work as a short-term fix.
    • Rockies: Only the Orioles got less from their first base position than the Rockies in 2018, as Colorado first baseman combined for less than replacement-level production (-0.8 bWAR).  Regular first baseman Ian Desmond could face a move back to the outfield since Gerardo Parra and Carlos Gonzalez could leave in free agency, and Ryan McMahon hasn’t shown much to prove that he could handle the position at this point in his career.  The Rockies might prefer a proven veteran at first base as they look for their third consecutive postseason berth, and Smoak’s bat would be a nice addition for an overall lackluster Colorado lineup.  The Rockies have the clearest need at first base of any contender, and it’s worth noting that they already linked up with the Blue Jays on one recent deal, when Seunghwan Oh was traded to Colorado last July.
    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Nicholson-Smith On Jays' Offseason]]> 2018-10-17T03:20:50Z 2018-10-17T03:20:50Z
  • Sportsnet’s Ben Nicholson-Smith outlines an exhaustive offseason plan for Blue Jays president Mark Shapiro and GM Ross Atkins to follow, covering everything from option decisions to 40-man roster cuts, potential free-agent additions and some trade suggestions. Nicholson-Smith opines that Yangervis Solarte’s option should be declined, while Dalton Pompey is trimmed via a DFA. Veterans Kendrys Morales and Russell Martin should be considered largely sunk costs in the final seasons of their contracts, with the vast majority of their salaries being eaten in trades to save a few million dollars. While it’s all speculative in nature, it’s also an excellent look at the wide-ranging slate of decisions that Shapiro, Atkins and the rest of the front office will have to consider in what looks to be a busy offseason in Toronto.
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    Mark Polishuk <![CDATA[Clapp Hasn't Heard From Jays About Manager Job]]> 2018-10-14T23:28:19Z 2018-10-14T23:28:19Z
  • Stubby Clapp, manager of the Cardinals’ Triple-A affiliate in Memphis, has widely been mentioned as a possible candidate to be the next Blue Jays manager, though Clapp tells’s Shi Davidi, “I haven’t heard anything from Toronto.  It’s been all rumors.”  Before taking over in Memphis in the 2016-17 offseason, Clapp spent the previous four seasons as a hitting coach in the Jays’ minor league system, so he has some ties to the organization.  The Windsor, Ontario native would also be the Jays’ first Canadian-born manager.  Even Clapp’s current duties carry some Blue Jays connections, as star prospect Vladimir Guerrero Jr. is playing on the team Clapp is managing in the Arizona Fall League.  “If there’s an opportunity to get an interview or something like that, great, I’d be excited to do something like that,” Clapp said.  “Right now, I’m a Cardinal, that’s my focus and that’s where my mind is, and on taking care of these guys in Arizona.”
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