Blue Jays listen on catchers, Justin Smoak draws interest at GM Meetings

Mark Shapiro spoke about the Blue Jays' potential interest in free agent starting pitcher Gerrit Cole and what challenges and advantages will affect their plans.

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – Things you see and hear skulking around the grounds of the Omni Scottsdale Resort and Spa during the MLB General Managers Meetings…


Justin Smoak, the most prominent Toronto Blue Jays free agent, is generating early interest from both contending and non-contending clubs, a testament to the broad array of abilities the first baseman offers.

For teams seeking to win, the 32-year-old brings experience, strong defence and promising offensive peripherals suggesting his .748 OPS in 2019 was a health-related aberration that should correct next year. On paper, the New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox and Texas Rangers all seem like fits.

For rebuilding clubs, his professionalism, leadership and erratic career arc along with his performance offer the type of sage presence young teams need. The Miami Marlins and Detroit Tigers both appear to be possible fits. The Blue Jays remain in touch with Smoak but at this point indications are he’s a Plan B for them.

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Take it for what it’s worth, but a couple of agents said Tuesday they have had more intensive discussions with teams thus far than at the same point last winter. Whether that’s anything meaningful, or something calculated to diffuse tensions with players is unclear. As a third agent arriving at the meetings said on his way in, it’s time to figure out what’s real and what’s just idle talk. But perhaps it’s an indicator that the inertia of the past two winters is transitioning to more activity.


The Blue Jays have, to some degree, discussed catchers Danny Jansen and Reese McGuire with other clubs, according to a rival executive, and they’ve put a very high value on the two young backstops while seeking a starting pitcher in return. Jansen was a finalist for the American League gold glove while McGuire delivered 1.2 WAR in 30 games as calculated by FanGraphs.

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Even though he’s no longer in the Blue Jays organization, Devon Travis has plenty of supporters in Toronto. Though the Blue Jays removed Travis from their 40-man roster last week, GM Ross Atkins said he hopes to see the 28-year-old succeed in 2020.

“Devon’s incredible,” Atkins said Monday. “He’s just really had a tough run with his knees and the procedures that he’s been through. He’s worked exceptionally hard to get back and it just didn’t work out in time. We’ll see when he’s playing again. I would expect it’d be this spring. I certainly hope that for him and have no reason to believe that it wouldn’t be. One of the easiest guys to pull for by far, and I will be pulling hard for him.”

Travis, a lifetime, .274/.314/.437 hitter, has had operations on both knees. He didn’t appear in a major-league game in 2019 due to ongoing knee issues.



Ryan Tepera officially joined Travis on the free agent market Monday after injuries of his own led to a frustrating 2019 season. Elbow issues limited the 32-year-old to just 23 games last year and he would have been due $1.5-2 million in arbitration, so the Blue Jays designated him for assignment. Even so, Atkins isn’t ruling out a reunion with Tepera at some point this winter.

“We maintain interest in him,” the GM said. “If there’s a way for him to pitch for the Blue Jays in him we’ll absolutely make that happen. It just came down to roster flexibility.”

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