SAN DIEGO – Maybe this is the year the winter meetings make a comeback, erasing the memory of recent duds and producing the type of shock and awe that was once a staple of baseball’s annual swapfest.
Early word from Bob Klapisch that the New York Yankees had made an initial $245-million, seven-year offer to right-hander Gerrit Cole suggests that the market for the ace right-hander will come to a head at the Manchester Grand Hyatt in San Diego, and the spinoff results from that are super intriguing.
All of which makes this a pivotal time for the Toronto Blue Jays, who have money to spend, have swung and missed multiple times already and are feeling some heat at home to do something.
They’re not going to be in on Cole – think logically for a second about how much it would cost a rebuilding team like them to buy out the Yankees, the Los Angeles Dodgers and Angels, plus others to get him – so their ceiling right now is more in the Hyun-Jin Ryu/Dallas Keuchel range.
Both are clients of super-agent Scott Boras and both are signable as long as the Blue Jays are willing to be the high bid, the way the Cincinnati Reds were with Mike Moustakas.
They’d also like to add another starter from middle tier, as well, in the Tanner Roark, Wade Miley, Josh Lindblom, Alex Wood vein, although competition for that market is fierce because, as one agent put it, everyone wants pitching in that price range.
“The Blue Jays are going to have to get aggressive to get something done,” he added.
Will they? Or will they instead stick to their valuations, refuse to lunge and wait to pick off whomever is left without a chair come January? We’ll soon find out.
• For what it’s worth, the Blue Jays have, at minimum, checked in on Japanese slugger Yoshitomo Tsutsugo, with a couple of my friends from Japan adamantly believing it may be more than that, too. The Blue Jays are said to have scouted the 28-year-old more aggressively than other clubs over the past year, and Hideaki Sato, hired last year to cover the Pacific Rim, is believed to be actively involved. Whether that means anything or is simply due diligence is tough to say. But Tsutsugo profiles as the type of high-slug-high-OBP, left-handed bat they need, although he’s not a strong defender in the outfield or first base (he’d fit right in that way). His posting by the Yokohama DeNA Baystars expires Dec. 19, with a staggered percentage of his contract going to the Japanese club.
• Blue Jays catchers Danny Jansen and Reese McGuire continue to come up in trade gossip. Again, that doesn’t necessarily mean anything — if you’re in the market for a catcher, you’re checking in — but as the free-agent options thin out, it’s something to keep an eye on. I’ve heard conflicting thoughts from industry rivals on who the club would rather keep, some suggesting Jansen, others McGuire. As things stand, GM Ross Atkins envisions opening 2020 with the two in a job share based on matchups.
• A thought: Perhaps the blanket way in which the Blue Jays scour the market for free agents is designed for more than just due diligence, allowing them to mask their true intentions, too. Jake Odorizzi, Kyle Gibson, Zack Wheeler and Jordan Lyles were of real interest to them, but how high were they on the club’s preference list? And what does that list look like now? Their specific intentions are opaque, which is probably how they want it.
• The selection of pioneering union boss Marvin Miller to the Hall of Fame on Sunday night by the modern-era committee was long overdue, and kudos to the group for finally getting it right (and on Ted Simmons, too). But in viewing the selection from 10,000 feet, finally recognizing Miller also removes a small but significant bone of contention between players and owners. Some looked at Miller’s ongoing exclusion from the hall as a spiteful refusal by the baseball establishment to honour a man who fought so relentlessly and effectively for players’ rights. Keeping him out was a symbolic flex of their power. In bringing Miller into the fold, maybe there’s a subtle signal that owners want to de-escalate tensions a bit at a time when both sides are laying some groundwork for a potential labour stoppage once the CBA expires at the end of 2021. I’m not big on conspiracy theories, but I can see that being an element at play here.
• There are rumblings Major League Baseball could relatively soon wrap up its investigation into the Houston Astros’ sign-stealing and the discipline could spread to Boston Red Sox manager Alex Cora and New York Mets manager Carlos Beltran, both members of the implicated 2017 club. Blue Jays bench coach Dave Hudgens was the hitting coach for the Astros at the time, and I recently asked GM Ross Atkins if they were doing anything to prepare for possible discipline on that front. “Dave is doing everything he can to help the investigation,” Atkins replied. “To my knowledge, everything he has been doing has been on that front and that front alone, how can he help in any possible way. We’re focused on the same thing.”