NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. – There’s never a shortage of chatter at the winter meetings, when hundreds of executives, agents and media members gather in the same space. Here are some of the things you hear roaming around the lobby at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center:
The Blue Jays have been exploring the market for backup catchers, with Bobby Wilson and Geovany Soto among the names on their radar, according to sources. Wilson spent the 2016 season with the Tigers, Rangers and Rays, posting a .237/.270/.355 batting line with seven home runs in 75 games. The 33-year-old was born in Dunedin, Fla., where the Blue Jays make their spring training home. Soto hit four homers and five doubles in a season shortened by knee injuries to 26 games for the Los Angeles Angels, but has been a solid backup option for several seasons. The Blue Jays also discussed Chris Iannetta on Tuesday, according to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports.
As Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion continue weighing their options, the two sluggers remain the subject of constant industry speculation, with a growing audience interested in their ultimate landing spots. “I heard the SoftBank Hawks are the mystery team to watch,” one industry observer joked. Moments later a team executive pointed to their track records and countered, “They’ll be fine, they’re going to get paid.”
Much of the focus has been on the bigger issues facing the Blue Jays, but their need for a leverage left-hander is crucial in the wake of Brett Cecil’s departure. GM Ross Atkins admitted as much, saying, “I think it’s important to have an established left-handed reliever that gets left-handed hitters out. At the same time, there are a lot of right-handed relievers that can do that. If we can have both, we will. We would ideally like to have both and we’re going to consider every chance to do that.” Free-agent lefties on their radar include Jerry Blevins, Mike Dunn and Javier Lopez. But given where the market has gone for lefties, with Cecil getting $30.5 million over four years and Marc Rzcepczynski securing $11 million for two seasons, they may need to try the trade market.
The Blue Jays lack rotation depth behind their starting five, but GM Ross Atkins suggested Tuesday that the club could soon announce some minor-league deals. While some in the organization believe Joe Biagini could become an effective MLB starter, plans for the right-hander haven’t been finalized.
As things stand, the Blue Jays have 38 players on their 40-man roster leaving them space to make a pick or two during Thursday morning’s Rule 5 draft. Last year they chose Biagini and it’s rare for a Rule 5 pick to make such an immediate impact. One observer suggested this year’s crop of available players isn’t as bountiful as last year’s group.