Blue Jays notebook: Sanchez impresses

Blue Jays prospect Aaron Sanchez. (Alexis Brudnicki)

Throughout the off-season, I’ll provide commentary and links related to the Toronto Blue Jays and MLB every weekend.

It didn’t take long for the Toronto Blue Jays to put their ugly 88-loss season behind them and start looking ahead to 2014.

The Blue Jays arrived at the general manager meetings in Orlando with a long shopping list topped by starting pitching. As Shi Davidi reported from the GM Meetings, the Blue Jays have sure been active, even though they haven’t made any major additions just yet:

  • They called on pitchers including Ervin Santana, Tim Hudson and Hiroki Kuroda, and they’re expected to make a push for Jeff Samardzija.

  • They’re exploring the catching market, and have inquired on free agents A.J. Pierzynski, Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Carlos Ruiz. They’ve also asked about trade candidate Ryan Hanigan and are believed to have considered making a run at Jason Castro. As for the incumbent behind the plate, they’ve gotten inquiries on J.P. Arencibia.

  • They don’t plan to deviate from club policy to seriously pursue Robinson Cano.

  • They need a utility player in the aftermath of Mark DeRosa’s retirement.

That’s a lot of news after a quiet month of October for the Blue Jays. And the rumours will only intensify in the weeks leading up to the December Winter Meetings. In the meantime, here are some items of interest related to the Blue Jays from the past week…

SANCHEZ TAKES HIS TURN: Last week, Marcus Stroman impressed with a particularly strong Arizona Fall League performance. This week, it’s fellow Blue Jays prospect Aaron Sanchez.

In an AFL outing Thursday, Sanchez threw a fastball in the 92-97 mph range and showed the makings of a future frontline pitcher, according to Jim Callis of Not bad at all for a 21-year-old who has yet to pitch above single-A.

Here’s a look at Sanchez’s stuff — which was recently described by Stroman as “filthy.”

Given Sanchez’s inexperience above single-A it won’t be a surprise if he spends the 2014 season in the upper levels of Toronto’s minor-league system.

VOTES FOR EDWIN: Edwin Encarnacion earned American League MVP votes for the second consecutive season after hitting 36 home runs with a .904 OPS. Encarnacion, the lone Blue Jays player named on any of the 30 ballots, obtained one eighth-place vote and two ninth-place votes, finishing 14th in the balloting. While Encarnacion had no real shot at winning the award, he deserved bottom-of-the-ballot votes for his production at the plate in 2013.

JAYS ADD JOHNSON: The Blue Jays did well to add Dan Johnson on a minor-league deal. Ideally, the club would like healthy and productive seasons from Encarnacion and Adam Lind at first base and DH, but Blue Jays fans are well aware that injuries can strike at any time. Johnson has a lifetime on-base percentage of .337 against MLB pitching and a career .288/.393/.513 batting line in the minor leagues. Adding him as a depth bat makes sense.

SPRING STADIUM UPDATE: The Blue Jays and Houston Astros discussed plans for a shared spring training site in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., Thursday. Astros owner Jim Crane told Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle that they’re in the process of negotiating who pays for what.

“Basically, we’re just going through budgets now,” Crane told the Chronicle . “Palm Beach Gardens wants to come to some sort of resolution on the budget. So they’re submitting numbers, we’re putting in numbers and we’ll go back and sit down with them. There’s a lot of moving parts when you do those things.

BAUTISTA’S VALUE: When Jose Bautista’s name surfaced in substance-less but public trade talk this week, some observers seemed content to let the two-time home run champion go. No one on the Blue Jays is untouchable, but remember this: Bautista posted a .358 OBP and a .510 slugging percentage from 2012-13, even when his performance fell off compared to his 2010-11 breakout. Those are impressive numbers. Plus, he earns just $14 million per season. Replacing that kind of value would be difficult for any GM, especially in a free agent market that lacks right-handed power.

NOTES: The Boston Red Sox, Los Angeles Angels, Los Angeles Dodgers and Philadelphia Phillies are the only teams with more payroll committed to 2014 than the Blue Jays, according to Baseball-Reference… Is it just me, or do the chances of Josh Johnson returning to Toronto seem to diminish with each passing week? For Johnson to re-build his value, a pitcher-friendly park outside of the AL East might be more appealing than Rogers Centre.

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