Throughout the off-season, I’ll provide commentary and links related to the Toronto Blue Jays and MLB every Friday.
The opening week of free agency has been pretty slow, with a handful of modest deals and a couple managerial hires. But we should expect the off-season to start slowly because of the way MLB structures the winter.
First of all, it takes a while for teams and agents to communicate interest to one another. Discussions start in general terms before turning to years and dollars. This process often takes weeks.
Plus, the status of players who obtained qualifying offers has not yet been resolved, which also slows things down. It won’t be clear until Monday who’s available and who’s linked to draft pick compensation. Even then, questions will remain, as the free agent market won’t fully take shape until after the December 2 non-tender deadline.
Finally, some players are at the mercy of top free agents such as Robinson Cano and Shin-Soo Choo. For example, until Cano signs the Yankees will probably be reluctant to place their most aggressive bid for Omar Infante or make their best trade offer for Brandon Phillips.
Add it up and there are lots of reasons why baseball’s hot stove season starts slowly before heating up in early December at the Winter Meetings.
In the meantime, here are some noteworthy items from the last few days:
STROMAN IMPRESSES: Marcus Stroman sure looked good in his recent Arizona Fall League appearance. The 22-year-old Blue Jays prospect posted a 3.30 ERA with 129 strikeouts against 27 walks in 111.2 innings at double-A in 2013, and in the clip below you can see why his numbers were so good.
Looks like a pitcher who can make an impact at the big league level in 2014.
NON-TENDER CANDIDATES: Toronto right-hander Esmil Rogers made MLBTradeRumors’ annual list of non-tender candidates with a projected salary of $1 million. Does this mean the Blue Jays will cut him loose next month? No, but if the Blue Jays add a number of arms between now and the December 2 non-tender deadline, anything is possible. The 28-year-old showed promise in 2013, logging more innings (137.2) than any Blue Jays pitcher except R.A. Dickey and Mark Buehrle. His presence on the roster helps.
Colby Rasmus has a projected salary of $6.5 million, J.P. Arencibia has a projected salary of $2.8 million and Brett Cecil has a projected salary of $900,000 to round out the Blue Jays’ class. I can see both Rasmus and Cecil beating those projections following strong seasons. I had Rasmus at $6.7 million even before he came back from the disabled list and added to his home run total.
Former Blue Jays outfielder Travis Snider and Canadian right-hander John Axford are also listed as non-tender candidates. For a full explanation of non-tenders and arbitration, here’s sportsnet.ca’s off-season glossary.
SPRINGING FOR A STADIUM: The joint spring facility planned for the Blue Jays and Houston Astros would cost $100 million, Joe Capozzi of the Palm Beach Post reported Thursday. It’s not clear how the stadium would be funded.
Blue Jays president and CEO Paul Beeston said last month that the Blue Jays have signed a letter of intent to explore the possibility of sharing a spring home with the Astros, though the arrangement remains unofficial for now.
SYNDERGAARD ON THE FAST TRACK: The New York Mets are reluctant to trade former Blue Jays prospect Noah Syndergaard, according to Andy Martino of the New York Daily News. Syndergaard, who was sent to New York in last winter’s R.A. Dickey trade, will arrive at the MLB level by June or July if he pitches well early on, Mets officials told Martino. Seeing Syndergaard in a Mets uniform will be tough for Blue Jays fans — but that pain would be manageable if Toronto finds itself in contention.
FINDING BARGAINS: If Ervin Santana wants $100 million and Ricky Nolasco wants $80 million (as FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal recently reported) will the Blue Jays be able to afford any free agent pitching? First of all keep in mind that asking prices are at their highest this time of year. Agents understand that by anchoring teams’ expectations high, they can maximize their clients’ earnings. Some players — perhaps Santana and Nolasco — will obtain the deals they seek much to the surprise of fans and the delight of the MLB Players Association. But others will have to sign for less than they might have hoped entering the winter. Bargains will emerge, as they do every year. Bargain seekers must simply select from a limited pool of players later in the winter, much like the Tampa Bay Rays do on an annual basis.
TWO YEARS FOR DEJESUS: David DeJesus contributes on defence and hits right-handed pitching really well, so the Rays did well to sign him for $10.5 million over two years. That contract might look more team-friendly in a few weeks once a few free agent outfielders have signed.
NOTES: The Blue Jays are thinking about turning Jeremy Jeffress back into a starter, according to Yahoo’s Jeff Passan… Josh Johnson’s agent says nearly every team has expressed interest in the right-hander, according to Richard Durrett of ESPNDallas.com.