Mark Shapiro, President and CEO of the Toronto Blue Jays, said pending free agents Robbie Ray and Marcus Semien have earned the right to explore the free-agent market, and fans should give them time to make their decisions.
“Those players have worked extremely hard for their lives to earn the right to become a free agent, and once they get to that point, they deserve it,” Shapiro said while appearing on Blair & Barker on Sportsnet 590 the Fan.
“I appreciate that and understand that they’re getting a full understanding of the alternatives that are out there. So, that’s not going to be quick. Or, maybe it will be quick in one of the cases and we’re aligned and they want to stay here. But I think that’s unlikely, so it’s going to require patience, it’s going require us exploring alternatives as well, in case they don’t come here for a variety of reasons.”
Shapiro also told Jeff Blair and Kevin Barker that third base might not be the ultimate destination of Santiago Espinal.
“I don’t think third base is his prototypical position, but again he’s a part of a championship team, we were encouraged by his performance last year and if he continues to get stronger and can drive the ball even a little more, he’s got a chance to be an everyday player,” Shapiro said.
But don’t expect prospects Jordan Groshans or Orelvis Martinez to project ahead to take up residence at the hot corner.
“They’re great prospects that we’re excited about, but when it comes to prospects … my answer to you would be I’m extremely excited about both of those guys, they’re extremely young and doing some really impressive things throughout the landscape of the entire minor leagues,” he said. “When they’re ready to be in the conversation for Toronto, you’ll know it. They’ll be at Triple-A and will be performing at a level that says, ‘We’re ready for the next level, we’re not getting challenged by this level anymore.’
“Let’s have that conversation a year from now, but that’s not part of our planning right now.”
And when it comes to the expectations of other minor-league prospects, Shapiro cautioned against expecting another to come along who will have as startling a development as pitcher Alek Manoah‘s breakthrough season.
“I’ve seldom seen a young player with his level of experience that’s better able to slow down and compete at the level he competes at – his compete level is just elite, his ability to separate pitch-to-pitch and make adjustments within his start, not just from start to start,” Shapiro said of the right-hander who went 9-2 with a 3.22 ERA in his rookie season.
“There’s a unique mental makeup there, there’s a unique level of competitiveness and confidence there. There’s been very few guys I can ever remember in my career that have transitioned like he’s transitioned. And with the level of confidence and unflappability, even after tough moments and tough starts, or in a high-pressure environment.
“I wouldn’t want to put that label on anybody else. There are a lot of players we’re excited about, but I would say for a fan that may not have watched as much baseball as we have, this guy is something special. What he accomplished this year was incredibly impressive and unique.”
The Blue Jays finished the season at 91-72, fourth in the East Division and one game out of the final American League wild-card berth.