Russell Martin is already in tow. But if there’s fire to go with the smoke below, there might be a whole lot more to come.
WEEI’s Rob Bradford has Toronto courting Jon Lester. FOX Sports’ Jon Morosi has Alex Anthopoulos at least keeping tabs on Nick Markakis (link) and Hanley Ramirez (link). And Sportsnet’s Jeff Blair was told that Andrew Miller, perhaps the top non-closer bullpen arm on the market, has heard from the Blue Jays, as well.
None of this means that Anthopoulos—whose heaviest foray into free agency prior to the Martin signing was a two-year, $16 million expenditure on Melky Cabrera—has been given the authority to go on a shopping spree. But the Jays are at least threatening to make the sort of splash that acquiring Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle, and Co. from the Marlins represented two offseasons ago.
And that’s where things get interesting.
Buehrle is scheduled to make $20 million in 2015, but that money comes off the books after the year is out. So does the $6.7 million J.A. Happ will reel in. And the $5 million owed to Dioner Navarro, who might become a trade candidate with Martin taking over the primary catcher role. In fact, if you exclude arbitration raises owed to a host of players, Anthopoulos only had $27.6 million on the books for 2016 before handing $82 million over five years to Martin.
Even without stretching the budget far beyond their $137.2 million outlay for the 2014 roster, the Blue Jays have dough to blow. They also have young, controllable pitchers—Marcus Stroman has already arrived; Daniel Norris, Sean Nolin, and Aaron Sanchez could soon join the rotation—who, if successfully groomed into big-league pitchers, would free up a larger portion of the budget for investments into position players and relievers.
Martin delivers a formidable upgrade behind the plate. Ramirez could slide in at third, bumping Brett Lawrie to the keystone. Markakis would be worlds better than the current left-field depth chart of Andy Dirks, Kevin Pillar, and John Mayberry Jr. Miller would provide a boost to any ‘pen.
All, of course, assuming that Anthopoulos and the Rogers Communications ownership are ready to open their wallet.
A new entrant in the Pablo Sandoval race
The Giants want to bring their third baseman back. The Red Sox, with whom Pablo Sandoval either met last night or is meeting today, want to snatch him away. The White Sox and Blue Jays—see above—are quietly lurking. And now, a new bidder has reportedly entered the fray.
CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman wrote on Sunday night that the Padres are keen on the Panda, after trading Chase Headley, the runner-up prize for teams needing third basemen this offseason, to the Yankees in July. Headley is unlikely to return to San Diego, leaving Yangervis Solarte, who came over from the Bronx, as manager Bud Black’s best internal option at the hot corner. Jedd Gyorko and Cory Spangenberg could theoretically slide over, too, but none of those options inspires much confidence at the plate.
The 28-year-old hasn’t been spooked by Petco Park’s vast dimensions when playing there as a visitor, amassing a .284/.355/.487 slash line in 220 plate appearances. It’s a small sample, to be sure, but Sandoval’s ability to work the gaps could play better in the Friars’ yard than the pure power more commonly associated with third-base types, and he’s cranked 10 homers in 53 games there.
A +4.0 FRAA defender last season, Sandoval also would fit well with the Padres’ already-strong groundball defense. San Diego’s opponents hit .239 on worm-killers in 2014, the eighth-lowest average allowed, an important asset for a pitching staff whose two best starters, Andrew Cashner and Tyson Ross, have career grounder rates over 50 percent.
As Heyman noted, the Giants and Red Sox remain heavily favored to employ Sandoval for 2015 and beyond, but, given San Diego's need and the fit, it’s too soon to count first-year GM A.J. Preller out of the race.
Rays might have a slew of minor moves in the works
Trimming the 40-man roster isn’t a general manager’s most glamorous job, but it tends to spur trade activity, which is what concerns us here. In particular, the Rays’ front office, now under the command of Matt Silverman, needs to make room for a few players before the deadline to protect prospects from the Rule 5 draft.
The Rays have already made two swaps, dealing Cesar Ramos to the Angels and Jeremy Hellickson to the Diamondbacks; both trades were for prospects, so Tampa Bay’s 40-man is currently at 38. However, as beat writer Marc Topkin pointed out, Silverman would like to add about a half-dozen minor leaguers to the roster, which means that he’s still short at least three spots.
Topkin believes that utility man Sean Rodriguez, catcher-framing wizard Jose Molina, and reliever Brandon Gomes could draw trade interest. However, Molina’s $2.75 million salary could be a deterrent for clubs that shy away from investing a pretty penny in backup backstops, and Gomes is out of options, so whichever team trades for him would have to believe he could stick.
Whichever 40-man parts the Rays deem to be spare, with the clock ticking toward Thursday’s deadline, expect Silverman to light up the transaction wire in the coming days.
Thank you for reading
This is a free article. If you enjoyed it, consider subscribing to Baseball Prospectus. Subscriptions support ongoing public baseball research and analysis in an increasingly proprietary environment.Subscribe now