Blue Jays, Padres interested in Takashi Toritani
While the spotlight for infielders across the Pacific has recently been on Korean shortstop Jung-ho Kang, for whom the Pirates won negotiating rights, a Japanese veteran might join him in the majors next year. According to Brendan Kennedy, who covers the Blue Jays for the Toronto Star, the club is one of two eyeing Toritani, a shortstop with the Hanshin Tigers.
The 33-year-old Toritani would have to shift across the keystone if he were to sign with the Jays, who have Jose Reyes entrenched at short. If he’s unwilling to switch spots, the Padres—who Kennedy identified as the other interested team—could be a more desirable fit, considering that the incumbents are Clint Barmes and Alexi Amarista. But Jeff Sanders of the San Diego Union-Tribune refuted Kennedy’s report of a standing offer on Monday.
Unlike Kang, Toritani is a free agent, so a stateside organization could sign him without going through the posting process or compensating the Hanshin Tigers.
Francisco Rodriguez “on Jays radar”
In other news from north of the border, GM Alex Anthopoulos is still searching for a closer. David Robertson and Sergio Romo are off the market, and Casey Janssen seems unlikely to return to Toronto, so there aren’t many free agents with ninth-inning experience left. CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman tweeted on Monday that Anthopoulos is at least kicking the tires on one of them.
That one would be K-Rod, who saved 44 games in 49 tries for the Brewers in 2014. The right-hander, who turns 33 on January 7th, had something of a fickle season, earning adulation from the FIP overlords with a 73-to-18 K:BB ratio while upsetting them by serving up 14 gopher balls in 68 innings.
Those aren’t typical numbers for a closer—in fact, the Baseball-Reference Play Index tells us that they’re unique. No player had ever recorded 44 saves in a season while allowing 14 homers in fewer than 70 frames before Rodriguez did it. The only other player to give up more than 10 dingers while checking the other two boxes was Lee Smith in 1993. The only other player to save more than 10 games while meeting the other two criteria was Jeff Montgomery in 1996. Put differently, closers who struggle to keep the ball in the yard tend to lose their jobs midyear.
The Rogers Centre wouldn’t treat Rodriguez any more kindly than Miller Park did, which might explain why Heyman mentioned that that the Jays plan to exhaust their trade options first. We should soon learn who those are.
Multiple teams, including Cubs, considering Stephen Drew
When you bat .162/.237/.299 over 300 plate appearances while playing a position other than pitcher, you generally shouldn’t expect to attract much attention on the free-agent market. But in 2014, reasonably adequate shortstops, even those coming off of historically dreadful offensive years, are in demand.
That’s good news for Drew, who did little at the plate with the Red Sox and fared even more poorly with the Yankees, but who Heyman heard is still coveted—to some extent—by Theo Epstein and Co. in the Windy City.
The 31-year-old could spell Starlin Castro—whose name has surfaced in frightening headlines this winter, even though he’s been absolved—at short and serve as insurance for Javier Baez at second base. He almost certainly wouldn’t require a commitment beyond 2015, which might be a sticking point for the Cubs given the wealth of infield prospects in the organization.
Drew’s 34 games at the keystone for the Yankees were his first at any position other than shortstop since he reached the majors. He made four errors during that brief span, but should handle the transition better with practice in spring training, as opposed to a couple of days in the wake of a deadline deal.