Former Jays' GM J.P. Ricciardi says two interesting things

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I was never a fan of J.P. Ricciardi the general manager, but I think I can get behind J.P. the talking head. He was on WEEI today, and said a couple of interesting things. First, on PEDs:

We had a suspicion of who all of a sudden got bigger, who got stronger, I
mean I could name you 10 players, I won’t, but name you 10 players that
we had that all of a sudden, wow. In a three-month offseason a guy
gained that much weight, got that much muscle, got that much stronger
and not only on our team, but on other teams and vice versa . . . We were all guilty of it. Every single one of us signed a player or got
involved with a player that we bought into what he was doing at 32 and
33 and then found out after we got him for a couple years that obviously
the testing came in and we saw the repercussions of it.

I’ve heard some executives talk about the clubs’ complicity in PED-use, but I don’t recall any of them putting it so starkly.  The other thing he said involved transactions. Specifically, he was asked to talk about a deal he was a part of that we as fans never heard about:

I had a trade done a couple of years ago where the trade was
finalized, I won’t mention the players, but a pretty prominent player.
Had him traded, everything was all set, told the president this is what
we are trying to do, kept him in the loop. I went back, already signed
off with the team, I said, I’ll just get right back to finalize, let me
run it by my president.

I went and told the president and the president told me, You know
what, I’m a really big fan of that guy, and I think the fans are, too. I
think if we trade him, we’re really going to catch it. And I said, OK,
it’s your call. I said I recommend we do this, but he said no, and we
didn’t trade him and the guy we could have traded him for is absolutely
tearing it up right now.

Based on stuff I’ve heard in the past about how it was Toronto’s ownership who insisted that the Jays first hold on to and then sign the guy, every fiber of my being wants to believe that this was Vernon Wells.  I wish Ricciardi would say who the players really were though, because this is stuff that we want to know, isn’t it?

Zach Britton settles with the Orioles for $6.75 million

Baltimore Orioles relief pitcher Zach Britton delivers a pitch against the Boston Red Sox in the ninth inning of a baseball game at Fenway Park, Tuesday, June 23, 2015, in Boston. The Orioles won 6-4. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)
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The Orioles and closer Zach Britton avoided an arbitration hearing, agreeing to a $6.75 million salary for the 2016 season, Jon Heyman reports. The club has now handled all of its remaining arbitration cases and won’t have to go to a hearing with any players.

Britton, in his second of four years of arbitration eligibility, filed for $7.9 million while the Orioles countered at $5.6 million. $6.75 million is exactly the midpoint between the two submitted figures.

The 28-year-old lefty saved 36 games in 40 chances last season for the O’s while putting up a 1.92 ERA with a 79/14 K/BB ratio over 65 2/3 innings.

The Blue Jays will also try to sign Josh Donaldson to a multi-year deal

Toronto Blue Jays third baseman Josh Donaldson gets up after being unable to handle an infield single by Boston Red Sox's Mookie Betts during the fourth inning of a baseball game at Fenway Park in Boston Monday, Sept. 7, 2015. (AP Photo/Winslow Townson)
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Tacking onto Friday’s report that the Blue Jays will attempt to sign Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion to multi-year deals, Sportsnet’s Ben Nicholson-Smith reports that the club will try to do the same with third baseman and defending American League Most Valuable Player Josh Donaldson. Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports notes that Donaldson’s arbitration hearing is scheduled for February 15, so the two sides will have 10 days to hammer out a contract.

Donaldson, 30, is entering his second of four years of arbitration eligibility. After earning $4.3 million last season, Donaldson filed for $11.8 million and the Blue Jays countered at $11.35 million. The $450,000 difference isn’t much compared to some of the other disparities among arbitration-eligible players and their respective clubs. Jake Arrieta and the Cubs, for example, had a gap of $6.5 million.

This past season, Donaldson let the league in runs scored and RBI with 122 and 123, respectively, while batting .297.371/.568 with 41 home runs and 41 doubles. He earned 23 of 30 first place votes in AL MVP balloting, with runner-up Mike Trout of the Angels grabbing the other seven votes.

Reds prospect Juan Duran suspended 80 games

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Juan Duran, a minor-league outfielder in the Reds’ farm system, has been suspended 80 games following positive tests for the performance-enhancing drugs Drostanolone, Stanozolol, and Nandrolone.

Duran is 6-foot-7 with big-time power, averaging 23 homers per 150 games since 2011, but he also strikes out a ton and struggles to control the strike zone. He spent last season at Double-A, missing a lot of time with injuries and hitting .256 with six homers and a .728 OPS in 59 games as a 23-year-old.

Duran is on the 40-man roster and is considered a quasi-prospect, but he’ll be ineligible to play until July and figures to head back to Double-A once reinstated.

The Blue Jays will talk long term deals with Jose Bautistia and Edwin Encarnacion

Jose Bautista Blue Jays
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Ever since Alex Anthopoulos resigned as Blue Jays’ GM and Mark Shapiro took over as team president, a distinct air of frugality has set in over Rogers Centre. The go-for-broke attitude that fueled Toronto’s fantastic second half last year was repudiated and long-term, sustainable building has seemed to be the order of the day.

But the Jays aren’t going to go crazy with that: ESPN’s Jayson Stark reports that the Blue Jays plan to have long-term extension talks with the agents of Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion during spring training. This, combined with the still-remaining possibility that they can avoid arbitration with MVP Josh Donaldson and hammer out a long-term deal could mean some serious spending by the Jays before Opening Day.

Or this could just be talk from the front office designed to buoy the spirits of fans. Locking up all three of them to long-term deals may be hella expensive and may not be possible. It’s also the case that, given their ages — Bautista is 35 and Encarnacion is 33 — it may not be advisable to lock the both up. As always, it depends on the terms and how generous Rogers Communications plans on being with the Jays’ budget.

But the chatter is now out there and expectations are poised to be set.