Jays and Uggla seem an unlikely match

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Not to say it couldn’t work out.   But Buster Olney’s report that the Jays, according to rival executives, have emerged as the favorites to acquire Dan Uggla strikes an odd chord.

The Jays not only led the majors in homers last season, but they did it with a total nearly 20 percent greater than any other team’s.  They hit 257, while the Red Sox came in second with 211.  The Yankees were the only other team to reach 190, finishing with 201.

And, of course, the Jays have a second baseman who ranked as one of the AL’s better players in 2009.   Aaron Hill slumped terribly last season, finishing at .205/.271/.394 in 528 at-bats, but he’s a far better defender than Uggla there’s little to suggest that he’s going to be shipped off this winter.

Now the Jays have weighed shifting Hill to third base, more to give themselves greater flexibility than because of any concerns about his defense.  However, if they did trade for Uggla, one would hope he’d be the one to switch positions.

There’s also the matter of what the Jays would give up.   In theory, the team has a lot of pitching depth.  In practice, Jays pitchers tend to get hurt a lot.  They had 11 pitchers make at least three starts last year and nine in 2010. 

Two names quickly spring to mind as potential key pieces in an Uggla: J.P. Arencibia and Brett Cecil.

Arencibia, the Jays’ first-round pick in 2007, broke through with a big year in Triple-A last season, hitting .301/.359/.626.  He’s lacking in plate discipline and he’s average at best defensively, but he still qualifies as one of the game’s top catching prospects and the Marlins have a big need behind the plate.

Cecil, 24, quietly won 15 games for the Jays last season.  His 4.22 ERA and 117/54 K/BB ratio in 172 2/3 innings were unremarkable, but he was pitching in baseball’s toughest division and he made 13 of his 28 starts against the Rays, Red Sox and Yankees.  Despite his success, the Jays probably value him behind Ricky Romero, Shaun Marcum and Brandon Morrow, making him somewhat expendable.

I can’t imagine the Marlins would get both in an Uggla deal, but they’d likely want one of the two and then some additional talent.   Second basemen with 30-homer ability don’t come cheap.

The Nationals expect Bryce Harper to test free agency

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Earlier this week at the Winter Meetings, Scott Boras said that he and the Washington Nationals had had preliminary discussions about a contract extension for Bryce Harper. Harper, of course, can become a free agent following the 2018 season and is widely expected to command the largest contract in baseball history.

While that may have given some Nationals fans hope that no other team would get the chance to bid on him, the Nationals are of the view that they have no shot to sign Harper before he at least tests the free agent market. From USA Today’s Bob Nightengale:

A lot of this seems like mutual posturing, doesn’t it? Boras trying to make it appear as though the he and Harper are giving the Nats a fair hearing and the Nats trying to make it appear as though, no matter what they do, Harper is going to hit the market. I tend to believe, personally, that Boras and Harper are hellbent on testing the market, but it’s possible that there is some number that the Nats can offer to head that off, right? Maybe?

Either way: big year ahead for Harper.