Edwin Encarnacion

Blue Jays GM says three spots open in 2013 lineup

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Alex Anthopoulos is looking ahead to 2013 and says six spots in his lineup are already spoken for:

Obviously, those entrenched players are J.P. Arencibia, Yunel Escobar, Brett Lawrie, Colby Rasmus, Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion.

Second base is open because Kelly Johnson is a free agent. It doesn’t look like there’s much chance of Escobar moving to second next spring. Adeiny Hechevarria has hit just .237/.272/.329 with a 24/3 K/BB ratio in 76 at-bats since his callup, and there’s little reason to think he’d be an adequate regular at shortstop.

Likewise, the audition of Anthony Gose in the outfield hasn’t gone too well. He and Moises Sierra will likely return to Triple-A next year. Rajai Davis could stick around, but it’d be as a reserve. The Jays’ 2013 left fielder figures to come through free agency or in trade.

Encarnacion will either play first base or DH, depending on who gets brought in this winter. Adam Lind is due $5 million next season, but the team is probably done with him. Trading him for another similarly poor contract seems like the best option. 2008 first-round pick David Cooper did pretty well for himself before hurting his back last month, hitting .300/.324/.464 in 140 at-bats, but he looks like a fallback option at first.

The Jays possess a fine offensive nucleus, so if they can get a couple of legitimate upgrades, they’ll have a lineup to be reckoned with next year. As is, they currently rank 12th among the 14 AL teams in OPS from left fielders. They’re middle in the pack at both first base and DH, but that’s because Encarnacion has been terrific while splitting time evenly between the two spots. Their non-Encarnacion first base-DHs have been superior only to Seattle’s.

Report: Phillies close to signing Joaquin Benoit

ANAHEIM, CA - SEPTEMBER 15:  Joaquin Benoit #53 of the Toronto Blue Jays pitches during the seventh inning of a game against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim  at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on September 15, 2016 in Anaheim, California.  (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images
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Jim Salisbury of CSN Philly reports that the Phillies are close to signing free agent reliever Joaquin Benoit. An announcement is expected before the winter meetings end on Thursday.

Benoit, 39, has quietly been among the better relievers in baseball over the past seven years. This past season with the Mariners and Blue Jays, the right-hander put up an aggregate 2.81 ERA with a 52/24 K/BB ratio in 48 innings. That included a 0.38 ERA in 23 2/3 innings after the Jays acquired him from the Mariners.

Benoit suffered a torn calf muscle during a benches-clearing brawl with the Yankees near the end of the regular season. He’s expected to be healthy for spring training.

The Phillies have now added three relievers this offseason with Benoit, Pat Neshek, and David Rollins.

Report: The new collective bargaining agreement reduces players’ meal money

ADVANCE FOR WEEKEND EDITIONS, JAN. 18-19 - This Jan. 15, 2014 photo showing new baseball union head Tony Clark during an interview at the organization's headquarters, in New York. Clark has big shoes to fill _ and not just as Michael Weiner's replacement as head of the baseball players' union. Moving from Arizona to New Jersey, the former big league All-Star also needed to find size 15 snowshoes.  (AP Photo/Richard Drew)
AP Photo/Richard Drew
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ESPN’s Pedro Gomez provides a previously unreported detail of the new collective bargaining agreement, agreed to by the owners and the players’ union last week. Players’ meal money for road games is being reduced from $105 to $30 per day. Teams are providing pre- and post-game meals in the visitors’ clubhouse to offset some of the decrease in meal money.

Gomez quotes an unnamed player who said, “I doubt many guys know about the money going down, nor would they have agreed to it.” All of the players Gomez contacted said they were unaware of and unhappy about the change.

Clubhouse attendants are certainly unhappy about this change, too. As Gomez notes, the attendants previously provided food for visiting teams which earned them tips from the players.

EDIT: It’s worth clarifying that chefs are required in clubhouses now as part of the new CBA, so it’s not a complete loss for the players.