After holding a players only meeting earlier in the day, the Blue Jays were up on the Dodgers 8-3 after six innings Tuesday night, only to give up seven runs in the seventh and eighth innings to lose 10-9. It was their sixth straight defeat.
Even the All-Star setup crew is getting into the action now. Steve Delabar gave up four runs in Monday’s 14-5 loss, while Brett Cecil surrendered three runs in two-thirds of an inning tonight. Cecil’s ERA has jumped from 1.43 to 2.61 since July 7.
At 45-54, the Blue Jays aren’t only 14 1/2 games back of the Red Sox in the AL East, but they’re 11 games out of the second wild card. Even the fourth place Yankees have 7 1/2 games on them in the AL East.
So while the Blue Jays have been talked about as buyers — they were one of the teams reportedly in the hunt for Matt Garza — they’re really leaving GM Alex Anthopoulos and crew no choice but to sell.
Unfortunately, the pieces the Blue Jays would most want to move have little value at the moment:
- Josh Johnson has lost his last four starts and has a 7.36 ERA over his last six starts.
- Mark Buehrle’s heavily backloaded deal calls for him to make $37 million the next two years.
- Melky Cabrera just returned from an injury and has a .679 OPS.
- Emilio Bonifacio hasn’t contributed as a utilityman, hitting .211/.251/.307.
The Blue Jays can and should deal from the pen, perhaps starting with closer Casey Janssen. Janssen is under control for $4 million next year and there isn’t a contender around that couldn’t use a guy like him, either for the eighth or ninth. The Jays can also part with one of their four lefties, whether it’s Cecil, Juan Perez or Darren Oliver. Aaron Loup is the keeper of the bunch.
One player the Jays probably can’t afford to move — and this would have come as a surprise a few months ago — is center fielder Colby Rasmus. Supposed heir apparent Anthony Gose has been a disaster in Triple-A, hitting just .230/.316/.303 and getting thrown out on 12 of his 24 steal attempts. Rasmus, a free agent after the 2014 season, has been a very good regular in spite of his strikeout problems, batting .267/.333/.480.
I doubt the Jays will part with any of their stars. There’s still plenty of talent here to get right back into the race next year. But it’s time to turn the page on 2013 and hopefully collect a few prospects to replace the ones they used in their deals for Jose Reyes and R.A. Dickey over the winter.
ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick reported this morning that free agent reliever Tommy Hunter required core muscle repair surgery earlier this offseason. Coming off a disappointing 2015, it’s understandable why he’s still on the market, but it sounds like he has at least one significant lead.
Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times hears that the Rays are having “advanced talks” with Hunter as they attempt to add an experienced arm to their bullpen. Nothing is considered close and Hunter is also talking to other clubs. Meanwhile, the Rays have been in touch with veteran reliever Ryan Webb while monitoring the trade market.
Hunter posted a 2.88 ERA as a late-inning arm from 2013-2014, but he compiled a mediocre 4.18 ERA over 58 appearances last season between the Orioles and Cubs. On the bright side, his velocity has held steady and his control is still very good. Despite the down year and core muscle surgery, Topkin writes that Hunter may be holding out for a multi-year deal.
Eric O'Flaherty wasn’t the only reclamation project added by the Pirates today, as the club also announced that they have signed left-hander Cory Luebke to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training.
Luebke once looked like a solid rotation piece for the Padres, but he hasn’t thrown a pitch in the majors since April 27, 2012. He’s undergone a pair of Tommy John surgeries since. Now 30 years old, he logged seven innings in the minors last season before requiring a procedure to remove loose bodies around a nerve in his forearm. The Padres cut ties with him in November after declining a $7.5 million club option for 2016.
It’s hard to count on much from Luebke at this point, but he told Adam Berry of MLB.com that he feels healthy and hopes to compete for a bullpen job in the spring.
Many have speculated on a potential match between the White Sox and Ian Desmond this winter, but we haven’t heard much in the way of legitimate interest. That could be changing with spring training right around the corner, as MLB Network’s Jon Heyman reports that Chicago is among the teams considering the free agent shortstop.
After turning the page on Alexei Ramirez this offseason, the White Sox currently have Tyler Saladino in line to serve as their starting shortstop in 2016. The 26-year-old is considered a strong defender, but he batted .225/.267/.335 with four homers over 254 plate appearances as a rookie in 2015. Desmond is coming off a nightmare of a walk year and has seen his strikeout rate climb by 8.5 percent since 2012, but he possesses more offensive upside and it’s not hard to imagine a bounceback campaign while calling U.S. Cellular Field home.
Similar to fellow free agents Yovani Gallardo and Dexter Fowler, Desmond is attached to draft pick compensation after turning down a one-year, $15.8 million qualifying offer from the Nationals. It’s a big reason why a potential deal with the Rays is reported to be a “long shot.” Chicago’s No. 10 overall pick in this year’s draft is protected, so they would give up their No. 28 overall pick if they sign a qualifying offer free agent like Desmond.
Left-hander Eric O'Flaherty has agreed to a minor-league deal with the Pirates that includes an invitation to spring training.
O’Flaherty was one of the best relievers in the league for the Braves from 2009-2013, posting a combined 1.99 ERA in 249 innings, but Tommy John elbow surgery derailed his career and he struggled for the A’s and Mets in 2015 while dealing with shoulder problems.
It’s tough to know if O’Flaherty is healthy at this point, but the 31-year-old southpaw certainly has a chance to be a nice reclamation project for the Pirates on a no-risk contract.