Mallex Smith

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Report: Blue Jays open to offers on Melvin Upton Jr.

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The Blue Jays are reportedly seeking alternatives to 32-year-old outfielder Melvin Upton Jr., according to Buster Olney of ESPN. While their Opening Day roster does not appear to be set in stone just yet, rumor has it that they’re open to offers on the veteran outfielder, and FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman believes the Giants and Rays could be a good fit.

Upton Jr. is coming off of a surprisingly productive season at the plate, during which he batted .238/.291/.402 with 20 home runs and 27 steals for the Padres and Blue Jays in 2016. He saw more playing time and a better production rate in San Diego, but was able to contribute something down the stretch for Toronto and tacked on a pair of hits in 11 postseason PA.

The sudden influx of power and speed that boosted Upton Jr.’s totals in 2016 evaporated in spring training, however. He batted an underwhelming .194/.216/.472 in 14 Grapefruit League games, putting up three home runs and getting caught stealing twice in two attempts. Although he made an interesting candidate for the Blue Jays’ fourth outfield spot, the team will likely go with 29-year-old Ezequiel Carrera or 24-year-old Dalton Pompey in left field, barring any external alternatives.

Of the two potential landing spots mentioned by Heyman, Tampa Bay appears to be in greater need of outfield depth as Opening Day nears. With Colby Rasmus and infielder/outfielder Nick Franklin out of the picture, the Rays are expected to split left field between 23-year-old Mallex Smith and veteran Peter Bourjos. The Giants, on the other hand, appear set with Seth Marrero and Jarrett Parker sharing left field duties, though adding some depth at the position shouldn’t be out of the question just yet.

Rays designate Nick Franklin for assignment

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Rays’ utility infielder/outfielder Nick Franklin has been designated for assignment, reports Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times. The hard-hitting Franklin was expected to make the roster after a monster performance in spring training, but Topkin notes that Rays’ manager Kevin Cash preferred the more defensively-inclined Daniel Robertson as infield depth.

Franklin, 26, finished a third season in Tampa Bay with career-high numbers in 2016, slashing .270/.328/.443 with six stolen bases and a .771 OPS in 191 PA. He split his time among first base, second base, shortstop and the outfield corners, but his limited range made him marginally useful to the team when he wasn’t at the plate.

Spring training seemed to confirm his role as a bat-first option off the bench. Franklin slashed an impressive .362/.434/.532 in 22 Grapefruit League appearances while competing against outfield options Mallex Smith and Peter Bourjos and infielder Daniel Robertson for a backup spot on the roster. Although his defensive skills have never been described as anything above average, Franklin’s versatility in the infield and outfield and his resurgence at the plate last year should make him an appealing option for teams looking to shore up their offense in 2017.

Drew Smyly could miss up to eight weeks with elbow strain

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Mariners’ left-hander Drew Smyly will not start the season with the team after sustaining a flexor strain in his left elbow, reports MLB.com’s Greg Johns. The lefty reportedly injured his elbow in camp on Tuesday during a bullpen workout. He was expected to take the fourth spot in the rotation behind Felix Hernandez, Hisashi Iwakuma and James Paxton, but club GM Jerry Dipoto says that a 6-8 week setback looks likely at this point.

Smyly, 27, completed a three-year track with the Rays in 2016. He pitched through 175 1/3 innings, his first full season after rehabbing a torn labrum in 2015, and came out the other side with a 4.88 ERA, 2.5 BB/9 and 8.6 SO/9. The Mariners acquired Smyly in January for outfielder Mallex Smith and two minor leaguers, and were expected to utilize the lefty as a core member of their rotation in 2017.

Now, it’s up to fellow left-hander Ariel Miranda to fill the No. 4 spot as the team prepares to open the season on Monday. According to Dipoto, Miranda was assigned to Triple-A Tacoma in order to remain stretched out as a potential sixth starter (via Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News-Tribune). In other words, the team was anticipating some health issues with their rotation, though maybe not quite this early in the year. Smyly is expected to seek additional opinions on his elbow in the coming week.