Brian Fuentes has been linked to nearly a dozen teams this offseason while reportedly holding out for an opportunity to close and according to Ken Davidoff of New York Newsday the Blue Jays “rank among the most serious suitors for” the 35-year-old left-hander.
Toronto signed Octavio Dotel to a one-year, $3.5 million deal last week and the assumption was that he’d fill the closer role for the Blue Jays, but Davidoff writes that general manager Alex Antopoulos “will continue to explore the relief market” and Fuentes could fill the southpaw void created by Scott Downs leaving as a free agent.
Fuentes averaged 30 saves per season from 2005-2010, including a league-leading 48 for the Angels in 2009, and posted a 2.81 ERA with a 47/20 K/BB ratio in 48 innings last season.
All eyes will be on Jose Bautista’s performance at the plate this year as he tries to follow up an out of nowhere 54-homer season, but Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos indicated yesterday that he’ll likely also be playing third base full time after being mostly a right fielder in 2010.
Anthopoulos told Shi Davidi of the Canadian Press that the Blue Jays’ plans for Bautista could change if they sign or trade for another third baseman yet this winter, as his defensive versatility allows them to widen the search for another bat, but short of that they’re “comfortable” playing him full time at third base.
Bautista made 113 starts in right field and 45 starts at third base last season, but has played nearly 3,000 career innings at the hot corner and was a full-time third baseman in 2007 and most of 2008. Assuming he’s a third baseman the Blue Jays’ projected starting outfielders are Vernon Wells, Travis Snider, and Rajai Davis, so Anthopoulos would presumably still like to acquire someone who could push Davis into a part-time role.
Kevin Gregg has been linked to the Orioles for most of the offseason and Jon Paul Morosi of FOXSports.com reports that the two sides have finally agreed to terms on a deal.
According to Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun he’ll get $10 million for two years, and the contract also includes a vesting option for 2013.
He’ll presumably head into spring training as the favorite for ninth-inning duties, as Gregg racked up 37 saves for the Blue Jays last year for his fourth straight season with at least 20 saves.
However, his 3.79 ERA during that time isn’t particularly impressive and he blew six save chances last year to finish with a success rate of 86 percent that’s basically right at the MLB average. If healthy Koji Uehara is likely a superior reliever, but Gregg has far more closing experience.
Mike Gonzalez was signed to be of the Orioles’ closer last offseason, but missed most of the year with arm problems and remains a question mark. In his absence Alfredo Simon led the team with 17 saves, but he may spend 2011 in prison.
Jon Paul Morosi of FOXSports.com reports that the Reds are interested in free agent outfielder Fred Lewis for a part-time role.
Lewis was non-tendered by the Blue Jays despite a decent one-season stay in Toronto, hitting .262/.332/.414 with 17 steals in 480 plate appearances after coming over from the Giants in a mid-April trade.
He’d be unlikely to see that much playing time in Cincinnati, but the left-handed-hitting Lewis could potentially form a quasi-platoon with the right-handed-hitting Jonny Gomes in left field.
It won’t be official until he takes a physical exam next week, but yesterday the Blue Jays signed Octavio Dotel to a one-year, $3.5 million contract with a $3.5 million option or $750,000 buyout for 2012.
Dotel could have signed with any number of teams as a setup man, but according to his agent in addition to matching Dotel’s salary from 2010 the Blue Jays also promised him a chance to be their closer.
“Octavio is excited about playing for a team that will give you the opportunity to close games in the strongest division in baseball,” Dominic Torres told Enrique Rojas of ESPNDeportes.com.
Kevin Gregg served as the Blue Jays’ closer last season, saving 37 games with a 3.51 ERA, but he’s expected to sign a multi-year deal with the Orioles. Dotel certainly picked the right spot if he wants to close again and he still has dominant raw stuff at age 37, averaging double-digit strikeouts per nine innings for the fourth straight season, but he’s also served up 32 homers in 224 innings during that time and his struggles to keep the ball in the ballpark could make for some messy ninth innings against the powerful AL East lineups.