ESPN goes in-depth on Blue Jays sign-stealing allegations

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Four players have confirmed to ESPN that they’ve witnessed Blue Jays hitters being relayed signs from the center-field stands at Rogers Centre.

An Outside The Lines reports details the allegations and an incident involving one of the players and Jose Bautista.  The report claims that a man in center field, situated perfectly behind the pitcher in a batter’s eyeline, was gesturing to indicate offspeed pitches for Toronto hitters.

The man caught the eyes of one team, and a player sent a message to Bautista following an at-bat in a game last season:

“We know what you’re doing,” he said. “If you do it again, I’m going to hit you in the [f——] head.”

Bautista acknowledged the confrontation, but he denied that the Jays have anything to do with sign-stealing.

“First of all, I don’t even know how you can do that,” Bautista said. “And second of all, it’s obviously something that’s not legal in the game. We do not cheat.”

But opposing teams certainly think they do.  The Yankees and Red Sox have both been throwing down multiple signs even with no one on base when they face the Jays at Rogers Centre.  ESPN even cites our report from a Red Sox game in June, though without feeling the need to give us any credit.  The Yankees’ Russell Martin said the Jays were stealing signs last month, though he believed it was baserunners responsible for the deed.

Once again this year, Blue Jays hitters are faring much better at home than on the road.  They’ve hit .261 with 71 homers in 55 games in Toronto, compared to .249 with 57 homers in 60 games elsewhere.

Here are the individual OPS splits for all of the Jays with 180 at-bats this season:

Jose Bautista: 1.155 home, 1.030 road
Yunel Escobar: .957 home, .699 road
Edwin Encarnacion: .921 home, .670 road
Adam Lind: .807 home, .755 road
Eric Thames: .794 home, .684 road
Rajai Davis: .735 home, .512 road
J.P. Arencibia: .697 home, .757 road
Travis Snider: .687 home, .561 road
Corey Patterson: .659 home, .671 road
Juan Rivera: .629 home, .702 road
Aaron Hill: .595 home, .587 road

Interestingly enough, two of the three players to actually perform better on the road were given away in trades last month.

The argument against the Jays’ stealing signs is that they aren’t actually winning at home.  They’re 28-27 at Rogers Centre this year and 30-30 on the road.  Last year, though, they went 46-35 at home, compared to 39-42 on the road.  Those 2010 Blue Jays hit .253 with 150 homers at home, compared to .243 with 107 homers on the road.

This story isn’t going away, so it’d be nice if MLB decided to take an interest at some point.  Contacted for ESPN’s story, a spokesman responded: “Major League Baseball has never received a complaint from any club about sign stealing in Toronto, and this is first [we’ve been] made aware of it.”

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Update: Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopolous will address the sign-stealing charges at 3:45 p.m. EDT this afternoon.

Cubs won’t make Kyle Schwarber available in trade talks

Kyle Schwarber
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Bob Nightengale of USA Today reports that the Cubs won’t deal Kyle Schwarber this winter, despite multiple inquires from teams around the league. Schwarber is approaching his first year of arbitration and will remain under team control for another three seasons before reaching free agency in 2022.

The decision comes on the heels of one of the strongest seasons of the 25-year-old outfielder’s short career. Over 137 games and 510 PA for the Cubs, he proved a passable defender in left field and batted .238/.356/.467 with 26 home runs, an .823 OPS, and 3.2 fWAR in 2018. He also led the National League in intentional walks, with 20, and bumped up his total walks from 59 in 2017 to 78.

Despite his marked improvements from previous years, Schwarber’s performance still left something to be desired — specifically against left-handed pitchers, who held the slugger to a paltry .224/.352/.303 with four extra-base hits across 91 PA. Still, it’s evident the Cubs feel Schwarber is capable of strengthening his splits in the years to come, and they might stand to get more value from him on the field than they would in a trade this offseason.

Of course, that’s not to say the Cubs intend to pass the Winter Meetings in total silence, especially as they’ll be seeking bullpen and catching depth in advance of their 2019 run at the division title. As club president Theo Epstein remarked last week, “We’re certainly open and active in trade talks with a lot of deals that usually don’t come to fruition. So, we may make some trades. We could make big ones that transform the roster. We may make smaller complementary ones. But there’s certain things we’d like to accomplish.”