A’s “have strong interest” in 19-year-old Cuban outfielder Jorge Soler

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Oakland has been parting with big-league talent all offseason, but Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle reports that the A’s “have strong interest” in 19-year-old Cuban outfielder Jorge Soler.

According to Slusser the A’s also like fellow Cuban outfielder Yoenis Cespedes, but because he’s 26 years old and out of their price range they’ve focused on Soler instead.

Slusser speculates that bidding for Soler could top $20 million, so he certainly won’t be cheap. Last year fellow Cuban defector Leonys Martin got $15.5 million from the Rangers and as long as Soler signs before the new collective bargaining agreement kicks in there are no limits on spending.

Soler is a 6-foot-3, power-hitting outfielder who’ll likely end up in right field and Jim Callis of Baseball America described him as “a 19-year-old athlete with five-tool potential.” And according to Callis he likely would have been a top-five pick in the 2010 draft had he been eligible.

Blue Jays release John Axford

John Axford
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The Blue Jays have released right-handed reliever John Axford from his minor league contract, per an announcement on Saturday. Sportsnet’s Shi Davidi speculates that the move could provide an avenue for the club to rework Axford’s contract, but the Blue Jays have yet to confirm or deny the report.

Axford, 35, was dealt a blow on Thursday after getting diagnosed with a stress reaction in the olecranon bone of his right elbow. Elbow soreness dogged the right-hander through much of his time in camp, and although he was scheduled for a follow-up examination later this spring, a definite return date had not been established.

Prior to the diagnosis, Axford was tabbed for a setup role with the team in 2019. He pitched to mixed results in 2018 (thanks in part to a late-season fracture of his right fibula) with a 5.27 ERA, 4.9 BB/9, and 9.8 SO/9 through 54 2/3 innings with the Blue Jays and Dodgers. Now, however, it’s not certain that he’ll return to the mound this season in any capacity.

Axford isn’t the only reliever the Blue Jays have lost to injury lately, either, as right-handers Ryan Tepera and Bud Norris have been sidelined with right elbow inflammation and forearm fatigue, respectively. Per Davidi, the Blue Jays offered Norris a $100,000 retention bonus to prevent him from opting out of the minor league contract he signed in February.