Does McCann to New York set up a Salty, Red Sox reunion?

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It’s the catcher market that has moved the most quickly in free agency this winter, with Brian McCann becoming the first elite free agent to come to terms, agreeing to a five-year, $85 million deal with the Yankees on Saturday.

The other catcher deals:

Carlos Ruiz – Phillies (three years, $26 million)
Geovany Soto – Rangers (one year, $3.05 million)
Brayan Pena – Reds (two years, unknown salary)

The departures leave Jarrod Saltalamacchia as easily the No. 1 option left in free agency, with A.J. Pierzynski, Dioner Navarro, Kurt Suzuki, John Buck and Jose Molina next in line. The rumor Friday was that Molina was close to returning to the Rays, possibly on a two-year deal.

There are also two notable trade targets in Matt Wieters and Ryan Hanigan. Wieters doesn’t appear amenable to an extension with the Orioles in advance of hitting free agency in two years. Despite his disappointing offensive output to date, he’s still very highly thought of and would command a significant package. Hanigan would be a whole lot cheaper, and he’d be a solid option starting 80-90 games. He became expendable in Cincinnati with the Pena signing.

The suitors?

Boston: Might prefer a short-term fix with Christian Vazquez and 2011 first-round pick Blake Swihart on the way.

Toronto: Needs to upgrade from J.P. Arencibia.

Chicago White Sox: Neither Josh Phegley nor Tyler Flowers seems likely to become much of a regular.

Miami: Would like to find a cheap starter for a year to get Rob Brantly more seasoning.

Colorado: Made a run at Ruiz with the idea of shifting Wilin Rosario out from behind the plate.

Minnesota: Could use a veteran to pair with youngster Josmil Pinto.

Texas: The word was that the Rangers told Soto he’d be the starter to get him to sign quickly. Still, some are skeptical.

Seattle: A veteran capable of battling Mike Zunino for the job would be ideal, with Zunino returning to Triple-A if he doesn’t show he’s ready.

On the one hand, Saltalamacchia would seem to be sitting pretty as the only big-money catcher remaining. On the other, it doesn’t seem like any of those teams besides the Red Sox are in position to spend $10 million+ per year on a catcher, and the Red Sox already declined to give Salty a $14.1 million qualifying offer, which would seem to be put a cap on how high they’re willing to go.

Boston’s ideal would likely be to bring Salty back on a two-year deal in the $20 million range (which, according to reports, is about what they offered Ruiz). That seems like a realistic possibility now unless the Blue Jays or White Sox step it up. Alternatively, the Red Sox could go cheaper with Navarro to hold the fort down until one of their prospects is ready.

My guess: Salty back to Boston, Navarro to the Blue Jays (two years, $10 million), Pierzynski to the Twins (one year, $7 million), Suzuki to the White Sox (one year, $3 million) and Hanigan to the Mariners, with Wieters staying in Baltimore.

Manoah, Merrifield lead Blue Jays to 3-1 win over Rays

Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports
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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – Alek Manoah pitched seven shutout innings, Whit Merrifield hit a three-run homer and the Toronto Blue Jays regained the top AL wild-card spot with a 3-1 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays on Saturday night.

The Blue Jays lead Tampa Bay by one game. The top wild card finisher will host all games in their best-of-three opening-round series, while the other two wild cards play strictly on the road.

Manoah (15-7) scattered four hits, walked two and struck out eight while throwing a season-high 113 pitches. The righty worked out of a two-on, one-out jam in the sixth by striking out Randy Arozarena and getting a flyout from David Peralta.

Jordan Romano replaced Tim Mayza with two on and two outs in the eighth and allowed pinch-hitter Harold Ramirez‘s RBI infield single but avoided further damage by striking out Manuel Margot. Romano finished the game to get his 35th save in 41 chances.

Tampa Bay starter Drew Rasmussen (10-7) gave up one run, three hits and two walks in 6 1/3 innings. He struck out five.

The teams combined for 31 runs, with the Rays accounting for 20, in the first two games of the series that were both won by Tampa Bay.

Arozarena got the Rays’ first hit off Manoah with a two-out double in the fourth. He became the first Tampa Bay player and 20th big leaguer to have 40 doubles, 20 homers and 30 stolen bases in a season.

Teoscar Hernandez ended Rasmussen’s night with a double in the seventh. Brooks Raley entered and, after a walk to pinch-hitter Danny Jansen, Merrifield made it 3-0 on his 10th homer of the season.

Merrifield homered twice in Thursday night’s 10-5 loss to the Rays.

Alejandro Kirk opened the second with a single before Rasmussen retired 12 in a row until Merrifield’s leadoff double in the sixth.

Plate umpire Corey Blaser took a hard foul ball by Margot on the mask in the eighth but remained in the game.

HONORING KK

The Rays posted a thank you on the message board for CF Kevin Kiermaier, who is out for the season following left hip surgery. Kiermaier is in the final season of a $53.5 million, six-year contract that includes a club option for 2023 that is expected to be declined.

TEAM AWARDS

Rays ace Shane McClanahan was voted the Don Zimmer MVP award winner by members of the Tampa Bay chapter of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America. CF Jose Siri was selected as the outstanding rookie. 3B Yandy Diaz received the Paul C. Smith Champions award as the player who best exemplifies the spirit of true professionalism on and off the field.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Blue Jays: RHP Nate Pearson (lat strain) allowed three runs and three hits over two-thirds of an inning for Triple-A Buffalo.

Rays: 2B Brandon Lowe (lower back) is done for the season.

UP NEXT

McClanahan (12-6), pulled from his start Tuesday in the fifth inning due to neck tightness, will face Blue Jays RHP Ross Stripling (8-4) on Sunday.