Marcus Stroman
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Marcus Stroman wants to sign extension with Blue Jays

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Marcus Stroman is angling for a long-term deal with the Blue Jays, the right-hander told reporters Sunday. Whether or not one is currently on the table is unclear, however, as Stroman asserted that the team had yet to make him an offer, while a source then told Sportsnet’s Shi Davidi that a multi-year offer had already been extended by the Blue Jays.

As things stand now, the 27-year-old righty is approaching his penultimate season in a Blue Jays’ uniform. He avoided arbitration with the club last month after agreeing to a one-year, $7.4 million contract and is set to enter free agency in 2021 following his final year of arbitration eligibility in 2020. While Stroman was linked to the Padres, Astros, Brewers, Reds, and Braves at various points during the offseason, it doesn’t look like the Blue Jays have any immediate plans to flip him in a trade.

Still, the lack of an agreed-upon extension has caused Stroman no end of frustration. Per Davidi:

“I want to play here,” Stroman said. “I’ve been wanting to play here for a long time. I’ve been waiting to sign a long-term deal. I’ve been offered nothing. There’s no one that embodies the city of Toronto more than me. And you’re not going to find guys who want to come in and embody the city of Toronto because it’s just not natural, and I’ve taken a liking to that myself, and that’s been organic and natural, it’s not something I had to do. That’s something I wanted to do. I’ve always wanted to be here.”

Stroman also revealed his desire to stay in the American League East and face off against the Yankees and Red Sox, adding that he’s not intimidated by the caliber of opponents he’d have to face in Rogers Centre. He criticized the front office’s lack of aggression in the free agent market and said he feels the team needs more relievers, starters, and/or position players to help bolster the rotation, in the hopes that the Blue Jays will be able to return to the winning ways of their 2015 and 2016 campaigns.

That may mean the Blue Jays need to start playing Vladimir Guerrero Jr. sooner rather than later. It may mean they need to ink more veterans to short-term deals, if only to provide an ongoing support system for their young core players. Or, as Stroman put it, it may mean “making sure everybody […] is doing everything in their power to put the best product out on the field” — whether or not the veteran starter is around to reap the benefits of those efforts in the future.

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.