By Dan Levine
Coming off an exciting campaign, the Toronto Blue Jays have many people wondering about their offseason plans. Now that free agency has kicked off, it’ll be interesting to see which route GM Alex Anthopoulos takes on his path to finishing the rebuild of this young, burgeoning squad.
Let’s run down some of the rumours and chatter around baseball, as it pertains to Toronto:
— The Jays added more Canadian content to the roster, acquiring reliever Trystan Magnuson from Oakland for cash in a move that largely flew under the radar. Toronto originally drafted Magnuson in 2007, before sending him and pitcher Danny Farquhar to the A’s for Rajai Davis before last season. Oddly, both players are now back in Toronto’s system. For those interested in knowing more about the Vancouver native, the National Post ran a flashback feature on Magunson and former Blue Jay Tim Collins.
— Toronto also added talent to the front office, inking Chuck LaMar as a special assistant to amateur scouting. LaMar was Tampa Bay’s first GM and most recently served as Philadelphia’s GM, player development and scouting, after a stint in Washington. While not exactly known for his prowess as a general manager, LaMar is certainly considered an excellent scout with an eye for talent. He joins a front office that is already stacked with great baseball minds, including the likes of Tony LaCava (recently offered Orioles’ GM job), Jim Beattie (GM in MTL, Baltimore), Ed Lynch (former Cubs GM) and Dana Brown (director of amateur scouting in Wash). It’s clear AA has a huge emphasis on scouting, and this is just another example. And how about the possibility that LaMar was lined up with LaCava expected to take the reigns in Baltimore? Hey, it can’t hurt to have both.
— The Jays were believed to be serious suitors in the race for versatile utility-man Jamey Carroll, who signed with the Minnesota Twins today. The extremely underrated infielder would have been a great fit at second base for Toronto, after hitting .290 for the Dodgers in 2011 and with a career on-base percentage of .356. He can also run a little and has experience playing three infield positions and the outfield. Ah well.
— Toronto is supposedly interested in former Dodgers closer Jonathan Broxton. The 27-year old was one of baseball’s top relievers in 2009, before imploding in mid-2010 and dealing with plenty of injury problems. His 2011 season ended very early and Broxton underwent arthroscopic elbow surgery in September. It seems likely that he would need to take a one-year, incentive-based deal, as detailed by MLB Trade Rumors’ Ben Nicholson-Smith a few couple months back. It also seems likely that Broxton will never be his 2009-self again, but he may also come very cheap. Thoughts on this?
— The Jays are one of a multitude of teams interested in Cuban defector Yoenis Cespedes. The center fielder appears to have a great swing and should be cleared to play in the United States by December. I haven’t seen anything more than the YouTube videos, but it looks like there’s a lot of potential here, should he want to play in Toronto.
— On a more general note, the Jays are said to be pursuing a top level closer, which shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone who watched the 2011 bullpen. ESPN’s Buster Olney (insider) writes that Oakland’s Andrew Bailey could be a trade target, but that he won’t come cheap. Olney also lists free agents Heath Bell and Joe Nathan as potential targets, though it seems unlikely Toronto would give up the first round pick required to sign Bell. Jonathan Papelbon is also discussed here but he’s since signed with Philadelphia.
— Starting pitching is also on AA’s priority list, with the Jays highlighted in a Fox Sports blog by Ken Rosenthal. Says one GM of Anthopoulos, “Alex is always looking for everything. He is the only GM in the league with a 60-man roster – and I say that as a compliment. You can’t pin him down. He has interest in every one of your players.” Pretty high praise.
The pitchers listed as potential targets here are James Shields and Wade Davis (Tampa), Gio Gonzalez and Trevor Cahill (Oakland), Jair Jurrjens (Atlanta), Gavin Floyd and John Danks (Chicago), Carlos Zambrano (Cubs), Chad Billingsley (Dodgers) and Wandy Rodriguez (Houston). Who are you liking in this group?
Hope this roundup helps you stay on top of things. And feel free to post rumors and thoughts from around the web, as we await word on AA’s first significant move. Think Prince or Pujols will talk to him? David Ortiz and plenty of others are out there too. Comment below, and happy Friday.