* Casey Janssen, who made his major-league debut in April of 2006, will take off his Blue Jays uniform like the rest of the team Sunday afternoon after the 162nd game of the season. Will he and other free agents be wearing a Jays uniform next spring? ….
By Bob Elliott
For some Sunday afternoon it will be farewell.
The last time they will ever hear “OK Blue Jays” as a member of Your Toronto Blue Jays.
Around 4:30 afternoon they’ll be taking off their Blue Jays uniform for a final time as they head to Pearson International and flights home, some bound for free agency land.
Colby Rasmus, Melky Cabrera and Casey Janssen are free agents.
The Jays have options on Adam Lind, JA Happ, Brandon Morrow, Dustin McGowan and Josh Thole as well as Sergio Santos who will not be at the Rogers Centre.
Free at last, free at last
Rasmus, acquired from the St. Louis Cardinals in 2011 has made one start since Aug. 30. He’s hitting .225 with 18 homers and 40 RBIs in 104 games. He’s struck out 124 times in 376 at-bats.
The Jays and Janssen had contract talks at the all-star break. The dialogue did not lead anywhere.
“They made us an offer, we gave them something that we’d take and they told us we’d talk after the season,” said Janssen, who has been in the Toronto system since he was drafted in the fourth round in 2004 by Jon Lalonde and made his major-league debut in April of 2006 after 36 minor-league starts.
“I hope a team looks at what I’ve done the last three years and not the last two months, if they look at what I’ve done the first three years I should be OK,” he said.
Janssen had a 2.61 ERA, converting 74 of 81 save opportunities (91.4%) in 2012-13 plus the first four months of this season. In the final two months he’s gone 3-for-6 (50%) with a 6.46 ERA.
“I wish I had a better season both from a team and personal stand point, I have to embrace the unknown,” said the soon-to-be first-time free agent. “I’d by lying if I said I was not looking forward to it. I’ll see how I’m viewed by others teams for the first time. It could be great, it could be a harsh reality.”
Janssen said this week he hasn’t had any thoughts about possibly taking off his No. 44 for a final time.
“I don’t know if it hasn’t hit me yet,” Janssen said after the final game against the Seattle Mariners. “Maybe my feelings will change before the final game.”
The Jays want Cabrera to return. His camp says he is interested, which is the proper thing to say. But will Rogers be able to compete with some of the big spenders out there as he will get some big-time offers.
As Jack Morris used to say “a club option is no option at all.”
The Jays have a $5.2 million US option on Happ with a $200,000 buyout. Of the options Happ seems the most automatic to have his picked up by the Jays. The lefty made 26 starts winning 10 and has walked two batters or fewer in 18 of his 24 starts. He allowed no more than one run on four occasions. In 12 starts since the all-star break, he has a 3.62 ERA
What would a lefty coming off a 10-win, roughly 160 innings (he makes his final start Saturday) season get on the open market — a lot more than $5.2 million.
The Jays have a $7 million US option on Lind.
“I`ve hit behind two of the best hitters in baseball (Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion),” said Lind. “Ì`ve done pretty good. I know I’m not the big name, but if I`m politicking … I`d say I`ve had a little something to do with their success.”
Lind hit .355 with 24 doubles, two triples, six homers, 40 RBIs and a .949 OPS against right-handers. He’s ahead of Mike Trout (.948), Victor Martinez (.932), Mickey Brantley (.931), Jose Abreu (.922), Encarnacion (.915), Robinson Cano (.904) and Bautista (.901) heading into the final weekend.
Lind thought more about removing his uniform a final time more a year ago leading up to the Jays closing out the season with a 7-6 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays a year ago when he was in a similar situation, than he has leading into this Sunday.
Morrow has a disappointing season making six starts before injuring his finger and then pitching out of the bullpen for seven appearances. The Jays have an $8 million option, with a $1 million buyout, on the right-hander, a former No. 1 pick of the Seattle Mariners.
“It’s wait and see, my gut tells me that they will not (pick up his option),” said Morrow, who would head to free agency saying there is good and bad to the situation.
“The pros are I think I’m still a pretty good pitcher, while the cons are I have been injured and they have some young guys here, who are knocking on the door.“
Besides, veterans R.A. Dickey and Mark Buehrle, the Jays will have Happ providing they pick up his option and young bucks like Marcus Stroman,Drew Hutchison and Aaron Sanchez. Could they move Dickey? Or Buehrle? Or Happ? Possible.
Having started and pitched out of the bullpen with both the Mariners and now with the Jays will an offer for starting job await Morrow?
“You never know how a team views you,” said Morrow. “Some teams may offer me a starting job. Maybe it’s with a team that I couldn`t make a location, maybe it`s the location.”
A lot goes into the free agency decision-making process.
McGowan is in the final year of a three-year $4.1 million deal and he has a $1.5 million option for next season, with a $500,000 buyout.
The Jays could pick up the option of McGowan, a first rounder in 2000.
After impressing in 2013 with a 2.45 ERA in 25 bullpen appearances, the Jays thought McGowan was ready to start on a regular basis for the first time since 2011.
He was 2-2 with a 5.08 ERA in eight starts and 39 innings before moving to the bullpen where he was 3-1 with a 3.56 ERA in 43 innings.
Thole goes where Dickey goes catching the knuckleballer whether the roof is open or closed, which Dickey prefers. Likely the Jays will pick up his $1.25 million option unless the Jays give free agent catcher George Kottaras a chance next spring. Kottaras has experience catching knuckleballer Tim Wakefield with the Boston Red Sox.
Santos will not be at the Rogers Centre. The Jays have a $6 million option on Santos with a $750,000 buyout. Santos was 0-3 with five saves and an 8.57 ERA in 26 games with the Jays, walking 18 and striking out 29. He pitched in 11 games at triple-A Buffalo, working 10 2é3 scoreless innings.
So the guesses are
Rasmus, Janssen, Morrow and Santos won’t be back
Happ, Lind and Thole will likely return.
McGowan and Cabrera?
I don’t know … or did Abbott and Costello have I Don’t Know playing third base in their Who’s on First routine?
Maybe I Don’t Know will platoon with second baseman Brett Lawrie?
Suggested replacements: The Blue Jays have some holes to plug for 2015.
Some suggested ways to improve for next year.
_ Righthander Kenta Maeda, Hiroshima Carp.
Jays scouts Danny Evans and Ross Bove have already been to Japan to see Maeda and the Jays are planning on seeing his playoff start.
Do the Jays really need starting help when they already have starter R.A. Dickey, Mark Buehrle, Marcus Stroman, JA Happ, Drew Hutchison and Aaron Sanchez?
If the Jays can get better by say adding free agent Max Scherzer, should they? Of course.
It’s the job of the general manager to make his team better — not that Scherzer is coming here. He’s one of the top free agent arms available and he’s represented by super agent Scott Boras, whose last Jays client was Bill Risley.
The 5-foot-11, 160-pounder Maeda is considered a No. 3 starter, not as good as either Masahiro Tanaka or Yu Darvish but more athletic than Matsuzaka. Philadelphia Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro and former manager Charlie Manuel have seen Maeda pitch as have Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees scouts.
Maeda, 26, is 11-8 with a 2.58 ERA in 25 starts walking 40 and striking out 144 in 171 innings. In seven seasons he owns an 82-58 record with a 2.43 ERA.
The Jays dabbled in the Japanese market before. Unsuccessfully. The posting system has changed from the days of Darvish or Matsuzaka.
Now, any club agreeing to pay $20 million US can negotiate with a player whose contract is posted after Major League Baseball and Nippon Professional Baseball signed an agreement.
The Texas Rangers posted a winning bid of $51.7 million on Darvish and then gave him a six-year $60 million dollar contract. The Boston Red Sox bid of $51,111,111.11, and then gave out a six-year, $52 million contract.
It didn’t bring the price down on Tanaka, who signed a seven-year contract worth $155 million with the New York Yankees
_ Second basemen Yoan Moncada and Hector Olivera.
Both Cuban infielders have defected. If the Jays go on experience their interest would be in Olivera, who turns 30 in April, ranked as the No. 6 player still in Cuba by Baseball America.
The 6-foot-2, 195 pound, Olivera was behind only Aroldis Chapman, Yoenis Cespedes and third baseman Yulieski Gourriel as the top Cuban prospects at the 2009 World Baseball Classic. He was MVP at the 2010 Intercontinental Cup but has not been seen at an international event since. Playing for Santiago De Cuba in Serie Nacional he hit .316 with seven home runs.
If the Jays go for a high ceiling as they usually do the player would be the 6-foot, 210-pound switch-hitting Moncada, 19.
“I saw Yasiel Puig and Jorge Soler at past the World Juniors, and I saw this guy in Taiwan in 2013, he might be more advanced than either,” said one evaluator.
Neither Moncada nor his agent have had workouts for for clubs.