Clock strikes for Mayberry, Dirks

MLB: Baltimore Orioles at Seattle Mariners

 * The Blue Jays said yes to Josh Donaldson, Danny Valencia, Brett Cecil and Marco Estrada and no to Justin Smoak,  John Mayberry Jr. and Andy Dirks when it was time to tender contracts. ….

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Letters of Intent

By Andrew Hendriks
Major League Baseball’s non-tender deadline arrived as the clock struck 11:59, Tuesday night.

In total, the Blue Jays employed seven arbitration-eligible players in which they needed to either offer a healthy raise, or choose to let walk via free agency.

General manager Alex Anthopoulos and his staff at 1 Blue Jays Way issued four contract upgrades.

Of the seven, infielder’s Josh Donaldson and Danny Valencia received a vote of confidence from the Jays’ organization while hurlers Brett Cecil and Marco Estrada rounded out the pack with added raises.

On the other hand, first baseman/DH, Justin Smoak as well as outfielders John Mayberry Jr. and Andy Dirks were respectfully shown the door.

In their decision to let Smoak and what was shaping up to be the Blue Jays left field platoon for 2015 go, the club saved an estimated $6.5M in contracts, potentially freeing up some additional cash in order to take a serious run at another free agent.

It’s worth noting that as free agents, the Jays can still peruse any one of the four individuals they chose to non-tender on Tuesday, as the club may opt to try and retain the players services for a lower dollar value than they would have commanded via the arbitration process.

As it sits right now, Kevin Pillar is holding on to top spot on the organizations depth chart with regards to left field and Dioner Navarro appears to be the Jays’ strongest bet at designated hitter.

That said, with an OPS of .641 in 89 MLB contests through 2014, Pillar could certainly benefit from some more seasoning in the minors and Navarro, the Jays’ primary catcher in 2013, has expressed interest in a trade following the teams acquisition Russell Martin this past November.

With previous gaps appearing in the outfield as well second base prior to Tuesdays deadline, the Jays’, now down an additional pair of outfielders not to mention a DH, have their work cut out for them between now and April fifth.

In order to be successful in 2015, the club will need to bring in additional support for a lineup that, with the recent addition of Donaldson, could prove to be one of the more potent 1-5 showing’s in the major leagues.

And that’s before (or after) they choose to address the bullpen, who following Casey Janssen’s eight-year tenure with the Jays’, is down a closer and could benefit from a hard throwing arm or two in an additional set up role.

Up until this point, it’s been a busy off-season for the Blue Jays and, given the additional tweaks that need to be done between now and spring training, it promises to continue unfolding at a torrid pace.

When all was said and done, there were 32 players who were non-tendered, Tuesday.

Of those who became free agents in addition to Toronto’s three, the Blue Jays, given their current personnel situation, could potentially show interest in RHP Alexi Ogando, infielders Gordon Beckham and Everth Cabrera or first baseman/DH Kyle Blanks.

   -Follow Andrew Hendriks on Twitter (@77hendriks)

Scott Harrigan
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