2016 Canadian draft list
Letters of Intent
By Andrew Hendriks
It’s been that kind of off-season for the Toronto Blue Jays.
In typical Anthopoulos-era style, the club pulled off a series of moves, Wednesday … none of which were speculated or expected prior to the time of their individual announcements.
Highlighting Toronto’s flurry of transactions was the arrival of Michael Saunders, a 28 year-old outfielder who is now slated to fill the vacancy left in the wake of Melky Cabrera’s decision to turn down the Jays’ qualifying offer, electing free agency earlier this off season.
In order to acquire the Canadian born Saunders, Toronto shipped left-handed starter, J.A. Happ to the Mariners, completing the 1-for-1 deal and officially addressing their left field situation mere hours after the clubs decision to non-tender both Andy Dirks and John Mayberry Jr., late Tuesday night.
Happ, who initially joined the Jays’ via a mid-season trade with he Houston Astros in 2012, went 19-20 while posting a cumulative ERA of 4.39 over 58 games with Toronto.
Prior to the trade, the Peru, IL native had been penciled into the Blue Jays starting rotation, representing the teams fifth starter behind R.A. Dickey, Mark Buehrle, Marcus Stroman and Drew Hutichison. His departure clears a spot for either Aaron Sanchez or Daniel Norris, who, prior to the trade, had been regulated to bullpen roles given Toronto’s depth with regards to starting pitching.
As for Saunders, who posted career highs batting average (.273), OBP (.341), slugging percentage (.450) and OPS (.791) during an injury riddled 2014 campaign, the former Team Canada representative (2013 World Baseball Classic) joins the Blue Jays in the midst of what has been one of the busiest off-seasons in franchise history. As it stands, the one time 11th round draft pick (2004) represents the tenth new comer to the organization since regular season play came to an end on September 28th.
Under team control through the end of the 2016 season, Saunders, who is arbitration eligible this winter, will likely receive somewhere in the neighborhood of $3.9M in 2015, roughly $3M less than Happ was slated to earn. The subsequent saving’s will likely be used to address of other team needs, such as addressing a weakened bullpen or upgrading the clubs second base situation.
In addition to Saunders, former Team Canada star during the 2013 World Baseball Classic Toronto formally welcomed both former Mariner, Justin Smoak and outfielder, Ezequiel Carrera into the fold Wednesday afternoon.
Smoak, originally claimed off waivers from the Mariners this October, had been non-tendered along with Dirks and Mayberry Jr. at the deadline, Tuesday. A day later, he rejoins the organization on a one-year, $1M contract… Saving Toronto an additional $2M as the 28 year old first baseman had been projected to earn around $3M in arbitration this winter.
With Adam Lind having been dealt to Milwaukee for right-hander, Marco Estrada on November first, Smoak, who has yet to live up to his “cant-miss prospect” billing, could potentially end up splitting time with Edwin Encarnacion between first base and DH for Toronto in 2015.
Rounding out the series of transactions is Carrera, who signed a MiLB deal with an invite to spring training this march.
Spending the majority of 2014 with the triple-A Mudhens, the former Indians prospect slashed a respectable .307/.387/.422 while knocking six home runs, five triples and 15 doubles. Designated for assignment by the Tigers after being made expendable by Detroit’s acquisition of Anthony Gose this November, a deal that brought the Blue Jays the highly touted second base prospect, Devon Travis, Carrera opted to decline the assignment, declaring himself a minor league free agent prior to Toronto’s call this Wednesday.
After a 2013-14 off-season that saw the Blue Jays make limited gains with regards to acquiring new talent outside of the fee-agent signing of Dioner Navarro, the amount of transactions and roster tweaks made between October and now may be hard to fathom.
And just think, we’ve yet to hit the winter meetings …
– Follow Andrew Hendriks on Twitter (@77hendriks)