Jays continue their search for closer


* The Blue Jays left the winter meetings without a closer, but they’ll continue to search for someone to get the final three outs. Too bad there isn’t a Tom Henke out there. …. 

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Letters of Intent


By Bob Elliott

SAN DIEGO _ Manager John Gibbons hasn’t phoned batting practice pitcher Jesus Figueroa for a heart-to-heart to tell him his scheduled mound time may be altered next season.

Instead of facing Blue Jays hitters at 4:30, could he be asked the get the final three outs with the Jays nursing a one-run lead?

Not yet anyway.

Luke Gregerson and Pat Neshek, two relievers the Blue Jays had been attracted to, came off the board at the winter meetings, signing with Houston Astros.

And now?

The Jays will attempt to fill their need via the trade route.

Like either Wade Davis, the Kansas City Royals set-up man or KC closer Greg Holland. The cost for a closer according to scouts from other team is prized lefty prospect Daniel Norris.

And one could argue — if you lived in Kansas City near the corner of 12th Street and Vine — that Davis was worth the same in return talent as Holland.

Consider that Davis, 29, earns $7 million in 2015, $8 million the next year and $10 million US in 2017. Holland, 29, who earned $4.675 million in 2014, is under control for two seasons. He’s blown five saves in 98 chances the previous two seasons.

This year as the Royals won the American League championship, Davis was 9-2 with a 1.00 ERA pitching mostly the eighth innings of games. He walked 23 and struck out 109 in 72 innings. Davis has never held down a full-time closing role saving three of six chances last year.

Besides the Royals the only other teams scouts have identified as having a surplus of relievers are the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim and the Seattle Mariners.

Both new Astros were too rich for the Jays: Gregerson signing a three-year, $18.5 million US deal, Neshek a two-year $12.5 million contract. Houston had unsuccessfully bid on free agents David Robertson and Andrew Miller.

The Jays had met with Neshek’s agent this week at the Manchester Grand Hyatt.

Dioner Navarro, who did most of the catching in 2014, is surplus with Russell Martin’s arrival. So outside of Navarro and low-level prospects the Jays don’t have a lot of chips to play.

Do the Royals, who want to repeat, want prospects or a legitimate prospect in Norris, to make up for the loss of free agent James Shields in exchange for one of their late-inning studs.

Say the Jays rotation lines up like this: R.A. Dickey, Mark Buehrle, Drew Hutchison, Marcus Stroman and Aaron Sanchez.

The next five would be Marco Estrada, Todd Redmond, Norris, Liam Hendriks and Chad Jenkins.

Would you trade your No. 8 starter for a lights-out closer?

Whether his name was Davis or Holland?

Would you do it to reach post-season play in 2015 and end a 21-year post-season drought, the longest active skid in the majors?

Now, remember before you answer as a pretend GM you are in the last year of your pretend contract. The president is headed into his last year. Likely.

Chances are you said yes.

But hold on a second it is not that easy as who you start on Sunday for your fantasy team.

Summing up the subtractions the Jays moved Sean Nolin and Kendal Graveman, who likely would have filled a bullpen spot next season, to the Oakland A’s for Donaldson and sent J.A. Happ to Seattle for Saunders.

That’s three starters going out … and only one (Estrada) incoming. Could the Jays move a fourth starter in two months with only one coming back?

After landing free-agent catcher Martin, then trading for third baseman Josh Donaldson and left fielder Michael Saunders, the Jays decided to focus on their bullpen.

“We had parallel talks (both with free agent relievers and clubs in an attempt to obtain a reliever),” said general manager Alex Anthopoulos.

With Miller, Gregerson and Neshak — the Jays were interested in all three — locked up the Jays will have to trade for someone to get the last three outs … as well as add needed bullpen depth.

Did avoiding over paying a free agent mean that they will not have to over pay for a closer in trade?

“The goal is not to over pay,” said Anthopoulos. “We’re talking about trading, turning our attention more to trades right now in terms of the relievers.

“It’s not to say that’s how we ultimately end up, but I’d say we’re a little bit more on that right now.”

Before the Jays turn to the man simply known as “Figgy” Figueroa or ask for free-agent Casey Janssen to come back … they will explore the trade route.

It’s expensive out there.

Scott Harrigan
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