News and Notes: January 9
By Jay Blue
There were a couple of newsworthy items coming up today that merited mention so we’re just going to get right to it.
According to a Japanese link, it looks like second baseman Takashi Toritani, a shortstop that the Blue Jays had been linked to, is going to return to the Hanshin Tigers in 2015, taking the Blue Jays out of the running. While Toritani isn’t the offensive force (at least overseas) that Jung-Ho Kang is, it leaves the Blue Jays with what they’ve got at the second base position, particularly with the signing of Asdrubal Cabrera and Stephen Drew with other teams (both in the AL East).
There is word, through Ben Badler of Baseball America, that Cuban infielder Hector Olivera will have an open showcase coming up. He left Cuba in September and still isn’t cleared to sign with a major league club but he could be a player for a big league team. Olivera will be 30 in April and Badler had him ranked as the #6 player still in Cuba. Because of his age, any money he gets will be clear of the international signing bonus that the Blue Jays will have to give up. Badler reports that the Padres and the Athletics have been connected to Olivera although he has some injury worries, losing the 2012-13 season due to a blood disorder. Badler has said that Olivera is a better overall player than Yasmany Tomas who signed with the Diamondbacks on a six-year, $68.5 million deal but that length of contract and amount of money is likely to scare away the Blue Jays who haven’t been rumoured to be major players in any Cuban player deals since Aroldis Chapman.
Speaking of a different kind of international player, Fangraphs’ Kiley McDaniel tweeted out that he expects 16-year-old Vladimir Guerrero, Jr. to sign with the Blue Jays at the July 2 International Free Agent signing window for $3.2 million. McDaniel had been more vague about which team that Guerrero was reported to have an agreement with but our friend in the Dominican, Angelo Bastardo (@Angelo_riot), had reported that it was the Blue Jays (back on December 20 and 21). The Blue Jays have been active on the international free agent market but haven’t really made a big splash since signing Franklin Barreto.
CBS Sports is reporting that four teams, including the Blue Jays are looking at Ontario native John Axford. The 31-year-old has struggled with his control, walking 36 batters in 54 2/3 innings last season after a season in 2013 in which he gave up 10 home runs in 65 innings. He’s never been a control artist and his strikeout numbers have remained very good. The Blue Jays could definitely give Axford a short-term contract, giving him a chance to rebound back into the elite group of relievers.
Finally, Shi Davidi of Sportsnet reports that the signing of Ryan Kalish to a minor league deal has fallen through. He doesn’t have very many details, though, so feel free to speculate.