I’m sitting in the MLB.com workroom at the Dolphin Hotel, killing some time before meeting up with Larry O’Brien, Ted Lilly’s agent. A few minutes ago, Cubs manager Lou Piniella held court in the larger media workroom next door, discussing his club and, among other things, Lilly and free agent Gil Meche. As you know, Lilly and Meche are Toronto’s top two targets right now.
Piniella was in Seattle when Pete O’Brien, Larry’s brother, was a pitcher with the Mariners. That’s one small connection that could help sway Lilly to the North Side if Pete is talking Lou up to Larry, who is frequently reporting back to the pitcher. Lilly obviously has more familiarity with Toronto and the American League East — that’s one reason why a) the Jays aren’t out of the picture, yet, and b) the Yankees could be a bigger player than we’ve been led to believe at this point.
O’Brien said late Tuesday night that New York hadn’t tabled an offer, but rumors have questioned that. The Yankees were thought to be cooling on Lilly after winning the negotiating rights to lefty Kei Igawa, but New York is a place Lilly has pitched before — not to mention a place he enjoyed. If the Andy Pettitte to New York rumblings turn out to be nothing more than rumors, the Yankees might quickly become stronger competition for Lilly.
As far as Meche goes, he pitched for Piniella in Seattle, too. That could make the Cubs a very high priority team for the right-hander. Basically, Lilly and Meche have plenty of big-market suitors who could leave the Jays going 0-for-2. Backup plans? Jeff Suppan and Mark Redman’s names have been batted around.
Toronto general manager J.P. Ricciardi said on Tuesday night that he was interested in free agent outfielder Matt Stairs. Stairs could provide a much-needed left-handed bat off the bench and would serve as a fourth outfielder. He could also possibly provide another backup at first base.
There’s also rumors that free agent reliever, and former National League Cy Young Award winner, Eric Gagne — a native of Quebec — has listed the Jays as a team he’s interested in. On Tuesday, Scott Boras, who represents Gagne, said, "It doesn’t hurt to have a hockey town involved." Ricciardi said no one from Gagne’s side had contacted the Jays and the Jays hadn’t contacted them. Right now, Toronto plans on having Brandon League serve as the setup man and B.J. Ryan is locked in as the closer. There doesn’t appear to be room in the bullpen or in the budget for Gagne, so don’t get your hopes up.