December 2008

Happy Holidays

Just tossing up a short note to wish everyone a safe and Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. Or, a Merry Christmahannakwanzukah! Or, Happy Festivus! Whatever you’re celebrating this time of year, have a blast. I’m heading home to Chicago with Mrs. Bastian for the holiday and will be back next week. Until then…

~Jordan Bastian

Jays out on Furcal

TORONTO — I’ve been stuck on the couch or in bed pretty much since I got back from the Winter Meetings. I’m sick and it’s not fun. I’ve got a marathon in less than a month and I haven’t been running in a week. Basically, I feel like garbage.

My theory is that my body is rejecting all this fresh air after being stuck inside the smoky casino in Las Vegas for four days. But, what are you going to do? Hopefully, I’ll be on the mend here soon. I’ve been sick for about five or six days now — very rare for me.

Anyway, just because I’m stuck inside with this cold, that doesn’t mean I haven’t been trying to work the phones. Spoke briefly with Paul Kinzer today — the agent for shortstop Rafael Furcal — and it appears as though the Jays are no longer in the running to sign the free agent.

“J.P. did all he could, but he couldn’t work it out,” Kinzer said. “We appreciate everything he did.”

The A’s appear to lead the pack, with the Dodgers and Royals also in the mix. Kinzer declined to going into specifics, but I’ve been writing from the beginning that acquiring Furcal was a long shot. Jays GM J.P. Ricciardi wasn’t immediately available for comment.

As for short, I’m not sure what this will mean for the Jays. They might be content with using Marco Scutaro and John McDonald, which is what Ricciardi had been saying all winter until the Furcal rumors resurfaced. Orlando Cabrera is also out there on the open market.

Again, though, if the Jays want to add anything, they’ll have to subtract, according to Ricciardi. Without Furcal in the plans, maybe Toronto could again turn its focus toward someone like Jason Giambi to help out in the power department. Just some speculation on my part.

More as more develops…


Know when to fold 'em…

LAS VEGAS — Yup, the Winter Meetings have come to a close, with the boys in the Big Apple making the most noise this year. No surprises there, I guess. As for your Toronto Blue Jays, it was a quiet week — aside for some sitdowns.

Today, Toronto agreed to a Minor League contract with free-agent pitcher Matt Clement, and the deal could be announced as soon as Friday. Clement is coming off 2006 shoulder surgery, so we’ll see what kind of shape he’s in health wise. Toronto has also had talks with free-agent Carl Pavano this week.

The biggest news was the re-emergence of the Jays as players for shortstop Rafael Furcal — a few weeks after GM J.P. Ricciardi said the club’s interest had diminished. Now, Toronto is hoping to land the shortstop to boost their offense, which has lacked a true leadoff hitter for a while now.

The Jays aren’t saying they’re out on A.J. Burnett, but it seems highly improbable that he’d wind up back north of the border. The Yankees are apparently offering him five guaranteed years, which is something the Jays aren’t willing to do. Between the Braves and the Bronx, I would wager that Burnett winds up in pinstripes.

As for Rule 5 rumblings, the Jays lost infielders Anthony Hatch and Ryan Klosterman in the Triple-A phase and picked up outfielder Cody Haerther and pitcher David Shinskie in the same round. No activity in the Major League portion, so no Jason Smiths or Randy Wells types this season.

In the search for a backup catcher, the Jays have met with free-agent catcher Michael Barrett. Toronto is probably hoping to sign him to a Minor League contract as well. That would provide some depth behind Rod Barajas, and would allow the Jays to keep J.P. Arencibia playing every day in the Minors.

With that, I’m going to get out of here. I have some time to kill before I have to catch a Red Eye back to the GTA and I feel like I still have never been to Vegas. I’ve been stuck in the Bellagio pretty much this whole week. Catch you all from Toronto…


Winter Meetings Day 3

las-vegas.jpgLAS VEGAS — Heading up to bed last night at about 3 a.m., we caught wind that C.C. Sabathia had come close to an agreement to pitch for the Yankees. This morning, it’s reportedly a done deal.

So C.C. will be in the East, not great news for the Blue Jays. It’ll also be interesting to see what this 7-year, $160ish million deal will mean for A.J. Burnett’s pending deal. It could potentially drive up his asking price.

Later this afternoon, we’ll be sitting down with Jays manager Cito Gaston to talk shop. It’s still mostly quiet on the Toronto front, with no real updates on what’s already been reported. So, I’ll keep you posted with any updates throughout the day.


Winter Meetings Day 1

las-vegas.jpgLAS VEGAS — I’m currently sitting in the work room here at the Bellagio in Vegas, where Day 1 of baseball’s annual winter meetings are underway. As Blue Jays rumors and reports surface, I’ll do my best to keep the ol’ blog updated.

I actually landed here on Saturday and took part in the Las Vegas half marathon on Sunday morning (ran the 13.1 miles in 1:41.41 for those who might be interested). This being my first visit to Sin City, that was a great way to experience the Strip for the first time.

But, it’s back to work. Toronto will probably be quiet for the most part this week, maybe looking into some potential trades, if anything. The Jays will probably have a meeting with A.J. Burnett’s rep, who has a growing list of suitors for his client. The latest is that the Cardinals, who pursued Burnett prior to the ’06 season, are the latest team to show interest.

I spoke with Darek Braunecker last night, when Burnett officially rejected Toronto’s arbitration offer — the expected outcome — and the agent said he believes the Jays are still in the running, considering the club hasn’t told him otherwise. No matter where Burnett ends up, Toronto will likely be approached before it’s all said and done.

“They don’t have to sell anything to him. He knows what he’s got in Toronto,” Braunecker said. “They were providing us the luxury and respect to go through the process and kind of circle back with them at the appropriate time. Unless their position has changed, or changes going forward, then by all means we anticipate visiting with them and concluding the process with them involved.”

More as the day unfolds…


2:40 pm ET — Greg Maddux is currently holding a press conference, announcing his retirement. I remember watching Maddux when I was growing up in Chicago. He was definitely an amazing pitcher, cut from a different cloth style wise. Winning 350+ games in this era is quite a feat. He can start working on his Hall of Fame induction speech.

3:08 pm ET — There’s a brief item in the Newark Star-Ledger, noting that the Blue Jays and Mets have discussed the availability of Toronto closer B.J. Ryan. The Jays reportedly want outfielder Fernando Martinez, but no way New York deals him for Ryan, especially with other closer options on the open market. Ryan is owed $10 million in each of the next two seasons.

5:47 pm ET — A Major League source declined to comment on a report in the Newark Star-Ledger claiming that the Blue Jays and Mets had discussed Ryan’s availability, but hinted that the rumor was unfounded. There have been conflicting online reports about whether or not the two clubs actually met.

8:53 pm ET — A couple things: The Jays did not talk to the Mets about B.J. Ryan and Toronto doesn’t plan on shopping him, says GM J.P. Ricciardi. Also today, Ricciardi sat down with Tom O’Connell, the agent for free-agent pitcher Carl Pavano. O’Connell said the meeting went well and said the Jays have “significant interest.” The agent plans on meeting with roughly 10 teams this week and doesn’t necessarily anticipate Pavano signing before the Meetings here in Vegas end. Ricciardi, meanwhile, said the Jays may have to free up some payroll through trades in order to accomplish some of their goals. Some of Toronto’s relievers could be packaged in a deal and Ricciardi didn’t deny that the club listen to offers for Alex Rios, though he did say they weren’t actively shopping him. Acquiring pitching help is the priority. If the Jays don’t land any arms, Ricciardi foresees a rotation that might include Roy Halladay, Jesse Litsch, David Purcey, Casey Janssen and maybe Scott Downs, Brian Tallet, Brett Cecil or Ricky Romero. More later on…

11:21 pm ET — Heading out to dinner, but before I go… A report on Yahoo! Sports is saying that the Jays might yet be a player for free-agent shortstop Rafael Furcal. Haven’t been able to get this confirmed or denied, but Toronto would have to shift payroll to make it happen, and I don’t see how — given Ricciardi’s comments today — they could top the Oakland offer that Furcal rejected. But, I guess you never know… Eatin’ time.

Ricciardi: "It looks like we're going to lose Burnett"

The Blue Jays are preparing for life without A.J. Burnett. In the wake of news that the Braves have extended a formal offer to the free-agent pitcher, Jays general manager J.P. Ricciardi noted that his club isn’t expecting Burnett to head back to Toronto.

“It looks like we’re going to lose Burnett,” Blue Jays general manager J.P. Ricciardi told the Canadian Press. “We don’t know where Burnett is going to go, but we’ve got to assume Burnett’s going to be gone.”

Given Toronto’s current financial situation — sponsorship is down, the Canadian dollar has weakened, and the team experienced layoffs within the organization this week — the Jays aren’t likely to be big players with any other free agents. Ricciardi noted that the club will continue to explore trades for pitching help.

“I don’t really see us being that active unless it’s via the trade route right now,” Ricciardi was quoted as saying. “I think we’ll listen and we’ll try to create some things. But really, at the end of the day, I don’t see us being that active.”