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Today In MLBTR: Monday, November 27th

The hot stove feels like it’s still barely warm just yet, but with November quickly drawing to a close, the deadline to tender contracts coming up on Friday, and the Winter Meetings not too far around the corner (they start unusually late this year, running from December 10th to the 14th in Orlando), there’s a chance that at some point the rumblings are really going to start to come quick. And even if they’re not — even if the league is going to remain in a holding pattern until some team lands Shohei Otani — there’s… um… there really isn’t a whole hell of a lot else to talk about these days. So let’s join in on the fun, create some content, and put a Jays-related spin on the latest rumblings from over at the excellent and invaluable MLB Trade Rumors (with some other items thrown in for good measure)…

Nick Cafardo. I’ll completely forgive you if you read that and want to skip this paragraph, but a rumour is a rumour and I feel an obligation to pass it along, no matter how fanciful I think it might be. And so I must tell you that in Cafardo’s latest for the Boston Globe he claims that the Jays, along with the Brewers, Twins, Rockies, and Rangers, “are known to have checked in with” Jake Arrieta. A few things on this. First, obviously “checking in” doesn’t mean a whole hell of a lot. Ross Atkins wouldn’t be doing his job if he didn’t check in on just about everybody. Also obviously, I think it’s especially unlikely that the Jays actually end up signing Arrieta — or, perhaps more accurately, that he’d sign with them. But I’ll say this: with two fifths of the club’s rotation set to hit free agency after this season, and another fifth of the rotation vacant, adding a top end starter now makes a whole lot of sense, if they can make it happen. They may lose Josh Donaldson, as well as J.A. Happ and Marco Estrada after this season, but with someone like Arrieta in their rotation, along with Marcus Stroman and Aaron Sanchez, they’d have some really great building blocks for success in 2019 and beyond. Obviously they’d be even farther ahead if the starter they could add was Shohei Ohtani, who’ll take up far, far less of the club’s payroll in his early years — as would any team, which is why it’s probably not likely Arrieta, or anybody else, will sign before the Ohtani situation is sorted — but signing Arrieta would work, too! Y’know, if you want to pipe dream about it.

An AL East Notes piece tells us about Shi Davidi’s report from back on Friday about Max Pentecost having been shut down in the Arizona Fall League due to a recurrence of the shoulder problems that have plagued his pro career so far. This, Shi speculates, might be why the Jays felt confident enough that no other team would take Pentecost in the Rule 5 draft as to leave him off their 40-man roster — and it certainly doesn’t hurt the club to have had this information come out, with the Rule 5 taking place in just over two weeks, at the end of the Winter Meetings. The other thing about Pentecost’s omission from the 40-man is, I have little doubt, the fact that he’d have been the fifth catcher on it, with one more likely still due to be added when the Jays acquire a proper backup — assuming Luke Maile isn’t removed from the roster at that point. The other other thing about it is that he still has so much development still to go, which means that they could run into problems down the line if they had placed him on the 40-man now and started having to burn option years. (His need for development also means he probably isn’t, or wasn’t, very likely to be snapped up by another club anyway.)

Also in that AL East Notes piece is a section on Shohei Ohtani, and the fact that the Rays — the Rays! — intend on making a “serious bid.” We’re told that the club’s hope is that “their willingness to let this year’s top pick, Brendan McKay, develop as both a pitcher and a hitter in the minor leagues will show Ohtani that they’re willing to let him try his hand as a genuine two-way player.” This, I think, is good news for the Jays. One, because the Rays can’t possibly be a real landing spot for Ohtani. And two, because it seems like teams really do believe that Ohtani’s desires are driving the bus here — which leaves the Jays far better positioned than a lot of teams, and than they’d be if all this were strictly about money. Ohtani’s agents sent a memo to all 30 teams over the weekend, asking them to submit formal, written answers to a number of questions to help him narrow down the places he’d like to play. You’ll can see more on that from me over at the Athletic.

Ohtani is mentioned in Ken Rosenthal’s latest notes piece for the Athletic, but what jumped out at me, in a Jays-related way, was the fact that he noted that Starling Marte has been playing in centre in the Dominican Winter League, which leads Ken to muse about the possibility of an Andrew McCutchen trade. (Do it, Jays!). Also in there are Ken’s thoughts on Ichiro, who he notes “batted .304 with a .751 OPS in 151 plate appearances” after May 28th. Would you rather Ichiro in the Ezequiel Carrera role in 2018, or Zeke? Probably still Zeke, but I don’t know! And what might Ohtani think???

Speaking of dealing with the Pirates, MLBTR tells us about Jung Ho Kang being released from his Dominican Winter League team, which leads to a discussion of the Pirates’ infield depth. A lot of Jays fans have wondered if Josh Harrison might be a target for the Jays, and I suppose, despite the fact that he’s a right-handed hitter, he could be. He’s a good defensive second baseman who can also play third or in the outfield, is a good base runner, can steal some bases, and is a high contact, low walk, low strikeout kind of guy. It could work, especially if Pittsburgh wants to save some money (Harrison is owed $10.5 million for 2018, with an option for 2019 as well). But I’d be a little wary of the 16 home runs he hit with those juiced 2017 balls, given that his career high before that was 13 back in 2014, and that in his other five big league seasons he’s never hit more than four. His career wRC+ is just 101, and if that’s getting bumped up by a couple years where his HR/FB% was unsustainably high for him (it was 11.5% in 2014, and 10.0% in 2017, but sits at just 5.7% for his career), that’s a concern.

The Phillies announced that former top pick Mark Appel and former Blue Jays farmhand Alberto Tirado have cleared waivers and been outrighted to Triple-A. Some felt — mostly those who haven’t paid much attention to the pitching tribulations of Mark Appel in the years since he was a hotshot prospect, one assumes — that Appel would be an interesting pitcher for a club like the Blue Jays to take a flyer on. Meh. Tirado, of course, was one of a pair of prospects the Jays sent to the Phillies at the trade deadline in 2015, in exchange for Ben Revere.

The Rangers signed Doug Fister over the weekend. LOL. But they also remain interested in starting pitching — like some of the guys the Jays might have interest in, Alex Cobb and Lance Lynn among them. Speaking of that:

Yep.

The report Josh is referring to here is about Twins GM Thad Levine calling Yu Darvish “a priority” for the club, as well as Ohtani. “Interestingly, there has been speculation that, because of the good relationship they forged in their homeland, Ohtani and Darvish, 31, could end up with the same team this winter as a sort of package deal,” writes Conner Byrne. Could the Jays pull off a thing like that? It would stretch the budget to add Darvish, I think, but they could certainly make it work — either by moving Aaron Sanchez to the bullpen, or, more likely, by flipping J.A. Happ the kind middle infield/outfield piece or pieces they covet. Of course, there might be another way to do that…

Lastly, over at FanGraphs, Dave Cameron tries to work out a trade between the Jays and Cardinals with Josh Donaldson as the centrepiece, and… actually… he certainly makes some sense. The deal he pitches would see Donaldson go to St. Louis for Jedd Gyrko and Matt Carpenter. I’ll let you go and read Cameron’s explanations for it yourself, but at the very least it does look like a viable way to move the Jays’ best player without getting so much worse in the near term as to render keeping all sorts of other veterans and free-agents-to-be completely pointless. Carpenter’s a lefty bat who can play first, second, third, or the outfield, and whose last three seasons by wRC+ are 139, 136, 123. (as a comparison, Edwin Encarnación’s last two years have been 135 and 132), and Gyrko can man third, shortstop in a pinch, could play at second or first, and has posted a 112 wRC+ in each of the last two years. I’m by no means stumping for the Jays to do this — I think signing Donaldson to an extension seems a much better plan, and beyond that I’m very, very OK with the club going into the season with him and seeing where that goes (even if it means losing him for a mere draft pick) — but it at least makes you think.