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Today In MLBTR: Wednesday, November 29th

The hot stove still feels like it’s still barely warm, 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 or Giancarlo Stanton — 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 at least one other item thrown in for good measure)…

The Jays feature in a “market chatter” post, as we’re pointed to a Jon Morosi tweet from this afternoon, indicating that the club and the Atlanta bAArves “had brief contact this month about a possible Nick Markakis trade.” That’s… uh… scary. Or it would be if Morsi’s next words weren’t “but talks have failed to advance.” One one hand, sure, the Jays ought to check in on everyone. On that same hand, I can’t imagine they’d have had any interest in Markakis without the Braves paying a bunch of the freight. But on the other hand, would he even be that bad? His defensive metrics have fluctuated enough between good and bad over the last several years to make you think that he’s just about average, and though his power is gone he still hits doubles (38 or 39 in each of the last three years), and his last four OBPs have been .342, .370, .346, .354. That works.

In looking at eight potentially undervalued free agents, we come across several familiar names, and some that are just plain intriguing. Joe Smith is in there, and though the price tag will be higher than what they paid last year, the Jays could certainly take a look. There are items on other mid-30s relievers who the Jays might have interest in, like right-handers Yusmeiro Petit and Matt Albers, and left-hander Brian Duensing. Adam Lind is one of the names on the list. Rajai Davis gets name dropped (as he’s similar to other listed outfielders, Austin Jackson and Cameron Maybin, neither of whom seem great fits for the Jays, I don’t think), but the especially interesting one is Chris Iannetta. Decent catchers are hard to come by, so I’d imagine there’s starter money out there for him somewhere, but if not — and MLBTR suggests that he could be a fit for team looking for “a quality backup” — someone who slashed .254/.354/.511 with 17 home runs would look real good as Russell Martin’s caddy. Which, y’know, is why it almost certainly wouldn’t happen.

Bob Elliiott tweets that Jays scout Dana Brown might be another crony who is about to join Alex Anthopoulos in Atlanta. The rank odour of cronyism is hard to stomach, isn’t it? Unbelievable! (Can we use some of these guys to trade for Markakis? No? Well, then I AM OUTRAGED!)

This is more of a Daily Duce-ish item, but what the hell: over at Jays Journal a headline screams “Blue Jays need to lock up Hernán Pérez if non-tendered by Brewers.” Uh… yeah, no. They don’t. Pérez, we’re told, had a “very impressive stat line” in 2016 — a year, it should be noted, that was not 2017. His 34 stolen bases were cool, I suppose, and it’s neato that he plays a bunch of positions, and I can’t deny that he’s shown a little more pop in the last two years than he did earlier in his career. But… uh… his 2016 produced a slash line of .272/.302/.428, and this year it was a fugly .259/.289/.414. The Blue Jays do not need to “lock up” that kind of player at all, no matter how many positions he can field while being garbage at the plate. Nor does anybody. (Best of luck though Hernán!)

Apparently the San Francisco Giants have been in touch with the Pirates regarding Andrew McCutchen. Gamesmanship in the Giancarlo Stanton saga, perhaps? The Giants are definitely thought to be one of the strong suitors for the reigning NL MVP, but the former MVP, McCutchen, who put a lot of worries about his decline to rest with a nice season in 2017, would obviously look good there, too. Hey, how about we hear the Jays discussing this guy instead of Markakis, amiright???

We’re pointed in the direction of an interesting piece from Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports, who suggests that the explanation that the market is being held up by Stanton and Shohei Ohtani is not quite correct. “Passan argues that front offices — now widely populated by similarly minded executives with significant analytical resources — have narrowing differences in player valuation and increasingly prefer not to build through the open market. Growing out of that executive trend, perhaps, is also an added recognition from teams that patience generally depresses prices in free agent negotiations. Enhanced discipline also allows teams to turn the new collective bargaining agreement’s luxury-tax penalties into what one agent describes to Passan as ‘significant salary depressors.’ Meanwhile, he suggests, there’s a sense in some quarters that individual players are no longer quite as interested in gunning for top dollar.” What’s interesting for our purposes is how well this lines up with some of what Ross Atkins was saying last week on At The Letters. Like, it lines up really well. Here’s Atkins: “What I’ve experienced in the last five to ten years is that more teams now value players in a similar way. So, I think that’s good for baseball, because that allows then more trade discussion. I think what that then creates is more patience in free agency — to understand what’s available to you throughout trade, throughout free agency, and to make sure you have a picture of the entire market. That also creates opportunities for teams to identify talents that they know they want, and to be more aggressive and assertive on. We just haven’t seen that this year.” Hmmm.

Lastly, apparently the Red Sox are considering trading with the White Sox again, this time looking at José Abreu. He would be an alternative to Boston going after Giancarlo Stanton — who some believe doesn’t really want to go to Boston anyway (they’re an “extreme long shot” according to Evan Drellich), and who Derek Jeter GODDAMN WELL BETTER NOT trade to Boston, to help the Yankees’ rivals — which… is… good? I mean, it would be better for those jowly, white haired, Ted Kennedy-lookin’ motherfuckers to not have Stanton, but Abreu is pretty good too. He’s yet to repeat the success he had in his rookie year of 2014, but after two years of “decline” (he still posted a 120 wRC+ in the worst of those two seasons) he came damn close to doing so in 2017. The Red Sox are a problem.

  • Tom Flawless

    I just assume AA reached out to the Jays about divesting his team of Markakis, since he’d be happy to exchange the 34 year-old RF for young, controllable talent, even if he only has a year left. Sure as hell doesn’t seem like someone the Jays would target.

      • Tom Flawless

        Because they want to compete in 2018 and he only has one year left on his deal? That I get, but he’s past his prime and he’s paid more than his contract is worth (1 WAR is worth $8 million on the open market?). I guess I could see him as Jay Bruce-lite, though.

        • Lite? Light? I mean, sure, the power is lighter, but the last time Bruce had an OBP as high as Markakis did in 2017 was 2010. WAR is the best shorthand we’ve got, yes, but sometimes you look at the components and think better of someone, especially in context, than you might by only looking at his WAR.

          Like, I understand why a low OBP guy can end up above average by wRC+ because of power, but in a lineup with several low average, low OBP, high strikeout guys, I think there’s something to be said for a guy who can get on base a whole bunch, even if he technically grades out as a below league average hitter.

          The shape matters. Or, more accurately, I’m not convinced the shape doesn’t matter.

          I also don’t think they’d be interested unless Atlanta was paying at least some of the freight.

          Equivocations on WAR aside, Markakis fills an outfield corner spot for reasonable money and adds a needed dimension of OBP while grading out as a better defender than Bruce. Which is to say, he’s at least passable, and not only that, better and more reliably viable at the big league level (though not necessarily *better*) than, say, Teoscar Hernández. There’s only a one year commitment required, and he wouldn’t cost much.

          I know he doesn’t fit the “younger, more athletic” thing the Jays would ideally move toward, but they’re keen enough to understand that they can’t get there in one or two years, or with one move, or probably on the free agent or trade market at all — unless they’re moving better, older talent. The Jays would definitely have interest!

          • Tom Flawless

            Thanks for the detailed response. Bruce is still within his prime playing years (or perhaps just exiting his prime playing years) at 30. He’s three and a half years younger than Markakis, and he’ll require a multi-year deal. I don’t see him getting fewer than three years on the open market. I casually referred to Markakis as Jay Bruce-lite because he’s (arguably) not as good and requires much less of a commitment (a lighter commitment, as it were) from the Jays.

            Based on the case you’ve set out, I might actually prefer Markakis if the Braves ate some of the dough and the Jays spent the savings elsewhere. It would raise their team’s OBP, it wouldn’t prevent them from pursuing the youth movement long-term (or even block Alford short-term necessarily, depending on how they handle Carrera/Pearce/Hernandez), and, most importantly, it might irritate Orioles fans.

  • ErnieWhitt

    Jose Abreu is not someone I want playing for the Red Sox. One of those players on other teams you love to watch hit. It would just ruin a perfectly good baseball player.

  • The Humungus

    Trolololosi tweeting that Ohtani might want “to go to a team that hasn’t had a Japanese star before” makes me think even more that he’s going to Toronto. Because I like having all my hopes and dreams crushed in one fell swoop.