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Rumour Dump: The Blue Jays are in on Tomoyuki Sugano, Jake Odorizzi, and Jackie Bradley Jr.

We’re at a point now where it seems absurd to post about Blue Jays-related interest rumours individually, so I’m going to dump the most recent three names into one post. Today, we have Tomoyuki Sugano, Jake Odorizzi, and Jackie Bradley Jr.! 

Tomoyuki Sugano… 

Sugano is one of the big names from Japan on the free-agent market this winter. He was officially posted by the Yomiuri Giants last week and will be available to Major League teams until Jan. 7. The Blue Jays, along with the Texas Rangers, San Diego Padres, and Boston Red Sox are teams who have reportedly shown interest in signing him.

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Given this year’s fairly weak market for starting pitching, Sugano picked the right time to make the move over to North America. Trevor Bauer, the reigning National League Cy Young winner, is clearly the top arm on the free-agent market, but it gets shallow fairly quickly after that.

Sugano is coming off an excellent season for Yomiuri in which he posted a 1.97 ERA over the course of 20 starts with nice peripherals (8.6 strikeouts per nine and and 1.6 walks per nine). He’s a two-time winner of the Sawamura Award (Japan’s Cy Young) and turned 31 years old in October.

It doesn’t look like the Blue Jays are a serious contender to sign Bauer, so Sugano would make some sense for the team as a middle-of-the-rotation pitching upgrade.

Jake Odorizzi… 

Speaking of a possible middle-of-the-rotation pitching upgrade, the Blue Jays are again expressing interest in Jake Odorizzi, a pitcher they pursued last off-season.

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Odorizzi went into free agency last winter after a very good 2019 season but ultimately opted to bet on himself and take the one-year qualifying offer from the Minnesota Twins. The hope for Odorizzi was that he could earn more in free agency this year without having draft pick compensation attached to him.

That plan didn’t work. He suffered a back strain, a blister on his throwing hand, and a chest contusion after being struck by a line drive and ultimately ended up throwing just 13 2/3 innings.

The one good thing for Odorizzi was that those are more freak injuries rather than a shoulder or elbow issue, so it isn’t like he’s a huge risk. There are reportedly six teams in on Odorizzi, so he should still be able to net himself a multi-year deal.

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I’ve always been a fan of the idea of adding Odorizzi. It seems like he’s been around forever but he turns 31 years old in March and he has plenty of experience navigating the American League East with the Tampa Bay Rays.

Again, it doesn’t look like Bauer is going to happen, so a mid-level upgrade like this appears more likely for the Blue Jays.

Jackie Bradley Jr… 

And, finally, there’s Boston Red Sox centre fielder Jackie Bradley Jr., who the Phillies, Cubs, and Blue Jays are all reportedly in on.

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George Springer is obviously the name that fans want the Blue Jays to add to address the hole in the outfield this winter, but Bradley would be a reasonable fall-back option largely due to the run prevention aspect of his game.

Bradley is known mostly as a glove-first centre fielder, though he’s coming off of a big season at the plate. He slashed a .283/.364/.450 line for the Sox in 2020, though, of course, it was a small sample size of just 217 plate appearances. Between 2017 and 2019, Bradley posted a .727 OPS, so that would be the more reasonable number to expect from him moving forward.

Again, adding Bradley would give the Jays a much-needed defensive improvement in centre field. Randal Grichuk, Toronto’s primary centre fielder, isn’t bad defensively per se, but he isn’t on the same level as the former Gold Glove winner.

Mark Shapiro mentioned a couple of months ago that run prevention (pitching and/or defence) is a priority for the team this off-season, so adding Bradley would make sense, especially if the team can’t lure Springer to Toronto (Buffalo? Dunedin???).

Another thing to consider is that adding Bradley would make it easier to stomach trading somebody like Lourdes Gurriel to Cleveland in a Francisco Lindor deal.