If Jon Morosi’s comments bummed you out, maybe this series of updates from Ken Rosenthal over at The Athletic will make you feel a little bit better about the Blue Jays’ off-season. Well, one of these updates might.
The first thing up is Cleveland’s pursuit of trading away their best player, Francisco Lindor.
Lindor, of course, has been a major name linked to the Blue Jays all off-season and even before that. The All-Star shortstop is set to become an unrestricted free agent after the 2021 season and there’s absolutely zero doubt that Cleveland isn’t going to re-sign him.
There’s also an obvious connection between Lindor and the Blue Jays, as Mark Shapiro was in Cleveland when he was drafted with the No. 8 overall draft pick back in 2011. Lindor himself has even said that he would be interested in being a Blue Jay. So, all in all, despite the fact the Jays already have Bo Bichette at short, this seems like a match.
Anyway, Rosenthal reports today that Cleveland is having a hell of a time finding the right trade for their star player. He says that a combination of fewer teams than usual being interested in adding payroll coupled with strong free-agent markets this year and next has left Cleveland with virtually zero leverage.
Here’s where things start to get spicy…
If the [Cleveland] fails to get the deal they want, they could hold Lindor until the trade deadline and clear immediate money by moving right-hander Carlos Carrasco, who is owed $24 million over the next two seasons, plus a $3 million buyout. But that strategy, too, would entail risk. Lindor might slump in the first half or suffer an injury. The game’s economic landscape might remain cloudy. Potential buyers at the deadline might prefer to address other needs.
Does this sound familiar? Remember when a team that we know and love had a star player that they wanted to trade and opted to wait until the trade deadline to do so? Yes, of course, you do. That was Josh Donaldson, and while Julian Merryweather is a fine pitcher, the Blue Jays completely botched the entire situation with their former MVP back in 2018.
I remember seeing trade proposals that featured both Lourdes Gurriel and Jordan Groshans going to Cleveland in exchange for Lindor. Given the situation, I’m not sure Cleveland will be able to command either of them.
Next up, we have Tomoyuki Sugano, who was supposed to have made his decision by now. Here’s what Rosenthal reported about Sugano…
Left-hander Yusei Kikuchi, a less accomplished but younger Japanese pitcher, agreed to a four-year, $56 million free-agent contract with the Mariners in January 2019. In addition, the Mariners paid a $10.275 million posting fee. Sugano presumably would want a similar if not better deal, and while some in the industry believe the Blue Jays made a strong bid, he apparently is not getting his desired number.
It seems as though the Blue Jays have made a bit for Sugano, but we have no idea what that might look like.
Sugano has a multi-year offer on the table to return to Japan that features an opt-out clause after each season, so he can easily go back and give his transition to the Major Leagues another try next winter when the climate for free agents is better.
Also, not Rosenthal-related, but a post from Yahoo Japan suggests that it’s either Toronto or back to the NPB for Sugano. His posting period is finished on Thursday, so we’ll get our answer soon regardless.
And, finally, we have Jake Odorizzi, who Rosenthal reports is seeking a three-year contract in the $36 million to $42 million range, not far off from the offer that the Blue Jays made for Kevin Gausman, which was in the three-year, $40 million range.
The Jays were in on Odorizzi last year, but he ultimately decided to bet on himself and take the one-year qualifying offer from the Minnesota Twins. Now he’s a free agent without draft pick compensation attached to him, so he should have more leverage, though his 2020 season was riddled by freak injuries.
Rosenthal notes that the Blue Jays could circle back to Odorizzi if they strike out on Trevor Bauer, who they met with last week, and Sugano. An Odorizzi addition would fit the bill of what Morosi speculated yesterday when he said he expects the Blue Jays will end up adding a few mid-tier free agents rather than one of the elite names.