Photo credit:Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Blue Jays Notebook: Scott Boras speaks, John Schneider explains José Berríos’ early hook and Alek Manoah’s role, Jordan Hicks expected to sign elsewhere
By Thomas Hall2 months ago
Historically, the annual Winter Meetings have been used to kick start Major League Baseball’s off-season period. But so far, free agent Shohei Ohtani has thrown a wrench in that plan, as his sport-altering decision is currently holding up all other pieces of business.
Well, almost. That is.
With the New York Yankees on the verge of acquiring a superstar of their own, outfielder Juan Soto, things could soon begin to start flowing, particularly on the trade front. That, of course, will be great news for several teams across baseball.
The Toronto Blue Jays, meanwhile, remain in a bit of a holding pattern as they wait anxiously for Ohtani’s announcement. They were previously considered a potential suitor for Soto, although it’s no secret they couldn’t offer as many controllable and talented pitchers as New York.
This recent development will undoubtedly add to the pressure general manager Ross Atkins will face to improve the club’s position-player group if he’s unsuccessful in landing Ohtani – leaving him without a clear Plan B to shift his focus to.
Whether the Blue Jays will come away with the reigning American League MVP is still anyone’s guess. But enough about baseball’s brightest star, at least for now. Instead, let’s explore a few other news bites surrounding this franchise on the final day of the 2023 Winter Meetings.
Scott Boras talks Blue Jays’ activeness in free agency
Baseball’s biggest super agent was full dad-joke mode again on Wednesday, dishing out a few cheesy references regarding the Blue Jays’ free-agent dealings thus far, involving top bats like Matt Chapman and Cody Bellinger.
Be ready to hit the “badum tss.”
If the Blue Jays miss out on Ohtani and Soto, it wouldn’t be shocking if they continued to express interest in Bellinger’s services, especially with the Yankees addressing their outfield needs, almost certainly taking them off the board.
John Schneider chats José Berríos, Alek Manoah
No other decision was debated more intensely than Schneider’s call to pull Berríos after three dominant innings in Game 2 of the wild-card series in Minnesota, opting for left-hander Yusei Kikuchi from out of the bullpen. That move, of course, didn’t play out favourably.
One angle, in particular, the Blue Jays skipper wanted to touch on during Tuesday’s media availability was his role in the matter and how some wondered if that final decision was his to make alone.
Another hot-button topic that arose was Manoah, whose name has been speculated as a potential change-of-scenery candidate by many insiders this winter. But, as the Blue Jays have said repeatedly when asked, Schneider reiterated the 25-year-old righty is slated to enter next spring in competition for the No. 5 starter’s role.
Translation: Toronto doesn’t plan to trade Manoah unless a team makes them an offer they can’t refuse.
But that doesn’t mean the front office isn’t seeking to improve its starting pitching depth beyond the 2022 American League Cy Young finalist. While their primary focus is on the position-player market, management must create a security blanket beyond the major-league roster to protect against a break-in-case-of-emergency situation in 2024.
Jordan Hicks will likely sign a lucrative deal elsewhere
Now this shouldn’t come as a shock, but the Blue Jays are unlikely to re-sign Hicks in free agency this winter. And, as TSN’s Scott Mitchell reported on Wednesday, the 27-year-old flamethrower will probably receive a lucrative contract from another organization.
The Jordan Hicks trade served its purpose, to some degree, at least, as the right-hander filled in for the injured Jordan Romano during the regular season and fortified the bullpen during the franchise’s exciting, albeit brief, stretch run.
But considering Toronto’s front office hasn’t typically shelled out high-priced dollar figures to relievers, it makes sense for both sides to part ways after half a season.
Rule 5 Draft Wrap-up
One final piece of business in Nashville that occurred before the Winter Meetings wrapped was the annual Rule 5 Draft, which was uneventful for the Blue Jays, at least on the major-league side.
It did, however, feature a few transactions involving the minor league portion, as the organization selected outfielder Alexis Hernandez from the Boston Red Sox organization. The 21-year-old, considered a quality defender, hit three home runs and 24 RBIs while slashing .267/.380/.379 over 46 games across two levels (complex league, single-A) last season.
Additionally, Toronto lost a pair of minor leaguers: infielder Angel Del Rosario (Twins) and first baseman/outfielder Trevor Schwecke (Phillies).
Since the franchise didn’t make any selections during the major league phase, the 40-man roster still stands at 37 players.
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