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News and Notes: Blue Jays were interested in Aaron Nola, Santiago Espinal viewed as a trade candidate, and more
2 months ago
The hotstove is buzzing so it’s time for another edition of News and Notes.
We’ll get into notes about the Blue Jays having interest in Aaron Nola, Santiago Espinal and Alex Verdugo’s names coming up in trade speculation, and a note about Shohei Ohtani.
Jays had interest in signing Aaron Nola:
In a recent Ben Nicholson-Smith article for Sportsnet, he mentioned in the “For What It’s Worth” section at the end of the article that the Blue Jays had an interest in Aaron Nola before he re-signed with the Philadelphia Phillies. Nicholson-Smith also mentioned that more teams are motivated to sign starting pitching, so Manoah would be the leading candidate for the final spot in the rotation.
This is interesting because it furthers the speculation that the Blue Jays could opt to add another starting pitcher this winter and then trade from their rotation, which is a position of strength, to fill needs elsewhere.
There were a few other interesting notes from this article as well, mainly about Ohtani. One of which is that if the Jays were to sign Ohtani, he’d have “an informal agreement that would give him input of coaching decisions.” Nicholson-Smith points to the fact that the Jays had 13 coaches last season, so it’s not totally out of the question.
Santiago Espinal viewed as a trade candidate:
In a recent MLB.com article, Mark Feinsand looked at a possible trade candidate from each team in the league. Toronto’s trade candidate is Santiago Espinal, as every infield position that Espinal plays is locked down.
While he’s a useful bench piece with plus defence and an ability to make contact, the Jays have a plethora of minor league players that can fill this gap , such as Rafael Lantigua, Addison Barger, or Orelvis Martinez. Not just that, but they’d be doing it for significantly cheaper than Espinal’s $2,500,000 projected 2024 salary.
Last season with the Jays, Espinal slashed .248/.310/.335 with two homers in 254 plate appearances, along with a 7.1 BB% and a 14.2 K%. His 80 wRC+ was the lowest of his career with 100+ plate appearances, and his fWAR declined from 2.3 in 2022 to 0.1.
Shohei Ohtani’s preference is ballpark based:
According to this ESPN news piece, Shohei Ohtani is factoring the team’s ballpark in his much-anticipated free-agent decision this winter. Thankfully, the Blue Jays have recently undergone hundreds of millions of dollars to improve the conditions of the Rogers Centre.
Not just that, but Ohtani has had success in Rogers Centre, slashing .326/.466/.674 with three homers in 58 plate appearances. While it’s a small sample size, the success he’s had in the stadium coupled with the renovations lead me to believe that Ohtani could actually be considering Toronto.
Where there’s smoke, there’s fire.
Alex Verdugo to the Jays?:
In a recent Jim Bowden article, the former MLB general manager looked at recent targets for all American League teams, including the Jays. All was normal (aside from not mentioning the Jays need a third baseman) until he said that Alex Verdugo could be a trade target. There are numerous reasons why this seems unlikely.
For starters, Verdugo and Manoah have a history of beef. In early April, Verdugo voiced his displeasure with Manoah’s antics on the mound, as he struck out two Red Sox batters in 2022 and told them to “sit the fuck down.” The same day, Manoah said: “coming from him, I don’t give a shit”. Verdugo eventually stated that he regretted the comments, but it seems that these two players don’t like each other.
There’s also the 2015 allegations that came to light in 2020 about Verdugo which doesn’t paint the outfielder in a positive light. The Blue Jays front office tries to avoid controversies at all costs, such as moving Roberto Osuna after he was suspended by MLB for a domestic violence case and cutting Anthony Bass in 2023 after some anti-LGBTQ+ stories were posted to his Instagram.
On top of all this, Verdugo just isn’t that great of a player. In 2023, he slashed .264/.324/.421 with 13 home runs (tied for a career-high) in 602 plate appearances, along with a 7.5 BB% and a 15.4 K%. He had a 98 wRC+ and a 2 fWAR. His best wRC+ season came in the COVID-shortened 2020 campaign, and his highest wRC+ with 400 + plate appearances is just 106 in 2021.
The Blue Jays could use a big left-handed bat but they can also afford to aim higher than Verdugo.
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