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News and Notes: The Blue Jays have shifted focus to adding offense, are looking to sign a hard-throwing reliever to a minor league deal, and more!

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Photo credit:Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
Brennan Delaney
1 month ago
You hear chanting in the distance, but you can’t quite make out what they’re saying. As you get closer, it becomes clear, they’re chanting… NEWS AND NOTES! NEWS AND NOTES! NEWS AND NOTES!
It’s time for everyone’s favourite ongoing series at Blue Jays Nation, News and Notes. In this article, we’ll look at comments from general manager Ross Atkins’ last press conference, as well as two other articles. Plus, we’ll look at other little nuggets relating to the Blue Jays, one of which we’ll start with.

The Jays are looking to add Julian Fernández to a minor league deal:

Are you aware of Fernández? I was not, until this afternoon when the former Colorado Rockie (is it Rockie or Rocky?) was linked to the Blue Jays by Sportsnet’s Ben Nicolson-Smith.
 
There’s a lot to unpack in this single tweet. For starters, Fernández did have a home run issue, but it isn’t as bad as it seems. You’ve likely heard that Coors Field in Denver, Colorado, results in many homers. That remains true for their Triple-A affiliate, the Albuquerque Isotopes.
Not just that, but the majority of Pacific Coast League teams play at high elevations, which leads to many homers. For example, 2022 spring training invitee Greg Bird hit 27 homers in 461 plate appearances with the Isotopes.
The second part of the tweet, how hard he throws, is also intriguing. While he did average 99 mph in the majors last season, it was only over a sample size of 6.2 innings. In 2022, he averaged just a tick under 98 mph, but also touched 101.8 mph (he had hit nearly 103 mph with Colorado in 2021).
Moreover, his changeup is a great secondary pitch, as he had a 41 whiff % (swings and misses on swings), which is absolutely fantastic.
This would be a minor league addition, and oh boy, could it ever be a fantastic addition. It seems odd that Nicholson-Smith was specific about the player the Jays are looking to add to a MiLB deal. Maybe something is already in the works, who knows?
I hope Fernández is a Blue Jay in due time.

Ross Atkins speaks:

Whenever Ross Atkins does a presser, you know that the News and Notes covering it could be rather long. Of course, this one is no different. Let’s look into what he said on Monday.

The Blue Jays are shifting gears am looking to add an offensive outfielder:

The theme of the Blue Jays off-season thus far is “run prevention”. Signing Chris Bassitt, who had a 3.42 ERA and 3.66 FIP in 181.2 innings in 2022?  Run prevention. Signing centre fielder Kevin Kiermaier, who has a career Defensive Runs Saved of 134 and an Outs Above Average of 64? Run prevention. Trading Teoscar Hernández for reliever Erik Swanson, who had a 34 K%? You guessed it, run prevention.
The last acquisition is notable because Hernández was fantastic with the bat in 2022. He slashed .267/.316/.491 with 25 homers in 535 plate appearances for a 129 wRC+. While they improved their bullpen (and got a pretty good prospect in the process), they did weaken their already great offence.
Atkins noted that the team would “preferably” like to add a left-handed batting outfielder, either through trade or through free agency (with Michael Conforto and David Peralta being the two best on the market.)
Speaking of free agents…

Jays aren’t limited financially:

There used to be a long-running myth that the “Cleveland Crew” was “cheap”. Although this was pretty much disproven the minute they signed Hyun-Jin Ryu to a four-year, $80,000,000 contract. However, they still get called cheap, meaning the last real obstacle to fully disproving this myth is going over the Competitive Tax Balance (CBT) of $233,000,000.
Per Sportrac, the Jays currently have a projected tax allocation of $228,156,492, about 5 million less than the CBT. There’s a high probability that they go over that for the first time in franchise history, as the Jays aren’t done this off-season as they still need a left-handed batting outfielder and potentially a fifth starter.

The Jays may not be done with pitcher acquisitions:

According to Ross Atkins, the Jays are still looking at ways to improve their starting rotation, as well as potentially adding a high-impact reliever.
As it stands, one of Yusei Kikuchi or Mitch White is primed to start in the fifth spot of the rotation. While I think there’s a good chance one of the two bounces back, I could see the want to add a more solidified fifth starter, such as Johnny Cueto… who coincidentally, they’ve been linked to.There are also plenty of relievers on the market, such as Andrew Chafin and Taylor Rogers. Both those guys are left-handed relievers, which the Jays may wish to add.

Toronto isn’t afraid to go into 2023 with three catchers:

This topic has been reported on a lot, even before the start of the off-season. There’s definitely a way to make it work, and if the Jays don’t believe they’re getting full value for a catcher, they don’t feel a need to trade one.
What I find interesting about this is the fact that Atkins brought it up in a press conference. This very well could be a demand for potential suitors to up their offers. The Jays are also working with more leverage, as the catcher market is dwindling, meaning the few remaining teams may not have many options left.
Let’s look at some of those teams:
A really good article from MLB Trade Rumours:
This great article from MLBTR is by Steve Adams, and it goes into detail about Danny Jansen, Alejandro Kirk, and Gabriel Moreno.
The teams six teams listed below are teams that need catchers, with two being from the American League East.
  • Houston Astros
  • Chicago Cubs
  • Arizona Diamondbacks
  • San Francisco Giants
  • Tampa Bay Rays
  • Boston Red Sox
I won’t spoil it too much, but here’s a list of remaining catchers in free agency according to Sporttrac. None of these guys has the ability of any of the three Jays catchers, as they’re all mainly backups.
If a team wants a significant upgrade at catcher, the most important position in baseball, in my opinion, the Jays may be the only way to make it.

Ken Rosenthal’s “What I’m hearing”:

In the last article that we’ll look at before wrapping up with random rumours/signings, we have The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal’s “What I’m Hearing”.
Ben Turner, a Blue Jays Nation friend, was able to showcase all three of these rumours in the embedded tweet above. However, you should really give the article a read as well, you can find it here.

The Jays were in on Michael Brantley:

The Jays are looking to add a left-handed batting outfielder, Michael Brantley is a left-handed batting outfielder (who may spend more time in the Designated Hitter spot.) Of course, the Jays were in on him before signing with the Astros.
At least this time, we didn’t have the famous “Michael Brantley has signed with the Jays” conundrum before the start of the 2021 season.
While the catcher options are dwindling down, so too are the left-handed batting outfielders, with only David Peralta and Michael Conforto remaining.
Speaking of the latter…

The Jays have FINALLY been linked to Michael Conforto:

As far as I can tell, this is the first time that the Jays have been linked to the 29-year-old. His name has come up in speculation plenty of times, as he fits the need of a left-handed batting outfielder, but this is the first concrete link.
Personally, I’m not sold on him. In 2021 (the last season he played in), he slashed.232/344/.384 with 14 homers, a 12.3 BB% and a 106 wRC+. That’s above average, but not really the impact bat that he used to be.
He had a great 2020, but that was only 233 plate appearances. This means the last time he had a full season where he was the impact bat the Jays could desire, was all the way back in 2019 (which coincidentally, was also the last time I peaked.)
Not just that, but Conforto missed all of 2022 with a shoulder injury, which required surgery. Shoulder injuries can wreak havoc on bat speed, with Cody Bellinger, for example. Conforto was already an average defender at best, but that shoulder surgery could impact his throwing ability, as it was on his throwing shoulder.
Like I won’t be disappointed if they sign him by any means because if he can return to his 2019 form, he’s replacing Teoscar Hernández’s offensive production. I’d also argue that 2019 Michael Conforto is a better defender than Hernández, so there’s that.

Trades aren’t expected to happen before the new year:

Sadly, you shouldn’t get your hopes up that a trade will occur prior to the new year, as Rosenthal noted at the very end of his article.
Yes, this means that the incredibly slow off-season will get even slower. That’s quite upsetting.

Other tidbits:

So as I was writing that Conforto section at around 2:30 AM EST, some huge news happened. We’ll look at that, as well as signings from former Blue Jays.

Carlos Correa signs with the Mets:

Yeah, this is shocking. Per Jon Heyman, Correa has a signed a 12-year, $315 million contract with the New York Mets.
You knew something was up after the San Francisco Giants cancelled their press conference announcing him, and the bombshell came at 2:38 AM EST. Hilarious.
 
Does this impact the Jays? Probably not. I just thought it was notable. However, some former Jays signed on Tuesday.

Thomas Pannone signs with the Brewers:

This one comes from the Milwaukee Brewers transaction page, but former Blue Jay Thomas Pannone has signed with the Brew Crew.
In 2022, the 28-year-old right pitched 63 innings with Boston’s Triple-A team where he amassed a 4.57 ERA and 3.21 FIP. Interestingly, he had a 26.7 K% and a 3.1 BB%, which is fantastic. Despite that he ended up with the Kia Tigers in the Korean Baseball Organization to finish the season, posting a 2.72 ERA in 82.2 innings pitched.
The 28-year-old pitched with the Blue Jays in 2018 and 2019, amassing a 5.34 ERA and 5.14 FIP in 116 innings pitched. Was he good? Not really, but he was good enough to eat innings for the Jays in 2019.
Remember that 2019 team? Trent Thornton and Jacob Waguespack were the aces, but that offence was also something else.
That’s a great segue into the next section…

Brandon Drury signs with the Los Angeles Angles:

Drury started the 2022 season with the Cincinnati Reds, before being traded to the San Diego Padres at the trade deadline. Yes, Drury was a trade deadline commodity.
That’s because he broke out in 2022, slashing .263/.320/.492 with 28 homers in 568 plate appearances for a 123 wRC+.
The potential was always there when he played for the Jays, but he just couldn’t hit with the team. Good on him for getting the bag though!

What to make of these rumours:

That was a long one, but I think the moral of the article is that the Jays definitely aren’t done. I think there’s a 99.9% chance that they add a left-handed batting outfielder, either by trading a catcher or by signing a guy like Conforto.
I think there’s also a solid chance they will add another pitcher, likely a fifth starter.
Stay tuned, because the new year could be filled with a ton of trades and signings!
As always, you can follow me on Twitter @Brennan_L_D.

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