Hot Stove Rumor Roundup: Blue Jays Poised for Possible Teardown

Happy Friday, Mets fans! Welcome back to another edition of the hot stove rumor roundup! Today’s news features a handful of one-year deals as well as discussions surrounding the fate of the Toronto Blue Jays, who are set to enter a rebuilding phase behind a prospect crop that may not be finished blooming.

Blue Jays not Ruling out Selling

In a recent conversation with reporters, Toronto Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins answered a handful of questions surrounding the team’s offseason plans. Having finished fourth in an AL East division that looks to be even more competitive next season, the Blue Jays were quick to part with such commodities as Josh Donaldson and Roberto Osuna over the summer in an attempt to round out one of the game’s best farm systems, though per Atkins, they may not be done.

Alongside votes of confidence in his middle infield of Lourdes Gurriel and Devon Travis, Atkins stated that he could “absolutely” foresee the organization trading off two of its prized starting pitchers in Aaron Sanchez and Marcus Stroman.

Formerly viewed as the younger focal points of the Jays’ rise to relevance as recently as 2016, Sanchez and Stroman are each coming off brutal seasons that all but destroyed their respective trade values, more so in the case of the latter. Sanchez averaged five walks per nine innings while averaging just over five innings per start to explain an underwhelming 4.89 ERA/4.74 FIP.

While Stroman’s 3.91 FIP and maintained pedigree as team ace speak to his value as a competitive rotation piece for interested teams, his 4.95 second-half ERA and total bWAR/fWAR of 0.2/1.5 best characterize a season plagued by shoulder fatigue and blisters that couldn’t be salvaged. It would be tough to envision a deal being made in which an interested team would risk overpaying for either arm, but Atkins seems committed to pulling the trigger should a team extend such a generous hand.

Angels, Phillies Swap Relievers

As announced by the Philadelphia Phillies early last night, right-handed reliever Luis Garcia has been traded to the Los Angeles Angels in exchange for southpaw Jose Alvarez. Both pitchers are second-year arbitration eligible, projected to each make $1.7MM ahead of the 2019 season.

Garcia, 31, pitched to a brutal 6.07 ERA in 59 games last season, though admittedly made out better in terms of fielding independent metrics (3.51 FIP, 3.46 SIERA), and totaled a career-high 10.0 K/9 to go with a 14.5% swinging strike rate that could point to a rebound, especially with a more defensively capable infield playing behind him.

Alvarez, 29, worked a personal best 76 games as a situational lefty for the Angels, and impressed between a 2.85 ERA, 3.05 FIP, and 2.68 K/BB ratio. Left-handed hitters managed just a .604 OPS against Alvarez last season, an improvement over the still-tough .658 across Alvarez’s six-year career. Considering lefties compiled a .793 OPS against Philly relievers last season (the sixth-highest mark in baseball), acquiring Alvarez may turn out to be a substantial, economical benefit.

Royals Interested in Hamilton

Rustin Dodd of The Athletic has reported that the Kansas City Royals are “looking hard” at recently non-tendered outfielder Billy Hamilton.

The 28-year old Hamilton, whom the Royals have attempted to trade for in his days with the Cincinnati Reds, is just a few months removed from one of the weakest offensive showings of his career, even for a “speed-first” player that the Royals have typically had at their disposal in the form of Jarrod DysonTerrance Gore, and Billy Burns in recent years.

Despite playing in a career-high 153 games, Hamilton stole just 34 bases while hitting .236/.299/.327 with 132 strikeouts, and his .536 OPS away from Great American Ballpark – a noted hitter’s park – was the second-worst such road split among qualified hitters (42 points ahead of Baltimore’s Chris Davis). Granted, Hamilton has impressed on defense (6.7 career dWAR and 25 outfield assists since 2017), though the Royals’ 17 DRS in center field this past year doesn’t really necessitate such a reinforcement.

Astros Sign Chirinos

In more free agent news, veteran catcher Robinson Chirinos has signed a one-year pact with the Houston Astros, as first reported by Mark Berman of FOX26 Houston. Per Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic, Chirinos will be paid $5.75MM next season.

Chirinos, 34, has spent the last five years behind the plate with the Texas Rangers, combining for a .233/.325/.443 slash line while setting a new career-high with 18 homers and 65 RBI in 113 games this past year. His 125 wRC+ in the second half of 2018 was the second-best mark among qualified big-league catchers, just seven runs behind Yasmani Grandal.

It’s worth noting that Chirinos caught just 6 of 59 attempting base-stealers in 2018, which would render him a defensive foil to incumbent backstop Max Stassi, who hosed 26% of runners despite hitting a putrid .091/.231/.091 the last two months of the year.

Schoop, Torreyes Ink with Twins

In Minnesota, two free agent infielders have come off the market. The first, Jonathan Schoop, signs a one-year deal worth $7.5MM, as first broken by Ken Rosenthal. In addition to Schoop, the Twins were able to snatch reserve shortstop Ronald Torreyes for a one-year deal that, per Jon Heyman of Fancred Sports, will pay $800K (MLB.com‘s Mark Feinsand first reported the agreement between the two sides).

Both moves will go some ways in shoring up a middle infield that currently hinges on Jorge Polanco and Ehire Adrianza, the former of whom has just one full year as a starting shortstop on his resume and the latter of whom, while a serviceable utility infielder, has been designated as just that across his past two years in the Twin Cities.

Schoop, 27, is coming off a dreadful 2018 in which he hit just .233/.266/.416 between the Orioles and Brewers, albeit a year removed from an All-Star campaign in which he played 160 games, hit 32 homers, and drove in 105. While he has just one defensive run saved to his name since 2015, Schoop could still rebound in a fashion similar to Ian Desmond in 2016 with the Rangers or Mitch Moreland with the Red Sox in 2017.

Torreyes, though signed to a major-league deal, isn’t necessarily a guarantee to make the team out of spring training. The 26-year old had been released by the Chicago Cubs just days after being designated for assignment by the New York Yankees, and only appeared in 41 games this past year, consistently shuttling between the Bronx and Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. In four years at second base, Torreyes has committed just two errors, though his career .685 OPS could very well confine him to a smaller role, if one at all in 2019.

About Jack Hendon 161 Articles
Jack Hendon (@jack_hendon99 on Twitter) is a sophomore at Haverford College, special assistant/statistician for the baseball team, prospective English major and psychology minor, and contributor to MetsMerized Online. He was seven when he saw Carlos Beltran take strike three in the 2006 NLCS, and since then has concentrated his love for the Mets through writing about particular fan memories, while also devoting time to recapping games, analyzing pitchers, and heckling (when appropriate) at Citi Field. LGM!