Rumours and speculation swirl around Toronto Blue Jays at winter meetings

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Lorenzo Cain is one of several outfielders linked to the Toronto Blue Jays during the winter meetings. (Getty)
Lorenzo Cain is one of several outfielders linked to the Toronto Blue Jays during the winter meetings. (Getty)

Major League Baseball’s winter meetings may signal the unofficial start of offseason negotiations for players and front offices alike. For fans, however, the mid-December powwow means that ‘speculation season’ is in full swing.

Though not much of substance unfolded over the week for the Toronto Blue Jays, the rumour mill did churn in Orlando. The club was often mentioned in conversations with (or interest in) several impactful outfielders, along with a few middle infielders and an aging-yet-still-effective lefty arm.

Asked by reporters on Wednesday for his opinion on the Blue Jays’ most pressing needs this offseason, manager Jon Gibbons pointed to a desire for more offence and some help in the bullpen. The Jays have obvious holes to fill in the outfield and middle infield, too, forcing Ross Atkins and Mark Shapiro to cast a wide net this offseason.

Here are some of the most notable links:

Avisail Garcia

The Blue Jays have had conversations with the Chicago White Sox in regards to acquiring outfielder Avisail Garcia, Bob Nightengale of USA Today reported Thursday.

The club has been in talks with several teams and free agents in hopes of patching up a poor outfield situation with the departure of Jose Bautista and a less-than-effective platoon in left featuring Steve Pearce and Ezequiel Carrera. Though initially rumoured to be shopping the 26-year-old this offseason,  it’s not fully clear how eager the White Sox are to move Garcia — who slashed .330/.380/.506 with 18 home runs and 4.2 WAR in 136 games last season.

Lorenzo Cain

Reports that first surfaced in mid-November had the Blue Jays, along with several other potential suitors, showing serious interest in Lorenzo Cain. Those rumours were reaffirmed Monday by Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports.

The free-agent outfielder could finally give the club the leadoff hitter it’s yearned for, along with a speedy, base-stealing threat to add to a lineup that was one of the slowest in all of baseball last season. Cain, who hit .300/.363/.440 with 15 home runs and 49 RBI in 2017, has played regularly at  centre field for the Kansas City Royals the past two seasons, meaning a move to acquire the 31-year-old would force a switch to another outfield position for either he or Kevin Pillar.

Jay Bruce

Time for your annual dose of Jay-Bruce-to-the-Blue-Jays rumours. A report that seemingly surfaces every offseason has the veteran outfield heading north to Toronto. The most recent reports have the team interested in Bruce once again, along with the Mets, Rockies and Mariners.

Bruce spent parts of the last two seasons with the Mets before he was shipped to Cleveland in an August trade. The 30-year-old had 29 home runs and slashed .256/.321/.520 in 103 games in New York last season before being dealt. Bruce can fill the hole left by Bautista’s departure in right field, and could also provide a bat at DH — giving the club flexibility to try and move, or reduce the role of, Kendrys Morales.

Carlos Gomez

Free-agent outfielder Carlos Gomez has also been linked to the Blue Jays over the past several days, with the team reportedly interested in the former Rangers centre fielder, according to Heyman.

Yet another potential option for the team’s uncertain outfield, Gomez — who saw several stints on the DL last season — slashed .255/.340/.462 in 105 games with the Rangers in 2017 after coming over from the Houston Astros the previous offseason. The two-time All Star twice finished in the top 20 in NL MVP voting (2013 and 2014) and also won a Gold Glove in 2013. Any potential acquisition of Gomez would again create a possible clash with Pillar.

J.D. Martinez

The Blue Jays emerged as a “dark horse” candidate to land one of the offseason’s most coveted free agents in J.D. Martinez last month, but the whispers of such a link have been pretty quiet since.

The 30-year-old outfielder hit .303 with a 1.066 OPS in 2017 with the Tigers and Diamondbacks, while finishing in the top 15 in MVP voting. Martinez is maybe the top position player available on the free-agent market and has garnered a lot of interest from various clubs — with the Red Sox, Diamondbacks and Giants emerging as the most likely suitors.

Eduardo Nunez

Heyman also tweeted Wednesday that the Blue Jays, along with the Yankees and Red Sox, are “in play” for middle infielder Eduardo Nunez.

The 30-year-old slashed .313/.341/4.60 between the Giants and Red Sox last season, following an All-Star campaign split between the Giants and the Twins in 2016. Toronto could definitely use some help in the infield. Though Aledmys Diaz was acquired earlier this month to replace a departing Ryan Goins, Darwin Barney likely won’t be back and the health of Devon Travis is an ongoing concern.

CC Sabathia

In regards to adding another arm to the rotation, the Blue Jays met with left-hander CC Sabatha during baseball’s winter meetings this week. Gibbons would clearly be on board with the club inking Sabathia, and had this to say about him:

“He’s a workhorse, man. He’s always pitched well against us. One of the great competitors in the game for a number of years. I thought he looked strong last year,” the manager said, according to the Associated Press.

The 37-year-old went 14-5 with a 3.69 ERA last season for the Yankees — a club he’s been with since 2009.

Josh Donaldson

One of the most persistent rumours of the offseason involving Toronto is the possible departure of former MVP Josh Donaldson.

The St. Louis Cardinals in particular have shown relentless interest in acquiring the former MVP, a move the Blue Jays apparently have no current interest in, according to Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic.

Donaldson is eligible to become a free agent in 2019, and the Blue Jays will have some serious decisions to make on their All Star third baseman in the coming months. Toronto could certainly stock the cupboards by dealing Donaldson now while in a position of strength, but all indications point to the team still trying to contend in the AL East for at least one more season.

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