Blue Jays quiet (so far) during MLB spending spree
|Toronto Star 22 Mar 2019 at 22:13|
DUNEDIN, FLA.—Just about everywhere you looked in baseball this past week, a big name was signing a multimillion-dollar contract extension.
On Tuesday, it was perennial MVP candidate Mike Trout’s record 12-year, $430-million deal with the Los Angeles Angels (all dollars U.S.). Houston Astros all-star infielder Alex Bregman agreed to a six-year deal worth $100 million.
The next day, White Sox outfielder Eloy Jimenez — MLB’s No. 3 prospect, two spots behind Blue Jays third baseman Vladimir Guerrero Jr. — earned the biggest financial guarantee ever for a player before his major-league debut: six years, $43 million. Tampa Bay Rays infielder Brandon Lowe also got six years, worth at least $24 million.
AL Cy Young winner Blake Snell committed long-term to the Tampa Bay Rays on Wednesday — five years, $50 million — days after the club had re-upped him at a raise of just $15,500. First baseman Paul Goldschmidt, entering his first season with the St. Louis Cardinals, agreed to a five-year, $130-million pact.
It was Red Sox ace Chris Sale’s turn on Friday: five years, $145 million pending a physical.
Contract extensions such as these are good for baseball, Blue Jays manager Ross Atkins said Friday, adding that locking up some key Toronto players in a similar fashion is a possibility.
“It’s a constant discussion for us,” Atkins said during his final availability of spring training. “Any way that we can extend contracts here and it makes sense for both, we’re always open to that.”
It was Jimenez’s contract that really got the attention of Jays fans, for what it might mean to Guerrero and infield prospect Bo Bichette. Signing Jimenez means Chicago might not wait until mid-April to manage his service time for contract purposes, now that the 22-year-old left fielder is under club control long term.
At $43 million in a year when top free agents Bryce Harper and Manny Machado signed for a combined $630 million, the White Sox could reap major dividends if Jimenez is as good as advertised. If he flops, that’s another story.
From the Jays’ standpoint, extensions with Guerrero and/or Bichette could not only end the raging service-time debate but, if they play it right, also avoid having both top prospects come due for their next contracts at the same time — like the Maple Leafs have had to manage with stars Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner.
Asked specifically about Guerrero and Bichette, Atkins said: “If there’s a way to do that with the players that we have, we will find a way.”
Atkins has also had injury concerns to deal with.
On Ryan Tepera, he said the reliever’s elbow inflammation might not be as bad as originally feared. Tepera is scheduled to see Dr. David Altchek, who has performed Tommy John surgery on several major league players, on Saturday.
David Phelps, about a year out from his own elbow ligament reconstruction surgery, threw live batting practice and has suffered no setbacks in camp, the GM said, adding that the club would prefer to take seven relievers north instead of eight for opening day — next Thursday against the Detroit Tigers at the Rogers Centre — but that the decision will come down to the wire.
Decisions about when to promote Guerrero and Bichette are still in the works, and Atkins said it was “hard to predict” when they will make their big-league debuts.
Atkins also talked about some under-the-radar prospects who fared well in Florida. Outfielders Chavez Young and Cal Stevenson — No. 23 and 30 in the system, respectively, who are still playing in the lower minor leagues — and right-hander Julian Merryweather, the return from the Cleveland Indians in the Josh Donaldson trade last summer.
“It’s not just the young core in Triple-A that everybody’s asking about,” said Atkins. “ That second wave of talent and the good, young wave of middle infielder depth that I’ve never seen anything like, just the number of middle (infielders) that we have, is why we’re so bullish on our future.”