While there wasn’t much else to distinguish it (aside from a snow-induced traffic meltdown in Toronto), December 3 was MLB’s deadline for teams to tender contracts to arbitration-eligible players and the Blue Jays made some news by offering only four of the seven eligible players contracts.
In “news of the obvious,” the Blue Jays offered contracts to both Brett Cecil and newly-acquired Josh Donaldson while also keeping around Marco Estrada and Danny Valencia. The Blue Jays did not tender contracts to outfielders Andy Dirks, John Mayberry, Jr. and Justin Smoak, making all three free agents.
What this does is free up some cash for the Blue Jays going forward. According to MLB Trade Rumors, the three players combined would earn about $6.5 million in arbitration and by not offering any of the three a contract, the Blue Jays believe that they can do more for less money or use that money towards players who would get more playing time at the outfield and 1B/DH positions.
By not having Dirks, a left-handed hitting left fielder, Mayberry, a right-handed hitting left fielder, and Smoak, a switch-hitting first baseman and DH, the Blue Jays are signalling that there are more moves coming as they have also freed up three roster spots, putting them at 35 players on the 40-man roster. As things stand right now, the Blue Jays don’t have a lot of options in the outfield. With Melky Cabrera, Colby Rasmus and now Dirks and Mayberry becoming free agents, the Blue Jays have three outfielders on the 40-man roster: Jose Bautista, Kevin Pillar and Dalton Pompey.
With the other four players, the Blue Jays are just dotting the Is and crossing the Ts as we continue this offseason. By offering contracts, Donaldson, Cecil, Estrada and Valencia are all under team control and will continue to negotiate until arbitration hearings are scheduled. The Blue Jays actually haven’t gone to arbitration since 1997 (thanks to Ben Nicholson-Smith for putting that tidbit in an article on Sportsnet.ca) and so it isn’t likely that they’ll do so in 2015.
Justin Smoak and Andy Dirks were acquired on waivers by the Blue Jays (Smoak from Seattle and Dirks from Detroit) this offseason while Mayberry was acquired in a trade with Philadelphia on August 31 in exchange for minor leaguer Gustavo Pierre.
UPDATE! The Blue Jays did sign Justin Smoak to a $1 million, 1-year deal today. It seems that he’ll be back in the fold. I’m not sure if we should expect to see signings of Dirks or Mayberry since the Blue Jays acquired two outfielders today: Michael Saunders and minor leaguer Ezequiel Carrera.
Notable players from other organizations who weren’t tendered contracts include infielders Gordon Beckham (Angels), Everth Cabrera (Padres) and pitchers Brandon Beachy and Kris Medlen (Braves). Both Beachy and Medlen are recovering from a second Tommy John surgery but have been excellent when healthy.
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