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Bautista to remain in RF?

Blue Jays outfielder Jose Bautista has been spotted taking groundballs at third base for the past couple of weeks. That led to speculation that Toronto has at least contemplated moving him to third on a permanent basis in order to make room for another outfielder prior to the upcoming Non-Waiver Trade Deadline.

The rumors increased on Wednesday afternoon when Jon Heyman of CBS Sports indicated that the Blue Jays have expressed an interest in Rangers outfielder Alex Rios. If Toronto made that type of move then Bautista would have to move to third while Brett Lawrie would assume everyday duties at second base when he returns from a fractured right index finger.

Blue Jays manager John Gibbons did his best to dismiss any notion that a move is on the horizon by stating the club hasn’t talked about Bautista switching positions for more than a game or two when required. When asked why he responded: “He’s a right fielder. He can go over there occasionally and play a couple of games but I don’t think you’ll see that.”

– Gregor Chisholm 

Blue Jays shift focus

The Blue Jays were expected to be in the market for a starting pitcher at this year’s Non-Waiver Trade Deadline but their needs have changed. Toronto’s rotation has been a strong point of late thanks to the emergence of rookie Marcus Stroman and consistent outings from All-Star Mark Buehrle, knuckleballer R.A. Dickey and right-hander Drew Hutchison.

The same can’t be said of Toronto’s lineup. The Blue Jays arguably had the best offense in baseball through the first two months of the season but have since fallen on tough times. The club has scored two runs or less in five consecutive games for the first time since 1996 and is hitting .192 with runners in scoring position dating back to June 6.

Injuries to Edwin Encarnacion and Brett Lawrie have also increased the need for another solid position player to be added into the mix. According to a report by FoxSports, the Blue Jays are trying to work out a trade with San Diego for third baseman Chase Headley. The 30-year-old has been suffering through a down season but there’s a belief that a change of scenery would help turn things around. Playing in the hitter friendly confines of Rogers Centre also certainly wouldn’t hurt.

– Gregor Chisholm

 

Update on Darvish

The New York Post reported late Thursday night that the Blue Jays were the perceived front runners to land Japanese right-hander Yu Darvish. The report speculated that Toronto submitted a bid to the Nippon Ham Fighters between $40-50 million but also mentioned the Cubs submitted a large bid of their own at an unknown value.

Toronto’s Alex Anthopoulos and Texas’ Jon Daniels were the only two general managers to watch Darvish pitch in Japan. The Blue Jays also had multiple scouts watch Darvish throughout his season in the Nippon Professional Baseball League where he posted a 1.44 ERA in 232 innings this season.

The 25-year-old would be a big coup for Anthopoulos, who has made it his offseason priority to upgrade the starting rotation.

– Gregor Chisholm

Blue Jays with outfielders to spare

The Blue Jays acquired outfielder Ben Francisco from the Phillies on Monday afternoon in what appears to be a minor move but one that could be a precursor for something much bigger.

Toronto already has a plethora of outfielders on its 40-man roster. Travis Snider and Eric Thames have been expected to compete for the starting job in left field while Colby Rasmus and Jose Bautista round out the three positions. The speedy Rajai Davis likely fits in as the club’s fourth outfielder but Francisco and Edwin Encarnacion can be found on the club’s depth chart as well.

That’s too many players for too few positions on the Blue Jays’ roster and it’s possible this now gives the club enough flexibility to make a run at Oakland No. 1 starter Gio Gonzalez. The two sides engaged in trade talks during last week’s Winter Meetings in Dallas but it was not immediately clear whether a trade could be worked out.

Oakland expressed interest in Snider last season but the A’s would also need a package a prospects to pull the trigger on dealing Gonzalez, who is under club control for the next four seasons. 

– Gregor Chisholm

Blue Jays not interested in long-term deals

Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos all but denied the rumors surrounding his club’s potential interest in free agent sluggers Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder on Day 1 of the Winter Meetings in Dallas.

A pair of online reports surfaced on Monday that the Blue Jays had entered the bidding war for the All-Star first basemen. Toronto has a club policy of not addressing specific trade or free-agent rumours with the media, but Anthopoulos said as much as he could in an attempt to pour cold water on the recent speculation.

“I know we get linked to almost every player in the offseason,” Anthopoulos said. “I think we’re the team that everyone likes to use, to be completely candid about it. But I guess all I would say about big-name free-agent signings, I think most of our local media have seen what myself and [president, CEO] Paul Beeston have talked about.

“Right now we’re pretty averse to signing to extensively long contracts — seven years, eight years, things like that. If there are players out there on the market that are going to require those kind of deals, we probably won’t be a factor for those players.”

– Gregor Chisholm 

Blue Jays enter talks for Rodriguez

The Blue Jays have reportedly made a late push to acquire Wandy Rodriguez. Multiple online reports are suggesting general manager Alex Anthopoulos is in hot pursuit of the Astros left hander but it wasn’t immediately clear whether a deal was close to being completed.

Rodriguez is owed a total of $23 million in 2012-13. He also has a club option worth $13 million in 2014 that becomes a player option if he is traded. Toronto has the financial flexibility to take on that kind of salary but it’s not known whether they would be willing to commit that to a 32-year-old pitcher who has gone 7-7 with a 3.47 ERA in the National League Central this season.

– Gregor Chisholm

Blue Jays monitor market for relievers

The Blue Jays continue to weigh their options prior to Sunday’s non-waiver Trade Deadline.  The club has a series a veteran relievers that could fetch a decent return as the club attempts to stock its already rich Minor League system.

Veteran relievers Frank Francisco, Octavio Dotel, Jason Frasor and Jon Rauch have been mentioned in various online reports in recent days while right-hander Shawn Camp could also be available.

“I think guys that might be in the conversation have been in those conversations before,” Toronto manager John Farrell said on Tuesday. “There’s no real strong sentiment or rumor one way or the other.

“I think our guys have done a good job of just preparing to go out and compete today. But they’ve also been in the game long enough come Sunday there’s the potential for movements to take place somewhere.”

The five veterans are currently ranked as Type-B free agents which means they could net Toronto a compensation pick in next year’s First-Year Player Draft if they remain with the club through the end of the year but then depart via the open market.

That provides general manager Alex Anthopoulos with some leverage when negotiating with other teams because he won’t be forced into making a deal.

So far the rumors have been generated south of the border. Jason Frasor reportedly has generated interest from the Braves, Pirates and Diamondbacks while Jon Rauch (Braves) and Octavio Dotel (Pirates) have also been discussed.  The Blue Jays remain quiet on their public stance regarding trades and it’s expected to remain that way up until Sunday’s deadline.

“The fact there hasn’t been any reports that something is imminent, there’s really no internal distraction at this point,” Farrell said.

– Gregor Chisholm

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