Takashi Toritani: So where’s he headed?

According to Brendan Kennedy of Toronto Star, 33 year old Takashi Toritani is mulling offers from the Blue Jays and Padres. The Japanese shortstop put up solid numbers in 2014 with the Hanshin Tigers, posting a .313 average with a .406 OBP and a .416 slugging, with eight homers and ten stolen bases. Though Toritani is a Scott Boras agent, this signing would make sense for the Blue Jays. If they do sign him, he would probably be moved over to second base, even though he never played there in Japan. Toritani is not the best option defensively, as he showed by making the most errors at shortstop in Nippon Professional Baseball  (15) in 2008. However, he has improved since then, last year posting a .991 feilding percentage with only 5 errors.

If the Padres sign him, they would sign him as a leadoff hitting shortstop, as an upgrade to their main option right now, Alexi Amarista.  Even though the Padres have insisted that they are comfortable with Amarista as their starting shortstop for 2015, that doesn’t mean they won’t add Toritani to an already strong lineup consisting of a former MVP and a Rookie of The Year.

The Japanese infielder is not expected to make his decision before January. Since he is an unrestricted free agent, it won’t require a posting fee to sign him. Ultimately, he could also end up resigning with his former team, the Hanshin Tigers.

2015 Early Predictions Part 1: American league East

A couple years ago, you could say that the AL East was the best division in baseball. The Yankees and Red Sox were the stacked teams at the top. The Rays and Orioles each had their ups and downs over the past five years, and the Blue Jays have mostly finished in the lower side of the pack. Now, The Rays are in rebuild mode, the Orioles have lost two star players in Markakis and Cruz, and the yankees have lost excitement. Here are my predictions for the AL East.

1. Red Sox

The Sox may have an interesting story in ’15, going worst to first to worst to first. The offseason signings of Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez, along with the trade acquisitions  of Wade Miley and Rick Porcello have made me take a step back and take another look at the Sox. They don’t have an ace, but they do have 5 solid experienced starters. Their offence has a truckload of pieces but not enough positions to use all of them. Do not be surprised if Ben Cherington moves one or two of his young outfielders for an ace, such as Cole Hamels.

2. Blue Jays

Things now look a little different north of the border, with the departure of Brett Lawrie and the acquisitions of Russell Martin and Josh Donaldson.  The top five of Reyes, Martin, Bautista, Encarnacion and Donaldson my be the best in baseball. The problem is,that is the only recognized strength of the team. The Jays have a starting four, but they need that ace to get over the hump, such as a James Shields or even a Max Scherzer. Names have been thrown around for the Closer job. Rafael Soriano and Fransisco Rodriguez are both names of closers with years of major league success in their past.

3. Orioles

Things seem like they are getting worse with the O’s, after the departure of two big contributers in Nick Markakis and Nelson Cruz. However, the return of All-Stars Matt Weiters and Manny Machado should substitute for them. But the holes don’t fill themselves. If the Orioles can acquire a quality outfielder, like Nori Aoki or Colby Rasmus (ehh) then their offence is taken care of. One reason you see the O’s down at no.3 is because of their starting pitching. This has always been a problem for the Orioles. It kind of worked out last year, but in 2015 it has a chance of completely falling apart. Expect some high scoring games, people.

4. Yankees

The Derek Jeter era is over in the bronx. The Yankees are getting older. Brian Cashman has done some work so far this offseason by trading for Nathan Eavoldi and Didi Gregorius and signing Chase Headley and Andrew Miller. If you  look up and down the Yankees’ lineup, you see it’s made up of old superstars, such as A-Rod, Beltran, and Teixeira. The starting staff has great potential if it stays healthy. The two big questions are Tanaka and Sabathia. If both are healthy, both can contribute greatly.

5.Rays

After a terrible 2014, The Rays are in rebuild and revamp mode. They have lost their manager, Joe Maddon, to the Cubs, and their GM, The Epstein, to the Dodgers. They also lost Wil Myers in a trade to the Padres, gaining an okay everyday catcher in Rene Rivera, a right fielder in Steven Souzza and a couple of prospects. The one shining light in this lineup right now is their third baseman Evan Longoria.  The pitching staff, however, is made up of young talent that could translate to something great in the future.

Max Scherzer to the Jays?

Jon Heyman of CBS sports mentioned this morning on MLB Network Hot Stove that the Blue Jays are one of 8 potential landing spots for free agent pitcher Max Scherzer. Max Scherzer would instantly make the Jays a contender. Last year Scherzer pitched to a 3.15 ERA, 2.85 FIP, and 10.29K/9.

Scherzer is reportedly seeking a 7 year deal worth more than $200MM. The Jays would have to break their club policy of not offering more than five year contracts to free agents. Heyman mentioned that the Jays would be willing to do this for Scherzer.

Blue Jays Offseason Shopping List

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For the Blue Jays, Christmas appeared to come early after they acquired Russell Martin, a Canadian catcher who can frame pitches, throw out base runners, and hold his own at the plate, and the best third baseman in the game, Josh Donaldson. The problem is, that none of these knock off major points on their shopping list that consists of, a front of the line starter, a left fielder, at least two high quality backend relievers and a middle infielder.

On a positive note Michael Saunders does bring a lot of talent to the ball club. Although he is a slight offensive  downgrade from Melky Cabrera’s .351 OBP and .458 SLG. compared to his .341 OBP and .450 SLG, he still hit well over league average; .314 OBP and .386 SLG. To make things even better, he is a top notch defender. Over the last three years, he’s posted a 109 wRC+, and last year he came in at 126. If he can stay healthy, than the Blue Jays have snagged themselves a heck of an outfielder.

Unfortunately, AA (Alex Anthopoulos) still has plenty of work to do. The Blue jays still at least two high quality backend relievers and it would be nice to land a front of line starter and a middle infielder. Although there is still plenty of time, there is no longer as much stock as before. Household named relievers such as, David Robertson and Andrew Miller have been signed and even less known yet effective relievers like Pat Neshek and Luke Gregerson are also off the table. Luckily there are still some effective relievers still on the market. Francisco Rodríguez could fit in nicely as a closer although this is unlikely to happen due to the fact that he is a Scott Boras client. Other relievers such as Rafael Soriano, Joba Chamberlain and Phil Coke all have in the low-mid 3s and have plenty of experience.

As far as front of the line starters go however, the Bluejays missed the boat on Jon Lester, leaving Max Scherzer, and James Shields. John Heyman recently reported that although in the past the Bluejays had a rocky relationship with his agent, Scott Boras they are one of the 8 teams currently in on him. He would be a great fit in any starting rotation and adding 2013’s Cy young award winner well give a big boost to the Blue jays starting rotation.

Finally, the Blue jays did not win the negotiating rights on Korean shortstop Jung-Ho Kang, leaving Asdrubal Cabrera as the best remaining middle infield left on the free agent market. Signing him would be nice but it’s not more important than getting a couple of reliable relievers and a front of the line starter.

Jung-Ho Kang

The wait is over. The Toronto Blue Jays did not have the winning bid on Korean shortstop Jung-Ho Kang. The Pittsburgh pirates won the negotiating rights with an estimated bid of $5,002,015.

Last season, Kang, 27, batted .356/.457/.733 with 40 home runs and 117 RBI in 117 games. He is considered to be a plus defender at shortstop with good speed. This was in the Korea Baseball Orginization which is known as a very hitter-friendly league.

Kang could have been a very good low-risk high-reward player for the Jays. He is believed to be asking for 2-4 years and an average of 5-7 million USD per year. We don’t know how his hitting would translate into the MLB from the KBO but even if he hit .275-.285 with 15-20 HRs he would be a major upgrade for the Jays at second base.