MLB, Toronto Blue Jays

Inside the Clubhouse: Blue Jays deliver on promises with George Springer

Inside the Clubhouse breaks down implications of the George Springer deal and updates the latest rumors on J.T. Realmuto, Brad Hand, Alex Colome and more.

The Toronto Blue Jays made it clear they were willing to spend this offseason and for a while, it appeared they were going to come up empty.

Francisco Lindor was traded to the New York Mets. D.J. LeMahieu re-signed with the New York Yankees. Other targets such as Liam Hendriks, Kevin Gausman and Corey Kluber signed elsewhere. Then on Tuesday night, the Blue Jays agreed to a six-year, $150 million deal with free-agent outfielder George Springer, pending a physical.

The Blue Jays immediately identified Springer, 31, as one of their top targets this winter. The team “loves” his makeup and believes he will dramatically improve their production at the top of the lineup. He presents a significant upgrade over Randall Grichuk and Teoscar Hernandez, giving the franchise the second-best center fielder in baseball behind Mike Trout for the next six seasons.

Most importantly, Springer gives the Blue Jays hope.

The Blue Jays, owned by Rogers Communications whose net worth is $29 billion, put their money where their mouth is. No longer are they considered a small market team. Springer gives the franchise an established star to put alongside Bo Bichette, Cavan Biggio and Vladimir Guerrero Jr, cementing their status as one of the best teams in the American League.

Springer, of course, is not going to solve all of the Blue Jays’ problems. The team still needs another starting pitcher, an infielder and perhaps another reliever even after signing Kirby Yates. The team tried to sign Michael Brantley, perhaps reflecting a desire to balance a right-handed heavy lineup, but he re-signed with the Houston Astros on a two-year, $32 million deal.

Earlier this offseason, the Blue Jays had trouble recruiting free agents. COVID-19 restrictions implemented by the Canadian government forced them to play their home games in Buffalo last season, and the possibility of opening this year at their spring training complex in Dunedin, Fla. made some players wary.

But the addition of Springer to a talented young roster should make recruiting free agents easier, with one agent describing the Blue Jays as an “increasingly desirable team to play for.”

The Blue Jays remain active on the free-agent market, but the additions of Springer, Yates, Tyler Chatwood put them in a strong position to compete in an increasingly winnable American League East. While the Yankees have signed LeMahieu and Kluber, the Red Sox have done little to upgrade the roster. The Rays have traded Blake Snell. And the Orioles do not figure to be competitive in the near future.

But whatever happens from here, the Blue Jays delivered on their promise of adding an established star. It took longer than they thought, but in the end, they added the player that made the most sense for them all along.

Braves interested in J.T. Realmuto:

The Atlanta Braves are circling on free-agent catcher J.T. Realmuto, sources said, as the Philadelphia Phillies and West Coast teams continue to express interest.

How Realmuto, 29, would fit with the Braves is not immediately clear. Travis d’Arnaud is coming off a career-best season in which he hit .321/.386/.533 with nine home runs and 34 RBI and is scheduled to earn a team-friendly $8 million in 2021. But the Braves’ interest in Realmuto should come as no surprise.

President of baseball operations Alex Anthopoulos has “always loved” Realmuto, according to Craig Mish of Sirius XM. One source said that Anthopoulos has shown interest in Realmuto in the past.

Anthopoulos is known for making unexpected moves, and this would qualify. He signed Josh Donaldson two years ago despite having Johan Camargo at third base. He signed Marcell Ozuna to fill the cleanup spot in the lineup and added reliever Will Smith despite not needing a closer. Each was a short-term contract (Donaldson, Ozuna were one-year deals; Smith was a three-year deal), and any Realmuto deal would perhaps be in a similar range.

Realmuto has reportedly been offered a five-year, $100-plus million deal by the Phillies. The rest of his market, however, is unclear. The Mets, viewed as an early favorite, signed James McCann to a four-year deal. The Angels signed Kurt Suzuki instead to back up Max Stassi. And the Blue Jays, who had been prominently linked to Realmuto, just signed Springer.

Realmuto is baseball’s best all-around catcher and wants to be properly compensated. While his market is not clear, he figures to become the highest-paid catcher in the game. Most believe that deal will eventually come from the Phillies. But until pen hits the paper, there is a chance he plays outside of Philadelphia next season.

Players frustrated with agents, slow market:

Free-agent relievers Brad Hand and Alex Colome recently switched agents amid growing frustration regarding the slow-moving market, and there is a fear among other agents that this is a sign of things to come.

“So many guys think their agent isn’t doing a good job when in reality teams are just dragging things out,” one agent said. “They aren’t even engaging.”

The timing of Hand, 33, going to B.B. Abbott of Jet Sports Management is unusual. There were signs that his market was beginning to heat up, with the Toronto Blue Jays extending an offer to him, as Jon Heyman of MLB Network reported. If Hand accepts a deal with Toronto or any other team that extended an offer before switching agents, he would be subject to paying two agent fees.

The same can be said for Colome, who is now represented by Wasserman, though it is unclear how his market developed. He has drawn interest from numerous teams, including the Houston Astros and Boston Red Sox, as he searches for a new team after the Chicago White Sox signed Liam Hendriks to a four-year, $54 million deal.

Additionally, two former All-Stars who are currently free agents have recently changed representation, with both requesting that their names not be revealed publicly. But there is buzz that these moves could lead to a flurry of other unsigned players switching agents, adding another layer of uncertainty to a frustrating offseason for agents.

“A lot of chatter about unhappy free agents,” one agent said. “It’s about to get ugly.”

On Jon Lester, Cubs:

Jon Lester made it clear that he wanted to return to the Cubs to win his 200th game in Chicago, and he maintained that sentiment in the days before agreeing to a one-year, $5 million contract with the Washington Nationals.

In the end, the Cubs made little effort to re-sign Lester, according to sources familiar with the situation. Their offer came well short of the one-year, $5 million deal that he inked with the Washington Nationals.

Around the Horn:

  • The Los Angeles Angels are lurking on Brad Hand, according to sources, with the Blue Jays, Los Angeles Dodgers and Houston Astros also interested.
  • Free-agent pitcher Chris Nunn will be throwing for interested teams at Eric Cressey’s Sports Performance facility in Jupiter, FL beginning next week. Nunn, most recently with the Braves at major-league camp, has been sitting 95-96 mph in recent bullpen sessions and is in the ramping up phase.
  • Pittsburgh Pirates infielder Gregory Polanco is now represented by Ulises Cabrera of Octagon Baseball.
  • Free agents Justin Hancock, Mike Papi, Ryan Cordell, Mike Hauschild and Braxton Davidson will hold showcases for interested teams on Jan. 22 in the Charlotte, NC area. Hancock and Hauschild are expected to throw anywhere from 20-30 pitches.

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