AL East Notes: McNeil, Rays, Didi, Shapiro

2 weeks ago
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“The Rays were focused on” super-utilityman Jeff McNeil in trade talks with the Mets last offseason, Joel Sherman of the New York Post reports.  McNeil’s multi-position ability and pre-arbitration salary status make him an ideal target for the Rays, making Sherman wonder if Tampa Bay could again target McNeil this winter, though the Mets’ asking price has surely gone up in the wake of McNeil’s outstanding 2019 season.  Sherman’s piece floats some potential trades to help the Mets address their center field need, including his speculative suggestion of a Kevin Kiermaier/Yonny Chirinos for McNeil swap.  The Rays would get their desired “low-cost Swiss Army Knife” of a player and also get Kiermaier’s contract off the books, with Chirinos involved to add a young arm to New York’s rotation and entice the Mets to swallow Kiermaier’s $ 36MM in remaining salary.  Sherman looks further within the AL East to cite the Red Sox as another possible trade partners for the center field-needy Mets, as Jackie Bradley Jr. could be available, or there’s always the “pipedream” of a one-for-one swap of Mookie Betts for Noah Syndergaard.

More from around the East…

  • The Yankees decided against issuing a one-year, $ 17.8MM qualifying offer to Didi Gregorius, leaving SNY.tv’s Andy Martino wondering if the shortstop’s days in the Bronx could be over.  One industry source describes the chances of Gregorius returning to New York in 2020 as “a very close call,” especially since Martino notes that Gregorius and his representatives believe they can find a multi-year deal in free agency.  Even after an injury-shortened down year, Gregorius is still the best shortstop option on the free agent market; MLBTR ranked him 12th on our list of the winter’s top 50 free agents and predicted he’d land a three-year, $ 42MM contract.  It’s worth noting that this deal would work out to less in average annual value than the one-year cost of the QO, so it isn’t out of the question that the Yankees could still try to bring back Gregorius for multiple years, though at a smaller hit to their 2020 luxury tax number.
  • Blue Jays president/CEO Mark Shapiro discussed Vladimir Guerrero Jr.’s offseason training regiment, baseball labor relations, and some hot stove business amidst a variety of topics in a radio interview with The Fan 590’s Scott MacArthur, Ashley Docking, and Mike Zigomanis (audio link).  The Blue Jays are known to be looking for pitching this winter, with Shapiro saying “we’re going to have to be aggressive on every level of the free agent starting pitcher landscape.”  This could mean at least checking into the top-tier names on the pitching market, though given Shapiro also noted that “if you look at the history of free agent pitching contracts, it is a really, really, really high-risk area to play in.”  All things considered, the odds seem to be against Toronto landing an elite arm like Gerrit Cole at this point in their rebuilding process.  “Dollars are not going to be our challenge, which hasn’t always been the case,” Shapiro said.  “It’s going to be where we fit with Gerrit’s alignment of interests…same thing with every free agent we pursue.  What I am confident is, that throughout the free agency process we’ll be able to get better this winter, and we’ll have the resources to do it.”
  • There have been rumors about a possible extension between Shapiro and the Blue Jays since 2020 is the last year of the CEO’s deal, though he didn’t give any new details on that front.  Shapiro did reiterate his desire to stay in Toronto and “I’ve received nothing but positive feedback from the people that I report to about wanting me to remain here.”

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