Orlando meetings brought Lawrie to Jays

 * Brett Lawrie came aboard the last time the winter meetings were staged in Orlando. ....  

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   By Bob Elliott

There are 2,267 rooms at Disney World’s Swan and Dolphin resorts.

As general managers, managers, scouting directors, agents and more agents arrived at the four-star resort Sunday in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., there is one fact a ball fan knows for sure about the team he or she follows:

There will be enough trade talk and free-agent signing rumours to fill each room as Major League Baseball’s 112th winter meetings begin.

And some deals may actually happen at the trade mart and flesh-peddling session.

A look back at the Blue Jays two previous visits to the Orlando suburb:

The 2010 meetings saw Alex Anthopoulos send opening day starter Shaun Marcum to the Milwaukee Brewers for minor-league third baseman Brett Lawrie. 

The Jays also chased Zack Greinke of the Kansas City Royals and free-agent catcher Russell Martin ... unsuccessfully.

As well, former Jays GM Pat Gillick was elected to the Hall of Fame on Expansion Era voting.

The 2006 meetings were adjudged the second worst in franchise history. Jays GM J.P. Ricciardi made a four-year, $40-million offer to free-agent lefty Ted Lilly. Lilly chooses the Cubs, coming off a 96-loss season.

Right-hander Gil Meche said no to the Jays’ five-year, $55-million deal, preferring to sign with the last-place Kansas City Royals, losers of 100 games.

The Jays went 0-for-Orlando, unable to get anyone to take their money, so they returned home and gave Vernon Wells a seven-year, $126-million extension.

Only the 1984 meetings in Houston--when the Jays sent Dave Collins and Alfredo Griffin to the Oakland A’s for closer Bill Caudill -- would be worse than Orlando in 2006. Caudill saved 14 games the next year, losing his job to Tom Henke after the all-star break.

The best winter meetings? You had to ask?

It would be 1990 at Rosemont, Ill., when inside of four days the Jays added centre fielder Devon White from the Los Angeles Angels, plus Hall of Famer Robbie Alomar and Joe Carter from the San Diego Padres.

* * *

So, what about 2013? David Price is on the market. Besides the Tampa Bay Rays lefty, so too are Chicago Cubs right-hander Jeff Samardzija and Oakland A’s lefty Brett Anderson.

The Blue Jays need starting help. Samardzija fits what GM Alex Anthopoulos’ assistant Dana Brown are searching to find.

So does one and one add up to a perfect match? Well, it might it were a two-team league, but the Jays are not the only organization looking at Price.

The Mariners could include top right-handed prospect Taijuan Walker, 21, in a package the Rays would like (think James Shields to the Kansas City Royals for blue-chip hitting prospect Wil Myers a year ago, or five Chicago Cubs prospects for Matt Garza). 

Add first baseman Justin Smoak and shortstop Brad Miller or third baseman Kyle Seager to the package ... and ask yourself: Can the Jays beat that? They don’t have anyone to match Walker’s Baseball America newspaper clippings.

The Los Angeles Dodgers, Texas Rangers, Arizona Diamondbacks, L.A. Angels, Atlanta Braves and the Pittsburgh Pirates are also interested.

Price won the AL Cy Young Award in 2012 (20-5, 2.,56). This past season, he went 10-8 with a 3.33 ERA, walking 27 and striking out 151 in 186.2 innings.

Samardzija, who epitomizes the Jays stance about having a tougher brand of pitcher, was 8-13 with a 4.34 ERA in 33 starts for the Cubs, walking 78 and striking out 214 in 213.2 innings.

Anderson, 25, has started only 43 games since his rookie season in 2009 because of a long list of injuries, including Tommy John surgery. Finishing in relief this past season, he was 1-4, with a 6.04 ERA in 16 games.

* * *

Outside of Shirley Cheek, accepting the Ford C. Frick Award for her late husband Tom, the dais at Cooperstown was a lonely place last July.

That won’t be the case next summer.

A 16-man panel, which includes Blue Jays president Paul Beeston, will make known their voting on Monday morn.

Former managers Bobby Cox, Joe Torre, Tony La Russa and Billy Martin, executives Marvin Miller and George Steinbrenner, plus players Dave Concepcion, Steve Garvey, Tommy John, Dave Parker, Dan Quisenberry and Ted Simmons are on the Expansion Era ballot.

Doing the deliberations on Sunday were Hall of Famers Rod Carew, Carlton Fisk, Whitey Herzog, Tommy Lasorda, Joe Morgan, Paul Molitor, Phil Niekro and Frank Robinson; historian Steve Hirdt (Elias Sports Bureau), writers Bruce Jenkins (San Francisco Chronicle), Jack O’Connell (BBWAA) and Jim Reeves (Fort Worth Star-Telegram) and executives Andy MacPhail, Dave Montgomery (Phillies), Jerry Reinsdorf (White Sox); and Beeston.

Our prediction: Cox, Torre, La Russa and Miller will receive the required 12 votes.

And next month Tom Glavine, Greg Maddux, Frank Thomas and Jeff Kent hit the writers ballot for the first time, also the final year of eligibility for Blue Jays broadcaster Jack Morris. 

The market is about to be corrected after Cooperstown not inducting a living person for the first time since 1965,

* * *

The New York Yankees are on a roll. And so too is agent Scott Boras.

Boras clients are often the last to leave the freeagent pool and sign.

Jacoby Ellsbury, a Boras client, and the Yankees agreed on a $153-million deal. Did Ellsbury’s signing quickly close the door on the ability to re-sign Robinson Cano in the Bronx?

The Yankees went to $180 million on Cano, but the Seattle Mariners--yep, the Mariners--gave Cano and his agent singer Jay-Zed, a 10-year, $240-million deal.

No Cano? No problem. The Yankees turned around and signed another Mr. October, outfielder Carlos Beltran for three years and $45 million. Beltran has a .333 average in 51 post-season games, along with 16 homers, 40 RBIs and a 1.128 OPS.

But we can’t see Reggie Jackson giving up the title.

The Yanks also gave freeagent catcher Brian McCann a five-year, $85-million deal to fill the right field porch. That’s an upgrade over 2013, when Brett Gardner was their second best offensive player behind Cano.

GM Brian Cashman also brought back starter Hiroki Kuroda for a year at $16 million, has Derek Jeter on the books for $12 million, gave a two-year, $5-million deal to infielder Brendan Ryan and a $3-million one-year package to one-time Jays infielder Kelly Johnson.

So, the Yankees have spent $88.86 million for next year and committed $319 million for down the road. And they will be in on Japanese star Masahiro Tanaka, if he eventually is posted for free agency.

Do you think the Yanks are betting that Alex Rodriguez will be suspended for the 2014 season, taking his $26 million off the books?

* * *

Check off one spot in the Blue Jays rotation.

“I’d put Drew Hutchison in the rotation, behind R.A. Dickey and Mark Buehrle,” said one veteran evaluator who saw Hutchison pitch recently in the Arizona Fall League. “I saw him make two starts before he hurt his elbow (on June 3, 2012, allowing one run in seven innings to beat the Boston Red Sox). He was as good in Arizona as he was that night.”

Two starts following that gem against the Bosox, Hutchison walked off the mound after 12 pitches with his elbow injury and had Tommy John surgery.

Hutchison threw 35.1 innings this past season between class-A Dunedin, double-A New Hampshire and triple-A Buffalo rehabbing his way back. How much of an increase in workload can the Jays expect?

“I liked Aaron Sanchez,” the scout continued. “He threw the most strikes. Marcus Stroman was so-so for me, I see him as a reliever.”

If it all comes down to starting pitching--as it usually does--the five charts below show the AL East’s rotations, if the season were to begin today (innings pitched include time spent in the minors):

- - -



15-8, ERA: 3.75, 213.1

Clay Buchholz

12-1, ERA: 1.74 111.2

John Lackey

10-13, ERA: 3.52 189.1

Jake Peavy

12-5, ERA: 4.17 144.2

Felix Doubront

11-6, ERA: 4.32 162.1

Ryan Dempster

8-9, ERA: 4.57 171.1

- - -



10-8, ERA: 3.33 194.0

Jeremy Hellickson

12-10, ERA: 5.17 174.0

Matt Moore

17-4, ERA: 3.29 154.1

Alex Cobb

11-3, ERA: 2.76 151.2

Chris Archer

9-7, ERA: 3.22 128.2

Jake Odorizzi

4-1, ERA: 3.94 154.0

- - -



16-7, ERA: 3.71 206.1

Wei-Yin Chen

7-7, ERA: 4.07, 137.0

Miguel Gonzalez

11-8, ERA: 3.78, 171.1

Bud Norris

10-12, ERA: 4.18, 176.2

Kevin Gausman

3-5, ERA: 5.66, 129.2

Zach Britton

2-3, ERA: 4.95, 143.1

- - -



14-13, ERA: 4.78, 211.0

Ivan Nova

9-6, ERA: 3.10, 157.0

Hiroki Kuroda

11-13, ERA: 3.31, 201.1

Adam Warren

3-2, ERA: 3.39, 169.1

David Phelps

6-5, ERA: 4.98, 86.2

Vidal Nuno

1-2, ERA: 2.25, 45.0

- - -



14-13, ERA: 4.21, 224.2

Mark Buehrle

12-10, ERA: 4.15, 203.2

Brandon Morrow

2-3, ERA: 5.63, 56.1

Drew Hutchison

NA, ERA: NA, 35.1

J.A. Happ

5-7, ERA: 4.56, 113.0

Todd Redmond

4-3, ERA: 4.32, 103.2