Blue Jays Tender Contracts to All But Josh Thole
By Jay Blue
Blue Jays from Away
There certainly hasn’t been any shortage of coverage of the day-in and day-out transactions of the Blue Jays and yesterday’s flurry of the non-tender deadline was no exception. If you read the mainstream media and other blogs, you have probably learned that the Blue Jays offered contracts (or “tendered” them) to all of their arbitration-eligible players save for one, catcher Josh Thole. In addition, the Blue Jays also avoided arbitration with first-baseman Justin Smoak by signing him to a one-year deal worth $3.9 million.
So what did yesterday’s day of work entail for the Jays’ interim GM Tony LaCava? Well, the Blue Jays tendered contracts to Brett Cecil, Jesse Chavez, Ben Revere, Michael Saunders, Josh Donaldson, Drew Hutchison, Aaron Loup and Steve Delabar. This means that the team and the players can now either work towards hashing out contracts and/or moving towards salary arbitration.
Interestingly, the Blue Jays, who had non-tendered Justin Smoak last year, only to re-sign him to a one-year contract worth one million dollars, avoided that whole process this year with Smoak by signing him to a $3.9 million deal. MLB Trade Rumors’ arbitration projections had Smoak getting $2 million in arbitration but some people have speculated that this figure is based on last year’s salary and not what he was estimated to make before the Blue Jays non-tendered him. MLBTR’s original estimate for Smoak in 2015 (as dug up by Andrew Stoeten) was $3.0 million and the Blue Jays very likely are paying Smoak back for agreeing to such a ridiculously low salary in 2015.
As far as Thole goes, my feeling is that he’s in Toronto as long as the Blue Jays keep R.A. Dickey around. Thole’s $1.8 million salary projection (which can be found here at MLBTR’s 2016 projection page) is quite high and I believe that the Blue Jays just non-tendered the light-hitting knuckleball catcher in order to get that contract down to around the $1 million mark. I think the thumb injury to Russell Martin last year really drove home the Blue Jays’ concerns about having Martin catch the knuckleball and Thole is going to be around to free up Martin to (hopefully) stay healthy for the entire season and catch 120-130 games in 2016.
The other interesting player in the arbitration talks is Ben Revere who has a figure of $6.7 million projected. People seem to think that $6.7 million is a little much to pay for a guy who doesn’t do much beyond hit singles and play a pretty good left field. The fact that the Blue Jays, with Michael Saunders (who was tendered a contract and stands to earn much less, at $2.9 million), Dalton Pompey (who stands to earn the big league minimum) and Ezequiel Carrera (also the minimum), the Blue Jays would have been well advised to trade or non-tender Revere. That said, Revere is probably the best suited player to the leadoff spot and he definitely hit extremely well for Toronto in his 56 games in a Blue Jays uniform. People have remarked that his .354 OBP at the end of the year was a pleasant surprise but the 20-point rise in OBP over his number in Philadelphia can be almost directly attributed to the 21-point rise in batting average and a 27-point rise in BABIP. Additionally, Revere’s walk rate rose slightly with the Blue Jays, possibly thanks to the influence of the patient lineup and hitting in the leadoff spot before Josh Donaldson, Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion. If nothing else says “don’t do too much with the bat,” it’s wanting to get on base in front of those three mashers.
Is Revere worth $6.7 million? In today’s baseball economy, probably. Is he going to be the Jays’ Opening Day left fielder? That’s a big question that the front office is going to have to figure out over the next few months.
As far as the other players go, Michael Saunders, if he plays everyday and is healthy, will likely be a bargain. Brett Cecil has earned every dollar he’s going to get and is easily a $3.4 million reliever. Josh Donaldson is worth however much money he gets and is still a bargain even if he gets the $12 million that his arbitration estimate states. My hope is that the Blue Jays try to get a longer-term deal (a la Bautista and Encarnacion) that could depress that 2016 number while repaying him on the back end. Drew Hutchison, again, if he’s pitching in the major leagues and contributing is well worth $2.6 million while Loup and Delabar both have figures under a million dollars and hopefully both are able to bounce back and contribute at the major league level. You have to go looking for Jesse Chavez’s estimate (he’s still listed under the Oakland A’s). Chavez stands to make $4.7 million. If he can pitch 120-180 innings next year and be worth anywhere from 1.5 - 2.5 wins above replacement, that’s also a huge bargain.
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