Mexico Stocking Up on Jays For World Tourney
NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — Russell Martin plans to play for Team Canada and Marcus Stroman likely will be in the starting rotation for Team USA at the World Baseball Championship.
But how about the Mexico Jays?
With word that Toronto’s closer Roberto Osuna will be a key part of the Mexico pitching staff at the event next March, manager Edgar Gonzalez said he would like to add Aaron Sanchez and Marco Estrada as well.
“Hopefully the process of getting permission with the Blue Jays goes right,” Gonzalez said on Monday. “Toronto has always been very cooperative. We’re trying to get a lot of their players and we haven’t had any problems yet.”
The Jays will have some say in the matter and with the workload the three pitchers had in 2016, there would be reason to be leery. The fresher the arms come April the better, obviously.
But general manager Ross Atkins said on Monday that the players in question will be free to participate if they are healthy and in shape come tournament time.
“First and foremost, we want to put them in the best position to have success doing it and secondarily what that means to the rest of the rest of the season and then the long term of their career,” Atkins said. “We want to do that with them. We’re in the early stages of communications.”
As for Osuna, Gonzalez said he was thrilled to get the Jays bullpen ace for the event, which will be held in multiple venues in early March.
“He’s getting close to (being one of the best closers in the game),” Gonzalez said. “His maturity on the mound and his maturity at that age is pretty impressive.
“He’s super excited. He’s pumped to be a part of this.”
Meanwhile, Team Canada manager Ernie Whitt was pleased to find out on Monday that Martin wants to join the squad, which will play its preliminary round games in Miami beginning on March 9.
“We had reached out to him and were waiting until the end of the season and then take a month off to see how he’s feeling physically,” Whitt said. “We’re all for it. I’m glad he feels that way.”
Whitt said he would prefer Martin to be in his traditional spot as catcher but Atkins would rather him play in the infield. We’ll see in March who wins that one.
JOSE CAN YOU SEE?
With so much focus on the plight of Edwin Encarnacion, arguably the most sought after slugger of the off-season, precious little is being said about his former Jays teammate Jose Bautista.
Because of an injury-interrupted season and related struggles at the plate, there is speculation that Bautista might accept a one-year deal. It’s tough to tell who the frontrunner might be at this point, however.
“Being a free agent, you just got to be open to all possibilities,” Bautista told reporters in the Dominican Republic where he was participating in retired Red Sox slugger David Ortiz’s charity golf tournament. “I don’t know what the future’s going to hold for me.”
Ortiz, by the way, made another pitch for his pal Encarnacion, who Big Papi still believes will strike it rich.
“When you have a guy like Edwin doing what he does, he can ask for whatever he wants,” Ortiz said. “Not everybody is hitting 40 bombs in the big leagues and doing all the damage that he’s doing. If you’re going to recruit a guy like him, you know you’ve got to bring that money in.”
Despite all the talk of the pursuit of available free agents here at the baseball winter meetings, Jays GM Atkins said it isn’t the only route the team is considering at retooling.
“There’s also the potential of a trade,” Atkins said. “There are several different ways we could acquire another outfielder or two outfielders or that backup catcher or a reliever that’s bridging to Osuna in a very, very elite way.
“We are going to consider all of those. Do I think it’s more likely that it’s free agency? At this point, yes. But not by much.”
Atkins points out the simplicity of free agency — “you are only playing once,” — whatever the cost may be.
“Sometimes with trades, you are paying twice because you are taking on salary and giving up prospects. We will have strategies to do it both ways. We just don’t have all the control.”
Team Canada manager Whitt on drawing into a lethal pool at the WBC that includes the U.S, the Dominican and Colombia: “I guess I lost the coin flip. It’s going to be difficult but you’ve got to play those countries. There’s no way we should have beat the U.S. in ’06, but that’s why you play the game. That’s the beauty of the international game, that everybody has a chance because it’s just one game.” … Whitt said he’s hoping free agent Michael Saunders will be available for Team Canada duties.