Blue Jays Morning Brew: Cecil analysis, off-season notes

Toronto Blue Jays off-season news and notes for Tuesday, November 15th

Monday’s deadline to accept qualifying offers has come and gone, leaving the Blue Jays and the rest of Major League Baseball prepared for a flurry of activity leading up to the winter meetings.

Second-baseman Neil Walker and starting pitcher Jeremy Hellickson both accepted their qualifying offers while eight others — including Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion — declined and are now free agents.

On to the latest off-season news and stories:

On Cecil, and his reported three-year offer

The Blue Jays have offered a three-year contract to reliever Brett Cecil, according to Sportsnet’s Jamie Campbell on Monday. A run on bullpen pieces should hit sooner rather than later, but Toronto’s willingness to go three years with Cecil is noteworthy and telling. Deals like Kendrys Morales, Justin Smoak, and J.A. Happ — to varying degrees of success or positive reception — have shown that Toronto is willing to use contract length and mid-rage financial flexibility to their advantage with players they covet.

Cecil’s situation will be pivotal to the free agents around him as he sits on the tier below Aroldis Chapman, Kenley Jansen, and Mark Melancon. If Cecil is able to secure a fourth year — even as a team option — or a an annual value that is above expectations, a handful of other relievers could see themselves in a better bargaining position. Free agent relievers are tied closely to one another as comparables, so many will be eyeing Cecil’s negotiations.

Scouting Lourdes Gurriel Jr.

Eric Longenhagen of FanGraphs produced a scouting report on Monday for recent Blue Jays’ signing Lourdes Gurriel Jr. Toronto locked up the highly-touted Cuban star with a seven-year, $22 million deal, and he is expected to begin his career in the upper-minors this coming season.

“The tool profile here is well rounded but not spectacular, fringe to average hit and game power,” Longenhagen wrote. “If that kind of bat can play all over the field then that would be quite valuable — and Gurriel did indeed play second, third, short, and left field in 2015, his final year of pro ball in Cuba.”

It’s vital for Gurriel to get regular live action again in the Blue Jays system, but if the 23-year-old is able to produce early, there’s little holding him back from impacting the MLB roster in the second half of 2017.

Making sense of compensation picks

Now that the qualifying offers have been settled, MLB.com’s Jonathan Mayo helps to clarify how the declined offers will impact the 2017 draft. As the draft order currently stands Toronto holds the 24th overall pick, but they stand to benefit if Encarnacion and Bautista sign elsewhere.

Latest on Encarnacion, Red Sox

Since spring training, the low-hanging fruit of narratives has been that one of Encarnacion and Bautista would eventually land in Boston as David Ortiz‘s replacement. According to Rob Bradford of WEEI Boston, however, Boston and Encarnacion have “yet to engage in any serious discussions.”

This fits with Dave Dombrowski’s suggestion that the Red Sox may seek out more flexibility with their DH/1B situation. Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval will both be factors while Boston’s lineup and prospect pool are both strong. Besides, much of the Red Sox’s young talent will be getting quite expensive by the time a fourth year of Edwin Encarnacion rolled around.

Minor league transaction update

The Blue Jays have brought back right-hander Casey Lawrence on a minor-league deal that includes an invitation to spring training, according to Sportsnet’s Ben Nicholson-Smith. Lawrence has been in the system since 2010 and, while he doesn’t offer top-prospect upside or a high-velocity arm, he represents a valuable piece of organizational depth in the upper minors.

The 29-year-old made 28 starts between double-A and triple-A in 2016, totalling 162.0 innings pitched with a 4.17 ERA. He is currently pitching in the Venezuelan League for Bravos de Margarita with a 2.48 ERA over 32.2 innings.

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