Blue Jays Morning Brew: Weekend off-season notes

Toronto Blue Jays off-season news and notes for the weekend of November 12th & 13th

The deadline for players to officially accept or decline qualifying offers is 5:00 p.m. today, so with the added financial clarity of those decisions, free agent negotiations should begin to gain traction in the coming week.

Lourdes Gurriel Jr. was Toronto’s first splash of the off-season, and the versatile Cuban is expected to start at the triple-A level in 2017. Just 23 and brimming with talent, Gurriel’s seven-year, $22 million deal is filled with potential for the Blue Jays.

Toronto followed that by adding DH (and only DH) Kendrys Morales. The 33-year-old will earn $33 million over three seasons and is coming off 30 home runs with the Royals in 2016. While his positional fit and financial commitment seem to push Encarnacion further out the door, there’s a great deal of activity still to come.

Devon White getting involved

Some interesting news courtesy of Barry Davis on Sunday as former Blue Jays’ outfielder Devon White will be joining the double-A New Hampshire Fisher Cats as their hitting coach next season.

White, now 53, played for the Blue Jays from 1991 to 1995 and earned a Gold Glove Award in all five of those seasons. The three-time All-Star finished his career with a .263 batting average and 346 stolen bases.

Thoughts on Bruce

On Sunday, it was reported that the Blue Jays have circled back to their old flame in Jay Bruce. ESPN’s Jim Bowden suggests that the Blue Jays envision him as a platoon partner for Melvin Upton Jr.

It’s worth nothing that Bruce played some of his best baseball while Brook Jacoby — the current Blue Jays’ hitting coach — was his hitting coach in Cincinnati. The Mets picked up Bruce’s $13 million option for 2017 despite their existing outfield depth and his clear defensive limitations, so the acquisition cost won’t necessarily be high.

Cafardo on Bautista

Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe suggests, you guessed it, the Boston Red Sox as a potential destination for Jose Bautista. He also lists Texas, Houston, Baltimore, St. Louis, San Francisco, and Atlanta. Bautista could be a likelier Red Sox target than Encarnacion as he likely won’t earn as many years on his free agent deal.

On Joey Votto, Cafardo adds that the Cincinnati Reds are (intelligently) not pushing for a deal and recognize that his on-field value would be nearly impossible to replace.

“We’ve traded away a lot of players we’ve drafted and developed,” said GM Dick Williams. “He’s one of the few that remains. There’s a sentimental connection with fans no doubt. But it doesn’t have anything to do with attendance and draw. It’s about performance. He delivers.”

Minor-league signings

In small-scale transaction news, the Blue Jays have signed SS Shane Opitz and RHP Felipe Castaneda to minor-league deals. Opitz, 24, was an 11th-round selection by the Blue Jays in 2010 and has been with the organization since. With a career .639 OPS, Opitz will continue to serve as minor-league depth.

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