John Mayberry, Andy Dirks, and Justin Smoak non-tendered by Blue Jays
The Toronto Blue Jays had until midnight on Tuesday night to tender contract to arbitration eligible players or declare them free agents. That group included Andy Dirks, John Mayberry Jr., Justin Smoak, Josh Donaldson, Brett Cecil, Danny Valencia, and pitcher Marco Estrada, and the consensus would be that most, if not all would be tendered before the deadline, with Valencia and Estrada the only true question marks.
Apparently, the Toronto Blue Jays don’t operate in accordance with the consensus.
According to an official team release, released late Tuesday night, the Blue Jays opted not to tender Andy Dirks, John Mayberry, and Justin Smoak, while extending tendered contracts to Cecil, Donaldson, Valencia, and Estrada.
It was an interesting decision for Toronto, who acquired both Smoak and Dirks earlier this winter off waiver claims and picked up Mayberry as a waiver trade last August. The lack of contracts for all three adds a further web of intrigue to the Blue Jays winter, as all three were seen as bench depth for the coming season. Additionally, it cost Toronto two left-handed bats in what is a predominantly right-handed line-up.
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Smoak in particular comes as a surprise, as Toronto acquired the switch-hitting first baseman hoping he was due for a bounceback season in a new environment. As expected, the team declined his team option for 2015, expecting that arbitration would mean a smaller salary for this season than the $3.65 million due to a hitter who managed a .202/.275/.339 slash-line with 7 home runs and 30 RBI in 2014.
The losses of Dirks and Mayberry are also bewildering. With Toronto currently down two outfielders and having already traded Anthony Gose this winter, the Blue Jays have only Dalton Pompey, Kevin Pillar, and Jose Bautista on the roster that can play in the outfield, unless you count the adventure that is Steve Tolleson. Dirks and Mayberry were seen as fallback options as platoon outfielders, as well as capable bats able to lend help in the DH slot, which not looks to be Dioner Navarro‘s to lose, despite Navarro being on the trading block.
There are truly just two options here. On one side of the coin, the Blue Jays are hoping to avoid the arbitration process and negotiate deals with one or more of this trio that would avoid raises for each. On the other, Toronto could have a move for an outfielder in the works and wanted to free up a 40-man roster spot, feeling that none of the three would have survived with the addition of future players.
For now, we can just wonder what is up Alex Anthopoulos’ sleeve this time and hope there is a plan here.