Is there truth in Keuchel-Blue Jays rumor?

Toronto likely to move on from veteran catcher Martin

December 3rd, 2018

TORONTO -- The annual tradition of the Blue Jays being linked to a client of super agent Scott Boras continued over the weekend, but the latest rumor makes even less sense than usual.

According to a report from MLB Network insider Jon Heyman, Toronto remains interested in free agent . On the surface, the rumor is reasonable enough because the Blue Jays are in the market for starting pitching, but dig a little deeper, and the premise doesn't pass muster.

Keuchel seems all but guaranteed to get at least a three-year deal on the open market, and he could even get as many as four or five. Toronto has the need -- and the roster space -- to accommodate that type of deal, but it also doesn't make any sense for a rebuilding team to make such a lengthy commitment to a 30-year-old who arguably is on the decline.

The Oklahoma native went 12-11 for the Astros last season while making a career-high 34 starts. He posted a respectable 3.74 ERA over 204 2/3 innings, but it was also almost a full run higher than the 2.90 ERA he posted the year before. At some point there will be regression, and it likely would take place around the time that an emerging Blue Jays core breaks into the Majors.

So if Keuchel to the Blue Jays doesn't make any sense, then why the rumor? Well, it happens just about every year. Last winter, rumors suggested that Toronto was interested in designated hitter J.D. Martinez. It wasn't. Carlos Pena and Stephen Drew are some of the other recent examples of Boras clients around whom there was smoke but no actual fire.

According to an source, the Blue Jays have discussed just about every free-agent possibility. So does that mean the club could make a run at Keuchel after all? Sure, if Keuchel is still on the market in January without a suitable long-term offer, but that seems pretty unrealistic.

Expect the Blue Jays to target a couple of mid-level arms for the rotation this winter. That could come in free agency or trade, but it's extremely unlikely to involve the multi-year signing of one of the top guys on the market.

Martin on the move?

One report that does make sense came from Yahoo Sports' Jeff Passan, who suggested the Blue Jays will look to trade this winter. That made headlines outside of Toronto, but for any Blue Jays fan who has been paying attention over the past several months, the rumor goes without saying.

Despite being completely healthy, Martin appeared in just two September games for the Blue Jays. The veteran catcher was relegated to the bench as Toronto went with a platoon of rookie and behind the plate. That trend is expected to continue again in 2019, but first the club has to move Martin.

The only way Toronto will be able to trade Martin is if it eats the vast majority of his remaining salary. The 35-year-old is set to earn $20 million in the final season of a five-year contract, and no team is going to be willing to pay that. The narrative changes in a hurry if the Blue Jays pay almost all of what he is owed or take a bad contract in return.

Martin posted a career-low .663 OPS in 90 games last season and is on the downside of his career, but if the money becomes reasonable, contending teams should become interested. Martin is still highly regarded because of his ability to handle a pitching staff, so it's reasonable to expect that the Blue Jays could facilitate a deal in the coming weeks even with the glut of free-agent catchers available. Just don't anticipate much of a return.

The non-tenders

A more realistic group of potential free-agent targets became available on Friday after Major League Baseball's non-tender deadline. Infielder was the only player cut loose by Toronto, but the club is expected to have interest in other non-tenders as bounceback candidates. Some names to keep an eye on in the coming weeks are starters Mike Fiers and and relievers Brad Boxberger and .