Bruce-to-Blue Jays three-team deal stalls
Trade reportedly off due to medical report involving Toronto Minor Leaguer
DUNEDIN, Fla. -- The Blue Jays aren't finished tinkering with their roster, but general manager Ross Atkins declined to get into specifics when asked about a reported three-team trade that fell apart late Monday night.
MLB Network's Jon Heyman was the first to report that Toronto was nearing a deal for veteran outfielder Jay Bruce. As part of the rumored deal, Blue Jays outfielder Michael Saunders would have gone to the Angels while the Reds would have acquired prospects. The trade was off, Ken Rosenthal of FoxSports.com reported on Tuesday.
The deal appeared to hit a snag due to an issue with the medicals of a Blue Jays Minor Leaguer who would have gone to Cincinnati, a source told MLB.com's Mark Sheldon. The Toronto media swarmed Atkins early Monday morning in an attempt to clarify the team's plans, but the first-year GM didn't want to tip his hand.
"There are a lot of trade rumors, there are a lot of trade discussions," Atkins said. "We have them constantly and there's really nothing I can comment on about them."
Media reports late Monday night indicated that the health of Saunders' left knee was a concern. He was limited to nine games in 2015 because of surgery and a deep bone bruise in his left knee, but he told reporters earlier this week that he was feeling healthy.
Atkins chose his words carefully when speaking about the reports, but he did want to go on record saying that Saunders was feeling fine and that the Blue Jays don't anticipate any problems this spring.
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Atkins had a meeting with Saunders early Tuesday morning to clarify the team's stance. It was not immediately clear if the trade talks are completely dead or have just been put on hold, but while all of this is going on, Saunders' place with the Blue Jays has suddenly been thrown into question.
"That's the thing about trade rumors that are unfortunate, that's the first thing I think about is the player," Atkins said. "I immediately communicate with him and say, 'I'm here for you, is there anything I can do for you? Do you need anything?' He was fine, he was great and he'll be working out today.
"I feel great about Michael. He has been running at full speed, he has been working really hard, I've been really encouraged with everything we have seen."
Saunders underwent surgery last spring to remove 60 percent of the meniscus from his left knee after he suffered a freak injury while stepping on a sprinkler head during fielding drills. He eventually returned in May but then suffered a deep bone bruise in the same area and had to be shut down for the season.
The injury and slow recovery process was a bitter pill to swallow for Saunders, and it continued an unfortunate trend of health impacting his big league career. Saunders appeared in just 78 games for the Mariners in 2014 because of injuries, but he hoped to put that behind him with the Blue Jays.
Bruce is coming off a season in which he hit 26 home runs with 87 RBIs while posting a .729 OPS. He is a career .248 hitter with 208 home runs and 638 RBIs over parts of eight seasons in the big leagues.
The 28-year-old Bruce has appeared in at least 137 games during each of the past six seasons. He is a career .248 hitter with a .319 on-base percentage and has two Silver Slugger Awards on his resume, but he also struggled with the bat during the past two seasons.
Bruce is in the final year of a six-year, $51 million contract, but there is a $13 million club option for 2017 ($1 million buyout). It wasn't clear which prospects were originally involved in the deal or whether cash would have been included to help offset some of Bruce's salary.
"In relation to the trade, there are so many trades that we never talk about publicly," Atkins said. "We can't out of respect to players; no idea how these rumors start, quite frankly. Relative to our budget, it's similar to a negotiation and a strategy. We feel good about having the ability to make our team better."