Jays waiting on the sidelines
After Day 1, Toronto has no plans for any major deals
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The lack of noise that has followed the Blue Jays around this offseason has made its way to the Winter Meetings. There were plenty of trade winds blowing around the Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center on Monday, but Toronto continued to lay low.
That doesn't mean that things can't potentially swing in a different direction for the relatively dormant club. During a break from the Day 1 schmoozing, Blue Jays general manager J.P. Ricciardi reiterated his offseason mantra, backing the roster that's currently in place.
Even so, Ricciardi indicated that the Jays aren't ruling out getting more involved on the trade market if the right deal came along. As of right now, Toronto doesn't figure to be a player in any blockbuster trades, but the team isn't unwilling to approach other clubs about possible swaps.
"Like I've said, I like the makeup of our club," Ricciardi said. "I think for us to really do something along those lines, it's got to be us initiating something that's going to lead to us being as good, if not better, with maybe even some down-the-road incentive."
Twins ace Johan Santana has generated the most buzz on the trade market, but the teams that lose out on acquiring the left-hander may look for other solutions. One option could be the Blue Jays' A.J. Burnett, and Ricciardi didn't rule out listening to offers for the right-hander.
Burnett signed a five-year deal worth $55 million with the Jays prior to the 2006 season, but he can opt out of the contract next offseason. Burnett, who is owed $12 million in each of the next three seasons, has been limited to 46 starts over the past two years due to a variety of arm issues. Still, Burnett could be an attractive arm on the current market.
"The only problem is if we go down that route, we're going to have to replace that arm," Ricciardi said. "Arms are so hard to get right now, I don't know if anybody would give us an arm back. I don't think we've eliminated exploring any avenue, but for right now, I don't see us moving him."
Ricciardi added that his cell phone has been void of inquiries about Burnett's availability, lowering the chances that the Jays might move him even more.
"I think guys would've made contact by now if they had a lot of interest," Ricciardi said. "That seems to be the way it goes."
According to a report in the Globe and Mail, Ricciardi didn't deny that the Blue Jays "are in" talks with the Orioles about a trade for left-hander Erik Bedard, who is from Navan, Ontario. The report also cited one high-ranking club executive, who indicated that the Jays are "sending out signals that they're going to be aggressive and creative."
The newspaper also floated the concept of a deal with the Giants, who are open to discussing potential trades for Tim Lincecum or Matt Cain for a corner outfielder. Toronto could potentially dangle outfielders Alex Rios or Adam Lind, but the Giants are rumored to possibly have interest in Jays third baseman Troy Glaus.
Ricciardi also said he's already talked to a couple of teams about trades that could potentially fill Toronto's need for a backup catcher. The Jays have continued to talk to free-agent catcher Sal Fasano, and the club has some limited interest in Paul Bako.
The Jays are only looking for a one-year solution for the backup catcher job, considering the progression of catching prospects Robinzon Diaz and Curtis Thigpen. Ricciardi said that the Jays are interested in re-signing Fasano and seeing if Diaz is ready to make the jump to the Majors from Triple-A later in 2008.
"We're talking to Sal right now," Ricciardi said. "He gives us a little bit more of a catch-and-throw guy behind the plate against teams that run. Hopefully, Diaz is ready around June or July, and we'll evaluate it at that point."
Exploring possible upgrades for left field isn't entirely out of the question, either, though it looks more and more like Reed Johnson will be back in that role. Johnson struggled to return from a back injury last season, and he's in his final year of arbitration after making $3.075 million a year ago.
Considering the salary Johnson will command in 2008, the Jays could consider non-tendering or trading him, if alternative solutions for left field and the leadoff role were found. Ricciardi said that he believes Johnson can bounce back from last season's subpar showing, though.
"We're looking," Ricciardi said. "I just don't know what the options are going to be right now. If he gets healthy, we've got a lot of confidence that he'll be what he was. [We're exploring other options] a little bit, but I wouldn't say it's hot and heavy."
Toronto is also still interested in free-agent starter Matt Clement, who has also been tied to San Diego, Cleveland, Colorado, Pittsburgh and Arizona in rumors. Clement is coming back from major right shoulder injury, though, so the Jays' interest rests in an incentive-laden deal.
"We have a breaking point as to what we think the risk would be," Ricciardi said. "The guy hasn't pitched in two years, so we'd have to be pretty smart about how we use our money. We're involved. We like him, and we'd like to get him for something within reason."
The Jays were also involved in discussions with veteran reliever Troy Percival, who inked a two-year deal worth $8 million with the Rays on Friday. Toronto, which tabled a one-year offer to Percival, might still be in the market for some bullpen help, especially with questions about when closer B.J. Ryan will be able to return from a left elbow injury.
It's possible that Toronto could add an arm to the mix with the Rule 5 Draft on Thursday. To clear a spot on the 40-man roster, the Jays removed right-hander Ty Taubenheim, but then lost him on waivers to the Pirates on Monday. Ricciardi said Toronto is eyeing a couple of players to possibly draft.
"We'd like some flexibility," Ricciardi said. "We like a couple of guys, and hopefully we can get someone. We're still trying to decide which guy [we should select], if not both of them."
Toronto acquired Taubenheim from the Brewers in December 2005 in the trade that brought first baseman Lyle Overbay to the Jays. Taubenheim's tenure with the Blue Jays was inconsistent, and the 25-year-old wasn't viewed as a part of the club's future plans.
Taubeheim did serve as an emergency starter a handful of times for the Jays over the past two seasons, in which he went 1-5 with a 5.40 ERA in 13 games. He opened last season with Triple-A Syracuse, but he was demoted to Double-A after going 4-7 with a 6.37 ERA with the Chiefs. At Double-A, Taubenheim went 2-1 with a 2.01 ERA.
Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.