January 14-20, 2013 In Review

Week in Review

After a couple of quiet weeks, there was decidedly more Blue Jays news to report this time, starting with the signing of Adam Loewen to a minor league contract on Monday. You may recall that the British Columbia native spent time in the Jays system from 2009-2011, trying to return to the majors as an outfielder after injuries forced him to give up his career as a pitcher. Loewen did eventually play a handful of games with the Jays in 2011 before signing on with the New York Mets organization last year. At this point, Loewen represents little more than minor league depth for the Jays, with both Anthony Gose and Moises Sierra ahead of him should the Jays need help in the outfield.

Also on Monday, the Jays signed international free agent Denis Villatoro to a 5-year deal.  The 18-year-old right-handed pitcher has touched 93 MPH on the radar gun.

Darren Oliver agreed to return to the Blue Jays and play out the option year of the contract he signed last offseason. As we previously reported, Oliver’s agent Jeff Frye claimed that Oliver was unwilling to return to the team under the terms of that contract, suggesting that Oliver would retire if not given a raise or traded to the Texas Rangers. This week Oliver indicated that Frye’s ultimatum was made without his knowledge or approval and that the moves made this offseason by the Jays had swayed him to come back for another year. The return of Oliver obviously bolsters the team’s bullpen while intensifying the competition for remaining spots. It is expected that J.A. Happ will start the season as a starter in AAA Buffalo and this week Alex Anthopoulos suggested that Brad Lincoln may very well join him. That would leave Brett Cecil, Jeremy Jeffress, Steve Delabar and Aaron Loup competing for the final three bullpen positions.

Speaking of Delabar, ESPN’s David Schoenfield cited his splitter as one of the top five most under appreciated weapons in baseball.

Deals were signed this week with all four of the team’s arbitration eligible players, meaning hearings will not be necessary. Colby Rasmus, Emilio Bonifacio and J.A. Happ each get one-year deals worth $4.675M, 2.6M, and 3.7M respectively. Meanwhile, Josh Thole received a 2-year deal worth $2.5M with an option worth $1.75M for the third year. The excellent John Lott of the National Post writes that Henry Blanco, signed last week, has the inside track for the backup catcher’s job and that Thole will likely be headed to Buffalo where he’ll replace the departed Travis d’Arnaud as the everyday catcher. However, he also notes that Thole would become the everyday catcher in Toronto should anything happen to J.P. Arencibia with the 41-year-old Blanco unable to handle everyday duties at this stage of his career.

Lastly, Lott also writes that a blockbuster trade apparently fell through prior to the one that was consummated with the Marlins. Shi Davidi and Andrew Stoeten both speculate as to which players may have been involved in that deal.

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