Olney: Blue Jays have 'serious' interest in free-agent P Heaney
The way Buster Olney sees it, Major League Baseball teams are in a spending mood after agreeing to four more years of labour peace last spring.
“They've got available cash, they've got cost certainty, and they are diving in with both feet,” the ESPN MLB Insider told TSN 1050 on Tuesday.
“All you need to know is the Phillies spent $300 million on Trea Turner and their offer wasn't the highest on the table. The Padres had a higher offer on the table. So that tells you – it gives you an indication how much money is being thrown around. Just wait until the Aaron Judge contract is announced.”
Another name off the board is Justin Verlander who reportedly reached a two-year, $86.7 million deal with the New York Mets on Monday.
Olney believes the reigning AL Cy Young Award winner was looking for the same yearly value as his new teammate Max Scherzer.
Considering the anticipated price tag for Verlander, Onley wasn’t sure how much traction there was to the veteran pitcher landing with the Toronto Blue Jays.
“I don't know what the Blue Jays offer to Verlander was,” said Olney. “Jim Crane, the owner of the Astros, was telling people during the World Series that Verlander is not going to be back here. [Crane] knew that the price tag was going to go way up.
“If you know Justin Verlander, he's incredibly competitive. I talked to Justin about the market during the World Series. He saw what … Max Scherzer got, $43.3 million [per season]. And let me tell you, Verlander and Scherzer are both future Hall of Famers, but they are not the best of friends. They're incredibly competitive with each other. So, it was not a coincidence yesterday that when Verlander signed his deal, it was for exactly the same as what Scherzer got with the Mets – $43.3 million per year.
“So, if the Blue Jays offered anything less than $43.3 million, there was no chance that Verlander was going there.”
Olney discussed some potential fits for the Blue Jays, including free-agent pitcher Andrew Heaney.
Heaney, 31, spent last season with the Dodgers. The lefty appeared in 16 games, 14 of them starts, in 2022 for the Dodgers and went 4-4 with a 3.10 earned-run average and a WHIP of 1.087 over 72.2 innings pitched.
Olney says that Heaney revitalized his career during his season in Los Angeles. The bidding on Heaney could come down to adding a fourth year to the offer.
“Heaney makes a lot of sense and the [Blue Jays] interest is serious there,” said Olney. “He's someone - it feels like people go to either the Dodgers or the Astros, veteran pitchers, and they find their stuff. They get advice from those teams and then they move on. Last year he refined his slider and he was back to being the high-end type starter that people projected for him at the beginning of his career.
“So, especially knowing now that they were involved in the Verlander conversation, they're serious about adding a starter. ... The question [is] whether or not a team will offer him a fourth year. He's got three-year offers in hand. If some team decides to step up and offer him a fourth year, that might be the difference. Given the fact that he's 31, you'd expect that he's going for the biggest dollar figure. So, we'll see if the Blue Jays are one of the teams that is willing to give him a fourth year.”
Olney also mentioned free-agent outfielder Brandon Nimmo, who batted .274 with 16 home runs and 64 RBI in 151 games for the Mets last season.
However, since Nimmo may also come with a high price tag, Olney thinks the Blue Jays would be better off pursuing a trade for disgruntled Pittsburgh Pirates outfielder Bryan Reynolds.
“Brandon Nimmo is clearly the best fit for the Blue Jays in terms of what they need – a left-handed hitter, a centre fielder – but we talked about the inflated prices in free agency this winter,” Olney said.
“At some point, if you're the Jays, this is all going to impact potentially what you're going to pay some of their other young players - Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Bo Bichette, etc., which is why Bryan Reynolds, the all-star centre fielder for the Pirates who has asked that franchise for a trade, makes a lot of sense to me.
“ … It wouldn't at all surprised me if [the Blue Jays] step up and [give] what it takes to get Reynolds, who's a really good major-league player. I don't think he's a superstar. But in this moment for what the Blue Jays need, it might be more cost efficient to give up what you need to in [a] trade for him than spending on Brandon Nimmo [who is] represented by Scott Boras - [he's] going to make a huge amount of money.”
Reynolds, 27, batted .262 with 27 home runs and 62 RBI in 145 games for the Pirates in 2022.