In a normal universe, this time of year would see us cobbling together the last bit of Hot Stove news around the Major League Baseball world, tracking down those players looking to be the final pieces for clubs as they descend upon their spring training sites. Of course, the MLB owners locking out the players is now a months-long issue, there is no spring training as we knew it, and the season itself is now in peril of starting on time - and of being played in full.
In lieu of Hot Stove news, we’re instead stumbling across old fire rings and holding our hands above them to see if there’s any residual heat still left. As it turns out, yesterday saw just that, as TSN’s Scott Mitchell relayed that the Toronto Blue Jays had interest in Cincinnati Reds starter Tyler Mahle prior to the lockout.
Tyler Mahle, fifth starter.
Of course, it’s hard to gauge just how much interest the Jays had in acquiring Mahle, whose 5.2 bWAR was second on the team last year. With a pair of years of team control remaining on the 27 year old righty and an arbitration salary projected to be just around $6 million, he’s exactly the kind of piece that any team should be building around, and that comes at a premium cost to acquire.
Considering that the Jays also reported had interest in fellow Cincinnati starters Luis Castillo and Sonny Gray - as Sportsnet’s Ben Nicholson-Smith relayed - you just have to wonder if this was nothing more than another case of ‘[insert team name here] recognizes the Reds are tanking with excellent pieces still on their roster’ and doing their due diligence. Shopping for cars during Toyotathon, eyeing that couch as Pier One goes out of business, and the like.
The irony of this idiotic lockout and the greed of the collective owners of the MLB franchises is that, as a Reds fan, it’s given us a respite from daily news (and tangible evidence) of the team tearing itself apart to save money. I don’t know if that’s an accurate use of the word irony, I don’t intend on looking it up right now as I’ve not yet had my morning coffee, but you get what I’m getting to - while baseball has been forced to sit idle, it means the Reds can’t yet continue giving away their best players. This, though, brought back to the surface that their peers have long been keenly aware of their plans, and will be there to circle as they lay on the side of the highway.