Updated: Alex Anthopoulos has made his first free agent signing of the offseason, inking former Angels infielder Maicer Izturis to a 3-year, $9 million contract with a $3 million club option for 2016.
The Toronto Blue Jays and free agent infielder Maicer Izturis have agreed to a three-year contract, as reported first in a tweet by CBS Sports' Jon Heyman. Sportsnet's Shi Davidi tweets that this is the largest free agent contract given out by general Alex Anthopoulos so far. The contract details will be updated at the end of this piece as they come in.
Rumour of the signing was first reported by Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal, who tweeted that a rival executive told him that the Blue Jays were close to signing the infielder. We reported on those rumours and wrote a little about Izturis' career in our previous post here.
Summarizing what was written, Izturis is a decent-hitting middle infielder, compiling a career batting line of .273/.337/.381 with an OPS+ and wRC+ of 94. He will probably fill in the role that the Blue Jays had expected of Mike Aviles before he was dealt away for Esmil Rogers--a solid utility player who can start a few games a week. The club will most likely try to acquire a starting second baseman, but as the Drunk Jays Fans' Andrew Stoeten noted, the plan could be to have Izturis start the year at second before calling up Adeiny Hechavarria in mid-season. Again from Twitter, Navin Vaswani posted that Izturis and Kelly Johnson both recorded 0.7 fWAR last season (on Baseball-Reference Johnson had 1.4 WAR and Izturis 0.1 WAR). Johnson had an 86 wRC+ compared to Izturis' 82, but Izturis strikes out about half as much (27.4% K-rate for Johnson, 11.9% for Izturis).
Maicer Izturis is a switch hitter--something that the Blue Jays haven't had for a long time it seems. Omar Vizquel was a switch hitter last year, but before that the most significant switch hitting Blue Jays were Gregg Zaun (2004-2007) and Orlando Hudson (2002-2005). Here is the complete list of all Blue Jays switch hitters since 2000. Over his career, Izturis has minor splits: .268/.333/.361 vs. lefties (batting from the right) and .275/.338/.388 against righties (batting from the left). But in 2012, those splits widened: batting .231/.259/.244 facing southpaws and .265/.340/.341 against right-handed pitchers. Not suggesting that the Blue Jays will (or should) sign him, but Jeff Keppinger does split the other way. That would be an interesting platoon.
One more Expos tidbit (see our previous post for more): in 2013, Izturis will become the 56th, and perhaps last, player to have played for both the Montreal Expos and the Toronto Blue Jays.
I am a fan of this deal, although three year is longer than I thought the deal was going to be. As I wrote above, Izturis would be a great option off the bench, and a decent enough starting second baseman, especially against right-handers. What do you think?
Update (Tom Dakers):
I (Tom) was going to add a story to the story steam but it isn't much of an update. The press release has come through, the trade is official. 3 years at $3 million a year, plus a team option for another year at the same $3 million. Maicer is to make a yearly donation to the Jays Care Foundation.