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Sunday Bantering: AFL All-Star game and another Jay Bruce rumour

Your morning update for everything Blue Jays.

Minor League Baseball: Arizona Fall League-All Star Game
Washington Nationals outfielder Victor Robles plays for the East during the Arizona Fall League Fall Stars game at Salt River Fields.
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Two Toronto Blue Jay prospects appeared in the Arizona Fall League All-Star game in which the East won 4-2.

T.J. Zeuch, the Blue Jays 21st overall pick in the 2016 draft, pitched one inning without allowing a baserunner. Zeuch struck out two of the three batters he faced. Here’s what MLB Pipeline’s Jonathan Mayo had to say about his performance:

Zeuch needed just 12 pitches to retire the side in order in the fifth. Effectively mixing in his sinking fastball thrown in the 92-94 mph range and his slider that he added and subtracted from (low of 77.5 mph, high of 85.6), the right-hander struck out two and got a groundout for a quick inning of work.

Mayo ranked Zeuch fifth overall in terms of individual performance in the game.

Max Pentecost, behind the plate, went 0-2 in three plate appearances, walking and striking out once. Defensively, he was 0-3 in throwing out runners, and all the steals against him came in the first inning.

Pentecost has spent 83 games with the Dunedin Blue Jays, the highest level he’s reached in his professional career.

The rumours never end.

In an odd bookend way, having the 2017-2018 offseason begin with a whisper of the Toronto Blue Jays aiming to acquire Jay Bruce is appropriate. For years, Toronto has been associated with the outfielder. During the 2015-2016 offseason, the Blue Jays nearly acquired Bruce, but the failed physical of a minor leaguer involved in the three-team trade made the deal fall through.

Thus, on the Saturday evening just three days after the conclusion of the World Series, it isn't surprising to see the Blue Jays on Bruce's trail once again, especially after a season in which he had an on-base percentage of .324 and 2.9 WAR split between the New York Mets and Cleveland baseball team.

While the Toronto organization's love of Bruce is clear, so is where he would fit on the current team. It became official on Saturday evening that the Blue Jays would not pick up their side of Jose Bautista's mutual option for the 2018 and 2019 season, leaving a void in an outfield that will likely consist of Steve Pearce, Ezequiel Carrera, Teoscar Hernandez and Kevin Pillar.

Bruce is 30 years old and will turn 31 less than a week into the 2018 season. His most recent contract, worth $51 million over six years, including a salary of $13 million in 2017, serves as an appropriate example of what Bruce could earn in the future. Expect the contract he signs to be for less money per year and shorter in duration.

The Blue Jays officially declined their side of Jose Bautista’s 2018 mutual option yesterday, confirming what they told the aging right fielder prior to the end of the season.

Had the mutual option been picked up by both parties, Bautista would have earned $17 million in 2018. Instead, he’ll take $500,000 as a buyout in the deal.

The move was expected, and a reunion with the Blue Jays is unlikely. In 2017, Bautista hit .203, struck out 170 times and drew just 84 walks. His on-base percentage of .308 was his worst since 2005, when he was in just his second season at the major-league level.

To read more on the deal, check out yesterday’s article on the topic.

Other news:

  • Dan Szymborski of ESPN released his State of the Franchise projections for 2018, and has the Blue Jays pegged to go 83-79, good for third in the AL East. The projection system has the New York Yankees winning the AL East with a 92-70 record, and the Boston Red Sox in second at 87-75.
  • The Red Sox officially named Tim Hyers as their new hitting yesterday. Hyers was previously employed by the team as an area scout, minor league hitting instructor and interim hitting coach at the tail end of 2014, before spending time with the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2016 and 2017. Boston also named Andy Barkett as assistant coach.