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Tuesday Bantering: Cherington, Tepera, catchers

Ben Cherington Leaves Red Sox Photo by Jim Davis/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

Over the weekend, Joel Sherman reported that that Blue Jays VP of baseball operations Ben Cherington is one of three finalists for the GM job in Pittsburgh, along with Milwaukee assistant Matt Arnold and a third candidate (possibly Pittsbugh acting GM Kevin Graves, though it’s worth noting Tony LaCava’s name had been mentioned as a candidate too).

For me, this would qualify as the biggest loss the Jays could suffer this winter. Cherington’s focus was on the player development side, a similar remit as in Boston prior to his promotion to GM after 2011. His four year run ended somewhat ignominiously when Dave Dombrowski was brought in to replace him and win-now (around the same time as Mark Shapiro was hired in Toronto incidently), but the core of Dombrowski’s division winners were either brought in under Cherington or acquired using inherited high-end prospects.

Cherington ultimately did not get to reap the benefits of the deep farm system he built, but there’s been a similar renaissance since he came to Toronto. This was after all, a franchise that had some serious issues internally developing quality players particularly on the position side, with Kevin Pillar the only regular to come up through the system since Aaron Hill. We’ve now seen the first in what’s hopefully a wave of future regulars, but more than just that it’s been promising to see the steps forwards taken by players throughout the system. Not all of this Cherington’s doing of course; there was a (needed) wholesale overhaul of the player development side. But it’s been one of the few things on which fans could hang their hands when it comes to the Blue Jays future outlook.

In the end, it’s almost inevitable that this is a question of when, not if. While his first go in the catbird seat was mixed, it’s common to get a second shot especially with a successful track record. Given the way his time in Boston ended, he reportedly is focussed on finding the right situation and indeed has passed up opportunities to be considered for other GM posts. The Jays are probably fortunate to have kept him for as long as they have as is, and hopefully the infrastructure is in place for the positive momentum to carry over.

The Blue Jays announced yesterday that Ryan Tepera cleared released waivers after been designated for assignment last Monday to pare the 40-man roster down to its winter limit of a hard 40 (ie, no players on the 60-day IL).

What makes this noteworthy is that the Jays opted for release waivers, instead of outright waivers as is usually the case and was down with Devon Travis. For the most part, it leads to the same endpoint — the player becoming a free agent, as Devon Travis elected to after he was outrighted and Tepera would have had the right to. But there is a key different that becomes significant in light of what Ross Atkins said yesterday:

Where the release vs. outright waivers distinction comes into play is that, assuming Atkins was serious as opposed to just saying some nice words, under Major League Rule 8(i)(2):

Absent an intervening Major League contract with another Club, any player who has been unconditionally released between midnight, August 31 of any championship season and the opening day of the following championship season, may not be re-signed to a Major League Uniform Player’s Contract by the releasing Major League Club until May 15 of that following championship season

The choice of release waivers actually precludes the Jays signing Tepera to a major league contract this winter. I suppose they could re-sign him to a minor league deal and then select his contract if/when they wanted to bring him up, though MLB might see that as circumventing the rule.

I am a little surprised that no team took a flyer on Tepera at the release waiver price of $1, even if just to feel things out and see if he’d be willing to cut a deal instead of hitting the open market and likely a minor league deal, with the ability to walk away at no cost in a couple weeks with a non-tender. But then, I didn’t see the possibility of the Jays cutting bait in the first place.

MLBTR over the weekend picked up a Shi Davidi piece from Frdiay about the Jays young catchers drawing trade interest. That’s not terribly surprising given the perpetual scarcity of quality options at the position (recall the utter black hole in the backup position in 2017). On one hand, the current outlook with Danny Jansen and Reese McGuire is arguably the best set-up in a generation for the organization, and given the wretched curse of Catchers of the Future (CotF) it would almost seem to be tempting fate to deal one.

But on the other — more rational — hand, the Jays may be well served to be opportunistic if the right player were made available. Luke Maile would still be around as a rock solid defensive backstop in the short run, with a number of promising options in the minor league system coming along in the near term.