Jays offer arbitration to Scutaro, Barajas
Club would receive three draft picks if duo signs elsewhere
TORONTO -- Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos confirmed on Tuesday that free agents Marco Scutaro and Rod Barajas have been offered arbitration. The players have until the end of the day on Monday to accept or decline the one-year offer.
By offering arbitration, the Blue Jays are in a position to receive three compensatory picks in the 2010 First-Year Player Draft if both players decline and sign with a new team this offseason. It is doubtful that either Scutaro or Barajas will accept arbitration, but Toronto is willing to take on both veterans in the unlikely event that they do agree to the offer.
Scutaro, who is coming off a career season as Toronto's leadoff man and shortstop, is eligible as a Type A free agent, meaning the Jays would be in line to receive two selections in the next Draft if he signs elsewhere. Scutaro indicated last week that he has received interest from multiple teams and he is looking for a multiyear deal.
Anthopoulos noted on Tuesday that the Blue Jays discussed a two-year contract with Scutaro, but the sides could not reach an agreement.
"We talked to Marco about a deal," Anthopoulos said. "There was a time when we offered a two-year deal. Unfortunately, we couldn't come to terms. Through no fault of his agent or him or ourselves, it was just one of those things where we couldn't come to terms on a value. We would've liked to have had the player back, but there's no question it had to be at the right price for us knowing the opportunity cost.
"It seems readily apparent to me that there was a strong, strong possibility that he was going to find a better offer somewhere else."
The Red Sox and Dodgers have reached out to Scutaro as a shortstop and second baseman, respectively, while other teams have discussed the possibility of him playing third base. The Blue Jays recently signed shortstops Alex Gonzalez and John McDonald, meaning Scutaro would not be a full-time shortstop if he returned to Toronto.
"If Marco was to accept arbitration, we had an opening in the outfield," Anthopoulos said. "He played in the outfield for us in 2008. He played in the outfield in 2007 for the A's. He'd give us a leadoff guy and a great guy in the clubhouse. We'd love to have him back. We understand the likelihood of that is not high."
The 34-year-old Scutaro -- versatile enough to man multiple positions -- is in demand in a relatively thin class of free-agent infielders. With the Jays in 2009, Scutaro hit .282 with 12 home runs, 60 RBIs, 90 walks, 100 runs scored and a .379 on-base percentage after spending the bulk of his career as a utility player.
Barajas, 34, qualifies as a Type B free agent this winter, meaning the Jays would earn a sandwich pick between the first and second round of the 2010 Draft if he declines arbitration and signs elsewhere. This past season, the 34-year-old Barajas appeared in a career-high 125 games, while hitting .226, launched 19 home runs and set a career best with 71 RBIs.
Like Scutaro, Anthopoulos did not believe Barajas would accept arbitration.
"In talking to his agent, that's highly, highly unlikely," Anthopoulos said. "In the talks that I had with his agent, it seems the term and the dollars are far beyond what we would feel is appropriate for us. Obviously, anything can happen, but we certainly don't expect it."
The Jays are currently searching for a starting catcher, and Anthopoulos said that he is still looking to free agency and trades for a possible solution. Anthopoulos also indicated that he has targeted some arbitration-eligible catchers who might become free agents if they are not tendered contracts by their current teams.
Asked if he believed the Jays had a better chance of signing a free-agent catcher or acquiring help behind the plate via a trade, Anthopoulos said it is hard to say at this point in time.
"We're going to have to find somebody one way or the other," Anthopoulos said. "We have guys in mind. We've already inquired on some with respect to free agency. The price right now does not fit for us, so it's one of those things where we're letting the market play out. I think a lot of players and their agents maybe need to exhaust all their options. We've certainly have talks with free agents and trades.
"Right now, I can't really handicap one or the other. It's even at this point. We've still got our toes in the water on some trades, but there's nothing we're close to that we feel is in any type of way imminent at all."
Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.