News and Notes: The Minnesota Twins are interested in A.J. Pollock, Blue Jays sign an intriguing hard-throwing relief pitcher, and more!

I’m running out of good intros for the News and Notes articles. So here’s a News and Notes article to start off your day.

There isn’t a lot of Blue Jays-related news or rumours, but there are some rumblings of teams looking to trade players the Jays could be interested in. Let’s start with the Jays’ news first.
Julián Fernández:
Here’s the skinny: The Jays signed a 27-year-old righty who touches 103 mph with a great out pitch in his changeup. Despite his 6.63 ERA and 7 FIP in 57 innings pitched in Triple-A, which also saw home run issues and command issues, this signing has a possibility to be really good for the Jays.

#BlueJays are signing hard-throwing RHP Julian Fernández to a minor-lg deal per source. 27-yr-old reliever spent ‘22 at AAA Albuquerque & battled HR issues. Pitched in majors for ’21 Rockies, averaging 99 mph on FB. Topped out at 103. Recently pitched in Dominican Winter League
— Ben Nicholson-Smith (@bnicholsonsmith) December 29, 2022

Fernández is an intriguing reliever, and our very own Cam Lewis went more in-depth in this article here. You can also read my deep dive on why he has the tools to become an elite reliever here.
Yosver Zulueta gets an MLB.com nod:
Speaking of Blue Jays pitchers that throw hard, Cuban-born Yosver Zulueta was featured in MLB.com’s article featuring which prospects they’re excited to see debut in 2023.
If you’ve read any of my prospect articles, you know I’m pretty high on Zulueta as he sits in the high-90s (and touches over 100 mph) as a starter, while flashing plus or average secondary pitches.

Zulueta just fanned his first runner throwing…
100 mph!!!!!!#BlueJays #NextLevel pic.twitter.com/RjpNT5v6Jl
— Brennan Delaney (@Brennan_L_D) July 7, 2022

While his strikeout rate was high, so too was his walk rate. However, this is to be expected as he hadn’t really pitched competitively since 2019 due to the plague …

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Author: Brennan Delaney / Blue Jays Nation

Auston Matthews stands up for himself and shows his winning smile, chaos ensues

Auston Matthews stands up for himself and shows his winning smile, chaos ensues

The Leafs desperately needed a good result to get themselves back on track and they got exactly that on Wednesday night.
While it was against a Flyers team who played the previous night, Toronto did almost everything you could ask of them throughout the 60 minutes. Ilya Samsonov made some quality saves when he had to, John Tavares put the team on his back with an inspiring performance, and the bottom six played well while also getting rewarded with a goal from Zach Aston-Reese.
The power-play showed signs of being more creative and they turned it into two tallies. Although the Leafs took six infractions on the night, they killed off five of them and were much more sound down a man.
It was a game that was desperately needed with the temperature in the fanbase at a boiling point, which should help the team feel better about themselves as they prepare to take on the red-hot Bruins on Saturday. Theoretically, should be nothing to complain about with a game in which the Leafs were clearly the better team all night long.
As is always the case, people will find something to nitpick with the Leafs. In this case, many were upset at Auston Matthews for not really engaging with Travis Konecny near the end of the game.

Mark Giordano didn’t like that 🥊 pic.twitte …

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Author: Michael Mazzei / The Leafs Nation

End of season comparison: Yusei Kikuchi to Steven Matz, a tale of change and qualifying offers

We’ve run through all the good comparisons, and now we’re left with Yusei Kikuchi and Steven Matz. Yay.

So yeah, getting this out of the way quickly, neither of these guys had a good season… sort of. It took a change mid-season to help them perform better.
Unlike the other three articles in the series, there are no prospects in this article. However, there should have been, but we’ll get to that. Here’s the background.
Background:
The Blue Jays traded three prospects, Sean Reid-Foley, Yennsy Diaz, and Josh Winckowski for Steven Matz on January 28th, 2021. The lefty had a solid season in 2021 with the Blue Jays and cashed in during the 2021-22 off-season, signing a four-year, $44 million contract with the St.Louis Cardinals.
Yusei Kikuchi spent three seasons with the Mariners, positing “meh” statistics with the team, before signing a three-year deal with the Blue Jays worth $36 million.
Steven Matz’s 2021:
Looking at Matz’s 2021 first, he finished the season with a 3.82 ERA and 3.79 FIP in 150.2 innings pitched. While his 22.3 K% was about average, he had a solid 6.6 BB% which meant he let runners get a free pass.
It was a fairly streaky season for the then 30-year-old lefty. At some point, he looked like it could be his best year, while he got lit up at other points. Overall, it was a solid season where he posted pretty good numbers for a guy who was penciled in as the fifth starter.
Unlike the other two free agents we’ve covered, Mat …

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Author: Brennan Delaney / Blue Jays Nation

This could be Wayne Simmonds’ last season as a player with the Toronto Maple Leafs

All good things must come to an end, and for Wayne Simmonds, this could potentially be the last season he pulls on a Toronto Maple Leafs jersey.
It’s always difficult to see such likeable players come to the end of the road with their team or career. Wishing to see them continue to succeed and win the ultimate prize before sailing off into the sunset is something that many fans will hope for, as seen with how strongly the Toronto Maple Leafs fanbase was drawn to Jason Spezza before his retirement this off-season.
But, as with all things in life, at some point, it can’t continue and there could be an argument that this is the case with Wayne Simmonds and the Leafs this upcoming season. Simmonds has been a popular addition to the team prior to the Covid-shortened 2021 season, being well-liked by both his teammates as well as the fans, but his run with the team may not continue beyond this campaign.
The biggest indicator of this is how little Simmonds actually played for the team last season. While he featured in 72 games during the regular season, scoring five goals and providing 11 assists, Simmonds averaged …

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Author: James Reeve / The Leafs Nation

BJN Radio – Ep. 103: Ross Stripling’s gem, Yusei Kikuchi to the bullpen, and more!

The vibes were very bad and suddenly they’re good again. That’s baseball, baby!

It was doom and gloom as the Blue Jays looked completely lifeless in losing the first two games of their series with the Baltimore Orioles but an incredible start from Ross Stripling and a late-game explosion offensively resulted in a momentum-changing win.
We talked about the Baltimore series, how the Orioles are becoming scary, how great Ross Stripling has been, the importance of George Springer to the lineup, and a whole bunch more. After that, we looked ahead to the upcoming four-game series with the struggling Yankees in New York.
You can listen to the episode here…
POINTSBET IS LIVE IN ONTARIO

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Author: Cam Lewis / Blue Jays Nation

The Randal Grichuk trade has looked good so far

It’s my belief the Jays did a good bit of business here, and that the trade that brought Raimel Tapia to the Jays is already a win.

In fact, I’d argue that the 28-year-old Tapia is far too over-hated and has had a better season than Randal Grichuk. This is because once you dig into why Tapia struggled at the start of the season, you can see that he’s a darn good fourth outfielder.
Not just that, but the Jays have a chance to cut payroll next season while getting a pretty darn good prospect in return. Let’s look at each one of these things, starting with the MLB player they got in return.
Ramiel Tapia:
At face value, Tapia’s.264/.290/.374 slash line with 4 homeruns isn’t great. Especially when you factor in his Fangraphs WAR of -0.4, but let’s dig deeper into the numbers.
Batting Statistics:
Let’s take you back to April 13th when Teoscar Hernandez injured his oblique. This injury devastated the Jays for multiple reasons. For starters, Teoscar has been one of the better hitters (I’d argue the best) over the past two seasons.
The second reason is due to the lack of depth in the outfield, and due to the injury, Tapia played a little more than the team probably wanted.
Between the start of the season and Hernandez’s return (May 7th), Tapia posted pretty awful numbers. He slashed .222/.237/.289 in 95 p …

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Author: Brennan Delaney / Blue Jays Nation

Five bargains free agents for the Leafs to consider

There is no challenge in finding a good expensive bottle of wine. Any lazy jackass can walk into a store buy a $200 bottle of champagne and bring it home and be satisfied by it. Enjoying fine wine on a budget is a challenge and not completely unlike trying to build the Leafs roster in the salary cap era. Don’t get me wrong, the Leafs have spent plenty on champagne, but still struggle to respectably fill their wine rack. Here are those best bargain buys of the day that aren’t grape flavoured disappointment.
Eric Comrie- G
In every TLN free agent article we are honour bound to promote the idea of signing Eric Comrie. He has 20 impressive games to his name, is still only 26, and given that he’s just now coming into his own as a NHL regular the Leafs could potentially get him at a deal based somewhat on giving him salary, but also giving him a lot of opportunity for a bigger role in net.
It’s a small sample size but compared to every other goaltender available, Comrie’s metrics blow them all away and giving him a chance behind Murray isn’t completely different than th …

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Author: Jon Steitzer / The Leafs Nation