By Kevin Glew
Cooperstowners in Canada
Here’s my weekly roundup of former Toronto Blue Jays and Montreal Expos news:
– On Friday, the Chicago White Sox declined their $12-million option on Edwin Encarnacion for next season, making the former Blue Jays slugger a free agent. Encarnacion, who clubbed 239 of his 424 big league home runs with the Blue Jays from 2008 to 2016, hit just .157, but belted 10 round-trippers in 44 games for the White Sox in 2020. There’s been no word on the soon-to-be 38-year-old’s future plans.
– Also on Friday, the Cleveland Indians announced that former Montreal Expos infielder Brad Mills will not return as the team’s bench coach in 2021. Mills, who had served in that capacity alongside manager and former Expos teammate Terry Francona from 2014 to 2019, sat out the 2020 campaign due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Mills will be assigned to a different position with the club. Mills batted .256 in 106 games with the Expos from 1980 to 1983 before transitioning into the coaching ranks. Mills, now 63, was employed as Francona’s bench coach with the Philadelphia Phillies (1997 to 2000) and with the Boston Red Sox (2004 to 2009). He also managed the Houston Astros for parts of three seasons from 2010 to 2012. Francona will return as Indians manager in 2021.
– Like Mills, former Blue Jays pitcher Marcus Stroman declined to participate in the 2020 season due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but that didn’t stop the New York Mets from issuing the right-hander a qualifying offer for the 2021 season on Sunday. If the 5-foot-7 hurler, who toed the rubber for the Blue Jays for parts of six seasons, accepts the offer, he’ll make $18.9 million in 2021. He has until November 11 to accept or reject the offer.
– Veteran Expos book author and reporter Danny Gallagher mentioned on Twitter on September 30 that former Expos shortstop Chris Speier was going to retire after this season to spend more time with his grandkids. The 70-year-old had served as the Astros’ quality control coach and first base coach under Dusty Baker this year. Speier has coached and managed in the professional ranks since 1990 and has enjoyed tenures with eight different big league organizations, including the Cincinnati Reds, San Francisco Giants, Chicago Cubs, Arizona Diamondbacks, Milwaukee Brewers, Oakland A’s and Washington Nationals. Prior to his coaching career. he was an infielder for parts of 19 major league seasons. Canadian baseball fans best remember him for his successful eight-year stretch as a shortstop with the Expos from 1977 to July 1, 1984.
– On Friday, the New York Yankees declined their $17-million option on left-hander J.A. Happ for next season. The ex-Blue Jay performed well for the Bombers in 2021, posting a 3.47 ERA in nine starts. It was his third season in pinstripes after being traded to them by the Blue Jays on July 26, 2018. Happ has spent six of 14 major league campaigns with the Blue Jays and is the club’s last pitcher to win 20 games in a season (2016). A little bonus trivia for you: Happ is also the last former Ottawa Lynx player to be active in the big leagues. He made 24 starts for the Lynx, then a Phillies’ triple-A farm team, in 2007.
– I’m sad to report that former Expos farmhand and Ottawa Lynx infielder Tim Barker has died after a courageous battle with cancer at the age of 52. He passed away last Thursday. After being selected in the sixth round of the 1989 MLB draft by the Los Angeles Dodgers, the 6-foot, 175-pound infielder would play parts of four seasons in the Dodgers’ system before landing with the Expos’ organization in 1993. He split that season between double-A Harrisburg and triple-A Ottawa. In 51 games with the Lynx, he batted .228 with two home runs. Following that campaign, he suited up for parts of five more triple-A seasons in the Milwaukee Brewers, New York Yankees and Colorado Rockies organizations. My condolences to his family. You can read his obituary here.
– Last Wednesday, the Seattle Mariners declined their $3.5-million, 2021 option on former Toronto Blue Jays right-hander Kendall Graveman and then promptly re-signed the 29-year-old to a one-year, $1.5-million deal that includes incentives that could add up to $2.5 million. Graveman began his big league career with five relief appearances for the Blue Jays in 2014 before he was dealt to the A’s, along with Canadian Brett Lawrie (Langley, B.C.), for Josh Donaldson. He has since pitched parts of five major league seasons with the A’s and Mariners.
– The Detroit Tigers named former Astros manager A.J. Hinch as their new bench boss on Friday. He’ll replace Ron Gardenhire who stepped down in September due to health issues. The Tigers interviewed several candidates for the job. One of them was reportedly former Blue Jays catcher and minor league manager Sal Fasano. Fasano has been a catching instructor for the Atlanta Braves since 2017.