Veteran left hander Darren Oliver is not a free agent, but he’s been holding the Toronto Blue Jays hostage for months now.
Oliver is a veteran of 19 major league seasons and, at age 42, is coming off what may have been his best campaign yet. Last Winter, Oliver inked a one-year contract with the Blue Jays that included a $3 million option for 2013; $1 million less than his 2012 salary. According to Ken Rosenthal and Jon Morosi of Fox Sports, Oliver agreed to that contract while fully expecting that 2012 would be his final season. Now that he’s considering playing in 2013, Oliver wants a raise if he opts to come back to the Jays.
Alternatively, Oliver would welcome a trade to the Rangers, a team for whom he has played on three separate occasions. Such a deal would allow the southpaw to be close to his family in Texas instead of thousands of miles away in Canada.
The Blue Jays have completed a near-total roster overhaul this off-season, and could certainly use someone with Oliver’s pedigree in their bullpen. The easy answer for Toronto, then, is to give the lefty what he wants and bump up the salary by a million bucks or so. After all, when you’ve already invested so much in your club, why quibble over what amounts to a very small percentage of your total investment?
Morosi and Rosenthal say that’s exactly what’s happening North of the border, however. The Blue Jays have gone beyond stretching the budget and would likely have to make other cuts just to fit Oliver’s original $3 million into the payroll. If that’s the case, a trade to the Rangers makes much more sense, though one can’t imagine that Toronto will get anything in return that is remotely as valuable as having Oliver in 2013 would be. Should a deal take place, Texas (and Oliver) would have all the leverage.
If I’m the Blue Jays, and I’ve already dealt away most of my farm system to bring in half the Marlins plus R.A. Dickey, I’m calling Oliver’s bluff and inviting him back to the club with a decent raise on the table. Toronto has made it clear that they are going for it in 2013 and they will be a much better team with Oliver than without. Left handed specialists are necessary and Oliver, despite his age, is probably the best in the game at what he does.
If it means that Rogers Communications has to stretch their budget just a hair beyond where they already have, then that’s what should happen. They’re already committed to the pot; folding now would be potentially wasting their chance to win.