Contract decisions loom on Lewis, Accardo

Contract decisions loom on Lewis, Accardo

TORONTO -- Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos has some tough decisions to make prior to Thursday's 11:59 p.m. ET deadline to tender contracts to the club's unsigned players.

Toronto has two prominent candidates -- outfielder Fred Lewis and right-hander Jeremy Accardo -- who may be non-tendered. If the players are not offered a contract by the Blue Jays, they would be granted free agency and allowed to sign with another team.

Lewis played in 110 games with the Blue Jays last season. The 30-year-old hit .262 with eight home runs and 36 RBIs and spent the majority of his season batting out of the leadoff spot.

The native of Mississippi was acquired from the Giants in April and led the Blue Jays with 17 stolen bases. He is entering his first year of arbitration eligibility and is in line for a raise from the $455,000 he made during the 2010 campaign.

While Lewis enjoyed some success in Toronto, he became a candidate to be non-tendered when the Blue Jays acquired outfielder Rajai Davis earlier last month.

If new manager John Farrell opts to leave Jose Bautista in right field, then Davis would become the fourth outfielder and there would not appear to be enough room on the roster for Lewis. Of the two, Davis is considered the better defender, and he also offers more speed, having swiped 91 bases over the past two seasons.

Since Lewis is out of options, the Blue Jays would not be able to assign him to the Minor Leagues unless he first clears waivers. Another possibility is for the club to tender a contract to Lewis and carry five outfielders on the 25-man roster or try to work out a trade later this offseason.

Accardo is another candidate to be non-tendered by the club. The 29-year-old reliever was once considered to be one of the prize assets of the Blue Jays' organization. In 2007, he filled in admirably for injured closer B.J. Ryan. Accardo started that season with 21 consecutive scoreless innings and finished with a 2.14 ERA and 30 saves.

It's been mostly downhill for the native of Arizona since that time, though. Accardo was injured for most of the 2008 season, and over the past two years, he has pitched just 31 1/3 innings in the Major Leagues.

Last season, Accardo made just five appearances for the Blue Jays and spent the vast majority of the year pitching for Triple-A Las Vegas. He posted some impressive numbers, going 3-2 with a 3.48 ERA, but in a troubling sign, he struck out just 5.3 batters per nine innings. By comparison, in 2007 with the Blue Jays, he struck out 7.7 per nine innings.

Accardo made $1.08 million last season and likely would receive a contract in the same range next year if he was offered arbitration by the club. The Blue Jays could instead opt to non-tender the right-hander and allow him to sign with another team or try to work out an agreement for less money.

The Blue Jays made the latter decision with right-hander Dustin McGowan, signing him to a one-year contract worth $450,000 on Thursday. The 28-year-old is out of options but is not a serious contender for a roster spot next season.

The oft-injured hurler is coming off a second shoulder surgery and a timetable for his return is unknown. But the Blue Jays decided they wanted to hang onto the power arm to avoid losing him like they regretfully did with Chris Carpenter in 2002 under a similar scenario.

If McGowan is not ready to start the year, Toronto can put him on the disabled list as he tries to work his way back to the Major Leagues. If he is healthy, McGowan could find a place in the bullpen or even be a surprise contender for the fifth spot in the rotation.

The Blue Jays started the offseason with two other candidates -- outfielder Dewayne Wise and left-hander Brian Tallet -- to be non-tendered, but both players are no longer with the club. Wise and Tallet were outrighted to Triple-A Las Vegas earlier in the offseason, but both declined the assignment and became free agents.

Gregor Chisholm is a reporter for Read his blog, North of the Border, and follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.