Blue Jays sign International Free Agent catcher Luis Meza

Baseball news is back. Sadly, the lockout hasn’t ended, but regardless, there is still news!

On January 15th, it was announced that the Toronto Blue Jays signed right-handed batter Luis Meza, a 17-year-old catcher from Venezuela. The young lad signed for a bonus of 2.25 million, which accounts for 48.44% of the Jays international bonus pool of 4,644,000.
According to a scouting report that Shi Davidi received, Mesa is an advanced, two-way catcher, who has a loose swing and understands the strike zone well. He has offensive upside, but has a good arm and can “really catch”.

This is the scouting report I got on Meza: Really advanced, two-way catcher, good hitter with loose swing and strong feel for the strike zone, can really catch and throw with offensive upside.
— Shi Davidi (@ShiDavidi) January 15, 2022

According to MLB Pipeline, he has above average receiving skills, as well as impressive blocking skills. Meza also has a high baseball IQ, meaning he reads the game well, especially for a teenager. Luis will continue to grow into his frame, which could lead to more power generated from his bat. Furthermore, he has the ability to barrel the ball and uses all parts of the field. 
The young Venezuelan is ranked as the 33rd best available international free agent. Below are his five tool grades, 20 being the worst, 80 being the best.
Hit: 50
Power: 50
Run: 45 (Editor’s note, that’s a catcher with a 45 run tool, that is crazy)
Arm: 50
Field: 55
Overall: 50
While the scouting report remains relatively the same as Pipeline’s and Davidi’s, Baseball America is far more generous. While MLB Pipeline ranks Luis Meza as the 33rd best …

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Author: Brennan Delaney / Blue Jays Nation

Keefe: Marner and Engvall to rejoin the Leafs tomorrow, and some pregame roster changes

Some quick news out of Sheldon Keefe’s media availability this evening…

Per Sheldon Keefe, Timothy Liljegren & Joey Anderson are in tonight
Marner & Engvall expected to join the team in Arizona tomorrow @TSN_Edge
— Mark Masters (@markhmasters) January 13, 2022

The most exciting aspect of this is the return of Mitch Marner (and Pierre Engvall.) With the Leafs having a fully healthy forward group (knock on wood that something bad doesn’t happen tonight), the Leafs can roll their ideal lines.
This probably also means that if you are a fan of Nick Ritchie, you’ll want to tune in tonight because it may be a while before you see him again.
As for the second half of that news, with a gassed looking Leafs team going to a shootout last night, putting in a couple of reserve players into the lineup makes a ton of sense. Liljegren is an obvious choice, and I’m sure there won’t be any shortage of fans excited for his return. Playing against Arizona is a great chance for both Liljegren and Anderson to get back into a comfortable swing of things.

Keefe says Clifford will not play and there is a gametime/cap related move that may see Sandin be the defenseman who comes out of the lineup tonight.
— David Alter (@dalter) January 13, 2022

The downside of the move to put Liljegren in is that Sandin is coming out, and if Keefe is alluding to salary cap related shuffle, there is no one easier to shuffle than the waiver exempt Rasmus Sandin. Other options would include Clifford (who is still temporarily exempt from being waived) or Nick Ritchie. Though if Sandin and Clifford are out, it’s likely one of the two of them this go around. St. Louis will be a different story.
G …

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Author: Jon Steitzer / The Leafs Nation

Leafs take the necessary step of waiving Nick Ritchie to ice their best lineup going forward

To some extent the news seemed inevitable. With the return of Marner and Sandin to the Leafs lineup, the COVID protocol list shortening, and now mix in the dominant play of Ilya Mikheyev and safety net of Kyle Clifford, it seemed like the obvious decision was eventually going to be to waive Nick Ritchie.
Now it has happened:

Nick Ritchie on waivers
— Elliotte Friedman (@FriedgeHNIC) January 6, 2022

One of the other reasons why waiving Nick Ritchie seems like an obvious decision is the fact that he carries a $2.5M cap hit for this season and next. That puts the Leafs in a situation where they either lose Ritchie and regain a ton of cap space or they retain him, get at least $1.125M to work with as cap space and can try again with Ritchie once he’s had a chance to work out his issues on the Marlies for a bit.
The most likely scenario is obviously that Ritchie goes unclaimed because that’s a lot of risk for another team to take on without dumping someone back on the Leafs. Crazier things could happen, but come 2pm tomorrow, you can probably expect Ritchie to be a Marlie.
Ritchie’s contract was always a bit of a risk. Toronto paid him for what he did last season in Boston, but that was a career year that also feat …

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Author: Jon Steitzer / The Leafs Nation

News from the Rink: Maple Leafs make some taxi squad changes and the World Juniors are cancelled

It’s an off day for the Leafs, so technically the news isn’t coming from the rink, but rather from various PR accounts.
First there were the two news stories from earlier in the day:
Timothy Liljegren has been added to the NHL COVID protocol:
Timothy Liljegren added to the Maple Leafs COVID protocol

Also Topi Niemela re-signed with his Liiga team this morning:
Maple Leafs prospect Topi Niemelä signs contract extension with Kärpät

So that brings us to the other two stories in Leafs land…

G Michael Hutchinson has been assigned to the Maple Leafs taxi squad from the Toronto Marlies (AHL).
F Joey Anderson, F Kyle Clifford, D Carl Dahlström, D Filip Král and D Kristiāns Rubīns have been reassigned to the Marlies from the Maple Leafs taxi squad.
— Leafs PR (@LeafsPR) December 29, 2021

So the taxi squad has been radically reduced, at least temporarily. It looks like Alex Biega and Michael Hutchinson are the only two players on it at the moment. It’s not likely to stay that way, but given the intention to only keep players on the taxi squad for a maximum of 20 days, this frees up the ability …

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Author: Jon Steitzer / The Leafs Nation

Mark Shapiro is Already the Greatest Leader in Blue Jays History

News broke this week that Rogers and the Blue Jays have decided that the most feasible path forward for the Rogers Centre is to renovate the stadium for a quarter of a billion dollars rather than attempt to build a replacement.

This latest development means that in just six years since first coming to Toronto in the Fall of 2015, Mark Shapiro, the President of the Blue Jays, has done (or is in the process of doing) everything that could have possibly been expected of him when he signed his original contract. Both on and off the field, Shapiro has taken a team that was aging in its roster, baseball & business operations, and facilities, and has revitalized them all to ensure that the team as a whole has a bright future. I think it’s important to look at each individual aspect and examine how well everything has turned out, because for all the flak he got when he took over the job, Shapiro has firmly cemented himself as the best all-around executive the Blue Jays have ever had.
Much has been written about the current Blue Jays team, and if you’re reading this, you know that the …

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Author: Gideon Turk / Blue Jays Nation

Spezza is good to rejoin the Leafs as his suspension appeal is successful

In what is certainly great news for the Leafs, Jason Spezza’s appeal to Gary Bettman on his suspension length was somewhat successful and he is now eligible to return to the lineup for tomorrow night’s game.

Commissioner Bettman upholds suspension of @MapleLeafs forward Jason Spezza; reduces length from six to four games.
Complete ruling:
— NHL Public Relations (@PR_NHL) December 17, 2021

While the idea of an aggressive knee targeting an opponent’s head is certainly something that you’d hope to see warrant a penalty like six games or possibly beyond, the Spezza suspension certainly seemed inconsistent with the recent suspensions and fines handed down by NHL Player Safety and the reduction in the suspension seemed warranted.
With Spezza returning the Leafs get a bit more offensive firepower back, which is certainly a good thing at a time when Mitch Marner is out of the lineup. The Leafs will also have Nick Ritchie available again, so it likely pushes Clifford out of the lineup, at least temporarily.
The Leafs play the red hot Canucks (wait…what?) tomorrow night, and the Kraken the following night, so warm bodies are a definite …

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Author: Jon Steitzer / The Leafs Nation

News and Notes: Matthews and Marner re-united, Liljegren out, Anderson sent down

After today’s practice we have some news to report about shuffles in the roster. A thank you goes to The Hockey News’ David Alter for the news tweets.
New forward lines
The Leafs and Sheldon Keefe have decided to change things up, despite winning 8 of their last 9 games.
Here are the new forward lines from the practice:

#Leafs lines at practice Nov.15/21
Ritchie-Matthews-MarnerKerfoot-Tavares-NylanderEngvall-Kampf-KaseBunting-Spezza-SimmondsExtra: Semyonov, Anderson
Rielly-BrodieMuzzin-HollSandin-LiljegrenExtra: Dermott
— David Alter (@dalter) November 15, 2021

The decision to break up Auston Matthews and William Nylander is certainly an interesting one. Our own Nick Richard had what I think is the perfect take on this:

Number of Leafs 5v5 goals where both Auston Matthews and William Nylander have recorded a point this season: 1
Breaking them up is far from the end of the world, and I say this as someone who very much wanted to see them on the same line again a couple of weeks ago.
— Nick Richard (@_NickRichard) November 15, 2021

Keefe also had this to say about the Nylander – Matthews – Kase line that he used in Buffalo (once again from David Alter):

Other changes include Wayne Simmonds returning to the lineup after Kirill Seymonov got to play against Buffalo. That shuffle is …

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Author: Ryan Hobart / The Leafs Nation

Playmaker acquires The Nation Network

It appears that today’s news is…well…us.
Playmaker has acquired TLN along with Daily Faceoff, and the entire Nation Network family and so begins a new age for the network as a bigger, bolder network ready to take on the internet.
Who is Playmaker?
Playmaker (TSX-V: PMKR) is a digital sports media company that lives at the intersection of sports, betting, media and technology. Playmaker is building a collection of premier sports media brands, curated to deliver highly engaged audiences of sports fans to sports betting companies, leagues, teams and advertisers. (From the press release)
Most notably Playmaker are the owners of the Yardbarker network.
As for The Nation Network. This has been a huge year of growth and change. Between the relaunch of the Daily Faceoff under the leadership of Frank Seravalli, and the network’s partnership with PointsBet Canada, big things have been happening and apparently will continue to happen, including facelifts for the team sites coming in the near future.
“We are beyond excited to be joining the Playmaker family. It’s refreshing to work with a group that understands and shares the same fan-first culture as we do, because like us, they are sports …

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Author: Jon Steitzer / The Leafs Nation

Nick Robertson has fractured fibula, will miss at least 10 weeks

Some news from Marlies practice today, courtesy of The Leafs Nation’s Nick Barden:

#Marlies announce that Nick Robertson suffered a non-displaced fracture of his right fibula in Sunday’s game.
Surgery isn’t expected and he’s out for 10 weeks or more.
— Nick Barden (@nickbarden) October 19, 2021

Robertson suffered the injury on the following play:
— Nick Barden (@nickbarden) October 17, 2021

For those of us who did not pay enough attention in Biology class, the fibula is a bone in the lower leg that extends from the knee to the outside of the ankle. Its function is to stabilize the ankle and provide support to the lower-leg muscles.
These sorts of injuries are common in hockey when a player lands awkwardly on the ice, trapping their leg underneath the weight of their body. You may remember that Roman Polak suffered the same injury in Game 2 of the Leafs’ 2017 playoff series against Washington. Actually, perhaps it’s best you don’t remember that.
The good news is that the injury will not require surgery, which is sometimes required based on the severity of the damage.
The bad news is twofold; (1) the Marlies will be without their best player until …

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Author: Mark Norman / The Leafs Nation

Auston “Captain America” Matthews is heading to the Olympics

Big news out of the United States of America. Just like what was required of Hockey Canada, USA Hockey is required to name their first three roster players for the Olympics, and you’ll never guess who made the cut…

Hearing the first three players selected to Team USA Men’s Olympic hockey roster for #Beijing2022 are Seth Jones, Patrick Kane and Auston Matthews.@DFOHockey
— Frank Seravalli (@frank_seravalli) October 7, 2021

That’s right, baby. Auston Matthews, what a shock? I can’t believe the player who is likely the greatest American born center to ever play the game made the cut. Who would have thought it?
Anyways, there’s not a lot to say about it, so as a Canadian I’ll just take the moment to laugh at the idea that USA Hockey views Seth Jones as one of their top three players. If that’s the case, it seems unlikely they’ll medal even with Auston’s greatness there.
It also seems at this point USA Hockey might only be aware of the Chicago Blackhawks and Auston Matthews, because Patrick Kane was also selected. While there is no doubt of his skill on the ice, I don’t …

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Author: Jon Steitzer / The Leafs Nation