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As Blue Jays’ free-agent options decrease, trade market an important alternative

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TORONTO – An increasingly bought up upper-middle tier of free-agent starters is shifting the pitching market for the Toronto Blue Jays, who also must sort through a potential complication from the Jan. 15 expiration of the government’s exemption for unvaccinated athletes.

The latter may very well end up complicating the former, although the club is still seeking clarity on how last week’s announcement of a broader tightening of border-entry requirements in the new year will impact next season.

While the Blue Jays determine if that needs to be factored into potential 2022 acquisitions, Steven Matz’s pending $44-million, four-year agreement with the St. Louis Cardinals further depletes their options in play.

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Leading up to Matz’s decision, the Blue Jays were described by one industry source as being strong in the mix. But the Cardinals’ offer was clearly very good for a starter with No. 3 upside but No. 5. downside, and the pending deal bests the $36-million, three-year deal the San Francisco Giants handed righty Anthony DeSclafani.

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The Blue Jays, to some degree, pursued DeSclafani, too, as well as Eduardo Rodriguez ($77 million, five years), Justin Verlander ($50 million, two years), Noah Syndergaard ($21 million, one year) and Andrew Heaney ($8.5 million, one year).

While none of the top free agents have signed yet – Cy Young Award winner Robbie Ray, Max Scherzer, Kevin Gausman, Clayton Kershaw and Marcus Stroman are still out there – the stable and affordable innings-eater types are quickly being snatched from the shelves.

Jon Gray still fits that description and the Blue Jays explored signing Yusei Kikuchi before he landed with the Seattle Mariners three years ago. But as the free-agent options decrease, the trade market becomes an increasingly important alternative for them.

Apart from needing to replace the production of Matz, Ray and fellow free agent Marcus Semien, the Blue Jays also need to recapture some of the lost financial efficiency having the trio at $31.5 million last year provided. Trading for a starter still in his arbitration years (at least under the current collective bargaining agreement’s current system) is one way to get potentially top-range performance at a mid-range salary.

There’s a cost in prospects or even big-league assets to that, of course, but financial efficiency is part of what is acquired, along with the talent. Given that the Blue Jays want two starters to bolster their rotation, they have all the more reason now to knock on the doors of the Oakland Athletics, Cincinnati Reds and Miami Marlins, among others.

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The Blue Jays remain engaged with Ray, would like to bring back Semien, too, and want to improve the bullpen, so the question for them remains with the options that are achievable, how do they get the most bang for their bucks.

Based on their actions so far, they’d like a starter in the $8-12 million range and are seeking an elite add as a compliment. Whether getting one of Ray or Semien back cuts them off to the other is a good question, and one infielder is a definite need.

They’ve also, to this point, remained disciplined to their valuations, obviously not stretching beyond their comfort zone for Matz after declining to extend him an $18.4 million qualifying offer.

Ben Nicholson-Smith is Sportsnet’s baseball editor. Arden Zwelling is a senior writer. Together, they bring you the most in-depth Blue Jays podcast in the league, covering off all the latest news with opinion and analysis, as well as interviews with other insiders and team members.

The thinking at the time is that he would have accepted although he clearly did better in free agency, as Matz would have needed to average out roughly $8.5 million a season three times beyond 2022 to replicate what he got from the Cardinals.

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Had he declined a QO, his market may not have developed quite in the same way, too, so the Blue Jays couldn’t extend the offer if they weren’t willing to get a yes for him at $18.4 million.

Regardless, the market for him featured multiple teams, the Cardinals won the bidding and another option is off the board for the Blue Jays.

Now, as they search for a replacement and other reinforcements, the end of the federal government’s national interest exemption for unvaccinated athletes is another potential shift on the off-season’s ever-moving ground.





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UTSA vs. Texas Southern: How to watch NCAA Football online, TV channel, live stream info, game time

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Who’s Playing

Texas Southern @ UTSA

Current Records: Texas Southern 1-2; UTSA 1-2

What to Know

The Texas Southern Tigers will take on the UTSA Roadrunners at 3:30 p.m. ET Saturday at Alamodome. Texas Southern isn’t favored, but they just beat the odds in their last game, so don’t count them out.

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The Tigers kept a clean sheet against the Southern University Jaguars last week and took the matchup 24 to nothing. The squad ran away with 21 points in the first half and mostly just sat on those in the second to pick up the victory.

Meanwhile, it was all tied up 17-17 at halftime, but UTSA was not quite the Texas Longhorns’ equal in the second half when they met last week. The Roadrunners suffered a grim 41-20 defeat to the Longhorns. This contest was a close 17-17 at the break, but unfortunately for UTSA it sure didn’t stay that way. A silver lining for them was the play of RB Brenden Brady, who threw one touchdown in addition to punching in one rushing touchdown.

Texas Southern’s win lifted them to 1-2 while UTSA’s loss dropped them down to 1-2. We’ll find out if the Tigers can add another positive mark to their record or if UTSA can shake off the defeat and take the spring out of Texas Southern’s step.

How To Watch

  • When: Saturday at 3:30 p.m. ET
  • Where: Alamodome — San Antonio, Texas
  • TV: STADIUM
  • Follow: CBS Sports App
  • Ticket Cost: $69.00

Odds

The Roadrunners are a big 42-point favorite against the Tigers, according to the latest college football odds.

Bettors have moved against the Roadrunners slightly, as the game opened with the Roadrunners as a 44-point favorite.

Over/Under: -110

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See college football picks for every single game, including this one, from SportsLine’s advanced computer model. Get picks now.

Series History

This is the first time these teams have played each other within the last seven years.



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North Carolina vs. Notre Dame live stream info, TV channel: How to watch NCAA Football on TV, stream online

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Who’s Playing

Notre Dame @ North Carolina

Current Records: Notre Dame 1-2; North Carolina 3-0

What to Know

The North Carolina Tar Heels will be returning home after a two-game road trip. They will take on the Notre Dame Fighting Irish at 3:30 p.m. ET Saturday at Kenan Memorial Stadium after a week off. UNC is expected to win — but not by much — so they will need to come into the game prepared for a fight.

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The Tar Heels beat the Georgia State Panthers 35-28 two weeks ago. Among those leading the charge for UNC was RB Omarion Hampton, who rushed for two TDs and 110 yards on 16 carries. Hampton put himself on the highlight reel with a 58-yard TD scramble in the third quarter.

Meanwhile, Notre Dame netted a 24-17 victory over the California Golden Bears last week. RB Audric Estime and RB Chris Tyree were among the main playmakers for Notre Dame as the former punched in one rushing touchdown and the latter snatched one receiving TD.

Notre Dame’s defense was a presence as well, as it embarrassed California’s offensive line to sack QB Jack Plummer six times for a total loss of 47 yards. It was a group effort with four guys contributing.

The wins brought the Tar Heels up to 3-0 and the Fighting Irish to 1-2. A pair of stats to keep an eye on: UNC enters the matchup with 310 passing yards per game on average, good for 21st best in the nation. But Notre Dame comes into the contest boasting the 34th fewest passing yards allowed per game in the nation at 184. These opposing strengths should make for an exciting matchup.

How To Watch

  • When: Saturday at 3:30 p.m. ET
  • Where: Kenan Memorial Stadium — Chapel Hill, North Carolina
  • TV: ABC
  • Online streaming: fuboTV (Try for free. Regional restrictions may apply.)
  • Follow: CBS Sports App
  • Ticket Cost: $110.00

Odds

The Tar Heels are a slight 2.5-point favorite against the Fighting Irish, according to the latest college football odds.

The line on this game has moved quite a bit since it opened, as it started out with the Fighting Irish as a 1.5-point favorite.

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Over/Under: -110

See college football picks for every single game, including this one, from SportsLine’s advanced computer model. Get picks now.

Series History

Notre Dame have won all of the games they’ve played against North Carolina in the last eight years.

  • Oct 30, 2021 – Notre Dame 44 vs. North Carolina 34
  • Nov 27, 2020 – Notre Dame 31 vs. North Carolina 17
  • Oct 07, 2017 – Notre Dame 33 vs. North Carolina 10



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San Diego State vs. Toledo: How to watch, schedule, live stream info, game time, TV channel

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Who’s Playing

Toledo @ San Diego State

Current Records: Toledo 2-1; San Diego State 1-2

What to Know

The San Diego State Aztecs may be playing at home Saturday, but the experts are forecasting a three-point defeat. They will take on the Toledo Rockets at 3:30 p.m. ET at Snapdragon Stadium. Both of these teams will be looking for a pick-me-up after considerable defeats in their previous games.

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The Aztecs were expected to have a tough go of it last week, and, well, they did. They found themselves the reluctant recipients of an unfortunate 35-7 punch to the gut against the Utah Utes. San Diego State was in a tough position by the half, with the score already sitting at 21 to nothing. One thing holding San Diego State back was the mediocre play of QB Kyle Crum, who did not have his best game: despite one touchdown, he threw one interception with a passing completion percentage of only 31.25%.

Meanwhile, it’s never fun to lose, and it’s even less fun to lose 77-21, which was the final score in Toledo’s tilt against the Ohio State Buckeyes last week. The Rockets were down 56-21 at the end of the third quarter, which was just too much to recover from. Toledo’s loss came about despite a quality game from QB Dequan Finn, who passed for two TDs and 153 yards on 19 attempts in addition to rushing for one TD and 70 yards. Near the top of the highlight reel was Finn’s 50-yard TD bomb to WR Thomas Zsiros in the first quarter.

The losses put San Diego State at 1-2 and Toledo at a reciprocal 2-1. A couple offensive numbers to keep in mind before kickoff: San Diego State enters the game with 221 rushing yards per game on average, good for 22nd best in the nation. The Rockets have displayed some offensive firepower of their own as they rank 17th in the nation when it comes to rushing touchdowns, with nine on the season.

How To Watch

  • When: Saturday at 3:30 p.m. ET
  • Where: Snapdragon Stadium — San Diego, California
  • TV: Fox Sports 1
  • Online streaming: fuboTV (Try for free. Regional restrictions may apply.)
  • Follow: CBS Sports App
  • Ticket Cost: $14.85

Odds

The Rockets are a 3-point favorite against the Aztecs, according to the latest college football odds.

The line has drifted a bit towards the Rockets, as the game opened with the Rockets as a 1-point favorite.

Over/Under: -111

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See college football picks for every single game, including this one, from SportsLine’s advanced computer model. Get picks now.

Series History

This is the first time these teams have played each other within the last seven years.



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