Outfielder Michael Saunders will work out with the Toronto Blue Jays on Tuesday, but it's anyone's guess whether he'll break camp with the team at the end of March.
That's because a proposed three-team trade with Toronto, Cincinnati and the Los Angeles Angels that would see Saunders join the Angels and Reds outfielder Jay Bruce become a Blue Jay has been put on hold, or soon could fall apart, due to a reported medical issue with a Toronto minor leaguer involved in the deal.
Should the three-team scenario not come to fruition, the Blue Jays reportedly could still explore other options to acquire the 29-year-old Bruce.
Saunders, who played just nine games in his first season with Toronto in 2015 because of left knee problems, spoke to the media following the Jays' workout in Dunedin, Fla.
Saunders said he met with general manager Ross Atkins and manager John Gibbons to discuss the reported three-way trade.
"That's kind of the human element of it," Saunders said. "They made sure I wasn't paying any attention to the rumours and they assured me that they're just rumours and nothing more. I expect to be a Jay, they expect me to be a Jay and that's how I'm approaching this spring training."
The initial speculation was that Saunders had the medical issue.
Atkins said he had spoken with Saunders about the ordeal personally.
"That's the thing about trade rumours that are unfortunate — the first thing I think about is the players," Atkins told reporters in Dunedin. "I immediately communicated with him and said, 'Hey, is everything OK? I'm here for you. Is there anything I can do for you?' And he was fine. He was great and he'll be working out today."
Bruce addressed the trade rumours on Tuesday at Reds' camp in Goodyear, Ariz.
"I tell myself all the time, 'Don't listen to the rumours,' but it's hard," Bruce told reporters. "I'm a human being. I pay attention to the stuff. It hasn't happened yet, and that's the bottom line."
Reds manager Bryan Price added Bruce is going about his business.
Price says it's business as usual for Bruce: "He’s here. I expect him to be our right fielder unless somebody tells me otherwise.” #reds— @m_sheldon
Price on rumors about Bruce: “Our good fortune is we’ve got a real pro in Jay Bruce, who is handling this stuff unbelievably well." #reds— @m_sheldon
Reaction on Twitter late Monday night to the supposed imminent trade was mixed.
While Bruce would give Toronto a left-handed power bat in the middle of its lineup, the two-time all-star isn't exactly a model of consistency for reaching base. He had a .294 on-base percentage and 145 strikeouts in 2015 and a career-low .281 OBP the season before with 145 strikeouts.
But Bruce has hit at least 25 home runs in five of the past six seasons and has outhomered Saunders in their careers by a 208 to 51 margin. Bruce, who had the Blue Jays on his no-trade list until this winter, is also durable, having appeared in at least 155 contests in all but one season since 2011.
The eight-year major leaguer will make $12.5 million US this season and has a $13 million team option for 2017 with a $1 million buyout, while Saunders is significantly cheaper at $2.9 million for 2016.
However, there are injury concerns with the Victoria native, whom the Blue Jays shut down last August. Saunders had experienced a sore knee since undergoing surgery earlier in the year to have 60 per cent of his meniscus removed.
At spring training a year ago, Saunders stepped on a sprinkler head during an informal workout in Dunedin and missed the entire pre-season. He returned to the lineup briefly, posting a .194 batting average in nine games with three runs batted in and 10 strikeouts.
Toronto put Saunders on the 15-day disabled list on May 10 with inflammation in the knee and he never returned to game action.
Saunders was acquired from Seattle on Dec. 3, 2014 for left-handed pitcher J.A. Happ, who was dealt to Pittsburgh on July 31 for fellow pitcher Adrian Sampson. Happ has since returned, signing a three-year, $36-million free-agent deal in November.
Saunders has battled injury and inconsistent play in recent years, but he hit 19 home runs and stole 21 bases in a career-high 139 games in 2012.