In addition to their adding outfielder Curtis Granderson to the big league roster, the Blue Jays have made a trio of moves at the minor league levels to add some depth, returning long-time Blue Jays farmhands Jon Berti and Murphy Smith and giving released Tigers’ minor leaguer Will Savage another shot.
Jon Berti, a 2011 18th-round draftee by the Blue Jays, returns to the fold after testing the free agent market. Berti has always been a guy who could get on base, steal a boat load of bases and provide excellent defense at multiple positions. Starting off as a second baseman, he has played second, third, shortstop, left field and center field in his pro career. Missing about half the year in 2017 due to injury and then rehabbing and struggling to find his groove with Buffalo for the remainder of the year. Still, Berti is a two-time Webster Award winner with a career .253/.336/.344 slash line and has stolen 236 bases over seven minor league seasons including 24 last year with an excellent success rate. Berti will be 28 next week and the Blue Jays are the only organization he’s known, so it’s good to have him back!
Also returning to the fold is 30-year-old righty Murphy Smith who has done everything asked of him since signing with the Blue Jays in 2015. He started his career with the Oakland A’s organization, getting drafted in the 13th round in 2009. He was released after the 2014 season and the Blue Jays signed him for 2015. He pitched in Dunedin and New Hamsphire, working mostly as a starter but transitioned to the bullpen full time in 2016, having a dominant season mostly in New Hampshire with a little taste of Buffalo. In 2017, smith made two appearances in New Hampshire before joining the Bisons’ bullpen in mid-April. There, he had a 3.50 ERA with an excellent 1.19 WHIP over 82 1/3 innings, walking 18 and striking out 53. While he won’t strike out as many as a guy with a “power arm” will, Smith gets outs by changing speeds and disrupting hitters’ rhythms. He’s been a workhorse for the Jays’ minor league system and will no doubt be one again.
Born in London, England and raised in the Bronx, Will Savage, 23 (although he looks 13 in some of his photos), Savage is a rare draftee out of the Ivy League’s Columbia University in New York City. Drafted in the 16th round and signing with the Tigers for $75,000, Savage hit .367/.463/.487 in his junior year in college, popping 11 doubles, a triple and two home runs.
Since turning pro, Savage has struggled with A-ball pitching, recording a .300 OBP in his first year and actually hitting better in Class-A West Michigan (.215/.292/.278) than he did back in Short-Season-A Connecticut (.222/.280/.232) last year. He’ll likely play in Lansing for the Jays.
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