Okay, so the title of this post might be a little bit confusing but the Blue Jays brought it upon themselves after signing two players, pitcher Ronald Belisario and infielder Ramon Santiago, to minor league contracts with major league options.
UPDATE! According to Mike Wilner at Sportsnet, the deal for Belisario has fallen through. Insert sad face here and mourn his loss when reading the rest of this article.
First how it works. Both contracts are minor league contracts but they will pay the players big league salaries well above the league minimum if they make the team. Usually contracts like this have an “out clause” that specifies that if the player hasn’t made the major leagues by a certain date, they can be released from their contract and have the opportunity to catch on with another club.
The first of these players is Ronald Belisario, a 32-year-old right-handed pitcher from Venezuela. Belisario has pitched over 300 innings in the major leagues and has a combined 3.75 ERA with a 1.28 WHIP, striking out 267 batters in that time. He’s not a big strikeout guy but he doesn’t walk a lot of batters either. He’s known mostly as an extreme ground ball pitcher (GB rate has hovered around 60% for his career) and throws pretty hard, averaging almost 94 mph on his sinker (which he throws most often) in 2014.
As I’m sure you’ve read by now, Belisario had a fairly rough year with the White Sox last year, posting a 5.56 ERA and a 1.45 WHIP, striking out 47 and walking 18 in 66 1/3 innings. He still had a 59.3% ground ball rate and his FIP and xFIP were both far lower than his ERA at 3.54 and 3.69 respectively.
His deal has him coming to the Blue Jays on a minor league contract and making $1.7 million if he makes the big league squad. For Belisario, it’s a downgrade in pay after he made $3 million in 2014. Despite his high ERA, his peripheral numbers were pretty solid and, if he makes the Jays squad, the $1.7 million rate will actually be a really good bargain, particularly if he can keep the ball inside Rogers Centre the way he normally has throughout his career. MLB Trade Rumours had Belisario projected to earn $3.9 million in arbitration before he was let go by the White Sox.
The second player signed is infielder Ramon Santiago. Santiago is a veteran utility infielder who will start the season at the age of 35. The Dominican switch hitter started out with the Tigers in 2002 and played two seasons with the Mariners in 2004 and 2005 before heading back to the Tigers for another eight seasons starting in 2006. Santiago played in Cincinnati last year. While his offense is nothing to get excited about, he’s a decent, experienced utility infielder who could provide some depth to this club. His career triple-slash line of .243/.314/.330 isn’t all that thrilling and he has very little power. While I’ve seen mention of Santiago hitting left-handed pitchers better, his career slash line is just two points higher against righties than lefties although his 2014 numbers had him with a far better split (hitting for a .923 OPS in a 55 plate appearance sample size).
Again, Santiago shouldn’t be seen as a saviour. If he does make the team, he’ll only make $1.1 million and with Maicer Izturis (who is younger and with a better bat over his career), Ryan Goins, Devon Travis and Munenori Kawasaki already hanging around, I’m not going to bet on it.
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