Without a lot of Blue Jays-related news, we’re checking in with some former Blue Jays and can report that a few former Blue Jays have signed minor league deals in the past few days while former center fielder Kevin Pillar remains unsigned, but his name has popped up in discussions of teams looking for a center fielder.
The former personal catcher for R.A. Dickey, Josh Thole, has signed a minor league deal with the New York Yankees. He would get $600,000 if he makes the big league roster, according to Joel Sherman of the New York Post but he’s also the third backup catcher to sign with the Yankees this offseason including another former Blue Jay, Erik Kratz. Thole played in the Angels’ and Dodgers’ minor league systems last year, hitting .243/.352/.327.
Next we move over to the Minnesota Twins, who have been active this offseason. They’ve just signed former Blue Jay Chris Rowley to a minor league deal. Rowley was injured for most of last year and only pitched 16 1/3 innings in Triple-A for the El Paso Chihuahuas in the Padres’ organization. He was roughted up in the innings he did pitch and then threw one inning in the Puerto Rican Winter League, according to Baseball-Reference.
A few days ago, the Orioles signed former Blue Jay lefty Wade LeBlanc to a minor league deal. The 35 year old was a reliever in Seattle last year but he’s going to try to return to the starting rotation with the Orioles.
Briefly a Blue Jay, David Phelps has gotten himself a one-year major league deal with the Milwaukee Brewers that will pay him a base salary of $1.25 million for 2020 with up to $1.9 million in incentives with a $4.5 million option for 2021 that has a $250,000 buyout. Phelps came back form Tommy John surgery last year and signed with the Blue Jays, parlaying a strong season with the Jays and then the Cubs (after the trade deadline) into some bargaining power, but his ability to pitch well and often in 2019 boosted the option on his contract to a $5 million base salary that the Cubs declined. Now, rather than being able to earn up to $6.5 million (the five-million-dollar base salary plus $1.5 million in incentives), he’ll be capped at $3.15 million including incentives in 2020.
While these other former Jays have signed contracts for 2020, Kevin Pillar has yet to sign a deal and is still a free agent. He’s been mentioned in connection with the Pittsburgh Pirates who recently traded Starling Marte, creating a hole in their outfield. Pillar is one of the few available players with a major league track record in center but his offensive track record speaks of a guy who has trouble getting on base despite a career-high 21 home runs with the San Francisco Giants last year. His .287 OBP was among the lowest of qualified MLB hitters and, according to the defensive metrics, his defense is not what it once was.
We wish the best to all of the former Blue Jays in the 2020 season wherever they end up!
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