Free Agency. I’m sure that it can be scary for first-time free agents who have never known what it’s like to be a professional baseball player without a team. However, for a player at the top levels of the minor leagues, it can be an opportunity to find a job in another organization where there may be a clearer route to the major leagues. It also represents an opportunity for a player to earn a much better living after his seven seasons of playing for below minimum wage in the minor leagues.
Several Blue Jays players from the Advanced-A level up chose free agency in the past few days and it’s a list that will include several players that have worn the Blue and White of Toronto and the Red, White and Blue of the Buffalo Bisons.
Dunedin Blue Jays
Derek Blacksher – Blacksher, 30, was signed by the Blue Jays to fill in some gaps in the pitching staff in Dunedin after the deadline trades. With a career build mostly in the independent leagues, Blacksher held his own in Dunedin with a 3.38 ERA and 1.55 WHIP, walking just four and striking out 15 in 21 1/3 innings. With some luck, Blacksher can leverage that performance into another affiliated contract, hopefully at a higher level.
Lendy Castillo – Lendy came over to the Blue Jays in August after he was released by the Rangers. Castillo, 26, was pitching in High-A and acquitted himself well in just 9 2/3 innings with just two walks and 11 strikeouts.
New Hampshire Fisher Cats
Luis Hurtado – Hurtado is a catcher who last actually played in 2012 for the Las Vegas 51s. At 27 years old, he was serving mostly as a catching coach in the Blue Jays’ system and could be joining the Jays in a full time role next year (or he may go elsewhere).
Austin Bibens-Dirkx – “The X-Man,” Bibens-Dirkx has been a phenomenal role player for the Blue Jays in their high minor leagues. While he doesn’t have elite stuff, the 30-year-old righty has been able to be effective at every level of the minor leagues in his three seasons with the Jays. If he doesn’t find a job somewhere else, I have a feeling that he could be back in 2016.
Scott Barnes – Barnes, 28, came to the Jays in 2015 after being claimed off waivers and was sent to Buffalo outright. He didn’t have a great season with a 5.59 ERA and 1.50 WHIP with New Hampshire and only got into three games with Buffalo.
Cole Garner – 30-year-old Garner came to the Blue Jays as a power-hitting outfielder after 40 games in the Mexican League but only played in eight games for New Hampshire as injuries took their toll.
Dustin Antolin – The big, 26-year-old Hawai’ian righty, Antolin had his best season with the Fisher Cats in 2015, posting a 3.07 ERA and 1.38 WHIP in 55 2/3 innings. A 2008 draft pick, Antolin will likely try to leverage his success over the past two years into a contract somewhere else.
Cory Burns – Burns, a 28-year-old righty elected free agency after his first season with the Blue Jays. He spent the year in New Hampshire, posting a 5.76 ERA and 1.65 WHIP with just 45 strikeouts and 20 walks in 54 2/3 innings.
Jonathan Diaz – Diaz, with a one-year sojourn in the Red Sox organization, has been a lifelong Blue Jay but will look for other opportunities in 2015 after hitting .223/.328/.284 in 118 games with Buffalo (and another seven in Toronto).
Andrew Albers – The Saskatchewanian, 30, will also look for other opportunities after spending most of the season pitching for Buffalo, with a stop for the Canadian Men’s team that won the gold medal at the Pan-Am Games in Toronto.
Danny Dorn – The Blue Jays picked up Danny Dorn from the waiver wire (from Arizona) in August and sent him to Buffalo before sending him outright (removing him from the 40-man roster) in September. Dorn, a 31-year-old first baseman and outfielder played just six games for the Bisons.
Greg Burke – The 33-year-old submarine righty who has had more than a cup of coffee in the major leagues elected free agency after a very solid season in Buffalo and New Hampshire, posting a combined 2.63 ERA and 1.02 WHIP over 61 2/3 innings. It’s likely that he could leverage that into a spring training invite for next year.
John Anderson – One of our favourites here at Blue Jays from Away, the oft-injured lefty with a big fastball has chosen to become a free agent at the end of his contract. I wouldn’t necessarily rule the Blue Jays out of the running. After all, they did show a lot of faith in Anderson through his multiple surgeries. Anderson reached the Bisons this year and is on the doorstep of the major leagues with a 95 mph fastball and a solid slider.
Scott Copeland – Copeland’s no stranger to free agency. The Blue Jays signed him back in 2012 after he had been released by the Baltimore Orioles and re-signed him after the 2014 when he elected free agency again. After his first cup of coffee in the big leagues in 2015, will Copeland come back to Toronto or take his sinker where he might have a better chance to stick in the majors?
Caleb Gindl – At 27, Gindl is still young but didn’t produce very much for the Bisons after an outstanding spring training. Gindl hit .228/.287/.319 in 85 games for Buffalo and becomes a free agent for the second time.
Brad Glenn – Glenn, 28, is like John Anderson, a Blue Jays’ draftee who is finally getting his first taste of free agency. Glenn had a down year in 2015, only playing in 63 games with the Buffalo Bisons and hitting .239/.293/.372.
Alex Hassan – Hassan was signed by the Blue Jays after he was released by Oakland and was one of the Bisons’ best hitters for the season, hitting .314/.357/.419. It’s possible that the Blue Jays’ lack of depth in the outfield could lure Hassan back or he could take his chances elsewhere with a pretty solid set of baseball skills.
Chris Dickerson – The 33-year-old outfielder had a solid season for the Bisons but only played in 38 games due to injuries, hitting .270/.354/.340. Dickerson is known for his athleticism and solid bat and will likely have a choice of contracts (and might not rule out playing in Asia).
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