There are a few ways that players can become free agents in the minor leagues. First is if they have been sent outright to the minor leagues for the second or a subsequent time and then the player has the right to opt for free agency, usually during October (as Ryan Feierabend did last month). Another is if the initial minor league contract that a player signs, which has six team options to be renewed, expires after seven years (six renewals). The third is if a player is signed as a minor league free agent, the contracts can be up if it was a one-year deal signed.
Becoming a free agent today are the following players (see the whole list at Baseball America, where Matt Eddy does a phenomenal job putting together the minor league transactions):
Additionally, Devon Travis refused his outright assignment, which is his right given that he has more than three years of MLB service time, becoming a free agent as well.
Looking over the list, some players will be re-signed by the Jays. I think a couple of the catcher will be for sure. It’s tough for a club to lose that many catchers, particularly those manning the high minors. I can’t see the Jays promoting guys who were playing in A-ball last year to the games vacated by Cantwell, de la Cruz, Hernandez, Mineo and Sotillo. So I think at least two or three of them will be re-signed. De La Cruz had a strong offensive season for Buffalo in particular and is a life-long Jay.
With the pitchers, it’ll be interesting. A couple of them have MLB service time including John Axford, who needs to show a team that he’s healthy over the winter to get a contract, as does Danny Barnes who has fallen a long way since being a solid MLB reliever for the Jays. Mark Leiter has also been injured and could be back if he shows himself to be healthy. Francisco Rios was loaned to a Mexican League team this year and I didn’t think that he’d be back.
Almonte is an interesting case. An outfielder-turned-pitcher, he’s struggled since taking to the mound, but he’s also got a 95-mph fastball and a developing slider that could help him get to the big leagues if he works on some thing. He’s already re-signed with the Jays once and I’m wondering if he stays with the only club he’s known after testing free agency.
Willy Ortiz was signed last year and is still pretty young (24), although he did not have a good year in his first exposure to Double-A in 2019.
On the lefty side of things, Dermody has MLB time and successfully came back from Tommy John surgery last year. He was hit hard but still struck out a batter per inning and walked just three over 23 innings pitched. Shawn Morimando was brought in from Cleveland but has yet to really succeed while under contract to the Blue Jays.
With so many outfielders having passed him on the Blue Jays’ depth chart, Dalton Pompey’s best bet is to stay healthy, sign a minor league deal and earn his way to the big leagues with another team. The Socrates Brito experiment was a resounding failure in Toronto but he put up good numbers in Buffalo. He might be a decent guy to re-sign but I can see the Jays looking elsewhere. Patrick Kivlehan had a monster season, popping 33 home runs with three different teams, 26 with Buffalo. I can see him having several suitors for his services. Jordan Patterson had an okay season but I don’t think it’s enough to come back to Toronto on a minor league deal.
Finally, Deiferson Barreto was released by the Jays in March of 2018 and re-signed in Feb of 2019 but didn’t play a game this season and becomes a free agent again.
An interesting note is that the Blue Jays have already re-signed reliever Vinny Nittoli, who spent year in New Hampshire.
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