The Blue Jays have formally announced the signings of five players to minor league contracts with invitations to major league spring training. In addition to the signings of reliever Ryan Dull and infielder Joe Panik, which we reported on the other day, the Blue Jays have also announced signings of catchers Patrick Cantwell and Caleb Joseph and infielder Ruben Tejada.
The Cantwell signing is unsurprising. After the Blue Jays had four upper-level minor league catchers elect free agency (Cantwell, Michael De La Cruz, Alberto Mineo and Andres Sotillo) and Luke Maile was non-tendered, I expected the Blue Jays to sign a couple of catchers to give them some depth. My current expectation is that Riley Adams, Alejandro Kirk, Gabriel Moreno and Philip Clarke each moving up a level to fill out “everyday” catching duties at Buffalo, New Hampshire, Dunedin and Lansing, respectively.
That said, with the Blue Jays likely to employ the Danny Jansen/Reese McGuire catching tandem at the major-league level, there wasn’t anyone currently in the system who would be able to handle major league catching duties in case of emergency.
The Blue Jays addressed that by signing Caleb Joseph, a 33-year-old major-league veteran with over five years of major league service with Baltimore and Arizona. Joseph’s profile is of a typical light-hitting catcher with his best offensive years coming in 2015 and 2017 with the Baltimore Orioles, combining for 19 home runs in 189 games. That said, he has never put up an OBP above .299 in his major league career (and his career mark is .270).
Joseph spent 2019 with the Diamondbacks’ organization, playing 48 games in Triple-A Reno with some solid offensive stats (in a hitter-friendly league, with a home-run friendly stadium, using the livelier major league baseball), and hit .265/.324/.481 with 12 doubles, a triple and seven home runs while walking in 7.3% of his plate appearances. In just 20 games with the Diamondbacks, Joseph hit .211/.250/.263 in 41 plate appearances.
I’m thinking that Joseph will split duties with Adams in Buffalo and he also played a little bit of first base over his career.
Cantwell has been in the Blue Jays’ organization since 2017 when he was traded to the Blue Jays from the Texas Rangers in May of 2017. Cantwell was a solid contributor to the 2018 Eastern League champion New Hampshire Fisher Cats and was injured most of 2019, playing in just 26 games between the GCL Blue Jays and the Buffalo Bisons. He hit .217/.316/.275 with the Bisons. An experienced backup catcher, the 29 year old will serve as some more depth for the primary catchers at Triple-A and Double-A.
Ruben Tejada was a bit of a surprise signing to me, but the 30-year-old Panamanian will give the Blue Jays some more depth on the infield. While he was a major league regular from 2011 to 2015 for the New York Mets, he split 2016 between the St. Louis Cardinals and San Francisco Giants, playing in just 36 games between them and played 41 games for Baltimore in 2017. He spent all of 2018 in Triple-A for Baltimore and spent much of 2019 in Triple-A Syracuse for the Mets, hitting .326/.404/.471 but was hitless in a six-game major league call up, going 0/9.
In all, the five players signed by the Blue Jays – Dull, Panik, Joseph, Cantwell and Tejada – will offer the Jays depth with some big league experience to help out the younger players who are both on their way up to the big leagues and currently there.
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