As they do, Baseball America has compiled all of the minor league free agents that are hitting the market this winter. Here is some information about the 26 Toronto Blue Jays who will be among them
The most prominent names among these players are those who appeared with the major league team this year but were eligible for free agency because they were sent to the minors outright. These folks include pitcher Leonel Campos, Taylor Cole, Luis Santos, Chris Smith, Raffy Lopez and Darrel Ceciliani.
Others are “six-year” free agents because they have gotten to the end of their Uniform Player Contract that they sign initially. These players have actually played seven years in the minor leagues because their contract included six years of team options. Players of this ilk include Adonys Cardona, John Stilson, Jon Berti, Christian Lopes and Matt Dean.
The final group of players were ones who were signed as minor league free agents in the offseason and include Murphy Smith, Alex Monsalve and Jose Tabata.
On this list a few names are quite well known to Blue Jays fans. We’ve been waiting for John Stilson to make his breakthrough to the major leagues for several years but injuries have gotten in the way. I’d look for Stilson to possibly re-sign with the Blue Jays as he had a solid season and was able to stay on the mound for most of the year.
Adonys Cardona has officially flamed out after years of injury and general ineffectiveness. Once considered an electric arm, Cardona has alternately impressed me and left me wanting more when I’ve seen him pitch live.
Luis Santos and Chris Smith have both put in some big league time in 2017. Santos was more effective down the stretch despite Smith’s arm strength being superior. Still, of the two, I’d be inclined to re-sign Santos given his ability to log innings as a starter if necessary.
Philip Walby was a minor-league Rule 5 draft pick last year who wasn’t all that effective in 50 innings in Dunedin. Still, he was able to keep his walks to the lowest rate of his career but I don’t think he’ll likely be back.
Villegas logged almost 60 innings between Dunedin and New Hampshire but posted better numbers at the lower level and struggled to throw strikes.
Straka was signed towards the end of the year after starting the year in an independent league.
Of these pitchers, I’d love to see Murphy Smith get another contract and an invite to big-league camp. Smith was a jack-of-all-trades in Buffalo, with a 3.50 eRA and 1.19 WHIP, he made eight starts and pitched 82 1/3 innings.
Bo Schultz missed the entire season due to Tommy John surgery and could be back on a minor league deal.
Blake McFarland was also hurt for most of the year, throwing just 6 1/3 innings for New Hampshire after missing all of 2016. He’s another guy I’d like to see get back on the mound but, as someone who’ll be 30 in February, is someone for whom time is running away.
Taylor Cole missed several months of the minor league season, still made his major league debut, gave up a whole bunch of runs, broke his toe, was released, re-signed to a minor-league deal, promoted, then sent outright to Triple-A. That kind of late-season run screams for a minor league deal in 2018.
Leonel Campos is another pitcher who might be good to have back in 2018 for depth. I think the Blue Jays might have more competition to get his signature on a contract though.
I’m not sure why Daniel Canellas was signed. Was it to get a closer look at him? He was an international free agent in 2012 who didn’t play until 2014 (as a hitter) and was a pitcher in 2015, throwing just one inning before not playing at all in 2016 and again in 2017. Did the Jays just want to get a look at him in camp?
Neither Carroll nor Liriano nor Mayorga actually played. Liriano played for the Phillies’ DSL team in 2015 and 2016 and was on the Jays’ DSL roster in 2017 though he didn’t play. Carroll and Mayorga also didn’t play although they may have been around their respective clubs for more coaching/mentoring roles.
Lopez spent a part of the season in the majors, backing up Russell Martin. He had a career year in terms of his power in the minors but with several catcher in the system who could conceivably be protected for the 2017 Rule 5 draft, he was somewhat expendable.
Monsalve was considered an extra player for most of the year but he hit respectably enough in the 43 games he did play.
Here we start to get to some meaty names. Berti has been a great organizational player for the Blue Jays since he was drafted in 2011. A speedy infielder (who can also play in the outfield), Berti’s season was plagued by injuries and his bat faltered in Buffalo where he hit .205/.271/.321 in 62 games, despite stealing 23 bases. I can see Berti getting another contract for 2018.
Dean was drafted as a power-hitting corner infielder but his bat regressed in his second year in Double-A, hitting .196/.282/.351 with just four home runs in 33 games (with another 40 games in Dunedin, hitting just two home runs). With power on the left side of the infield charging through the organization, I’m not sure if he’ll be back.
Christian Lopes will face some unusual competition in returning to the Blue Jays’ organization after becoming a “six-year” free agent. Lopez had some solid numbers in Triple-A Buffalo (.261/.349/.402) and the 25-year-old certainly isn’t too old for his level. Still, his younger brother Tim had a solid year in Double-A and it is conceivable for the two Lopeses to play together in Buffalo next year if Christian is tendered a contract.
Shane Opitz is a solid utility man who was finally able to play the whole year in 2017, hitting .252/.306/.333 with Buffalo over 84 games.
Veteran Gregorio Petit finished the season with solid numbers but the slick fielding shortstop might find his roster spot needed for the likes of Lourdes Gurriel and Richard Urena in 2018, leaving him unlikely to return.
Ceciliani’s injuries have hounded him and prevented him from getting into a groove when the Blue Jays needed an outfielder. Could the Blue Jays re-sign him in 2018? Possibly, but it depends on whether they bring another outfielder into the system and where they see guys like Dalton Pompey, Teoscar Hernandez, Anthony Alford and Dwight Smith, Jr. fitting in.
Loveless’s initial contract culminated with him playing most of his seventh year in New Hampshire with a .253/.379/.326 slash line While his eye is well developed (at 24 years old), his power has never really materialized despite his strong physique.
Jose Tabata was an interesting signing for the Jays last offseason but he never got into any game action in the 2017 season.
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