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Baseball has released the list of minor league free agents and the Toronto Blue Jays have 18 minor league players who have reached free agency.
It’s a very interesting year to be contemplating minor league free agents, particularly since there wasn’t a minor league season, although all players earned service time as long as they were under contract.
Pitchers granted free agency were:
This is an interesting list of pitchers although several of these guys were minor league veterans who signed with the Jays and never really got to pitch in the Jays’ system. We wrote about James Dykstra a while back about signing out of the independent leagues (and we have an interview with him in the 2020 Toronto Blue Jays Minor League Handbook). Connor Overton is another guy who signed in the offseason and never got a chance to pitch in the Jays’ system.
Ortiz was a minor league free agent signing a couple of years ago and pitched 54 innings in 2019, mostly out of the bullpen for New Hampshire. While Juan Nunez, a Dominican righty, struggled after reaching Lansing in 2019. Vinny Nittoli had a very strong year in 2019 joining the Fisher Cats and is the classic minor-league depth reliever but without a minor league season, he didn’t have the chance to show what he could do, or really be the depth that wasn’t needed in 2020.
Ryan Dull was a guy the Blue Jays signed in order to bolster the major league team. He was claimed on waivers in 2019 and pitched in one game for Toronto before he was released. He re-signed on a minor league deal in the offseason but wasn’t able to get into any games in 2020 after giving up seven runs in 3 1/3 innings in spring training.
Conor Fisk is a lifelong Blue Jay. A 24th-round draft pick in 2014, I thought he was really on the fast track when he moved to the bullpen in 2018 and I noted an increase in velocity when I saw him pitch for Buffalo. In 2019, he took a bit of a step back and was used in a swing role, pitching 97 innings with 32 outings and 15 starts.
Thomas Pannone was brought to the Blue Jays in the Joe Smith trade that also brought them Samad Taylor. Pannone made his big league debut in 2018 and was solid in 43 innings in Toronto and threw another 73 innings for the Jays in 2019 with less success. In 2020, he never made the majors, being sent outright to the Alternate Training Site and ultimately choosing free agency at the end of the season.
Catchers becoming free agents:
Cantwell was in the Jays’ organization for a few years, performing ably as a backup catcher in the high minor leagues. James was signed as organizational depth for 2020 and obviously didn’t get a chance to play while Lopez was acquired with some international bonus pool money for Kendrys Morales and cash in March of 2019. Mostly an infielder in the A’s organization, the Blue Jays began to convert him to being a catcher but he only got three games in Lansing in 2019, spending most of the year in Vancouver.
Infielders becoming free agents:
Deiferson Barreto has been in and out of the Blue Jays’ organization for years since he was signed as an international free agent but hasn’t actually played a game since 2017. My gut feeling with him is that he was signed to be a player/coach but didn’t have that chance in 2020.
Andy Burns was drafted by the Blue Jays, rose through the minor leagues to play in parts of 10 games in 2016 without getting a hit in the big leagues. He played for two seasons in Korea (most successfully in 2017), and returned to North America with the Blue Jays’ organization, having a very solid season in Buffalo in 2019. Here’s hoping he’s able to get another major league shot and get that first big league hit!
Luis Silva is another player like Deiferson Barreto. Silva spent 2018 and 2019 injured after being picked up by the Jays in 2017. He’s a bit of a mystery over the past couple of seasons.
Finally, Mitch Walding was signed as major league depth for the 2020 season, to play corner infield positions or a corner outfield spot. Walding played a handful of games in the majors with Philadelphia in 2018 and 2019 but hasn’t stuck at the big league level.
Outfielders electing free agency:
Guerrero is the older cousin of Vladdy Jr. and likely would have spent his Age-26 season with New Hampshire but COVID robbed him of a chance of playing in the same organization as his “little” cousin.
Obeso was signed as an international free agent in 2013 and reached Dunedin in 2019, hitting respectably.
Finally, Forrest Wall is the most curious of the free agents. The Blue Jays did not place him on their 40-man roster when given the chance and he was acquired along with Chad Spanberger and Bryan Baker for Seung-Hwan Oh back at the trade deadline in 2018. He hit well in two seasons with New Hampshire and reached Buffalo in 2019 and was also training at the Alternate Training Site in 2020. Many thought he could be a nice prospect for the Jays in 2021, but he will have a chance to ply his trade for another team.
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