The Toronto Blue Jays have reportedly signed pitcher A.J. Cole in what is the first of, I’m sure, several smaller (and hopefully bigger) moves this offseason.
Cole, 27, gets a minor league deal with an invite to spring training and has some MLB experience with three teams, mostly Washington but most recently Cleveland and has been the typical up-and-down pitcher who pitches in both Triple-A as well as the major leagues for the past several years.
In 2019, Cole threw 25 games for the Cleveland Indians, accruing 26 innings with a 3.81 ERA and 1.50 WHIP, striking out 30 and walking just eight batters while throwing another 17 innings in Triple-A with a 3.18 ERA and 0.88 WHIP for Columbus. He pitched for the Nationals and the Yankees in 2018 combining for a 6.14 ERA and 1.59 WHIP over 48 1/3 innings.
Cole has put up some strong strikeout numbers in his time in the majors, getting a 26.7% strikeout rate in 2018 and a 25.4% K rate in 2019, averaging 94.4 mph with his fastball in 2019, up one mph from 2018 and up significantly from the 90.5 mph he threw when he broke in the major leagues the first time in 2015. He’s not much of a ground ball pitcher, getting just 35.6% of balls on the ground over his career and that number was down to just 30.8% in 2019 while he had a decent 10.3% HR/FB rate, which was slightly below league average for 2019.
With a minor league contract to Cole, who stands 6-foot-5 and weighs 238 pounds, there is little risk to the Jays. They’ll have to clear a 40-man roster spot if he does make the club out of spring training but he does give the Jays an extra layer of depth in the bullpen as they head into camp. Cole is out of options and he’s been previously outrighted, meaning that if the Jays try to send him to the minors after having him in Toronto, he can choose free agency.
But, like most minor league free agent contract, it’s a no-risk, high reward situation that could give the Jays another arm to trade away when the deadline comes in July if he can pitch well.
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