8:39am: Zach adds that Ayala’s contract with the Jays does not contain an opt-out clause, as his previous Orioles contract did (Twitter link).
Ayala, who is represented by Paragon Sports International, signed with the Nationals in Spring Training but was granted his release after it became clear that there wouldn’t be a spot for him in the Washington ‘pen. He then inked a minor league deal with Baltimore and pitched 5 1/3 innings for their Double-A affiliate in Bowie before opting out of that deal as well.
The 36-year-old Ayala has been a solid bullpen piece for the past three seasons after it looked like his career was beginning to fade. He’s pitched for the Yankees, Orioles and Braves from 2011-13, posting a strong 2.58 ERA with 6.1 K/9, 2.6 BB/9 and a ground-ball rate north of 50 percent. He’s a logical fit with the Blue Jays, who, despite their first-place standing in the AL East, have posted the second-worst bullpen ERA in the Majors at 4.62. Given the carousel of arms they’ve cycled through — Toronto has already used 16 different relievers this season — it wouldn’t be surprising to see Ayala pitch for the big league club at some point this summer.