- Drew Hutchison threw a solid outing for the Blue Jays today, and as MLB.com’s Alykhan Ravjiani notes, the right-hander could provide an important depth role for Toronto’s rotation. Hutchison lost his rotation spot due to a rough 2015 season and is now at Triple-A, though the Jays could call on him for spot outings to keep the rest of the rotation fresh. With Aaron Sanchez known to be eventually moving back to the bullpen to limit his innings, Hutchison could also boost his case for regular starts later in the season.
Here are the latest minor transactions from around baseball:
- The Twins have called up right-hander Tyler Duffey from Triple-A and optioned infielder Jorge Polanco, the team announced. Duffey will start the Twins’ game Sunday against the Nationals in place of Ervin Santana, who has back tightness. Duffey, 25, broke into the majors last season and was excellent for the Twins, throwing 58 innings of 3.10 ERA ball with an 8.22 K/9 and 3.10 BB/9. Duffey’s standout performance has continued this year in Triple-A Rochester, where he has pitched to a 1.72 ERA and 2.98 FIP in three starts. Polanco, who’s regarded as a top-100 prospect, got the call to Minnesota last week but didn’t last long. The 22-year-old logged only eight plate appearances, giving him 28 in the big leagues since 2014.
- The Rays wasted no time sending top pitching prospect Blake Snell back to Triple-A after his stellar debut at Yankee Stadium on Saturday, Roger Mooney of the Tampa Tribune tweets. With Snell returning to Durham, the Rays have selected the contract of right-hander Jhan Marinez. Snell threw five innings of one-run ball in his first major league start, holding the Yankees to two hits and a walk while striking out six. Snell got a no-decision in the Rays’ 3-2 loss. Marinez, 27, could now make his first trip to a major league mound since he picked up 2 2/3 frames for the White Sox in 2012.
- The Blue Jays have optioned southpaw Chad Girodo to Triple-A to make room for right-hander Drew Hutchison, who will start their game Sunday against the A’s, reports Shi Davidi of Sportsnet (Twitter link). Girodo has tossed two scoreless innings for the Jays this year. Hutchison racked up 62 appearances (60 starts) and 335 innings with the Jays from 2014-15, but he struggled to prevent runs (4.97 ERA) despite a quality K/9 (8.41) and decent BB/9 (2.79).
- The Marlins have placed third baseman Martin Prado on the paternity list and selected the contract of left-hander Cody Ege, per a club announcement. Ege, 24, will make his major league debut after recording stellar numbers in 161 2/3 minor league innings. Ege owns a 2.23 minors ERA to go with an 11.4 K/9 and 2.8 BB/9.
- The Diamondbacks have recalled right-hander Enrique Burgos from Triple-A and optioned righty Silvino Bracho, the team announced. Burgos accrued 27 innings out of the D-backs’ bullpen last season and put up a lofty ERA (4.67) that belied an impressive strikeout rate (13.0 per nine). Bracho threw just 1 2/3 innings for Arizona prior to the demotion, surrendering five hits and three earned runs.
- The Padres have placed utilityman Alexi Amarista on the 15-day DL (retroactive to April 20) with a right hamstring strain and recalled Cesar Vargas from Double-A, according to Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune (Twitter link). Amarista owns a career .229/.277/.325 batting line in 1,601 major league plate appearances, but he was off to a solid start this year (.333/.440/.333 in 26 PAs). Vargas will start the Padres’ game against the Cardinals tonight. The Mexico native could be a diamond in the rough, as Chris Mitchell of Fangraphs details.
- The Nationals signed righty Jaron Long to a minor league deal, the team announced. Jaron Long, the son of Mets hitting coach Kevin Long, spent 2013-15 working through the Yankees’ minor league system. Long, 24, has put up some solid totals in the minors (3.26 ERA, 6.8 K/9, 1.6 BB/9), but he hasn’t yet earned a call-up to the majors.
- The Tigers have claimed catcher John Hicks off waivers from the Twins, Anthony Fenecki of the Detroit Free Press was among those to report (on Twitter). Hicks owns a .279/.325/.408 line in 1,690 minor league PAs and has thrown out a whopping 48 percent of base stealers at various levels. The 26-year-old debuted in the majors last season with the Mariners, collecting only two hits and a walk in 34 trips to the plate.
- The Blue Jays announced that right-hander Arnold Leon cleared waivers and has been outrighted to Triple-A (Twitter link via Gregor Chisholm of MLB.com). Leon gave up two runs in 2 1/3 innings with the Jays before they designated him for assignment April 13. He made his major league debut last year with Oakland and posted a 4.39 ERA in 26 1/3 innings. Leon induced an average amount of ground balls (45.9 percent) and averaged 6.4 K/9 against 3.0 BB/9 during that time.
- The Royals have released minor league left-hander Brandon Zajac, tweets Jeffrey Flanagan of MLB.com. Zajac was a 23rd-round pick of the Giants in 2013.
- The Braves have recalled lefty reliever Matt Marksberry from Double-A and optioned right-hander Casey Kelly to Triple-A, reports Mark Bowman of MLB.com. The Braves needed a fresh arm in place of Kelly, who threw three innings of one-run ball for them on Friday. Marksberry, who has put up a 3.63 ERA over 203 1/3 career minor league innings, tossed 23 1/3 frames for the Braves last season. He compiled a 5.01 ERA to accompany an 8.1 K/9 and 6.2 BB/9.
- The Mets sent right-hander Rafael Montero to Triple-A to make room for the return of starter Jacob deGrom, according to Adam Rubin of ESPN. New York called up Montero on April 12 and he went on to surrender three earned runs on five hits, one walk and three strikeouts in 2 1/3 innings. DeGrom hasn’t pitched since April 8 because of right lat tightness and medical complications with his recently born son, Jaxon, who was released from the hospital Monday.
- The Red Sox recalled left-handler Roenis Elias on Friday and sent righty William Cuevas to Triple-A, per the Boston Herald. Elias, whom Boston acquired from Seattle during the offseason in the Wade Miley/Carson Smith trade, will work out of the Red Sox’s bullpen. Elias has made a pair of starts for Pawtucket this year after totaling 49 as a Mariner the previous two seasons. During that time frame, Elias combined for 277 2/3 innings of 3.99 ERA ball to go with a 7.75 K/9 and 3.47 BB/9. Cuevas, who has been in the Boston organization since 2008, made his major league debut this season to poor results before the demotion. The 25-year-old allowed five base runners (three hits and two walks) and two earned runs in 2 1/3 frames.
In the wake of the 80-game PED suspension handed to Blue Jays first baseman/designated hitter Chris Colabello on Friday, teammate Kevin Pillar had some choice words for Major League Baseball (Twitter link via Arden Zwelling of Sportsnet Magazine). “This is a guy that got caught up in a flawed system,” the outfielder said of Colabello. “He fell victim to a technicality in the system. And I think that the drug testing policy and Major League Baseball are going to have some soul searching to do and they’re going to have to figure it out.” Pillar didn’t elaborate on the “technicality” that he believes victimized Colabello. The 32-year-old tested positive in March for the banned substance dehydrochlormethyltestosterone, an anabolic steroid that’s designed to increase the user’s speed and strength. Colabello did pass four drug tests last year, though, tweets John Lott of VICE Sports.
- The Blue Jays aren’t yet considering going outside the organization to replace Colabello, according to FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal (Twitter link). Justin Smoak is first in line to pick up the slack, per Rosenthal, who points out that the team also has Matt Dominguez in Triple-A Buffalo. Rosenthal didn’t mention Jesus Montero, who’s with Dominguez in Buffalo. The former elite prospect has recorded a respectable .292/.341/.429 line in in 315 career plate appearances against left-handed pitchers.
Blue Jays first baseman/outfielder Chris Colabello has received an 80-game PED suspension, per a league announcement, which is the penalty for a first-time offender. He tested positive for the banned substance dehydrochlormethyltestosterone. The 32-year-old’s roster spot will go to southpaw Chad Girodo, as Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet.ca tweets.
In a statement, via the Toronto Star’s Brendan Kennedy (Twitter link), Colabello says that he was informed of his positive test on March 13th. It would appear, then, that he’s only just lost his appeal. Colabello suggests that he is not at fault for the test, saying that he “would never compromise the integrity of the game of baseball” and has “spent every waking moment since that day trying to find an answer as to why or how” he ended up with the banned substance.
Even before today’s news, things hadn’t gone as hoped for the late-blooming slugger, as Colabello has logged just two hits and two walks in 32 plate appearances. Both he and the club were no doubt hoping for quite a bit more, given that he ran up a .321/.367/.520 batting line with 15 home runs in 360 trips to the plate in 2015.
While his K:BB ratios remain constant, Colabello has clearly suffered from more than just a turnaround in luck. His .411 BABIP from a year ago now stands at a meager .100, but he’s also making tons of soft contact (40.0%) and putting the ball on the ground much more often (60.0% after a 47.9% mark last year).
As those round numbers suggest, it’s still early, but it would have been hard for any organization to wait much longer on a player who is so limited defensively and doesn’t have an extensive history of production. Colabello racked up extremely negative defensive ratings, especially in the corner outfield, in his extensive action last year. And the indy ball find had never previously posted a major league season with an above-average batting line.
Needless to say, the suspension spares Toronto from making any tough calls on Colabello at the moment. But it also changes the calculus for the organization quite a bit moving forward. Colabello won’t be eligible to return until just before the trade deadline, and under the league rules will not be eligible for the postseason.
Jays GM Ross Atkins expressed support for Colabello in a statement on the team’s behalf, despite what he called an “unfortunate situation.” Atkins says that the organization is “confident he’ll return ready to compete and will have taken the steps necessary to ensure that this does not happen again.”
With the right-handed hitter out of the picture for at least eighty games, the Jays will presumably rely more heavily on Justin Smoak — a switch-hitter who is deployed mostly against righties, and could ultimately be paired with another option to face opposing southpaws. Jesus Montero presents an internal possibility, and veteran power hitter Michael Morse just entered the free agent market. Of course, the organization could instead look to fill out its roster with a different kind of player entirely. For now, of course, they are going with an eighth reliever, but outfielders such as Dalton Pompey, Darrell Ceciliani, and the just-signed Michael Bourn could add a different element if the team were to use Edwin Encarnacion more often at first and/or give Jose Bautista more time in the DH role.
Colabello had only just cracked two years of MLB service after entering the year with 1.157 years on his ledger. The Joint Drug Agreement provides that suspended players “shall receive Major League Service while suspended during any period he would have received such service but for his placement on the Restricted List as a result of violating the Program.” Colabello will, therefore, remain on track to reach Super Two status next winter if he returns to Toronto’s active roster after his ban is complete.
The Blue Jays and free agent center fielder Michael Bourn have agreed to a minor league deal, reports Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (on Twitter). The 33-year-old Bourn was designated for assignment by the Braves late in Spring Training and subsequently released.
Bourn is in the final season of a four-year, $48MM contract that he signed with the Indians heading into the 2013 season. Hamstring injuries began to slow Bourn down early in the deal, however, and Cleveland flipped him to Atlanta alongside Nick Swisher last summer in an exchange of bad contracts that sent Chris Johnson to the Indians. In the event that he surfaces on Toronto’s Major League roster, they’ll be responsible only for paying the pro-rated portion of the league minimum, as Atlanta is on the hook for the remainder of this 2016 salary.
Once a premier defensive center fielder with a roughly league-average bat and enormous contributions on the basepaths, Bourn has posted deflated offensive numbers over the life of his current contract, batting .253/.313/.336. Beyond that, the hamstring problems that have plagued him have also led to diminished baserunning contributions as he enters his mid-30s; Bourn averaged 51 stolen bases per season from 2008-12 (twice topping 60 steals), but he’s stolen a combined 50 bases in 75 attempts since signing with Cleveland.
Bourn provides the Blue Jays with some outfield depth and could potentially unseat current fourth outfielder Ezequiel Carrera at some point. The 28-year-old Carrera has never been much of a threat with the bat (career .257/.307/.346 batting line) and has logged just 742 Major League innings in center field with below-average ratings from Defensive Runs Saved and Ultimate Zone Rating.
- The Blue Jays have released veteran catcher Humberto Quintero from their Triple-A affiliate in Buffalo, per a club announcement. The 36-year-old Quintero was enjoying a productive start to the season, having gone 4-for-15 with three doubles for the Bisons. His last extended stint in the Majors came in 2013 when he hit .237/.275/.366 in 140 plate appearances between the Mariners and Phillies. Quintero is a career .234/.267/.327 in 1423 Major League plate appearances.
- Blue Jays second baseman Devon Travis – who underwent left shoulder surgery in November – will take the field for live batting practice off a coach for the first time this year Monday, tweets Shi Davidi of Sportsnet. Meanwhile, lefty Franklin Morales is better after feeling “weakness” in his shoulder earlier this month and will begin a throwing program Monday, Davidi reports (on Twitter).
While the Blue Jays are known for their prolific offense, the most impressive element of their team is their defense, Peter Gammons of GammonsDaily.com argues. Gammons names catcher Russell Martin, second baseman Ryan Goins, shortstop Troy Tulowitzki, third baseman Josh Donaldson and center fielder Kevin Pillar as elite-caliber defenders. Manager John Gibbons believes Tulowitzki’s defense is so great that it cancels out the offensive struggles he has had since Toronto acquired him from Colorado last year. “I don’t care if he doesn’t get another hit all season. His defense is that good,” Gibbons told Gammons. “I’ve never seen anyone who can throw from more angles and positions that Tulo. He’s a big man, but he plays like a little guy. His athleticism is beyond belief,” Gibbons continued. Tulowitzki has indeed been a significant defensive asset throughout his career, and he long paired that with excellent offensive skills as a Rockie. The 31-year-old has hit a paltry .119/.224/.262 with a soaring strikeout rate (28.9%) in 49 plate appearances this season, however, which wouldn’t necessarily be concerning if not for a disappointing .239/.317/.380 output in 41 games as a Blue Jay in 2015.
While a deep playoff run could improve the Blue Jays’ odds of re-signing one of right fielder Jose Bautista or designated hitter Edwin Encarnacion, chances are neither will return to Toronto next season, FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal reports (video link). The fact that the Jays are already dedicating a significant chunk of payroll to a pair of over-30 players in catcher Russell Martin and shortstop Troy Tulowitzki could deter them from handing out another massive contract to an aging player. Bautista and Encarnacion are two of the best hitters in the sport, but their respective ages (35 and 33) are working against them. Rosenthal reported last month that the Jays might only be willing to give Bautista a Yoenis Cespedes-esque deal (three years, $75MM), which is a good distance from his desire to land at least a four-year contract worth in the $30MM-per-annum range. As for Encarnacion, extension talks between him and Toronto went dormant in March.
The Blue Jays announced today that they have designated right-hander Arnold Leon for assignment in order to clear a spot on the active roster for ambidextrous reliever Pat Venditte, who has been recalled from Triple-A Buffalo. (Bob Elliott of the Toronto Sun first tweeted that Venditte was joining the big league club.)
Leon, 27, was acquired in a minor trade back in January after the A’s, too, designated him for assignment. Originally signed by the Athletics as an amateur free agent out of Mexico in 2008, Leon made his MLB debut last year and soaked up 26 1/3 innings with the A’s bullpen. In that time, he posted a 4.39 ERA and averaged 6.4 K/9 against 3.0 BB/9 with a 45.9 percent ground-ball rate and a fastball that averaged 91.7 mph. This season, he’s allowed a pair runs in 2 1/3 innings with the Blue Jays.
Venditte, 30, also made his Major League debut as a member of the Oakland bullpen last season. The switch-pitcher logged a 4.40 ERA with 23 strikeouts against 12 walks in 28 2/3 innings, inducing grounders at a 32.9 percent clip. Venditte, whose entire pro career had come in the Yankes’ minor league system prior to last year, is considerably tougher when pitching left-handed, as evidenced by the woeful .116/.191/.256 batting line that opponents mustered in left-on-left scenarios in 2015. The Jays claimed him off waivers last October, and he’s fired two perfect innings with five strikeouts in Triple-A so far this year. With Aaron Loup on the disabled list and Brett Cecil struggling, Venditte will give manager John Gibbons an additional weapon to help neutralize left-handed opponents.