The Blue Jays will acquire right-hander Julian Merryweather as the player to be named later in the Josh Donaldson trade, tweets Fancred’s Jon Heyman. Paul Hoynes of Cleveland.com tweeted at the time of the deal that Merryweather “was rumored” to eventually be Toronto-bound, while Sportsnet’s Shi Davidi tweeted more recently that Merryweather “is expected” to eventually be announced as the PTBNL.
An official announcement doesn’t seem likely to happen until after the season. The 26-year-old Merryweather underwent Tommy John surgery during Spring Training and has spent the season on the minor league disabled list. Because he’s not healthy enough to begin a rehab assignment, he won’t be passed through waivers before the end of the season, so it seems that a formal announcement could yet be more than a month away.
Prior to the 2018 season, Baseball America ranked Merryweather 17th among Indians farmhands, praising a fastball that reaches 97 mph with regularity, an above-average but inconsistent changeup and another pair of potentially average breaking pitches (slider, curve).
Merryweather breezed through Double-A last year as a 25-year-old, pitching to a 3.38 ERA with a 52-to-10 K/BB ratio and a 48.9 percent ground-ball rate in 50 2/3 innings. He was too homer-prone in a later stint at Triple-A, leading to a 6.58 ERA, but his K/BB numbers and ground-ball tendencies remained strong. Fangraphs’ Eric Longenhagen wrote shortly after his promotion to Triple-A last year that both his changeup and curveball could be plus offerings, calling Merryweather a potential mid-rotation starter.
While the Blue Jays will assuredly exercise caution when working Merryweather back from Tommy John surgery next spring, he’ll give the team an arm that could help either in the bullpen or in the rotation as soon as next summer. And, because Merryweather didn’t spent the 2018 season on the Major League disabled list, he didn’t accrue any MLB service time and will thus remain controllable through at least the 2024 season — if not the 2025 campaign.
That proximity to the Majors, it seems, was enough for the Jays to deem Merryweather a more appealing and more valuable piece than the draft pick they’d have received upon extending a qualifying offer to Donaldson and allowing him to test free agency. (Indeed, GM Ross Atkins told Sportsnet’s Arash Madani that the PTBNL is someone the organization considers to be an “exciting upper-level talent.”) It’s also possible, perhaps even likely, that the team simply didn’t feel comfortable making that type of offer to Donaldson on the heels of his injury-ruined season — especially with wunderkind Vladimir Guerrero Jr. waiting in the wings to hold down third base for the foreseeable future.