To make room for Merryweather on the 40-man roster, Jon Berti was designated for assignment, per Sportsnet.ca’s Shi Davidi. The 28-year-old Berti got his first taste of the big leagues this season, starting four games at second base and hitting .267 for the Blue Jays in September.
Playoff contributions notwithstanding, we now know Cleveland’s return on this deal – Donaldson’s small-sample September batting line of .280/.400/.520 across 16 games was good for 0.7 rWAR and a stellar 146 OPS+. With the division locked up for most of the season, Donaldson’s acquisition was designed for the playoffs, beginning today in Houston – still, they seem to have gotten a fair imitation of the bat they were hoping for thus far.
Fancred’s Jon Heyman reported last month that Merryweather would be the PTBNL, but at the time the right-hander wasn’t healthy enough to be passed through waivers – having undergone Tommy John surgery in Spring Training. Merryweather missed the entire 2018 season, but because he was on the minor-league disabled list, he has yet to accrue any MLB service time.
The Blue Jays are banking on Merryweather being more valuable than the compensatory draft pick they would have received if they issued – and Donaldson rejected – a qualifying offer. Perhaps they were wary of Donaldson accepting, which we now know would cost them $17.9 MM for 2019, but whether their thinking was financial, evaluative, or simply in the interest of keeping third-base unoccupied for uberprospect Vlad Guerrero Jr., the return for the 2015 AL MVP now hinges on the health and continued development of Merryweather.
Before losing the 2018 season to Tommy John, the 6’4″ right-hander was 17th on Baseball America’s list of Cleveland prospects. He’s on the older side for a player yet to make his MLB debut (he’ll turn 27 on October 14th), but he pitched well enough in AA as a 25-year-old to turn some heads, and he has an arsenal that could play up to the level of a mid-rotation starter, per Eric Longenhagen of Fangraphs. Merryweather may end up in the bullpen, but remember, a rising tide lifts all boats, and the past few Octobers have done nothing if not raise the value of tweener bullpen arms like Merryweather.
It’s not a flashy return, but six to seven years of a control for a near Major League-ready arm is nothing to scoff at. There’s health and development that need to break in Merryweather’s favor, but a supplemental draft pick was no less risky and ultimately, Toronto adds a controllable arm in exchange for an injured player on his way out of town. That undersells Donaldson’s impact in Toronto (as well as his abilities on the field), not to mention what they might have netted if they’d moved him last offseason – but if you squint hard enough, Merryweather’s upside at least hints at the possibility that Donaldson’s free agency isn’t a total loss.