The Blue Jays announced tonight that they have claimed righty Oliver Drake off waivers from the Rays. To open a 40-man spot, the Toronto club designated fellow right-hander Mark Leiter Jr. for assignment.
This move continues a seemingly never-ending tour of the majors for Drake, a 31-year-old hurler with intriguing stuff who has seen many a 40-man roster but rarely stays in the same place for long. Since the start of the 2017 campaign, he has appeared with the Orioles, Brewers, Indians, Angels, Twins, and Blue Jays.
Indeed, Drake set a record last year by appearing with five teams. That did not include the Rays, who claimed him after the season concluded. This will be Drake’s second stop in Toronto; he stopped in for two appearances last season. Of course, it would hardly be surprising if Drake ends up being bumped from the Jays’ 40-man once again over the offseason.
So, what’s the fascination here? Drake has only a 4.50 career ERA through 137 1/3 innings. But he owns a 12.6% swinging-strike rate in the big leagues and has generally turned in much more promising peripherals. Last year, for example, he carried 9.6 K/9 and 3.2 BB/9 with a 44.9% groundball rate through 47 2/3 frames — though a .353 BABIP and 63.7% strand rate left him with a 5.29 ERA.
As for the 27-year-old Leiter, he has found success at times in the upper minors but struggled to transition to the major-league mound. He has thrown 114 frames of 5.53 ERA ball in the bigs, due in no small part to allowing home runs at a clip of 1.97 per nine innings. Leiter, too, has been better in the eyes of ERA estimators that presume the dingers are in part a reflection of poor fortune, as he owns a 4.37 xFIP and 4.23 SIERA in the majors. Teams in search of rotation depth will surely have interest.