The Blue Jays announced Monday that they’ve signed five players to minor league contracts with invitations to Major League Spring Training: right-handers Justin Miller, Phillippe Aumont and A.J. Cole (as had been previously been reported in Cole’s case), outfielder Patrick Kivlehan and infielder Andy Burns.
Miller, 32, has the most notable recent experience at the MLB level among the newly known signees. He spent the 2018-19 seasons pitching out of the Nationals’ bullpen and looked to be a savvy bargain find in the first of those two campaigns. The 2018 season saw Miller work to a 3.61 ERA with 10.3 K/9, 2.9 BB/9 and a 33.6 percent ground-ball rate. He was prone to home runs (1.72 HR/9), but Miller’s ability to miss bats and limit walks allowed him to produce a rather solid season.
Things went south in 2019, as Miller’s already homer-prone arsenal was clobbered among a leaguewide home-run surge; in 15 2/3 innings he posted a 4.02 ERA but a 7.11 FIP thanks to five home runs allowed. Those 2019 struggles notwithstanding, Miller has averaged better than a strikeout per inning in 156 1/3 MLB frames.
Aumont, 30, was also in the Jays’ system back in 2015. The Gatineau, Quebec native spent the 2019 season pitching with the Ottawa Champions of the independent Canadian-American Association, where he logged a 2.65 ERA with a scintillating 145-to-23 K/BB ratio in 118 2/3 innings (18 starts). He’s struggled mightily in 43 2/3 MLB innings but has averaged better than 10 strikeouts per nine innings pitched in parts of seven Triple-A campaigns. Walks have previously been an issue for him, but his control was exceptional in ’19. Aumont has worked for more as a reliever than a starter in his professional career, but perhaps the Jays could utilize him as rotation depth this time around.
Kivlehan, 30 later this month, had a productive season between Toronto’s Double-A and Triple-A clubs in 2019, so it’s not a surprise that they opted to bring him back. He’s a career .208/.302/.401 hitter in 242 MLB plate appearances but a .262/.325/.480 hitter in his Triple-A career. He has experience at all four corner positions.
Burns, another familiar face for Toronto fans, followed up a nice two-year run in the KBO from 2017-18 with a .275/.364/.470 showing with the Jays’ Triple-A club in Buffalo in 2019. With the exception of that two-year stint in South Korea, Burns has spent his entire career in the Blue Jays organization.