The Blue Jays have designated catcher Zack Collins for assignment, tweets Mitch Bannon of Sports Illustrated. The move creates a vacancy on the 40-man roster for reliever Julian Merryweather, who was activated from the 60-day injured list between games of today’s doubleheader with the Orioles. Righty Casey Lawrence was optioned to Triple-A Buffalo to clear an active roster spot.
Toronto acquired Collins just before Opening Day, swapping backstops with the White Sox in a deal that sent Reese McGuire to Chicago. One of the big appeals for the Jays at the time was that Collins could be optioned to Triple-A, while the out-of-options McGuire had to stick on the MLB active roster. In a Jays organization that also includes Danny Jansen, Alejandro Kirk and top prospect Gabriel Moreno, Collins has had a tough time getting on a big league diamond. He’s appeared in 26 MLB games this season, hitting only .194/.266/.417 with an untenable 39.2% strikeout rate over 79 trips to the plate.
The lefty-hitting backstop has had more success — albeit in an entirely unconventional way — in Buffalo. He owns a .195/.361/.398 line through 155 plate appearances with the Bisons. It’s obviously an unimpressive batting average, but a massive 20.6% walk rate has allowed Collins to get on base at a strong clip in the minors. He’s also connected on five homers, seven doubles and a triple in 36 Triple-A games.
Plate discipline and power have long been Collins’ calling cards, and that combination was enough to inspire the White Sox to take him with the #10 overall pick in the 2016 draft. He has an excellent 13% walk rate over 430 MLB plate appearances, but that hasn’t been enough to compensate for a 33.5% strikeout percentage that has led to a sub-.200 career batting average.
Collins will now find himself on waivers. With the trade deadline in the rearview mirror, the Jays either have to release him or try to run him through outright waivers. He’s in his final minor league option year, so an acquiring club could stash him in Triple-A for the rest of this season but would have to carry him on the Opening Day roster in 2023 or make him available to other teams.
Merryweather, meanwhile, is in position to make his first MLB appearance in a bit less than three months. He’s been out since June 14 with an abdominal strain, an unfortunate continuation of injury issues that have bothered him throughout his career. Merryweather has also missed time with elbow and oblique issues as a big leaguer, in addition to numerous IL stints as a prospect. The 30-year-old has only 41 MLB appearances as a result, but he’s flashed a power arsenal when healthy.
The right-hander has averaged 97.3 MPH on his fastball this season. That hasn’t translated to as many whiffs as one might expect, with his 10.7% swinging strike rate through 18 1/3 innings checking in a bit below league average. Merryweather has induced ground-balls at a lofty 52.5% clip, however, and he’ll offer interim manager John Schneider a power arm to call upon in relief.