The Blue Jays today announced five minor league deals, including the previously reported deals for right-handers Julian Fernández and Casey Lawrence. The other three are right-hander Drew Hutchison, lefty Paul Fry and catcher Rob Brantly. All five will receive invitations to major league Spring Training.
Hutchison, 32, returns to the organization that drafted him in 2009. He worked his way up to the majors in 2012 and had some success with the Jays, including a 2014 season where he made 32 starts with a 4.48 ERA. Unfortunately, his performance dipped in subsequent years and he was traded to the Pirates in 2016. He’s gone into journeyman mode since that time, also suiting up for the Phillies, Rangers and Tigers. With Detroit in 2022, made 18 starts and 10 relief appearances, posting an ERA of 4.53 over 105 1/3 innings. His 14.7% strikeout rate was well below par, but his 9.1% walk rate and 40.3% ground ball rate were close to league average. He’ll give the Blue Jays some veteran rotation depth in the minors, should injuries create a need during the season.
Fry, 30, seemed to have a breakout in 2020. He made 22 appearances for the Orioles that year with a 2.45 ERA, 29.6% strikeout rate and 57.6% ground ball rate. His 9.2% walk rate was a tad high, but it was a few ticks better than the 11.4% rate he posted the year before. Unfortunately, his improved control slipped from his grasp over the next two seasons. In 2021, his walk rate shot up to 16.3%, pushing his ERA to 6.08 in the process. His 2022 was similar, with a 14.8% walk rate and 6.23 ERA, a year that included a trade to the Diamondbacks, who outrighted him in August.
Assuming Yusei Kikuchi is in the club’s rotation, then Tim Mayza and Matt Gage are the only lefty relievers on the 40-man. If Fry can improve his command at all, he still has a couple of option years remaining and between three and four years of MLB service time. If he earns his way back on the 40-man, he could be retained for future seasons via arbitration.
Brantly, 33, is a journeyman catcher who has spent time in the big leagues with the Marlins, White Sox, Phillies, Giants and Yankees. Though he’s played in parts of eight MLB seasons, he’s gotten into just 135 big league games and made just 456 plate appearances. He has a .225/.287/.326 batting line for his career for a wRC+ of 68. He’s made it to the bigs in each of the past four seasons but didn’t get into more than six games in any of them. The Jays have Danny Jansen and Alejandro Kirk to handle the big league catching duties but traded Gabriel Moreno to the Diamondbacks in the Daulton Varsho trade. Varsho himself has plenty of catching experience but seems ticketed for outfield work for the Jays. Brantly gives the club a veteran depth option to have on hand in the minors.