The Blue Jays have made their signing of Brandon Belt official, announcing the move today. To open a spot for him on the 40-man roster, right-hander Julian Merryweather has been designated for assignment.
Merryweather, 31, has spent the past three seasons in the Blue Jays’ bullpen after being acquired in the trade that sent Josh Donaldson from Toronto to Cleveland in 2018. He’s shown flashes of potential as a hard-thrower with near top-of-the-line velocity and above-average spin on his heater. However, even though Merryweather has averaged better than 97 mph on that fastball, he’s posted a below-average 21.8% strikeout rate in his career while logging a 5.64 ERA in 52 2/3 frames.
Merryweather’s 7.4% walk rate has been sharp, but he’s also been quite homer-prone in his big league career, yielding eight long balls in those 52 2/3 Major League innings. It’s tempting to assume that’s due to the hitter-friendly nature of his home park, but Merryweather has allowed more long balls on the road (five) than in Toronto (three) in a nearly equal number of plate appearances. Opponents have regularly made hard contact against the 6’4″ righty, evidenced by average exit velocities of 90.3 mph in each of the past two seasons and hard-hit rates of 47.4% and 44.8% in 2021 and 2022.
Because he’s out of minor league options, Merryweather will need to either stick on a team’s Opening Day roster or else be passed through waivers in order to be sent to Triple-A. The Blue Jays themselves will have the opportunity to attempt to pass him through waivers, though they can also take the next few days to gauge interest in a trade before taking that step.