2:28pm: The Blue Jays have now formally announced each of the moves.
1:25pm: The Blue Jays are expected to designate right-hander Rafael Dolis for assignment in order to open a spot on the roster for infielder/outfielder Kevin Smith to be selected to the 40-man and 26-man rosters, Sportsnet’s Ben Nicholson-Smith reports (via Twitter). The Jays won’t formally announce the move until they’re certain tonight’s game will not be rained out, tweets Gregor Chisholm of the Toronto Star. Toronto is also expected to place rookie right-hander Alek Manoah on the bereavement list and reinstate southpaw Tim Mayza from the 10-day IL, Nicholson-Smith adds.
Dolis, 33, returned to the big leagues with the Jays in 2020 after a strong four-year run in Japan and posted a 1.50 ERA in 24 frames. However, he did so with a concerning 14.3 percent walk rate, and fielding-independent metrics were understandably less bullish than that bottom-line earned run average. Things have indeed gone the other direction for Dolis in 2021, as his walk rate has spiked to an even less tenable 17.3 percent and his strong 31 percent strikeout rate has dipped to 25 percent.
In 32 frames this season, Dolis has been tagged for a 5.63 ERA. He’s plunked three hitters and tossed four wild pitches in addition to a sky-high 27 walks through those 32 innings of relief. The right-hander’s fastball velocity is up to an average of 94.8 mph on average, but his control issues have proven to troublesome for the Jays. That’s been particularly true of late, as Dolis has totaled just one inning across his past three outings, yielding a total of five runs on six hits and five walks in that time.
Dolis is playing the 2021 season on a reasonable $1.5MM salary, so it’s not out of the question that a team would place a speculative claim when he hits waivers. He’s still owed about $371K of that base salary for the remainder of the season, though the contract also contains some performance incentives, which are generally tied to games pitched, total innings and/or games finished.
Turning to the 26-year-old Smith, he’ll make his big league debut the first time he takes the field. Baseball America ranked him as the game’s No. 91 prospect a couple years back in the 2018-19 offseason, and while his stock has dipped to an extent since that time, Smith has had a terrific season with the Jays’ Triple-A club — his first time reaching that level. Through his first 352 Triple-A plate appearances he’s notched a .286/.371/.576 batting line with 19 home runs, 23 doubles, four triples and 16 stolen bases.
The versatile Smith has spent the bulk of his time this season at shortstop but has also seen action at third base and in both outfield corners. He’s also seen time at second base as recently as 2019 and even made a pair of appearances at first base back in his college days at the University of Maryland, although that was way back in 2015. He’ll give the Jays a right-handed bat off the bench to bounce around the diamond and, along with fellow big league newcomer Otto Lopez, is a candidate to step into a utility role for the Jays for years to come.