The Blue Jays announced Monday that they’ve signed the following seven players to minor league deals: right-handers David Phelps, Jose De Leon and Casey Lawrence; outfielders Mallex Smith and Nathan Lukes; left-hander Matt Gage; and catcher Kellin Deglan. Phelps will earn a $1.75MM salary if he makes the club, tweets Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet.
Phelps, 35, seemed on his way to an interesting year for the Blue Jays in 2021 until surgery for a lat strain ended his season in May. Phelps hasn’t pitched 35 innings in a season since 2017, but he has bat-missing ability once fully recovered from surgery. Phelps’ best year was 2016, when he posted a 2.28 ERA in 86 2/3 innings for the Marlins.
De Leon, 29, was once considered one of the 30 best prospects in all of baseball as a member of the Dodgers organization. He was dealt to the Rays for Logan Forsythe in January 2017, beginning a four-year period in which he pitched only 12 2/3 innings in the Majors in large part due to March 2018 Tommy John surgery. The Reds traded for De Leon in November 2019. Though he made the Reds’ Opening Day rotation this year, De Leon was quickly bumped to the bullpen and was released by July. The Red Sox picked him up on a minor league deal in August, but he made only two appearances for the club’s Florida Complex League team.
Lawrence, 34, worked 78 2/3 big league innings in 2017-18 for the Blue Jays and Mariners, posting a 6.64 ERA. He spent 2019 with the Hiroshima Carp, and then landed a minor league deal with the Twins prior to the 2020 season. He soaked up 86 innings for the Jays’ Double-A and Triple-A affiliates in ’21.
Smith, 28, led all of MLB with 46 steals for the Mariners in 2019. He ranked 23rd in MLB that year in sprint speed, but was unable to recapture the magic of his career-best 2018 season with the Rays. In that campaign, Smith posted a 118 wRC+ and 3.5 WAR. After ’18, the Rays traded Smith and Jake Fraley to the Mariners for Mike Zunino, Guillermo Heredia and Michael Plassmeyer. Smith was booted from the Mariners’ 40-man roster in September 2020, subsequently landing minor league deals with the Mets, Reds, and Blue Jays that have yet to lead to a return to the Majors.
Lukes, Gage, and Deglan do not have Major League experience. Lukes, a 27-year-old outfielder, posted a 115 wRC+ for the Rays’ Triple-A club this year. Deglan is a 29-year-old catcher who toiled for the Yankees’ and Blue Jays’ Triple-A clubs in ’21. Gage, 28, is a lefty reliever who posted a 5.57 ERA for the Diamondbacks’ Triple-A team this season. He recently found his way to the Venados de Mazatlan in the Mexican Pacific Winter League.