The Blue Jays announced that Luke Bard has been signed to a minor league deal. The right-hander receives an invitation to the Jays’ big league spring camp.
Bard will continue his time in the AL East after pitching with both the Rays and Yankees in 2022. After signing a minors contract with Tampa in March, Bard pitched in eight games with the Rays at the MLB level before being designated for assignment in August. The Yankees claimed Bard off waivers, with the righty making only a single appearance in the pinstripes. Bard had a 1.80 ERA over his 15 total Major League innings last season, though with only eight strikeouts and seven walks.
At the Triple-A level, Bard had a 4.29 ERA, 25.85% strikeout rate, and 6.8% walk rate over 35 2/3 combined innings with the Rays’ and Yankees’ top affiliates. All in all, it was a respectable return season for Bard, who missed all of 2021 recovering from hip surgery.
Debuting in the majors with the Angels in 2018, Bard had a 5.05 ERA over 66 innings (as a reliever and an opener) with Anaheim from 2018-20. While Bard has yet to deliver much in the way of bottom-line results, he did have a 6.5% walk rate over those three Angels seasons, and he has consistently displayed an elite spin rate on his fastball. This particular stat could be why Bard has been of particular interest to such contenders as the Rays, Yankees, and now the Blue Jays, as Bard might still be something of an untapped resource if he can translate that spin rate into greater on-field success.
For the no-risk cost of a minor league deal, Toronto will get a chance to observe the 32-year-old in Spring Training and see if Bard can be a candidate for a bullpen job. Erik Swanson (obtained in the Teoscar Hernandez trade) was the Jays’ highest-profile relief addition this winter, while Paul Fry, Julian Fernández, Junior Fernandez, and Jay Jackson are also in camp on minor league deals. Chad Green signed a two-year Major League contract with the Blue Jays, but Green isn’t expected to be a factor until midseason as he continues to recover from Tommy John surgery.