- The Blue Jays held Vladimir Guerrero, Jr. out of today’s lineup as a precaution, per Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet (via Twitter). The young first baseman felt “a little dizzy” after being hit by a pitch in the helmet last night, per Nicholson-Smith. The Jays can afford to slow play things with Guerrero, as they sit four games up on Seattle for the final playoff spot in the American League.
Blue Jays Rumors
Blue Jays reliever Ken Giles has returned to the 10-day injured list with a right forearm strain, Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet reports. The team also placed outfielder Derek Fisher on the IL with a knee issue, optioned lefty Anthony Kay, activated outfielder Teoscar Hernandez, and recalled righties Jacob Waguespack and Hector Perez.
It’s an alarming situation for Giles, whom arm injuries have weighed down dating back to 2019. He was enjoying an all-world campaign last year before elbow troubles shelved him and prevented the Blue Jays from dealing him before the trade deadline. Giles came back healthy this year, but after making two appearances at the beginning of the campaign, he sat from late July until Sept. 11. The 29-year-old struggled in the two outings sandwiched between IL stints, and has given up four earned runs in 3 2/3 frames this season.
Giles’ season could be over at this point, though he may have a chance to return if the Blue Jays qualify for the playoffs. For now, though, his loss is a blow to their bullpen and potentially to his bank account. As a pending free agent, Giles could have been in for a sizable contract had he been healthy and effective this season. That could still prove to be the case when the offseason rolls around, but Giles’ value certainly hasn’t risen in 2020.
The good news for Toronto is that it’s getting back Hernandez, who was among the league’s top hitters before he went on the IL on Sept. 7 with a left oblique strain. So far, Hernandez has slashed .308/.358/.637 with 14 home runs in 159 plate appearances.
Miller, whom the Blue Jays signed to a minor league contract last winter, had been at their alternate training site. The former Tiger, Rockie and National, 33, has recorded a 4.43 ERA/4.35 FIP with 9.15 K/9 and 3.11 BB/9 over 156 1/3 innings in the majors. He most recently tossed 15 2/3 frames as a Nat in 2019 and logged a 4.02 ERA (with a disastrous 7.11 FIP), posted 6.11 K/9 and 2.3 BB/9, and registered a career-worst 19.1 percent groundball rate.
The latest minor moves from around baseball….
- The Blue Jays outrighted catcher Caleb Joseph to their taxi squad after he cleared waivers, Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet tweets. The club designated Joseph for assignment on Sept. 11 and replaced him on its roster with young catcher Alejandro Kirk. The 34-year-old Joseph has taken only nine trips to the plate with the Blue Jays this season, and as a .223/.270/.351 hitter in 1,367 PA, the former Oriole and Diamondback hasn’t posed much of a threat on offense since he debuted in 2014.
- The Indians outrighted Dominic Leone off their 40-man roster after the right-hander cleared waivers, and the team announced that Leone has reported to its alternate training site. Leone was designated for assignment earlier this week. The veteran reliever struggled to an 8.38 ERA over 9 2/3 innings for the Tribe this season, allowing three home runs (for a 2.8 HR/9) over that brief span. While six of Leone’s nine runs allowed came over two disastrous outings against the Royals and Tigers, Leone wasn’t exactly solid otherwise, as he allowed at least one baserunner in all but two of his 12 appearances. On the plus side, Leone did record 16 strikeouts over his 9 2/3 frames.
- Blue Jays righties Nate Pearson and Matt Shoemaker will throw live batting practice this week and could return to the roster before season’s end, writes Sportsnet’s Ben Nicholson-Smith. Neither can be expected to build back up to a full starter’s workload at this point, however, so their likeliest roles would be shorter stints out of the ’pen. Putting Pearson in a short, multi-inning relief role or even an inning-at-a-time relief role would give Toronto a potentially formidable postseason weapon if he is indeed able to make it back from his current flexor strain. Shoemaker, meanwhile, is working back from shoulder inflammation that has sidelined him since Aug. 23.
The Brewers announced Monday that they’ve claimed outfielder Billy McKinney off waivers from the Blue Jays, who had designated him for assignment on Friday. He’s been optioned to the Brewers’ alternate training site. Milwaukee also added righty Justin Topa as the 29th man for their doubleheader today and reinstated right-hander Ray Black from the 45-day injured list.
The 26-year-old McKinney was a first-round pick (No. 24 overall) by the Athletics back in 2013 and has since bounced around the league in a series of high-profile swaps. Oakland initially sent him to the Cubs as part of the Jeff Samardzija/Jason Hammel trade, but McKinney never made it to the big leagues in Chicago. Instead, the Cubs shipped him to the Yankees alongside Gleyber Torres in 2016’s Aroldis Chapman deadline swap. Nearly two years to the day later, the Yankees flipped McKinney to Toronto as part of their return for lefty J.A. Happ.
McKinney appeared in only two games for the Yankees and has spent the other 122 games of his big league career with the Toronto organization. He’s shown some pop, evidenced by a .209 ISO, 18 homers, 21 doubles and a triple in 407 plate appearances with the Jays, but McKinney has also been prone to strikeouts and infield flies without drawing much in the walk department.
Overall, McKinney is a .231/.291/.437 hitter with a 25.8 percent strikeout rate and a 7.3 percent walk rate in the Majors. He’s drawn average reviews for his glovework in right field and below-average marks in left. McKinney has never played center in the Majors but does have a handful of innings at first base. He’s out of minor league options after this season, so there will be increased pressure for him to make the club in 2021 — if he survives on the 40-man roster until next year’s Spring Training, that is.
The decision to designate Supak is somewhat of a surprise, given that he’s long been regarded among the organization’s better pitching prospects and put together a nice season in Double-A last year. True, the Milwaukee farm has been regarded as one of the lower-ranking systems in the game for several seasons, but Supak looked to have an opportunity to make it to the Majors this year.
Supak spent most of last year in Double-A, where he pitched 122 2/3 frames of 2.20 ERA ball with 6.9 K/9, 1.7 BB/9, 0.44 HR/9 and a 44.8 percent grounder rate. It’s a very pitcher-friendly setting, and the right-hander’s fielding-independent metrics weren’t as bullish as that rudimentary ERA — 3.14 FIP, 3.59 xFIP — but it was still a promising season all around. Supak was hit hard in a brief seven-game Triple-A stint, but that was true of most pitchers, given the offensive eruption throughout Triple-A that coincided with changes to the composition of the ball itself.
Milwaukee can’t trade Supak at this point, so he’ll now surely be run through outright waivers. He has a minor league option remaining beyond this season and a relatively strong minor league track record, so it wouldn’t all be a surprise to see another club place a claim. Perhaps of note, the club that originally drafted Supak, the Pirates, has the top waiver priority at present. (They’ve since turned over the top of their front office, however.) If Supak goes unclaimed, Milwaukee will be able to outright him to its alternate site and keep him both in the organization and in the 60-man player pool.
As for the 28-year-old Rodriguez, he never got into a game with the Brewers after coming over from the Tigers in a December waiver claim. He’s a versatile utility piece with a bit of pop but overwhelming on-base issues, as can be seen in his career .221/.254/.396 batting line. Rodriguez did swat 14 big flies in 294 MLB plate appearances last year, but he also carries a career 24.8 percent strikeout rate and has seen a dismal 18.2 percent of his fly-balls register as infield pop-ups. Thirty percent of Rodriguez’s plate appearances have resulted in either a punchout or a pop-up, and he’s walked at just a 4.6 percent pace in the Majors.
The Toronto Blue Jays have pushed their contention window up with a strong first two-thirds of the season. At 24-20, Charlie Montoyo’s club sits half a game ahead of the Yankees for second place in the AL East. If the season ended today, Toronto would find themselves in the playoff bracket for the first time since back-to-back ALCS appearances in 2015 and 2016.
The Blue Jays have remained competitive despite a number of injuries to their offense. Bo Bichette is their biggest absence to date, but he’s back in the lineup for tonight’s game, per Shi Davidi of Sportsnet (via Twitter). They may have other reinforcements on the way as well. GM Ross Atkins sounds hopeful that Rowdy Tellez can return soon, though his language suggests a playoff return is more likely, per Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet.ca (via Twitter). Said Atkins, “Hopefully Rowdy becomes an option for us if not by the end of the season, hopefully by the playoffs.”
Tellez hit the injured list just a couple days ago with a knee strain. For the first 35 games of the season, the Blue Jays featured Tellez prominently as the big first baseman slashed .283/.346/.540 with 8 home runs and 23 RBIs while splitting his time between first base and designated hitter.
Teoscar Hernandez could return to the lineup even sooner, per Nicholson-Smith. The 27-year-old has enjoyed a breakout campaign as his contact and on-base skills have – at least in the small sample of the season – caught up with his considerable power. Over the previous two seasons, Hernandez posted a triple slash of .235/.304/.470 with 8.7 BB%, 32 K%, and a .235 ISO. This season, slight improvements in strikeout rate (28.3 K%) and a robust display of power (.329 ISO) have led to a .308/.358/.637 line with 14 home runs across 159 plate appearances this season for the right fielder. Of course, a .352 BABIP, perhaps brought on a by rising 56.9% Hard Hit percentage, hasn’t hurt his cause either. Per Nicholson-Smith, Hernandez’s recovery has thus far gone better than expected.
The Blue Jays announced several roster moves on Friday, including the activation of reliever Ken Giles from the 45-day injured list. They also promoted catcher Alejandro Kirk, designated outfielder Billy McKinney and backstop Caleb Joseph, recalled righty Jacob Waguespack and optioned righty Sean Reid-Foley.
Giles made just two appearances this year (on July 24 and 26) before landing on the IL with a right forearm strain. It’s the second consecutive season limited by arm injuries for Giles, but when he’s right, he’s dominant. The 29-year-old was among the league’s best relievers last season, when he threw 53 innings and registered a 1.87 ERA/2.27 FIP with 14.09 K/9, 2.89 BB/9 and 23 saves in 24 chances. Giles’ production didn’t help lead to contention for the Jays then, but they’re 24-19 this season and in possession of a playoff spot. Therefore, if Giles is able to revisit his 2019 form, he could be an enormous down-the-stretch addition for Toronto.
Kirk, 21, has done nothing but hit in the minors over the past couple years. Even though he only reached the High-A level before this promotion, Kirk should be in line to at least back up Danny Jansen right now. He ranks as one of the top Blue Jays prospects at Baseball America (No. 5), MLB.com (No. 6) and FanGraphs (No. 6), with BA writing that Kirk “has an innate ability to barrel baseballs consistently, along with a good sense of the strike zone.”
Kirk will take over for Joseph, a former Oriole whom the Blue Jays signed to a minors pact in the offseason. Toronto selected Joseph back on Sept. 5, but it’s now booting the light-hitting 34-year-old from its roster after less than a week.
McKinney, along with the recently outrighted Brandon Drury, was part of the Blue Jays’ return for left-hander J.A. Happ in a deal they made with the Yankees in 2018. McKinney was effective after the Jays picked him up, as he hit .252/.320/.470 with six home runs in 118 plate appearances, but he didn’t come close to that production last year and hasn’t been part of Toronto’s plans this season. The 26-year-old totaled just three PA in 2020 before the Jays designated him.
The Blue Jays have released right-hander Jake Petricka, who’d been with the club at its alternate training site. The move, which was first noted on the team’s transactions log at MLB.com, was made in conjunction with the addition of shortstop prospect Orelvis Martinez to Toronto’s 60-man player pool.
Petricka, 32, returned to the Jays organization on a minor league deal this winter. He’d spent the 2018 campaign in Toronto, working to a 4.53 ERA and 4.45 FIP with a 41-to-16 K/BB ratio in 45 2/3 frames. The longtime White Sox reliever has seen big league action in parts of seven Major League seasons, totaling 231 2/3 innings with a 3.96 ERA and fielding-independent marks to match (4.02 FIP, 4.00 xFIP, 3.80 SIERA). Along the way, Petricka has averaged 6.8 K/9, 3.7 BB/9 and 0.7 HR/9 with a whopping 59.1 percent ground-ball rate.
Entering the season, it seemed plausible that the Jays could eventually need to tap into depth options such as Petricka down at the alternate site. Behind closer Ken Giles and veteran Anthony Bass, the Blue Jays looked poised to rely on a host of young and/or unproven arms. Giles went down with an injury after just 1 2/3, ostensibly enhancing their need for veteran ’pen help, but the Blue Jays’ patchwork collection of arms somewhat surprisingly emerged as one of the team’s greatest strengths.
Righties Rafael Dolis, Jordan Romano, A.J. Cole and Thomas Hatch have all posted ERAs south of 2.50. Hard-throwing Julian Merryweather has shown impressive stuff in his early outings, and southpaw starters-turned-relievers Ryan Borucki and Anthony Kay have thrived as well. Overall, Toronto/Buffalo relievers rank third in ERA at 3.27 and sixth with a 3.75 FIP.
The veteran Petricka will now become a free agent who is free to sign with any big league club, although it’s also possible that he’ll wait until the offseason to sign with a new team — as is common with players who are released in September.
- Shortstop Orelvis Martinez is now in the Blue Jays’ player pool, per Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet. The Dominican Republic native was a pricey July 2 signing in 2018 for the Blue Jays, who inked Martinez to a $3.5MM bonus. The 18-year-old has continued to show great promise since then, evidenced in part by the .275/.350/.549 line and 150 wRC+ he put up in 163 plate appearances in rookie ball during his first pro action last season. FanGraphs (No. 4), MLB.com (No. 7) and Baseball America (No. 7) each place Martinez near the top of Toronto’s farm system.