The Blue Jays announced that second baseman Devon Travis has rejected an outright assignment in favor of free agency. He’s now eligible to sign with any club.
This was the obvious outcome when Toronto announced that Travis had cleared outright waivers earlier in the week. Any player with three or more years of Major League service time — Travis has four-plus years — has the right to reject an outright assignment in favor of free agency, and virtually every such player who is outrighted this time of season opts to test the open market.
Travis, who’ll turn 29 in February, at one point looked to be the Blue Jays’ second baseman of the future. Acquired in a one-for-one swap that sent outfielder Anthony Gose to the Tigers nearly five years ago to the day, Travis burst onto the scene the following season with a .304/.361/.498 batting line, eight homers and 18 doubles in just 239 plate appearances. Despite being promoted to the Majors in early April that year, Travis was limited to 62 games as a result of a shoulder issue that twice put him on the shelf for at least a month.
Injury notwithstanding, a strong impression was made, and the following season gave further reason for optimism. Upon returning from surgery to repair that balky shoulder, Travis appeared in 101 games and hit .300/.332/.454 with 11 homers, 28 doubles and a triple in 432 plate appearances. Through the first two (injury-shortened) seasons of his career, Travis carried a .304/.342/.469 slash (116 OPS+) and looked well on his way to a quality big league career.
Unfortunately for both Travis and the Jays, knee troubles set in during the 2016 postseason, and his recovery from that issue proved far more cumbersome than his recovery from the 2015 shoulder troubles. A bone bruise in the 2016 ALCS led to offseason knee surgery for Travis, and he underwent a second procedure on that knee the following summer. Those injuries contributed to a miserable season at the plate in 2018, and in Spring Training 2019, Travis underwent surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his other knee. Multiple setbacks in his recovery followed, and Travis didn’t play at all this past season.
In all, since that promising two-year stretch to open his career, Travis has appeared in just 153 games over a three-year period and posted a lackluster .242/.280/.400 batting line with 16 homers and 32 doubles in 575 plate appearances. It’s clear that he possesses plenty of raw ability, though with shoulder surgery and a trio of knee operations all coming before his 29th birthday, it’s fair to wonder just how much his body will allow him to tap into that talent. He may have to settle for a minor league pact to prove he’s healthy enough to return to his once-productive ways. Any club that signs him would be acquiring multiple years of control, as Travis is nine days shy of five years of Major League service time, meaning he’d remain arbitration-eligible through the 2021 campaign.