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Ureña now rejoins the Blue Jays and will take the roster spot of Matt Shoemaker, who the team placed on the 10-day IL Sunday.
The Blue Jays announced that they have recalled infielder Richard Ureña from Triple-A Buffalo as a corresponding move for the placement of starter Matt Shoemaker on the 10-day injured list.

Shoemaker suffered a left knee sprain in Saturday’s game and, per Sportsnet’s Ben Nicholson-Smith, is still awaiting the results of an MRI that was presumably taken shortly after the injury.

This injury was incredibly unfortunate for Shoemaker, 32, who’d pitched to an ERA of 1.75 in 28.2 frames, striking out 24 and walking just nine. He racked up three wins (tied for second in MLB) and boasted a stellar WHIP of 0.872.

#BlueJays expected to have Richard Urena active today. Nothing official from team, but stands to reason Matt Shoemaker will go on IL

— Ben Nicholson-Smith (@bnicholsonsmith) April 21, 2019

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Ureña, 23, will return to the major-league club after just eight days spent with the Triple-A Buffalo Bisons. In 27 at-bats prior to his demotion, he slashed .333/.260/.458 with three doubles in eight games.

In four games with Buffalo, he went 6-for-17 with two runs scored, seven runs batted in and three triples. He logged innings at second base and shortstop in those games.

Of course, Ureña’s second stint of the season with the big club could be short-lived, as Vladimir Guerrero Jr. could be called up within a matter of days. While Ureña could once again be sent down, Alen Hanson and Sócrates Brito also should fear for their roster spots, especially Brito, who has hit just .042 in 24 at-bats since joining the team.

It is also worth noting that the team will soon have to make room for Lourdes Gurriel Jr. when they decide to bring him back up from Buffalo as well.

NEXT: Blue Jays: Deck McGuire tosses no-hitter in Korea
While the extent of Shoemaker’s injury is not known at this point, his IL stint will keep him on the shelf until at least May 1. More to come.

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The Toronto Blue Jays have some obvious holes on their roster, however, they will need to strike early and often if they plan on accomplishing their offseason goals.
It is safe to assume the Blue Jays will not be serious players on free agents of Gerrit Cole‘s ilk but there is still plenty of viable candidates on the open market who can make the team better. It may be in the best interest of the brain trust to strike while the iron is hot rather than slow play the market this offseason.

According to Jon Heyman of the MLB Network, there are reportedly at least ten teams already showing interest in free-agent hurler Kyle Gibson. The 32-year old could be on the Blue Jays radar in their quest to shore up the rotation. Gibson saw his earned run average creep well over 4.00 last season after a successful 2017 campaign where he posted a 3.62 ERA in 32 starts.

Zack Wheeler is another interesting candidate to keep an eye on this offseason as it is anticipated Wheeler will decline his qualifying offer in the coming days. If the Blue Jays could land Wheeler, he would immediately bump up to the front of their rotation and in all likelihood be their opening day starter.

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The Jays got a head start on the competition pulling off a trade last week to acquire pitcher Chase Anderson from the Milwaukee Brewers. Anderson will aid in shoring the rotation depth but Ross Atkins and company are surely not done.

Don’t be surprised if the Jays add bullpen help and an outfielder from the open market as well this offseason. There was a report yesterday that the team could possibly explore moving Lourdes Gurriel Jr. if the right offer presented itself.

The Blue Jays would surely pull the trigger for a front of the rotation arm, however, that would create a further void in their outfield. Aside from Gurriel, the outfield depth chart consists of Randal Grichuk and the inconsistent efforts of Teoscar Hernandez, Billy McKinney, Derek Fisher, and rookie Anthony Alford.

NEXT: Blue Jays: Another minor leaguer busted for PED’s
Ross Atkins has his work cut out for him this winter but I would expect him to strike early and often so stay tuned in the coming weeks.

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With many of their best young position players now in the majors, the Blue Jays will focus on augmenting that group with some pitching.

Guaranteed Contracts

Randal Grichuk, OF: $43MM through 2023
Lourdes Gurriel Jr., OF: $15.9MM through 2023
Chase Anderson, SP: $8.5MM through 2020 ($9.5MM club option for 2021, $500K buyout)
Other Money Owed

Troy Tulowitzki, SS: $18MM through 2020 ($14MM salary, $4MM buyout of 2021 club option)
Arbitration-Eligible Players (projections via Matt Swartz)

Matt Shoemaker – $3.8MM
Ken Giles – $8.4MM
Brandon Drury – $2.5MM
Luke Maile – $800K
Derek Law – $1.3MM
Ryan Dull – $800K
Anthony Bass – $1.7MM
Non-tender candidates: Maile, Dull
Free Agents

Justin Smoak, Clay Buchholz, Ryan Tepera, Devon Travis, Clayton Richard, Buddy Boshers
The Blue Jays wasted little time in adding to the rotation this offseason, acquiring righty Chase Anderson from the Brewers and exercising the $8.5MM club option on Anderson’s services for the 2020 season. The soon-to-be 32-year-old Anderson is also controllable via a $9.5MM club option for 2021, making him more than just a pure single-season pickup.

Anderson hasn’t been overly impressive over the last two seasons, totaling 1.5 total fWAR and a 105 ERA+ over 297 innings. He has worked mostly as a starter, though Milwaukee also tended to limit Anderson’s outings before he faced batters for a third time last season. Still, he has been a relatively durable pitcher over those two years and there is some potential in a change of scenery, even to the tough AL East.

As a pitcher with some degree of success over six MLB seasons, however, Anderson still represents an upgrade for one of the league’s shakiest rotations in 2019. Trent Thornton and Jacob Waguespack are also tentatively penciled into the 2020 starting five based on their generally average results from last season, while Ryan Borucki is an even bigger maybe given that he only pitched 6 2/3 Major League innings due to recurring elbow problems. Matt Shoemaker is also looking to return from an injury-shortened year, though perhaps due to some unease about his projected $3.8MM arbitration salary and how Shoemaker will rebound from a torn ACL, the Jays haven’t gotten far in contract talks with the veteran righty.

Anthony Kay, T.J. Zeuch, Sean Reid-Foley, and Thomas Pannone will also be competing for spots in Spring Training. Top prospect Nate Pearson is likely to debut sometime in 2020, if almost certainly not on the Opening Day roster (for both service-time reasons and because Pearson has only 18 IP at the Triple-A level).

Since 2020 will be another rebuilding season for the Jays, they will have time to evaluate these and probably many other young arms to see who could factor into the plans for 2021, the date that team president/CEO Mark Shapiro and GM Ross Atkins have loosely (though far from officially) mentioned as the starting point for a new era of competitive baseball in Toronto. The front office has been clear, however, that more new faces will be added to the pitching mix, and the Blue Jays will be willing to spend beyond the level of just veteran reclamation projects, i.e. their acquisitions of Clayton Richard or Clay Buchholz last offseason.

There’s certainly room in the budget, as Roster Resource projects the Jays for a payroll of just under $70.25MM, and even that number could drop by a few million if a few arbitration-eligible players are non-tendered. Looking ahead to 2021, the Jays will have only Randal Grichuk and Lourdes Gurriel Jr. on the books since Troy Tulowitzki’s contract will finally be up.

There isn’t any financial reason Toronto couldn’t make a notable signing now, perhaps in the spirit of the Nationals’ deal with Jayson Werth in the 2010-11 offseason, which served as an announcement that a rebuilding team was ready to turn the corner. That being said, the Jays might have to severely overpay to convince a top-tier free agent (who surely would prefer to join a ready-made contender) to join a club that might not be ready to compete by 2021 at the earliest.

Yet while the likes of Gerrit Cole, Stephen Strasburg, Zack Wheeler, or Hyun-Jin Ryu probably aren’t feasible, names such as Kyle Gibson, Julio Teheran, Tanner Roark, Wade Miley, Rick Porcello, or maybe even Dallas Keuchel (who the Jays reportedly had some interest in last winter) could be possible fits, perhaps in some cases just on one-year contracts.

Beyond free agency, the Anderson acquisition could hint at the Jays’ optimal strategy for using their payroll space. The Blue Jays only gave up a minor prospect to take over the rights to Anderson’s option years from Milwaukee, and Toronto could similarly target other mid-range or better pitchers on teams that are looking to cut spending, whether it’s mid-market clubs like the Brewers or bigger-spending organizations who are looking to avoid the luxury tax.

This strategy could also be used to land position players, though the Blue Jays hope they have most of their everyday core already in place. Vladimir Guerrero Jr. will be at third base, Bo Bichette at shortstop, Cavan Biggio at second base, and Gurriel in left field as the most promising cornerstones of the rebuild. Catcher Danny Jansen, first baseman Rowdy Tellez, and outfielder/DH Teoscar Hernandez are the somewhat less settled members of the group, with Reese McGuire also perhaps vying for a timeshare with Jansen behind the plate. Grichuk is the veteran member of the bunch with the long-term contract, though he’ll be looking to bounce back after a subpar 2019 season.

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The diminutive Giants right-hander with the big fastball burst onto the Major League scene in 2007, making his debut in May of that season. It didn’t take long for him to become the most dominant pitcher in the NL, leading the Majors with a 2.62 FIP (2.62 ERA), a 168 ERA+ and 265 strikeouts to claim the NL Cy Young Award in his first full season. He received 137 points, with runner-up Brandon Webb receiving 73.

Lincecum made it two straight with another stellar season in ‘09, when he narrowly defeated Chris Carpenter for the Cy Young Award, 100 points to 94. Carpenter’s teammate, Wainwright, was right behind him at 90 points. Lincecum was actually better in ‘09, posting a 2.48 ERA (171 ERA+) while leading the NL in strikeouts for the second straight year, fanning 261. He also led the league with a 2.34 FIP and led the Majors with 10.4 strikeouts per nine innings.

Randy Johnson, D-backs (1999-2002)
With an AL Cy Young Award on his trophy shelf from his time with the Mariners, Johnson wasted no time in dominating the NL when he joined the D-backs in 1999, to the tune of four consecutive Cy Young Awards. The Big Unit led the Majors in strikeouts in each of those years, with 364 in ‘99, 347 in 2000, 372 in ‘01 and 334 in ‘02. He also led the league in ERA+ in each of those seasons, at 184, 181, 188 (MLB-best) and 195, respectively.

In ‘99, Johnson narrowly defeated Mike Hampton by 24 points. In 2000, he won handily, 133-64 over Tom Glavine. He won by a 58-point margin over teammate Curt Schilling in ‘01, the season the pair were co-MVPs of the World Series in a seven-game victory over the Yankees. And in ‘02, Johnson won by 70 points, again over Schilling.

Big Unit gets 250th K of 2001
Big Unit gets 250th K of 2001
00:44
Jul. 29th, 2001
Pedro Martinez, Red Sox (1999-2000)
In the high run-scoring environment that was the late 1990s into the early 2000s, Martinez was nearly unhittable. After winning his first Cy Young Award in the NL with the Expos in 1997, the right-hander won back-to-back awards in the AL with the Red Sox. In 1999, he led baseball with a 2.07 ERA, 243 ERA+, 1.39 FIP, 0.92 WHIP, 13.2 strikeouts per nine innings and 8.5 strikeouts per walk.

He was even better in 2000, setting a Major League record with a 291 ERA+ (1.74 ERA). He also led MLB in FIP (2.17), WHIP (0.74) and strikeouts per walk (8.9). Martinez’s historic performance those two years resulted in him winning the AL Cy Young Award easily each time, by a margin of 86 points over Mike Mussina in ‘99, and the exact same margin over Tim Hudson in 2000.

Roger Clemens, Red Sox/Blue Jays (1986-87, ‘97-98)
Clemens’ career was one of several peaks, the first one coming in 1986 when he went 24-4, struck out 20 Mariners in late April and paced the AL with a 2.48 ERA to earn both a unanimous AL Cy Young Award and the AL MVP. The Boston right-hander followed up with another 20 wins, 256 strikeouts and a Major League-most seven shutouts in ‘87, helping him top Toronto’s Jimmy Key by 60 points.

Clemens’ double dip with the Red Sox was the progression of a young ace, but his second repeat was far less expected. He appeared to be winding down after going 10-13 in his age-33 season with the Red Sox, but signed a four-year, $40 million contract with Boston’s division rival and took off once again. Clemens’ 1997 Blue Jays debut (21-7, 2.05 ERA, 292 strikeouts) remains one of the most valuable pitching seasons ever by both Baseball-Reference and FanGraphs’ WAR valuations, and it was plenty to best then-Mariner Randy Johnson for the AL Cy Young. Clemens followed up with the fifth of his seven career Cy Young Awards in ‘98, leading the Junior Circuit again with 20 wins and a 2.65 ERA to make him a unanimous selection.

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This position was a weak spot for the Toronto Blue Jays. As the future looks bright at second base, the past showed the importance of a solid middle infielder. As division rivals had power-hitting second basemen, the Blue Jays focused this role to one who is great defensively. In his second season with the Blue Jays, Devon Travis hit .300/.332/.454 in 101 games. In the process, Travis hit 11 Home Runs and 50 RBIs. After missing the entire 2019 season in Toronto Devon Travis was released by the Blue Jays.

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Third Base
Josh Donaldson (2015)
In his first season with the Toronto Blue Jays, the “Bringer of Rain” did not disappoint. During the 2015 season, Donaldson hit .297/.371/.568 with 41 Home Runs and 123 RBIs. As a result, Josh Donaldson became the second Toronto Blue Jay to win the American League Most Valuable Player award, and the first one to do it since 1987. Donaldson also won two Silver Slugger Awards with the Blue Jays in 2015 and 2016. Josh Donaldson made his second All-Star appearance in 2015 and even partaking in the 2015 Home Run Derby. Donaldson would play four seasons with the Blue Jays until he was traded to the Cleveland Indians in 2018.

Short Stop
Bo Bichette (2019)
Similar to second base, few Toronto Blue Jays shortstops made an impact both offensively and defensively. As such, only two candidates truly stand out; Troy Tulowitzki and Bo Bichette. Despite playing just 46 games with the Toronto Blue Jays in 2019, Bo Bichette becomes the Blue Jays All-Decade Short Stop. In 212 plate appearances, Bichette hit .311/.358/.571 with 11 HR and 21 RBIs. Assuming he played the full season, he would have made this Blue Jays team better. Bo Bichette set the MLB rookie record for most consecutive games hitting a double with nine. Bo represents an exciting future for the Toronto Blue Jays that hopefully will lead this team back to the postseason.

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Left Field
Adam Lind (2011)
Adam Lind played nine of his 12 seasons as a member of the Toronto Blue Jays. He has been one of their most inconsistent players over the years. Lind had incredible seasons with the Toronto season with his best this decade being in 2011. In 125 games, Lind hit .251/.295/.439 with 26 HR and 87 RBIs. Often the Designated Hitter, Lind also played Left Field and 1st Base. Fun Fact, when the Blue Jays were designing their new logo ahead of the 2012 season, Adam Lind was one of the Blue Jays who were consulted about it.

Center Field
Vernon Wells (2010)
In his final season with the Toronto Blue Jays, Vernon Wells did not disappoint. In 157 games Wells hit .273/.331/.515 with 31 Home Runs and 88 RBIs. Wells earned his third all-star appearance in 2010 alongside fellow outfielder Jose Bautista. During his tenure, Wells remained a staple for the Toronto Blue Jays lineup. He played twelve seasons with the Toronto Blue Jays before being traded to the Los Angeles Angels in 2011. Wells ended his 15-year career with the New York Yankees.

Rowdy’s walk rate was 7.1% (team average: 8.4%) and strikeout rate was 28.4% (team average: 24.9%).

His line drive rate was 23.7% (team average 21.0%), ground ball rate 38.5% (team average 39.8%) and fly ball rate 37.7% (team average 39.2%). His fly balls were leaving the park 21.6% of the time (team average 15.8%).

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His hard contact rate was 41.6% (team average 37.9%) and soft contact rate was 15.6% (team average 17.9).

His BABIP was .267 (team average: .280).

Tellez hit left-handers (.270/.317/.513) much better than right-handers (.208/.283/.420). I’m thinking it isn’t something that will carry over.

He hit a little better on the road (.246/.316/.457) than at home (.210/.272/.441).

With runners in scoring position he hit .223/.283/.447.

He hit better in the second half (.225/.320/.468) than the second half (.228/.281/.440).

Tellez by month:

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April: .221/.291/.455 with 5 home runs, 6 walks and 27 strikeouts in 25 games.
May: .247/.295/.438 with 4 home runs, 5 walks and 27 strikeouts in 24 games.
June: .205/.253/.452 with 5 home runs, 5 walks and 21 strikeouts in 22 games.
July: .240/.269/.320 with 0 home runs, 1 walk and 8 strikeouts in 7 games.
August: ..167/.286/.278 with 1 home run, 5 walks and 8 strikeouts in 11 games.
September: .257/.346/.586 with 6 home runs, 7 walks and 25 strikeouts in 22 games.
Rowdy was sent to Buffalo on July 15th to August 13th. There wasn’t an immediate improvement, like with a few of the others who went to Buffalo but he finished the season strong.

Defense? FanGraphs has him at a 5.1 UZR/150. I’m not a big believer in those stats for first basemen but he looked good enough there to me. He made 2 errors for a .996 fielding average. I don’t think he was as good at scooping low throws as Smoak was but he seemed fine at the position.

FanGraphs has him at -1.6 runs on the basepaths.

In games he started Rowdy hit:

3rd: 6 games.

4th: 39 games.

5th: 17 games.

6th: 22 games.

7th: 11 games.

8th: 6 games.

The Jays were 41-70 in games he started.

His longest hitting streak was 8 game, longest on base streak was 9 games. The longest he went without a home run was 17 games.

His favorite game to face? Rowdy hit .372/.440/.930 in 12 games against the Red Sox.

Least favorite? He hit .136/.136/.136 in 6 games against the Twins.

Rowdy didn’t exactly settle the issue of who is the first baseman of the future. I’m going to try to take his good finish as good omen for the future. He really has to learn to take a walk a bit more often and chase less, hopefully that will come.

I’d imagine the team will plan for him to be the first baseman next year, but likely will pick up a veteran to give them a fallback.

There was the moment he was benched for not running out a ground ball. I tend to think that stuff is overblown. I’d like the guys to run when they hit the ball to the third base side. When it is hit to the first base side, there really isn’t any point other than to show off. I often say the only players I’ve seen run hard every time were Brett Lawrie and Vernon Wells and they spent too much time with hamstring troubles.

But I get the feeling there was something else going on with Rowdy. The team wanted to make a point of some sort with him and thought that this was the best way to do it. Maybe it worked, he did hit much better after sitting out the game. Who knows, maybe it was a wake up call for him, maybe it told him that he has to listen to his coaches. Maybe it told him that he didn’t have a guaranteed job.

He seems like a very likeable guy. I think it will be interesting to watch the rest of his career. With the power he has, he’ll get tons of chances to prove himself. Maybe not as many chances as Justin Smoak got, but, if the Jays were to give up on him, some other team will give him a chance or three.

Right Field
Jose Bautista (2010)
The 2010 season was a breakout season for Jose Bautista. After failing to make the starting line up on four different teams, he found his true potential in Toronto. In a season where the Blue Jays would hit the most HR in a single season with 254 Home Runs, Jose Bautista hit 54 of them. In 161 games, Bautista hit .260/.378/.617 and drove in 124 runs. During 10 seasons with the Blue Jays, Bautista became a six-time All-Star and three-time Silver Slugger. In addition to providing the Blue Jays with the Batflip heard around the world, Bautista put the Blue Jays ahead of the Texas Rangers in the 2015 American League Division Series.

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Designated Hitter
Edwin Encarnacion (2012)
With eight great seasons with the Toronto Blue Jays, it’s hard to pick just one season. In 2012, Edwin hit .280/.384/.557 with 42 Home Runs and 110 RBIs in 151 games. Although this could be Edwin’s best season of his career, he didn’t make the All-Star team. The organization changed the day he signed with the Cleveland Indians on December 23, 2016. After the 2019 season, Edwin Encarnacion became a free agent currently seeking a new team at the age of 37.

Line Up
SS – Bo Bichette (2019)
3B – Josh Donaldson (2015)
CF – Vernon Wells (2010)
RF – Jose Bautista (2010)
DH – Edwin Encarnacion (2012)
1B – Justin Smoak (2017)
C – Russell Martin (2015)
LF – Adam Lind (2011)
2B – Devon Travis (2016)
Bench
Michael Saunders (2016)
J.P. Arencibia (2011)
Troy Tulowitzki (2016)
Colby Rasmus (2013)

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With his Tampa Bay Rays trailing 2-0 to the Toronto Blue Jays, Avisail Garcia appeared to have a game-tying hit. Toronto center fielder Jonathan Davis had other ideas.

With two on and two out, Garcia smoked a ball deep into the left-center field gap. Davis got on his horse, tracked the ball down, and made a sterling leaping catch in front of the wall.

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Davis Saves It @3_JonathanDavis went ALL OUT for this catch! pic.twitter.com/PpT66nGQa5

— Toronto Blue Jays (@BlueJays) May 29, 2019
Wow. That will make the fans in Toronto remember Kevin Pillar.

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Mark Shapiro, president of the Toronto Blue Jays, and general manager Ross Atkins have effectively rebuilt the Blue Jays farm system. The cupboard is stocked and the future looks bright. However, fans aren’t interested in losing season after losing losing season while waiting for the next era of success. The Blue Jays appear to be on the cusp of breaking through with a solid core of kids that will carry the mantle for years to come. It appears now that a few additional pieces could mean success for the Jays. The name Gerrit Cole comes to mind. If we are paying attention, we know that won’t happen. The Blue Jays are not ready to go “all in” against the salary cap. Shapiro and Atkins are dipping their toes in the pool of free agent players, but they are not doing a cannon ball off of the high dive. The time just isn’t right. That doesn’t mean, however, that they are ready to have another bust season. They are continuing to build slowly and wisely.

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While we were all holding our breath to see what they would do, they made a modest trade for starting pitcher Chase Anderson. Anderson is a solid addition to the pitching staff, but he is not the splash that many were hoping for. But what that did tell all of the fans is that Blue Jays’ management is looking to support the youngsters with mid-range players, but not commit dollars for a playoff run.

Chad Spanberger, reportedly acquired by the Brewers for Chase Anderson, was a sixth-round pick of the Rockies in 2017 and is a .274/.340/.501 hitter in three Minor League seasons, with 59 homers and 200 RBIs in 305 games. He was at Double-A in 2019.

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— Adam McCalvy (@AdamMcCalvy) November 4, 2019

The biggest deficits in the Blue Jays lineup last year were in the pitching staff and the outfield. The pitching is already being addressed, probably not done yet, but being addressed. So, what happens with the outfield? No movement yet, but it will come.

Last year, the Jays played seven players for the bulk of the year: Derek Fisher, Randal Grichuk, Lourdes Gurriel, Teoscar Hernandez, Billy McKinney, Anthony Alford, and Jonathan Davis. This group had an average On Base Percentage of .281 and a combined batting average of .215. Those numbers are abysmal if the Jays want to compete. The solid players from this group are Lourdes Gurriel who played a mere 84 games while hitting 20 home runs with a batting average of .277. Gurriel also led the team with an OBP of .327. Randal Grichuk also had a nice season, hitting 31 home runs. His OBP was a bit low, but third best on the team.

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After those two, the team struggled quite a bit. Teoscar Hernandez showed glimpses with an OBP of .306 and 26 homeruns. If he can become more consistent, he could be a starting outfielder, but he’s not there yet. The rest of the Jays lineup is not ready either. In fact, it’s likely that the other outfielders will find more time in Buffalo or another team.

Knowing that the Jays need support in the outfield and Shapiro and Atkins aren’t going to open the check book in trade or free agency, who is available? Who will fit this squad? Good thing for the Jays is that likely starters Grichuk and Gurriel are able to play more than one position in the outfield. This opens the candidates for the Jays. So, who should the Toronto Blue Jays focus on?

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Other Blue Jays outfielders have had a hard time playing balls hit by Garcia this series. However, that doesn’t seem to be bothering Davis in any way.

Blue Jays pitcher Trent Thornton may owe Davis a nice dinner, or at least a few tabs at the bar.

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There are two years remaining in Major League Baseball’s collective bargaining agreement with its players, but a growing rift between the two sides suggests negotiations are going to be bumpy.

The latest conflict stemmed from a conference call between reporters and Braves general manager Alex Anthopoulos. He told them, “Every day you get more information. And we’ve had time to connect with 27 of the clubs … we had a chance to get a sense of what the other clubs are going to look to do in free agency, who might be available in trades.”

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That set off alarm bells in the players union, which is wary of teams sharing information and suppressing the open market. Back when labor discord was the norm, owners colluded after each offseason from 1985 through 1987, and even outright refused to offer contracts to some of the biggest star free agents (including Kirk Gibson, and Hall of Famers Tim Raines, Paul Molitor, and Jack Morris). MLB eventually settled their collusion cases by paying $280 million to the players.

The collective bargaining agreement clearly states, “Players shall not act in concert with other Players and Clubs shall not act in concert with other Clubs.”

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MLB collusion, explained
Tony Clark, a former player and the current executive director of the players association, issued a statement in response to Anthopoulos’ comments.

So now the Nationals become one of those Ghostbuster teams that will be remembered, just from this baseball century, along with the Red Sox of 2004 and the Cubs of ’16. The Red Sox of ’04 ended 86 years of waiting in Boston and the Cubbies ended 106 years of waiting on the North Side of Chicago. Now we know how long they waited for another World Series champ in our nation’s capital, even if these Nationals aren’t the old Senators.

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Game Date Result Highlights
Gm 1 Oct. 22 WSH 5, HOU 4 Watch
Gm 2 Oct. 23 WSH 12, HOU 3 Watch
Gm 3 Oct. 25 HOU 4, WSH 1 Watch
Gm 4 Oct. 26 HOU 8, WSH 1 Watch
Gm 5 Oct. 27 HOU 7, WSH 1 Watch
Gm 6 Oct. 29 WSH 7, HOU 2 Watch
Gm 7 Oct. 30 WSH 6, HOU 2 Watch
shop Shop for postseason gear: Nationals | Astros
Postseason schedule and bracket
We will remember so much about the 2019 Nationals, and all the times when they were like a tennis player with match points against them. All the elimination games began with the very first game in October, their National League Wild Card Game against the Brewers with — who else? — Max Scherzer out there as the starter.

And we sure will remember how, in October 2019, the Nationals took out the 106-win Dodgers and then the 107-win Astros in the World Series. In all, counting the Brewers, the Nationals beat four teams that combined for 393 victories this season. Send up a flare the next time somebody does that.

The Nats showed how random October can be in our game. But we saw something else over the remarkable month of baseball that ended on Wednesday night at Minute Maid Park: how randomly October treats some of the greatest ace pitchers of all time. Good and bad.

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It happened with Scherzer, who flipped his own postseason narrative in such a big way, and with Stephen Strasburg, who went 5-0 and is now a made October man forever. It happened with Clayton Kershaw and Justin Verlander, arguably the two greatest pitchers of their generation.

You start with Verlander, who may yet receive his second American League Cy Young Award this season, and without whom the Astros wouldn’t have won the 2017 World Series. No star pitcher, no ace, has a more complicated October resume than Verlander does. He has appeared in 13 AL Division Series games in his career, with an 8-1 record and a 2.52 ERA. In 11 AL Championship Series starts, he is 6-4 with a 3.13 ERA.

In the World Series? They even know on the moon that Verlander has now started seven Series games in his career, posting an 0-6 record with a 5.68 ERA. He had a chance to even the Fall Classic at one game apiece at home. Could not. He had a chance to shut down the Nationals and win the Series in Game 6 on Tuesday night. And could not. You think October isn’t random for Hall of Fame starters. Look at Verlander. Then think again.

Scherzer battles in Game 7 start
Scherzer battles in Game 7 start
01:13
Oct. 30th, 2019
Now we look at Scherzer, who twice in this World Series pitched without his best stuff and showed you all of his athletic fight and all of his athletic character. He did it in Game 7, going up against Zack Greinke on a night when Greinke was clearly better. Scherzer leaves this October not just with the World Series trophy but also with a 3-0 record and a terrific 2.40 ERA in six postseason games (five starts).

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But guess what? Before this October, Scherzer’s lifetime record in the postseason was 4-5, with a 3.73 ERA in 16 games (13 starts). And before the Nationals came back against the Brewers in the NL Wild Card Game, Scherzer’s teams, in Detroit and Washington, had lost the last seven postseason games in which he’d pitched (six of them starts). His record? 0-4. But once the Nats did beat the Brewers, Scherzer got the chance to flip his personal narrative forever. Boy, did he ever.

Before this October, Strasburg had gotten two cracks at the postseason with the Nationals, in 2014 and then in ’17. He made three starts, winning one and losing two. But you saw what he just did. You saw the way Strasburg pitched in NL Division Series Game 5 against the Dodgers, and you saw what he did on Tuesday night in Game 6, the game of his life, pitching all the way into the ninth inning en route to the World Series MVP Award.

Strasburg on Nationals WS win
Strasburg on Nationals WS win
07:43
Oct. 31st, 2019
Strasburg’s team ended up winning the World Series. Greinke’s team ended up losing it, even though he pitched the game of his life on Wednesday night before Astros manager AJ Hinch pulled him after just 80 pitches, when he had given up his first run of the game on Anthony Rendon’s homer and walked Juan Soto. So it became Scherzer’s night, and Patrick Corbin’s, and Daniel Hudson’s. Of course, people will remember what Greinke did, the way they remember how gallantly the Braves’ John Smoltz pitched in a 1-0 Game 7 loss to the Twins in 1991. But that night is remembered as the defining moment of Jack Morris’ career, not Smoltz’s. Morris’ team won.

And for all the regular-season games Kershaw has won for the Dodgers, you know that his own legacy is defined by all the times when he came up short in October, culminating with the back-to-back homers he gave up to Rendon and Soto in Game 5 of the Dodgers-Nats NLDS.

So now Verlander and Kershaw have appeared in 12 World Series games between them. They have combined for one victory. As mentioned, Verlander’s lifetime ERA in the Series is 5.68. Kershaw’s is 5.40.

They are both Hall of Fame pitchers. So is Scherzer. Strasburg might end up in the Hall of Fame as well. So, too, might Greinke, whose lifetime record has him nearly 100 games over .500 for the regular season. They were all part of another Ghostbusters postseason. You know the deal now, with this remarkable handful of aces.

Only Scherzer and Strasburg walked away winners.

“The statements made by Braves GM Alex Anthopoulos call into question the integrity of the entire free-agent system,” Clark said. “The clear description of Club coordination is egregious, and we have launched an immediate investigation looking into the matter.”

As always, context matters. The Anthopoulos quote was an answer to a question. Some Braves beat reporters took the answer to mean he was gauging the trade market. Anthopoulos said as much in response to the MLBPA statement.

“In advance of the general managers meetings, I called around to clubs to explore the possibility of potential offseason trades. At no time during any of these calls was there discussion of individual free agents or the Braves’ intentions with respect to the free agent market,” he said. “To the extent I indicated otherwise during my media availability on Monday, I misspoke and apologize for any confusion.”

The investigation into Anthopoulos’s comments probably won’t lead to any sort of sanctions (maybe a sternly written letter), but that’s not the point. Clark was still right to issue the statement he did. He has to draw a line in the sand somewhere.

The owners have gotten the upper hand over players in labor negotiations for most of this century, curbing costs whenever possible. The last few CBAs have limited amateur spending, both domestically with the draft and internationally with caps on signing bonus pools.

The next thing for owners to limit is spending on major league players, something they’ve essentially accomplished the last two offseasons. The average of the league’s top 125 salaries dropped from $17.9 million to $17.8 million, despite big new contracts handed out to elite players like Bryce Harper, Manny Machado, Mike Trout and Nolan Arenado last winter.

The average salary in MLB declined in each of the last two seasons, even thought the sport is bringing in record revenue, including a reported $10.3 billion last year. From 2014 to 2018, MLB revenue increased 14.4 percent but salaries went up just 7.2 percent. You can see why a divide between the two sides is growing.

Clark needed to say what he said because teams have become so used to having leverage that they’re no longer afraid of saying the quiet part out loud.

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TORONTO — When the Blue Jays broke camp at the end of March, Trent Thornton was a rookie with a loose grip on a rotation spot. By the time the season ended, Thornton led the club in starts and innings pitched while representing the one surprise constant in the rotation.

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After beating out Thomas Pannone and Sam Gaviglio for that rotation spot out of Spring Training, it seemed likely that the eventual return of either Clay Buchholz or Ryan Borucki would bump Thornton back to Triple-A. That moment never came, though, and the 26-year-old right-hander went on to post a 4.84 ERA over 154 1/3 innings. As the Blue Jays battled injuries alongside the trades of both Aaron Sanchez and Marcus Stroman, Thornton’s starts were one of the few forms of consistency on an ever-changing roster.

Acquired last offseason from the Astros for Aledmys Díaz, Thornton has now positioned himself well to lock down a rotation spot in 2020 and beyond.

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What went right?
Thornton’s season offers a valuable glimpse at what continued development looks like at the Major League level. There were highs and lows through the early half of the season as Thornton adjusted to the big leagues — and life in the American League East — but he finished strong.

In September, Thornton posted a 2.19 ERA over his final five games (two starts), and his pitches remained sharp despite the physical toll of his first full MLB season. Thornton was open throughout the season about his need to do a better job controlling his mental game, and he made strides in that area with the help of the Blue Jays’ staff and their rostered veterans, like Buchholz.

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“I think he’s going to get better and better,” Blue Jays manager Charlie Montoyo said. “The more he pitches, the more he knows the league, the more strikes he throws. Whenever his command gets really good, he’s going to be a good pitcher for a long time, I believe.”

What went wrong?
Inconsistency followed Thornton for much of the season, which is to be expected from a rookie whose delivery has so many moving parts.

Based on the projected salaries for this year’s starting pitching market, the Blue Jays have plenty of affordable options to upgrade their rotation, at least in theory.
For one reason or another, there’s a very slim chance that the Blue Jays will get serious in the bidding for Gerrit Cole or Stephen Strasburg. We could talk about why that’s a foolish notion on it’s own, but I’d rather move on for now and be blown over in surprise if I’m wrong.

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Even if the Blue Jays aren’t ready to spend on the top tier of free agent starting pitchers this off-season, it’s widely assumed that they’ll be looking to upgrade their rotation before the 2020 campaign gets underway. After a year that saw them relying on inexperienced options like Jacob Waguespack, Trent Thornton, and many others, and occasionally even inadequate ones like Edwin Jackson, there’s a clear need for improvement. They had far too many games started by an “opener” for my liking as well, even if it was born out of necessity at that point.

The good news is the front office has already started to address the need by acquiring Chase Anderson on Sunday. The Brewers were reportedly waffling on whether or not to pick up his 8.5 million dollar salary, and instead accepted Chad Spanberger as a low to mid-level prospect from the Blue Jays instead. Anderson will help, but he’s not enough on his own to boost the needy group.

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The assumption is that they’ll bring back Matt Shoemaker as well in the last year of his arbitration eligibility, and hopefully add one more veteran to the group. Whether they’re looking for a long or short term option to fill that need, there are plenty of options available on the market. Beyond Cole and Strasberg there likely aren’t any aces, but the Blue Jays don’t need that in order to move the needle, even if it would be nice.

Let’s have a look at some of the affordable options that the Blue Jays could offer a contract. According to mlbtraderumors.com and their off-season predictions, there should be several to choose from.

Thornton was evidently searching for the optimal pitch mix and his consistent control, which he would find for stretches of two or three starts before hitting some turbulence again. His fastball, which averaged 92.9 mph according to Statcast, and hammering curveball both have the potential to be above-average pitches in the big leagues, but the development of his secondary pitches will be key.

Enter Buchholz, who Thornton praised often this season for his mentorship. Buchholz and Thornton tinkered with Thornton’s changeup and curveball grips, which brought some encouraging results late in the season. A full winter to make those grips feel more natural will help, both in terms of their consistency and Thornton’s confidence in throwing them.

“I’ll be able to work on it a little bit more,” Thornton said, “but ultimately, you just have to trust the pitch you’re throwing and have full conviction in it, as well.”

Best moment?
Thornton got his first crack at his old team, the Astros, on June 16 in Houston and turned in one of his best performances of the season.

Over 6 2/3 shutout innings, Thornton danced around six hits and three walks while striking out seven, including Yordan Alvarez twice. There were a handful of Thornton’s pitching lines that look similar to this Astros performance, but his performance against a lineup of that quality and ability to balance his emotions on the mound make this one stand above the rest.

Thornton fans 7 in 6 2/3 frames
Thornton fans 7 in 6 2/3 frames
01:19
Jun. 16th, 2019
2020 outlook?
If the season started today, Thornton would be in the starting rotation. The same will probably be true when the season actually starts, but plenty can happen between now and then, as the Blue Jays are expected to be aggressive in their pursuit of multiple starting pitchers.

“Nothing is etched in stone,” Toronto general manager Ross Atkins said in early October. “I think Trent Thornton has probably put the best foot forward, but his offseason will be very important. A lot of guys could make huge strides.”

If Thornton can take one of those strides himself and drag his 4.84 ERA down by half a run, he’ll have value over another full, healthy season. Until the Blue Jays’ offseason plan becomes clearer, Thornton has the clear inside lane on a permanent rotation spot in ’20.

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I’d like to give a big thank you to Tony Fernandez. I recently had the opportunity to interview possibly the best shortstop in Blue Jays history. He is as great a person as he was a player. Without further ado, here is the interview:
Throughout Blue Jays history, you are known to be one of, if not the best shortstop to ever play for Toronto. How does it feel knowing you had such an impact, and that the fans and team recognize that?

First of all it’s always good to be recognized, first of all by your peers and if you are recognized by the fans, that’s even better. Unfortunately there are many athletes and great ballplayers that put up great numbers but they don’t get the recognition that they deserve. I don’t know that if I played in the States that it would be different, but I’m glad I played my career here.

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You played for Toronto in the 80’s for the most part. What was Blue Jays baseball like in that time period?

Well baseball in the 80’s was huge. That was about the time Canada started to follow along with baseball, and you couldn’t go anywhere without people talking about baseball. I know that this is a hockey town, and a hockey country, but I think Canada fell in love with baseball. Especially in the 80’s. When I see people around when we come to Canada they say, “Oh the good old days,” but of course the times changed. The world is evolving and so is baseball. I think the 80’s were the best days as far as I’m concerned. Although we won in 1993, I know the Jays won in 92′ and the teams we played with in the 80’s were as good as they were in 92′ and 93′.

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Do you think they are as good now as they were back then?

Well it’s a different era. It’s hard to judge. They take so many more things into consideration now than they did back then. So it’s tough to make that comparison. I think everyone has that gift. Every team is great. In the 80’s, we were as good as anybody, and in the 90’s even better! I mean we won the World Series. How many times do you get to make the playoffs? So how do you judge a good team? That’s up to you. The 80’s and 90’s had different standards, and I’m sure that every decade they had different standards. You have to recognize and give credit to each team during their era.

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In 1990 you were traded to San Diego, and in return Toronto got Joe Carter and Roberto Alomar. How did you feel then when you were sent away, and now looking back on it?

Meh. As a professional baseball player and as a professional athlete, you accept the good and the bad. You’re never prepared. You think you are prepared for change but it’s always surprising. Especially when you lose the fans. I fell in love with the fans in Toronto, my children were born here. It’s always tough regardless. We all knew that we needed a change. At least I was able to come back and win.

Jose Bautista turns 39 today.

The last 11 years or so would have been so much different without him. He gave us so many great moments over the years. None better than than the home run and bat flip in game 5, but many many other great moments.

When we traded for him, back in August of 2008, the trade didn’t even merit a post on our site. It turned out to be the best trade of JP Ricciardi’s time as manager and it didn’t get it’s own post. He played in 6 games before getting his first hit as a Jay, and people weren’t exactly thrilled with him. He hit has first home run on September 2nd.

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In total he hit 288 home runs, as a Blue Jay, number 2 on our franchise list, 48 behind Carlos Delgado. He’s also 2nd on the list for bWAR among batters, at 37.3, just behind Tony Fernandez (37.5). He’s also 7th on the team list in OBP (.372), 5th in slugging (.506), 2nd in runs scored (790, trailing Delgado again by 99), 3rd in RBI (766, behind Vernon Wells and Delgado) and 2nd in walks (803, 24 behind Carlos) and 5th in games played (1235).

Beyond that, he was the face of the Blue Jays for several years. And he gave the team a personality. We quickly became a team that played with a bit of an edge or swagger. A team that other team’s fans didn’t like. As Reggie Jackson said ‘they don’t boo nobodies’.

Jose was intense, which isn’t a strong enough word. He wanted to win very badly. Sometimes his ‘intenseness’ rubbed people the wrong way. I honestly never thought I’d see a player that would match him for intensity, then we got Josh Donaldson, who seems his twin in that way. I remember the times when Jose, quietly, stepped in between Josh and umpires when, it seemed like Donaldson was about to get himself thrown out of a game and thought Jose could have used someone doing that for him in the past.

I kind of like guys who really really want to win, though I’ll admit, I do like it when Jose showed us his sense of humor.

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There were people complaining that Jose wasn’t a leader or a good teammate. And, of course, it always came from people who were a long way away from the team. He seemed to do the quiet things that showed how good a teammate he was. Standing up for Devon Travis when Sportsnet, doing a feature of having Hazel Mae pick out a suit for him, and then having Travis pay for it himself. Jose, not making a show of it, refused to talk to Sportsnet until they made things right.

And video of him working with Chris Colabello in the outfield, oh playing the outfield or working with players on their swing seemed to suggest he was a good teammate.

Anyway, Happy Birthday Jose. I hope it is a good one.

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John Olerud 58.2 WAR
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Jorge Posada 42.8 WAR
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Yady Molina 37.8 WAR

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What was that experience like? To be able to come back and win a World Series?

Oh that was great. I feel bad for the other guys. The other players spend their whole careers just to get an opportunity and to come up short. We had the opportunity to win. And fortunately we were able to win at home.

For most of the 90’s you moved around from team to team, but you always came back to Toronto. Would it be fair to say that this is like a second home for you?

We consider Toronto part of our home. I always thank Canadian people for allowing me to be a part of their home. You can say that this is like my home away from home. That doesn’t mean I never tried anywhere else I played. I always did my best wherever I was. I was always reminded by the circumstances, the media, the fans, that I was an athlete. I owed it to the organization I was playing for to give it my all, and I have peace with it.

As well as having a great bat, you were fantastic in the field. In 89′ for fielding percentage by a shortstop, were you aware you broke the record?

No. I know the media is more aware of things than we are. I know that I held the fielding record, but I didn’t need the recognition. I won the Gold Glove but I’m glad to hear that it lasted 10 years. I think, someone in the Dominican Republic mentioned it to me but I wasn’t sure. It wasn’t coming out of the United States or Canada so I didn’t know. But I’m glad to hear that again.

NEXT: I’ll say it again, it’s time to trade Kevin Pillar
Toronto hasn’t really had a franchise shortstop since you’ve played. There’s one coming up by the name of Bo Bichette. I don’t know if you were aware of this but what is your reaction?

I’ve been out of baseball a while so I wouldn’t know. Bichette? Is that Dante’s kid? That’s crazy.

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Being traded for Josh Donaldson brought some unfair pressure on Julian Merryweather, and not being able to pitch much during the 2019 season didn’t help. Thankfully he’s finally back on the mound during Arizona Fall League play.
Some folks believe that the Blue Jays sold damaged goods to the Cleveland Indians when they traded Josh Donaldson before the August 30th deadline in 2018, but I don’t think it was a secret that Donaldson had been battling health problems. It also wasn’t a secret that the returning player, Julian Merryweather, had health issues of his own, having been under the knife for a Tommy John surgery prior to the trade.

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However, if there either party was “damaged goods” it might have been Merryweather, who has really struggled to get healthy after his elbow surgery in March of last year. He ended up returning in June and was activated in High-A with the Dunedin Blue Jays, but unfortunately he was shut down after just one start that lasted 4.0 innings.

Thankfully, Merryweather is finally healthy enough to compete again, and the Blue Jays are using what’s left of the Arizona Fall League to get him a few valuable appearances ahead of the 2020 campaign. He made his debut on Tuesday evening, throwing a scoreless inning to provide some encouraging signs.

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The hope is that he’ll be able to make at least a couple more stints before the AFL season concludes, and they’ll likely be of the one inning variety, at least according to a tweet from TSN’s Scott Mitchell. That makes sense given the trouble that Merryweather has had getting healthy, and there’s no reason to push him at this late stage in the year.

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The skinny: The Blue Jays are expected to make landing two top-of-the-rotation starters the off-season priority either via trade or free-agent signing, or both. Jacob Waguespack and T.J. Zeuch could also be in the mix, but likely end up at triple-A Buffalo to remain as starters if they don’t make the cut. The same could be said of callup Anthony Kay if he can’t earn a spot, and Julian Merryweather, the return on the Josh Donaldson trade. Veteran Matt Shoemaker should also be in the mix. Wilmer Font could also return in an opener role, though a regular rotation spot would be the preference.

STORY CONTINUES BELOW

THE BULLPEN

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Ken Giles remains the closer — unless he’s dealt. After that, it’s too soon to tell. Canadian Jordan Romano could be in the mix. So, too, could any of Derek Law, Thomas Pannone, Sam Gaviglio and Jason Adam. The Jays will certainly look to add some arms.

The goal should be to have him completely healthy for the 2020 season, and where things go from there is anybody’s guess. He’ll likely need to pitch in A-ball again before moving up the organizational ladder, but at 28 years old he’s going to need to prove his value sooner than later as well. He still has a potentially electric arm that can push triple digits, and if he can stay healthy and put it to good use then hopefully he can get his career back on track.

Scott Mitchell

@ScottyMitchTSN
Julian Merryweather threw a scoreless frame in his first Arizona Fall League appearance last night.
He’s scheduled for a couple more one-inning stints over the next week before AFL wraps up.

At 28, he’s the oldest guy here.

“Old man strength is coming in handy.”#BlueJays

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According to a tweet from mlb.com’s Keegan Matheson, he sat around 95 miles per hour during his first outing, which is an encouraging sign. It would have been surprising to see him completely let loose during his AFL debut, For now, he’ll need to focus on repeating a delivery that he hasn’t been able to use consistently in 18 or 19 months, and it could be a while before he feels completely comfortable out there.

NEXT: Proof is in the postseason pudding
That said, it’s encouraging to see him on the mound again, even if he is the oldest player in the AFL at the moment. That hardly matters, as the only thing more important than the reps he’s getting now is the fact that he’s healthy enough to do it.