Friday was a busy day in the Blue Jays front office.
Five days after the World Series ends, players with six years of minor league experience have their contracts expire. The Blue Jays announced on Friday that Pitchers Taylor Guerreri, Jake Petricka, and Rhiner Cruz had opted for free agency. That list grew considerably larger by the end of the day.
Declared Free Agency Buffalo RHP Taylor Guerrieri
Declared Free Agency Buffalo 3B Jon Berti
Declared Free Agency Buffalo LHP Craig Breslow
Declared Free Agency Buffalo RHP Rhiner Cruz
Declared Free Agency Buffalo 3B Jason Leblebijian
Declared Free Agency Buffalo 2B Tim Lopes
Declared Free Agency Buffalo C Jose Mayorga
Declared Free Agency Buffalo RHP Jake Petricka
Declared Free Agency Buffalo RHP Murphy Smith
Declared Free Agency Buffalo RHP Zach Stewart
Declared Free Agency Buffalo LHP Matt Tracy
Declared Free Agency New Hampshire RF Harold Ramirez
Declared Free Agency New Hampshire C Patrick Cantwell
Declared Free Agency New Hampshire 1B Juan Kelly
Declared Free Agency New Hampshire C Alex Monsalve
Declared Free Agency New Hampshire LF Eduard Pinto
Declared Free Agency Dunedin RHP Emilio Guerrero
Declared Free Agency Dunedin LHP Angel Perdomo
Declared Free Agency Dunedin 2B Ivan Castillo
Declared Free Agency Dunedin RHP Claudio Custodio
Declared Free Agency Lansing C Andres Sotillo
Declared Free Agency Bluefield RHP Josh Almonte
Declared Free Agency DSL C Brayan Rodriguez
Declared Free Agency DSL 1B Anthony Rodriguez
Declared Free Agency DSL SS Pedro Ventura
Declared Free Agency DSL RHP Sergio Leon
(thanks to the comments section of battersbox.ca for the list – MiLB.com’s transactions page was down last night)
Some of the more notable names……
–Jon Berti was one of the feel good stories of 2018. A Blue Jay since 2011, Berti was a non-roster invitee to spring training with in 2016 and 2017. An injury-filled 2018 stalled his career, and he opted for free agency a year ago, but decided to re-sign with Toronto. As spring training camp broke, Berti was caught in a playing time squeeze, and was dealt to Cleveland in April. When Vladimir Guerrero Jr went down with a knee injury in June, Berti was re-acquired, and eventually helped lead New Hampshire to the Eastern League title. At the end of the minor league playoffs, Berti thought he was headed home, when he got the call to join the Blue Jays. He picked up his first MLB hit in his first game, Toronto’s final home game, then had a hit in each of the next three games he played.
–Harold Ramirez made a lot of hard contact last year, his second at AA, but much of it was of the groundball variety. This year, he made an adjustment to produce more loft, and it paid off, as Ramirez led the EL in hitting. Ramirez can play all three Outfield positions, but has slipped on a crowded Blue Jays depth chart.
-Angel Perdomo has always teased with easy, mid-90s velo from a deceptive left-handed delivery. He’s also had trouble staying healthy, as well as finding the strike zone on occasion. Perdomo has always held the promise of being an effective bullpen arm, but up until this year the Blue Jays have been insistent on developing him as a starter. He did spend the second half of the year, but in 7 seasons with the organization, he’s yet to advance above High A.
–Jason Leblebijian has steadily moved up the organization ladder. The versatile infielder can play three positions, but despite being named an International League All Stars the last two seasons, has become lost in the shuffle. He was limited to 84 games this summer, thanks to a couple of stints on the DL.
–Emilio Guerrero and Josh Almonte are both veterans in the system who underwent a transformation from position player to Pitcher this season. Guerrero missed all of 2018 while on the DL, but was invited to Instructs. Almonte showed some promise with high 90s velo at Bluefield, fanning 24 in 26 innings. He also walked 23.
-two players came to the Blue Jays from other organizations and had solid seasons. Ivan Castillo tied with teammate Rodrigo Orozco for the Florida State League batting title, while Eduard Pinto was one of the toughest players to strike out in all of minor league baseball.
–P Claudio Custido was pitching in Ontario’s Intercounty League in 2017. Almost a year to the day later, the converted OF was pitching in AAA.
-have glove, will travel C Andres Sotillo has been in the system since 2012, mostly as a back up. He is a solid org guy with good defensive skills.
Just because this group of players has become free agents doesn’t mean that they won’t be back in the Blue Jays system next year. But after six years in the system, most are eager to look to other organizations, hoping for a clearer path to the majors. Players who have MLB and/or AAA experience tend to attract more interest. Those below that level, or those who have filled more of an organizational role often get few, if any, offers. Returning to their original system, if a spot is available, tends to be their only viable option.