In the Toronto Blue Jays seemingly never-ending search for pitching this winter, there have been some pretty wild solutions thrown around to try to solve their rather large problem. I guess given Toronto’s relative inactivity, people felt that thinking outside the box would be the better approach.
Jeffress, for all of his potential over the years, has never quite been able to live up to that billing. The 16th overall pick of the 2006 draft, the hard-throwing Jeffress has always wowed scouts with his stuff, which is part of the reason he was featured in the deal that sent Zack Greinke from the Royals to the Brewers in 2010. However, control problems have been Jeffress’ true calling card with a career 5.3 BB/9 in the minors and a 6.4 mark in the majors. Oh, and the three positive drug tests for a drug of abuse hasn’t helped his case either.
However, he made strides in 2013, after coming over to the Blue Jays in a cash purchase last winter. Spending most of the season as a reliever at Triple-A Buffalo, Jeffress put up a 1.39 ERA in 28 appearances. More importantly, he improved his control, lowering his BB/9 ratio to 3.9. Jeffress followed that up by making 10 appearances for the Blue Jays at the end of the season, posting a 0.87 ERA, a 10.5 K/9 ratio, and a 4.4 BB/9 mark in 10.1 innings of work.
The Blue Jays apparently saw enough to consider transitioning him to the rotation, a project starter to couple with Esmil Rogers and Dustin McGowan during the spring. Luckily for us, they appear to have had second thoughts in that regard.
According to Bill Baer of NBC Sports (Hardball Talk), the Blue Jays have abandoned the plans to move Jeffress to the rotation. Baer doesn’t have any reason behind the decision, but the aforementioned control issues remain the likely culprit. There is also the matter that Jeffress hasn’t made a single start at the major or minor league levels since 2011, and the results were not pretty.
Given the need to stretch him out effectively, and to also change his mindset on the mound, the amount of time to prepare Jeffress for a change in roles would likely exceed Spring Training, diminishing his chances of making the team out of camp. With no minor league options remaining, the Blue Jays would need to pass his through waivers at this point in order to send him down, and given his rebound a year ago, another team would likely take a low-cost flyer on Jeffress at this stage and stash him in their own bullpen.
So Jeffress will head to camp looking to build on what he accomplished a year ago, and he’ll provide the Blue Jays with options for the pen in camp. Still, it is an uphill battle for him to make the team even in that capacity unless another move is made.