Sep 7, 2013; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Toronto Blue Jays relief pitcher Jeremy Jeffress (33) delivers a pitch in the ninth inning against the Minnesota Twins at Target Field. The Blue Jays won 11-2. Mandatory Credit: Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

Jeremy Jeffress Will Not Start For Blue Jays

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.

One of the more wild one, thrown out there by Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports in November, involved the Blue Jays trying to convert reliever Jeremy Jeffress into a starter.

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.

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  • Jason Oriente

    Don’t forget this guy was having seizures and self-medicating to try and solve what was wrong with him. His numbers upon return were very good.

  • Bob Loblaw

    If he’s not going to be a potential starter, I’m wondering if Jeffress would be enough to acquire Ackley. The team needs match up, both former high picks with pre-arb years left. It might look good to Seattle because we’d be giving up a cheaper guy with more cheap years who just took a step forward for someone more expensive who just took a step back.

    Sierra’s out of options so he’ll likely be the 4th outfielder, especially since it looks like he can hit at the majors and his mistakes havn’t been physical defects, just bonehead choices, stuff that can be worked on. Ackley would provide backup CF and SS, so the last bench spot should be a platoon bat for Lind. Jeff Baker could back up the corner outfield, 1B, 2nd, 3rd. I see Izturis as a bounce back candidate (at the plate), so a bench of Izturis, Sierra, Baker, Thole would work if Ackley was starting. Gose, Goins, Kawa, Kratz is great depth to have at AAA, since they don’t have issues with options.

    If anyone would understand the use of marinol and marijuana, it’d be Seattle, even though he’s using prescription drugs now (poor guy). I’m just saying I’d rather see a trade than see a good option lost on the waiver wire for nothing.

    We have a good recent record of position player reclamation projects (EE, JoeyB, Colby, Scutaro, John Buck, Lawrie is maybe a stretch). If this club had a staff that could deal with the pitcher control issues like Tampa, we’d be dangerous.

    • Bob Loblaw

      Come to think of it, I’d be ok with losing Santos for Ackley. Santos has major injury risk and pen arms are always volatile, and after this year Santos gets expensive (on team options). He has the name and proven ability in the majors, and yes it’s an overpay but that’s probably what it’ll take. For the reasons I stated above, I think Ackley is a great fit, and if we can use the opportunity to lose some of our injury risk, great.