Minor Moves: Some Blue Jays choose free agency after outright assignments


With the 2014 season in the books for the Toronto Blue Jays, the expected churn of minor league free agents can officially begin. According to Matt Eddy of Baseball America, seven Blue Jays minor leaguers have opted to pursue free agency rather than accept their outright assignments to Triple-A Buffalo.

As previously noted earlier this week, first baseman Dan Johnson has elected free agency, which was to be expected for a veteran such as himself. Joining him a minor league free agents are infielder Jonathan Diaz, outfielders Darin Mastroianni and Cole Gillespie, and pitchers Bobby Korecky, Brad Mills, and Raul Valdes.

With the exception of Valdes, six of the seven received playing in Toronto at some point this season.

After making his Major League debut in 2013 with the Red Sox, Jonathan Diaz got a lot of action in 2014 with the Blue Jays, appearing in 23 games. Unfortunately, Diaz came with the caveat of all glove and no bat, and that’s exactly what he gave the Blue Jays. With 45 plate appearances under his belt, Diaz gave the Blue Jays just 6 hits. While only 1 of those hits went for extra bases, he did manage 4 RBI in the process. He spent the rest of 2014 with the Buffalo Bisons, but the 29-year-old slashed .205/.319/.295 against minor league pitching.

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Cole Gillespie was brought to Toronto during one of its attempts to find a right-handed hitting outfielder to level out their line-up against left-handed pitching. However, Gillespie was injured during his only game in Toronto and ended up spending the rest of the year in Buffalo following his return. He was excellent in a short 25-game span for the Bisons, putting up a slash-line of .354/.423/.500 with 15 runs scored and 16 RBI. At 30-years-old, he could be a good fourth outfielder for someone next season.

Like Gillespie, Mastroianni has the pedigree of a fourth outfielder, but doesn’t project to provide much upside overall. In 21-games split between the Minnesota Twins and the Toronto Blue Jays, Matroianni struggled to a batting line of .136/.186/.322 with just a single stolen base. Back in Buffalo, Mastro hit .267 with a .718 OPS while stealing 20 bases. At 28, he’ll look for another opportunity elsewhere.

The pair of Raul Valdes and Brad Mills never made any real impact on the Blue Jays in 2014 at least at the Major League level. Mills was absolutely toasted over the course of 4 innings of work and Valdes never received a Major League call-up. Mills did make 6 starts at Triple-A, posting a 3.06 ERA for the Bisons, whereas Valdes made 23 appearances (16 starts) posting a 4.00 ERA and an 8.7 K/9 ratio for Buffalo. Both will likely find some work on minor league deals, but their contributions in the Majors are likely behind them.

Of the players on this list, only Bobby Korecky stands out as someone who could possibly return to the Blue Jays in 2015. Korecky was an International League All-Star while serving as Buffalo’s closer this past season. In 55 appearances out of the Bison’s bullpen, Korecky posted a 5-3 record with 22 saves, a 1.97 ERA, and a 8.4 K/9 ratio. He wasn’t able to translate that into production in Toronto though, seeing only two cups of coffee when a fresh arm was needed. At 34-years-old and lacking over-powering stuff, Korecky is at-best depth at the farm level, much in the way he was used this past season. The Jays would love to have him back in that role again in 2015