The Toronto Blue Jays opened up two possible outfield spots on Tuesday when they chose not to tender contracts to either Andy Dirks or John Mayberry Jr. At the time, the move was a bit of a headscratcher, but it appears there was a plan in place, as the Blue Jays have filled one of those spots per Shi Davidi of Sportsnet.
The minor league deal for Ezequiel Carrera includes an invitation to spring training invitation, and as Davidi explains, will give Carrera an opportunity to compete for the starting center field job with rookie Dalton Pompey, or as a possible bench role as the 4th outfielder. However, by signing Carrera to a minor league pact, the Blue Jays avoid having to give him a 40-man roster spot, as well as save significant money from what either Dirks or Mayberry would have cost.
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At 28-years-old, Ezequiel Carrrera has yet to be given the chance to secure an everyday job, having not appeared in more than 68 games in any four seasons with Major League experience. Overall, he’s a career .253 hitter with a .305 on-base percentage and a .348 slugging percentage over the course of 478 career plate appearances.
However, his minor league track record is significantly better. Well traveled at the minor league level (Mets, Mariners, Indians, and Tigers organizations), Carrera has made speed his calling card, racking up 273 stolen bases, including 43 in each of the last two minor league seasons. As a hitter, he owns a .288/.363/.381 slash-line with 112 doubles, 50 triples, and 31 home runs in 3759 minor league plate appearances.
As noted by Shi Davidi, Carrera will have an outside shot at competing for the starting center field role, as well as the fourth outfielder spot on the bench. For his Major League career, he has spent most of his time in center, playing 710.1 innings there. However, his -2.8 UZR/150 and 1 Defensive Run Saved for his career is rather disappointing given his exceptional speed. He actually grades out better in left field, but his 4.2 UZR/150 and 1 defensive run saved in that corner aren’t very special either.
Aside from his speed, the only real benefit that Carrera presents the Blue Jays is that he bats left-handed. The Blue Jays lack both with the current rendition of the roster, although they are actively looking to change that. For now, Carrera is a buy-low candidate that will likely start the year in Buffalo with the Bisons unless he absolutely wows the team out of Spring Training. At worst, he provides some fall-back depth should Pompey require more seasoning at the beginning of the season.