The Toronto Blue Jays have reportedly signed right-handed pitcher Jason Berken to a minor league contract, according to a tweet Sunday night from Scott Venci of USA Today Wisconsin. Berken, a native of Green Bay, last pitched in the major leagues for the Chicago Cubs in 2012.
Originally a 6th round pick of the Baltimore Orioles in the 2006 MLB Amateur Draft, Berken has amassed 248.2 major league innings but to little success. The 32-year-old holds a career MLB ERA of 5.36 with a WHIP of 1.653.
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Berken has spent the past three seasons pitching at the triple-A level for the Chicago White Sox, San Francisco Giants and Philadelphia Phillies. Last season with Lehigh Valley in the International League, Berken made 13 starts and 15 relief appearances to a 4.61 ERA.
His available PITCHf/x data from FanGraphs shows that Berken was sitting close to 90 MPH with his fastball velocity when he last pitched in the major leagues, while he also offers a slider and changeup.
The original report makes no mention of a major league spring training invite, and given that Berken is looking forward to getting started in a “couple weeks”, it doesn’t appear there is one. Given his numbers, this is understandable.
As always, though, there is no harm in a minor league deal. Organizational filler comes with a value of it’s own, as it allows teams to move younger players through levels without team-specific needs straying their development plan. If Berken can keep a spot warm at double-A or triple-A, then he’s done his job.