Blue Jays: Randy Choate the logical Loup insurance policy


The Blue Jays signing of veteran relief pitcher Randy Choate gives them an experienced lefty-on-lefty arm should Aaron Loup not be ready for opening day

There is no mystery to Randy Choate’s role on the Toronto Blue Jays.

The 40-year-old left-hander has joined the club on a minor league deal in case a southpaw companion is needed for Brett Cecil out of the bullpen.

Aaron Loup is the leading man for the job, but with an injury delaying his 2016 after his weakest professional season, a veteran like Choate provides Toronto with a fallback option. The ambidextrous Pat Venditte will also be involved in an competition for that role.

The San Antonio, Texas native made his major league debut in 2000 with the New York Yankees, who drafted him in the 5th round of the 1997 draft. He has also spent time with the Arizona Diamondbacks, Tampa Bay Rays, Miami Marlins, Los Angeles Dodgers, and St. Louis Cardinals.

Looking at Choate’s history of performance, seasons like 2012 which he split between Miami and Los Angeles, summarize his role and usage fairly well. In a whopping 80 games that year, Choate pitched just 38.2 innings. For him, it’s all about the left-on-left matchup. Hence the natural fit as an insurance policy for Loup.

Last season in St. Louis, Choate pitched 27.1 innings to a 3.95 ERA.

Over his 15-year career as a reliever, Choate’s numbers against left-handed hitters are excellent. In over 1000 left-on-left plate appearances, opposing hitters have managed a weak slash line of .195 / .276 / .274 with just 10 home runs.

Those numbers did slip in 2015, however, as lefties hit .265 off Choate. This could be due to some lost velocity, which he didn’t have much of to begin with.

Choate’s sinker, his primary pitch, dropped nearly a full mile-per-hour to an average of 83.6 in 2015. This velocity has been dropping consistently since 2010, and PITCHf/x data shows that both his sinker and slider took a step back in value last season.

Something that should jump out to the Blue Jays, however, is Choate’s ability to create ground balls. Choate has topped a 60% ground ball rate in each of the past seven seasons, which would play very well in the hitter-friendly Rogers Centre with the Blue Jays strong defensive infield.

The opportunity presented by Loup’s injury would have been attractive to Choate as a free agent, as well, so I’ll be interested to see if Choate accepts an assignment to triple-A Buffalo at this point in his career should he not crack the 25-man roster on opening day.

Toronto saw a similar situation play out with Randy Wolf in the Bisons’ rotation last season, but Choate and his agent could have requested an opt-out date to allow him to find a major league job when possible. This is something Toronto has done already with Roberto Hernandez and Brad Penny.

Choate throws from the sidearm position