Veteran left-handed pitcher Jon Niese was released by the New York Yankees earlier today and would make sense for the Toronto Blue Jays to sign as a bullpen piece and rotation depth should the need arise for the upcoming season.
Jon Niese is rehabbing his way back from knee surgery to repair a torn meniscus, the hurler latched on with the New York Yankees in the offseason but saw limited opportunities this spring before being released. Could the crafty hurler peak the Blue Jays interest?
This spring in Grapefruit League action Niese tossed six innings surrendering 3 runs on 5 hits while fanning 5 to the tune of a 4.50 earned run average. Niese was set to earn $1.25 million with another $750,000 in performance-based incentives if he had made the roster.
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The 30-year-old has been predominately a starter during his 9-year career with the New York Mets and Pittsburgh Pirates but was utilized in the bullpen at times during the past two seasons. He latched on with the Yankees vying for a bullpen spot so he is clearly open to the idea at this stage in his career.
The timing of the release almost seems perfect for the Blue Jays as General Manager Mark Shapiro went on record earlier this week on the Jeff Blair Show stating his concern about the starting pitching depth dropoff after the fifth spot in the rotation. See the full interview with Shapiro HERE:
"“If you said ‘what’s your one fear heading into the season,’ it probably would be the drop-off from our fifth starter to our sixth starter. That’s not a subtle drop-off.”"
In a perfect world, Niese could move to the Blue Jays bullpen as the long-man with Mat Latos being optioned to Buffalo where he could remain stretched out as a starter in case of an injury in the starting rotation. That would essentially give the Jays a sixth and seventh option in case of an emergency.
Latos has mentioned he is more than willing to start the season in Buffalo and has struggled of late sporting a 6.75 earned run average serving up 11 earned runs in 14.2 innings of work thus far this spring.
Niese has amassed a 4.07 earned run average with a 1.384 WHIP striking out 914 batters in 211 career games.
This would be a low-risk endeavor that would be cost effective and could pay dividends during the dog days of summer. You can never have enough lefties.