Shortly after calling up a pair of relief arms from the upper minors, the Blue Jays made a few depth moves to shore up their bullpen on Thursday.
The Blue Jays are it again, signing right-handed pitchers Zach Stewart and Brandon Cumpton to minor league deals, according to the Buffalo Bisons’ official Twitter. Both have been assigned to Triple-A Buffalo.
Stewart, 31, was a third-round pick of the Cincinnati Reds in 2008. A top prospect early on, he was dealt to the Jays in 2009 along with Edwin Encarnacion and Josh Roenicke in a deal that sent Scott Rolen to the Reds. Baseball America ranked Stewart as the club’s number one prospect entering the 2010 season and the team’s number five prospect entering the 2011 season.
In 16.2 major league innings for the Jays, he pitched to a 4.86 ERA, striking out 10 and walking five. In 2010, he pitched 136.1 frames in Double-A, posting an ERA of 3.63 and walking just 18.
Following his brief stint with the Jays, the native of Wichita Falls, Texas bounced around quite a bit, logging innings in the Red Sox, White Sox, Braves, and Angels organizations before heading to Korea to pitch for the NC Dinos in 2016.
In 2017, he spent three months in the Orioles organization and eventually found his way to the Atlantic League of Professional Baseball, an independent league that currently includes former major leaguers Derek Norris, Darrell Ceciliani and Emilio Bonifacio.
Former Pittsburgh Pirate Brandon Cumpton, 29, has also bounced around in his brief professional career. Drafted in the 2010 draft (five picks ahead of Mets ace Jacob deGrom), he has pitched a total of 100.2 major league innings, boasting an ERA of 4.02 and a WHIP of 1.301.
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After having Tommy John surgery in 2015, he elected free agency and soon signed with the Texas Rangers, who in turn released him just two months later. Cumpton then went to the aforementioned Atlantic League and played for the South Maryland Blue Crabs, where he started five games in June, pitching to an excellent ERA of 1.09. According to the Blue Crabs official website, he did not allow a run in three of his June appearances.
On the surface, these moves appear to be nothing more than simple depth pickups. The Bisons have just lost pitchers Rhiner Cruz and Luis Santos to the big club and seemed eager to regain some bullpen depth following those promotions.
Stewart, a former top prospect, will be auditioning for yet another return to the bigs, while Cumpton will try to settle into an organizational job for the first time in his career. Regardless, depth moves are always welcomed, especially in a rebuilding (or retooling) team who has struggled to remain consistent on the hill.
Coming into play on Thursday, the Bisons sat fifth in the International League in team ERA (3.66), fifth in walks (251) and dead last in strikeouts (546). Buffalo pitchers allowed 325 runs (11th in the IL), and have a collective WHIP of 1.30 (sixth in the IL).