Blue Jays: Five 2020 free agent signings you may have forgotten about

Five 2020 free agent signings Blue Jays fans may have forgotten about.

It’s been just over four months since the Blue Jays shut down their 2020 Spring Training camp in Dunedin, Florida. Since then, a lot has happened, and Blue Jays baseball may not have been at the forefront of concerns for many fans.

With the 2020 MLB season finally expected to start on July 23, here’s a quick refresher of a few notable free agent signings that the Blue Jays made this past offseason.

Joe Panik

Position: 2B

Signed: Minor league contract with an invitation to Spring Training

2019 stats: .244/.315/.336, 0.2 fWAR

Joe Panik is a name that many baseball fans may already be familiar with. He was an All-star with the San Francisco Giants in 2015 and is known for his great defense at second base.

While Panik won’t bring much offensive firepower to the Blue Jays roster – he shouldn’t have to if things go according to plan – he’s a valuable utility guy to have off the bench with his defense and veteran experience.

A.J. Cole

Position: RHP (reliever)

Signed: Minor league contract with an invitation to Spring Training

2019 stats: 26.0 IP, 3.81 ERA, 0.2 fWAR

A.J. Cole wasn’t the most coveted Cole in the 2020 free agent class. However, that shouldn’t prevent him from possibly becoming an important piece in the Blue Jays bullpen.

A former starter that was converted to a reliever in 2018, Cole has the mid-90s fastball and assortment of offspeed pitches needed to succeed in a middle relief role that the Blue Jays will ask of him.

Rafael Dolis

Position: RHP (reliever)

Signed: 1 yr/$1M with a $1.5M club option for 2021

2019 stats (Japan): 55.1 IP, 2.11 ERA, 19 saves + 10 holds

Rafael Dolis may turn out to be one of the most underrated signings that the Blue Jays made this year. While Dolis failed to find success in North America at the start of his career – he’s pitched just 44.1 innings in the MLB – he quickly cemented himself as one of the top relievers in Japan from 2016-2019.

In 208 career games in the NPB, Dolis pitched to an exceptional 2.49 ERA boosted by a 9.9 K/9. With 96 saves in his four-year stint in Japan, the new Blue Jays reliever also has the ability to fill in as the closer if the need ever arises.

Tanner Roark

Position: RHP (starter)

Signed: 2 yr/$24M

2019 stats: 165.1 IP, 4.35 ERA, 1.9 fWAR

When the news first broke that the Blue Jays had signed veteran righty Tanner Roark to a two-year deal, there was a sense of disappointment that rippled through the fanbase. Roark was by no means a poor signing, but Blue Jays fans expected the front office to go for a bigger name.

And that’s exactly what happened when just nine days later, the Blue Jays inked Hyun-Jin Ryu to a four-year deal, one of their biggest commitments in recent history. As for Roark, the Blue Jays are adding a veteran starter who’s averaged 174 innings per year since 2014. The consistency and stability that Roark brings will be invaluable to a Blue Jays rotation that struggled mightily in 2019.

Shun Yamaguchi

Position: RHP (starter/reliever)

Signed: 2 yr/$6.35M that becomes 2 yr/$9.15M if Yamaguchi pitches at least 170 innings per season

2019 stats (Japan): 170.0 IP, 2.91 ERA, 188 K

Much like Rafael Dolis mentioned above, Shun Yamaguchi brings a pedigree of dominance and success from the NPB in Japan. During his 14 years in Japan, Yamaguchi pitched to a 3.35 ERA in 1080.1 innings.

Yamaguchi’s greatest asset, and perhaps what drew the Blue Jays to the Japanese ace, is his positional versatility. With the ability to both start and close games, Yamaguchi has the potential to fill whatever hole that the Blue Jays have on the pitching side of the roster. And, while Yamaguchi had some trouble adapting to the baseballs used in the MLB, Blue Jays fans should still expect to see quality pitching from the Japanese veteran in the upcoming season.

Honourable Mentions

Travis Shaw, Caleb Joseph, Chase Anderson (trade)