Blue Jays: Minor league players that have signed elsewhere this offseason

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 16: (NEW YORK DAILIES OUT) Jacob Waguespack #62 of the Toronto Blue Jays in action against the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium on September 16, 2020 in New York City. The Yankees defeated the Blue Jays 13-2. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 16: (NEW YORK DAILIES OUT) Jacob Waguespack #62 of the Toronto Blue Jays in action against the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium on September 16, 2020 in New York City. The Yankees defeated the Blue Jays 13-2. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images) /

On the evening of December 1st, the Collective Bargaining Agreement between the MLB and the MLBPA expired and the owners immediately locked out the players, freezing all Major League transactions such as trades and signings as well as a long list of other implications. The Blue Jays made some moves prior to the lockout like signing Yimi Garcia and Kevin Gausman and have made some minor league signings as well including David Phelps and Mallex Smith.

While the CBA is expired, clubs are allowed to make minor league transactions as the players are not placed on the 40-man roster. Some notable players signing minor league contracts this offseason are Dee Stranger-Gordon (Nationals), Derek Fisher (Twins), and Ender Inciarte (Yankees). The Blue Jays signed seven players to MiLB deals prior to the lockout and have only signed one player since the freeze, second baseman Gosuke Katoh, a former second-round pick of the New York Yankees back in 2013.

As per Baseball America, the Blue Jays had 22 players from the minor leagues head to free agency while A.J. Cole, Travis Bergen, and Jacob Barnes also elected free agency after being outrighted to Buffalo during the season while Dany Jimenez decided to also test the free-agent waters. Right-hander Bryan Baker was claimed off waivers by the Baltimore Orioles prior to the lockout as well and Breyvic Valera was released from the organization prior to the Garcia and Gausman signings.

Infielder Christian Colon spent last season in Buffalo but has reportedly decided to retire. Outfielder Gregory Polanco was signed by the Blue Jays late in the season after being designated for assignment by the Pirates and is reportedly close to a deal with a club in Japan but no official contract has been announced as of yet.

Returning to the Blue Jays organization are Mallex Smith, Kellin Deglin, and Casey Lawerence, who all signed minor league deals with the club for next season.

Here are the former Blue Jays minor league players who have signed elsewhere this offseason (so far).

Jacob Waguespack – RHP

Spending last season with the Buffalo Bisons, Jacob Waguespack appeared in 24 games (10 starts) and pitched to a 2.86 ERA with 74 strikeouts while pitching to a 2.7 BB/9 and a 9.6 K/9. He did not pitch in the Majors at all last season but did spend parts of the 2019 and 2020 campaign with the big league club, owning a 5.08 ERA through 27 appearances in both the rotation and bullpen.

Waguespack agreed to a deal with the Orix Buffaloes of the Nippon Professional Baseball league in Japan for next season with the terms of the deal not known at this time.

Breyvic Valera – UTIL

While technically not a minor league player, Breyvic Valera ends up on the list because he did split his time last season between both Buffalo and Toronto before being released this offseason. With the Blue Jays, Valera slashed .253/.313/.356 with 15 RBI and a .669 OPS through 39 games as a bench player.

Similar to Waguespack, Valera will be joining the Orix Buffaloes next season.

Juan Graterol – Catcher

Last season was Juan Graterol’s second time around with the Blue Jays after playing just four games with the Bisons back in 2017. In 2021, Graterol would appear in 50 games for the Jays AAA affiliate, slashing .293/.355/.359 with a .714 OPS through 167 at-bats.

The Venezuelan product decided to sign a minor league deal with the Arizona Diamondbacks in mid-November, which will be his seventh Major League organization for the soon to be 33 year old.

Hobie Harris – RHP

Claimed off of waivers during the 2019/2020 offseason, Hobie Harris did not appear in a Major League game last season and spent all year with the Buffalo Bisons. By the end of the campaign, Harris had thrown to a 3.92 ERA with a 1.168 WHIP and eight saves through 42 relief appearances, a team-high.

Harris has signed a minor league deal with the Milwaukee Brewers this winter.

With the current lockout in place, minor league deals are the only transactions that can take place and the Blue Jays have lost a few players this winter.

Richard Urena – INF

A former Blue Jays top prospect who was never able to cement a spot on the active roster, Richard Urena rejoined the organization last offseason after spending a season with the Baltimore Orioles, who picked him up off of waivers the offseason prior. Urena spent all of the 2021 season with the Bisons, appearing in 92 games and finishing with a .749 OPS and a .272/.310/.438 slash line while splitting time between shortstop, second base, and third base.

Urena will now be heading to the Washington Nationals on a minor league contract.

Dany Jimenez – RHP

In the Blue Jays farm system since 2015, Dany Jimenez’s timeline with the Blue Jays was a bit more exciting than most other prospects in the club’s farm system. Selected in both the 2019 and 2020 Rule 5 Draft’s by the San Francisco Giants and Oakland Athletics respectively, Jimenez would be returned by both clubs but did appear in two Major League games with the Giants, allowing one earned run through 1.1 innings of work.

The right-hander spent all of last season in the Bisons relief corps, appearing in 39 games and pitching to a 2.22 ERA with 73 strikeouts through 44.2 innings, accumulating three saves in the process. I was honestly a bit surprised the big league club did not give him a chance to pitch at the big league level towards the end of the season but instead promoted some other internal prospects like Baker, Connor Overton, Tayler Saucedo, and Kirby Snead.

Jimenez signed a minor league deal to return to the Athletics organization for the 2022 season.

Tyler White – First Base

A late-round draft pick of the Houston Astros back in 2013, first baseman Tyler White signed a minor league deal with the Blue Jays prior to the 2021 campaign. He had finished the prior season in the Korean Baseball Organization with SK Wyverns after being released by the Dodgers organization midseason.

With the Jays AAA affiliate, White had a solid campaign in Buffalo, slashing .292/.424/.476 with a .900 OPS (second-highest on squad amongst qualified players), 13 home runs, and a 65 RBI.

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White will be joining the Milwaukee Brewers on a minor league deal, potentially joining former Blue Jays’ first baseman Rowdy Tellez on the Major League roster next season.