As the offseason marches on, the Blue Jays are preparing to move on from the likes of Hyun Jin Ryu, Brandon Belt, Kevin Kiermaier, Jordan Hicks, Whit Merrifield and Jay Jackson as each of them became big league free agents.
On the minor league side, there are usually way, way more players that quietly are moved on from. Usually, organization's top prospects are not allowed to hit free agency as they are either added to the big league or at least 40-man roster before their free agent eligibility. On Tuesday, the Blue Jays may have let one of the good ones go when they shouldn't have.
Rafael Lantigua, one of the best hitters in the Blue Jays organization this past season, was not signed to a minor league extension and is now a free agent, a source tells Jays Journal.
Lantigua, 25, had been a part of the Jays organization since all the way back in 2017 when he signed as an international free agent. He stands at just 5-foot-7 but don't let the small size fool you, he is a wizard with the bat.
After a rather slow ascension up to the high minors, Lantigua took Triple-A Buffalo by storm this season. He made it into a career-high 129 games and went off. Along the way, he scored 101 runs, hit 40 doubles and 12 home runs with 85 driven in. This is without mentioning the fact that he stole 28 bases in 33 attempts, had a .305 batting average and a smooth .893 OPS. Notably, he also drew 98 walks while striking out just 107 times.
At this point, Lantigua is far from a "top prospect", but he provided Buffalo Bisons fans with some must-see action in nearly every game he played. On offense, he was dominant. On defense, he played all over the diamond; making at least one appearance at second base, third base, shortstop and all three outfield positions. He does not rate as a strong defender at any position in particular, but he is known around the organization as a team-first guy who will play wherever he's asked to.
In multiple conversations I've had this past year with people within the Blue Jays organization - both players and coaches - Lantigua's name came up every single time the question was asked of "which minor league isn't getting enough love this year". To see him end his tenure with the Jays without a single big league appearance to his name is disappointing; but the door remains open on a new contract coming together, and the Jays will likely kick the tires on a new deal.
With his breakout year in Triple-A in 2023, Lantigua will certainly receive interest from other clubs around the league. He may not be signing a major league contract anywhere, but to boast the offensive stat line he did this year is something worth taking notice of.