Blue Jays: Three best January free agent signings in franchise history

Boston Red Sox v Toronto Blue Jays
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We are into the quiet days of the baseball offseason as we are still about a month out from pitchers and catchers reporting to Spring Training, but also enough time has passed when teams were making significant changes to their rosters.  But just because the big changes have already happened does not mean clubs like the Blue Jays won’t go out and make another key signing to improve their chances for the upcoming season.

In years past, the Blue Jays have had some of their own free agents hit the open market, test it and in January decided their best opportunity was to come back to the Blue Jays.  In 1987, both Ernie Whitt and Jim Clancy went to the open market, but signed back with the club two days apart in January.  The same happened with Mark Eichorn as hit the open market after the 1992 World Series, but signed back on January 6 and became one of the best relief pitchers in baseball that season that helped the club to back-to-back World Series.  The most recent example of this was the contract drama surrounding José Bautista after he hit free agency he waited until mid-January before signing back for the 2017 season.

With a lull in the free agent signing, I thought I’d look at the three best January free agent signings the Blue Jays made.  For clarification, none of these players were returning players from the season before.

3. Tony Castillo - January 11, 1993

After starting his career in the Toronto Blue Jays organization as a 20-year-old in 1983, Tony Castillo was traded away in 1989 to the Atlanta Braves.  After stops with the New York Mets and Detroit Tigers, Castillo signed back with the Blue Jays for the 1993 season.  His 1992 season was a forgettable one for the left-handed pitcher as he was unable to make any major league appearances and as such the Blue Jays were able to sign him to a one-year deal worth just $185,000.

The signing worked out very well for both sides as Castillo returned to health and made 51 appearances out of the bullpen.  Castillo was dominant against left-handed batters as he held them to a .206 batting average and a .517 OPS as he surrendered just three extra base hits to 67 plate appearances on the season.  Castillo would earn an additional one-year contract that earn him a 135% raise on his 1993 salary.  In 1994, Castillo increased his innings and his ERA dropped to 2.51, which led to a two-year deal where he continued to be an effective reliever. 

The January signing of Castillo led to three and a half seasons of a valuable lefthanded reliever as he pitched in just over 200 games and had a 3.35 ERA in that time frame.  This would go as an under the radar great signing.