How did former Blue Jays players fare in 2023 Spring Training battles?
After the 2022 season Blue Jays management did an overhaul of their roster and moved on from several of those players. Some of the former Blue Jays were invited to camps around the league with no guarantee they were going to make the club, here is an update on which those players made Opening Day rosters and who did not.
Raimel Tapia – Boston Red Sox
At 29-years old, Raimel Tapia signed a minor league contract with the Boston Red Sox with an invitation to Spring Training. The Red Sox gave Tapia a long look during the spring getting him into 16 games and 45 plate appearances where he posted a slash line of .317/.378/.585 with seven extra-base hits including five RBI and three stolen bases. Tapia had a clause in his contract that he could opt out if the Red Sox did not add him to the 40-man roster before Opening Day. It was announced earlier this week that Jarren Duran, who Tapia had been competing with for the last roster spot, had been optioned to Triple-A, meaning the former Blue Jay would make the Opening Day roster.
Gabriel Moreno – Arizona Diamondbacks
The Blue Jays former top prospect Gabriel Moreno was traded this past offseason to the Arizona Diamondbacks as the main piece to acquire Daulton Varsho. Moreno is battling a hand injury after being hit by a pitch this past weekend, but appears slotted to be getting the primary catching duties while the Diamondbacks top catcher Carson Kelly is out with fractured forearm. Moreno impressed Arizona fans with his bat this spring as he has posted a slash line of .370/.452/.741 thanks in part to three home runs in 27 at-bats. The 23-year old went 10-for-27 in 10 games while striking out just four times.
Bradley Zimmer – Los Angeles Dodgers
Like a cat with nine lives, Bradley Zimmer continuously found himself on the Blue Jays roster in 2022. Even after being waived and claimed in August, he was back a few weeks later. This past offseason, Zimmer signed a minor league contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers. The now-30-year-old got into 21 games and struck out 19 times in 32 at-bats while collecting eight hits. This past Sunday, he was cut and reassigned the Dodgers minor league camp.
Anthony Kay – Chicago Cubs
Anthony Kay was invited to the Chicago Cubs Spring Training as a non-roster invitee and a strong enough camp to be a thought in the minds in management. In six appearances and six innings pitched, Kay surrendered just one run and struck out nine while allowing just five base runners. The Cubs announced their Opening Day roster and he is not on it, as expected.
Julian Merryweather – Chicago Cubs
After being designated for assignment by the Blue Jays back in January, Julian Merryweather, like Kay, was claimed on waivers by the Cubs. During Spring Training, Merryweather got into seven games, pitching a total of 7.1 innings pitched and striking out 12 with an ERA of 1.23. His talents were never in question in Toronto, it was a matter of him being able to stay healthy. The Cubs announced that he will be a part of their Opening Day roster.
Matt Gage – Houston Astros
The Blue Jays signed left-handed reliever Matt Gage to a minor league deal for the 2022 season and he pitched well for the Buffalo Bisons that earned him an opportunity in Toronto. In 11 appearances, Gage posted a 1.38 ERA over 13 innings, but found himself on waivers this past offseason, only to be claimed by the Houston Astros. The Johnston, New York native appeared in five Spring Training games for the Astros pitching a total of six innings and surrendered just one run and striking out six. Gage was optioned to Triple-A last week.
Honorable mention - Anthony Banda and Hobie Harris of the Washington Nationals
Against all odds, a pair of former Blue Jays hurlers have formally been added to the Washington Nationals' Opening Day roster, primarily thanks to a slew of injuries the club faces.
Anthony Banda, 29, made seven appearances for the Jays last year, posting a 4.26 ERA and 97 ERA+ in 6.1 innings of work. He is a well-traveled veteran who has had troubles finding sustained success at the big league level. The rebuilding Nationals seem like a great place for him to try and rebuild some value this year.
Hobie Harris, 29, spent last year in Triple-A for the Milwaukee Brewers, but was a member of the Blue Jays' organization back in 2021. The relief pitcher made 42 appearances for the Buffalo Bisons that year with a 3.92 ERA in 43.2 innings of work. He impressed the Nationals' front office in spring when he posted an ERA of 0.90 in 10 innings of work with seven strikeouts and just three hits allowed.