Earlier on Thursday, the Toronto Blue Jays announced that right-handed pitcher Junior Fernández has been claimed off of waivers from the New York Yankees.
Fernández, 25, was only just recently claimed and later designated for assignment by the Yankees. Since he was claimed off of waivers, he will need a spot on the Blue Jays' 40-man roster, which is now full.
Fernández signed with the St. Louis Cardinals as an international free agent back in July of 2014, where he stayed until September of 2022. He made his big league debut for the club back in 2019 and made a total of 47 relief appearances for the Cards over four seasons.
While the first few seasons of Fernández's career may not have taken off the way he'd have liked it to, he seemed to have discovered some sort of mojo in this past season. In a total of 16 games split between the Cardinals and Pittsburgh Pirates (who claimed him off of waivers from the Cards in September), he posted an ERA of 2.41 in 18.2 innings.
Notably, Fernández is out of minor league options so his addition to this Blue Jays club is going to force someone out of the Opening Day picture. If the season were to start today, only Tim Mayza, Adam Cimber, Erik Swanson and Jordan Romano have minor league options remaining but there's little to no chance that any of those guys go down to the minors. That leaves a pair of righties who are also out of options: Mitch White and Trevor Richards.
Obviously things change and stuff happens, so there's a chance that an injury (or signing/trade) could push someone out of the picture and free up a spot for Fernández in the bullpen.
It's easy to see where the appeal lies in someone like Fernández for this staff. He is still young and is only just seeming to come into his own in the big leagues.
His repertoire is highlighted by an insane 99mph sinker ball that he relies on as his main pitch.
He pairs the blazing sinker with an 89mph slider that has some sharp movement on it and was thrown for a strike 56% of the time last season.
Fernández's repertoire is rounded out by a 99mph fourseam fastball that he throws around 12% of the time and a 90mph changeup (!!!) that he throws around 11% of the time.
It remains to be seen where Fernández is best going to fit on this Blue Jays club, but the team has long sought another relief arm to add to the bullpen mix and he fits that bill. His walks will need to come down, as he walks around as many guys as he strikes out, but I'm looking forward to seeing what the Jays can turn this guy into.