Earlier this week, the Seattle Mariners designated former Blue Jays outfield prospect Alberto Rodriguez for assignment in order to make room for right-handed pitcher J.B. Bukauskas, who they’d claimed off waivers from the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Rodríguez was the player to be named later in the Taijuan Walker trade ahead of the August 31st trade deadline in the pandemic shortened 2020 season.
Here’s what he looked like as a 19-year-old in the Blue Jays farm system:
After slashing .289/.379/.470/.849 with 10 home runs, 65 RBI, 80 runs scored and 15 stolen bases between Single-A and High-A, Rodriguez was added as a 21-year-old to the Mariners 40-man roster ahead of the 2021 Rule 5 Draft, which was subsequently cancelled due to the 2021-22 MLB lockout.
He spent the full season in 2022 with the Mariners High-A affiliate, the Everett AquaSox, putting up a less impressive slash line of .261/.336/.396/.732 with 10 HRs, 46 RBI and only six stolen bases against players who were, on average, 1.5 years older than him. His 106 wRC+ was six percent above the league average including those older players, but he did strike out in 26.2% of his plate appearances, which was a regression from his minor league career average across four seasons of 22.6%.
Would a Blue Jays Reunion Make Sense?
Currently the Blue Jays farm system is thin on MLB-caliber outfield prospects. 24-year-old Otto López and 28-year-old Nathan Lukes are both on the 40-man roster. 20-year-old Gabriel Martinez is the top ranked outfield prospect in the farm system, ranked 14th in the Baseball America (subscription required) updated in-season ranking of Jays prospects last summer, and No. 9 by MLB Pipeline.
Rodriguez was 13th in the most recent MLB Pipeline ranking of the Mariners farm system here and was ranked No. 22 by Baseball America in their 2022 in-season update. He’s also a left-handed hitter who only turned 22-years-old last October, which makes him almost a full six years younger than current 40-man depth option Lukes, who has never played in the majors after seven minor league seasons, including three at Triple-A. The fact Rodriguez was six percent better on wRC+ last year than players who were older than him in High-A is also intriguing.
If Seattle is unable to resolve the Rodriguez DFA by working out a trade by January 24th, the Jays could claim him on waivers and place him on their 40-man roster by designating the much older Nathan Lukes for assignment. As MLBTR writer Darragh McDonald concluded, “Though his 2022 season wasn’t ideal, [Rodriguez is] still a young and talented outfielder who has a couple of option years remaining. As recently as midway through 2022, Baseball America still considered him one of the club’s top 30 prospects.” What do you think Jays fans, should the organization bring him back?