In typical Alex Anthopoulos fashion, the Blue Jays had a busy day of roster machinations on Friday. According to the team’s official transaction page, Henry Blanco was designated for assignment (DFA) while Anthony Gose was optioned to AAA the day before. This opened up two sports on the Jays 25-man roster and one spot on the 40-man roster. With the Henry Blanco era officially over, the Blue Jays recalled Josh Thole from AAA to take his role as the Dickey Catcher ™. In addition, Andy LaRoche had his contract selected (added to the 40-man roster) from Buffalo and was called up to take the spot of Gose and serve as a third base option with Lawrie out.
This removes Blanco and his putrid .240 wOBA/45 wRC+ from the 40-man and opens the job to someone who can actually hit a bit. Thole is a career .295/85 hitter who provides almost no power (.072 ISO) and posted a dismal .290/60 last year while fighting a concussion. However, he put up a .327/103 and .307/94 in the two years prior. Thole has hit .395/140 (.188 ISO) with a generous .345 BABIP in Buffalo. He is a definite defensive downgrade but he has caught Dickey previously with reasonable success and the bat should easily cover his deficiencies value-wise. The LaRoche recall (.367/121 in AAA) offers the Jays somebody who can actually throw across the diamond, unlike Izturis, who has to use the carpet frequently.
After the game – a tidy dismantling of the Rangers, where the bullpen retired the last 15 in a row – the Blue Jays optioned RHP Todd Redmond to AAA and activated the oft-injured and long-awaited Dustin McGowan from the 60-day Disabled List and placed him on the 25-man roster. However, a 40-man roster spot is not currently available for McGowan at the moment and the corresponding move is not yet official.
As my friend and fellow blogger @Mentoch of Blue Jays Plus points out, it would seem logical that Evan Crawford is the primary DFA candidate given his miserable 10.4% walk rate (combined A+ and AA) and disappointing 17.0% strikeout rate (AA only). Languishing in AA at the age of 26 (#AAby26 – hat tip to those who get this reference) and stuck behind three lefties on the big-league staff and a right-hander with reverse splits (Cecil, Loup, Oliver and Delabar respectively), there just is no opportunity for him to seize a role on this team.
The Jays also signed ex-Yankee staff ace and sinkerballer Chien-Ming Wang to a Minor League contract and he will be added to the rosters and start on Tuesday in Chicago against the White Sox. I do not love the matchup in that park, which while down this year, has been consistently in the top third of the league in park factors for runs and home runs since 2001 (breadth of ESPN dataset). However, this effect may be mitigated somewhat by the fact that the White Sox rank 29th in wOBA and wRC+, 28th in walk rate, 27th in ISO and 23rd in strikeout rate. In terms of batted balls, the White Sox rank fifth in line drive and flyball rates, while ranking 29th in ground ball rate. A .280 BABIP and the line drives would indicate that the Sox have been somewhat unlucky, but the flyballs would account for at least some portion of the depression. Wang has not really walked or struck out anybody in 58 AAA innings this year (4.2%/10.5%), but he will keep the ball on the ground (career 59.1 % groundball rate) and with any luck the defense will not fail on him.
UPDATE (June 11, 2013):
Stats from MLB, ESPN and Fangraphs. Roster information from http://www.mlbdepthcharts.com. Hat-tip to @mentoch of http://www.bluejaysplus.com & http://bjppodcast.blogspot.ca for suggesting Evan Crawford as a DFA candidate
The Blue Jays made a series of roster moves today; placing Ben Francisco on the 15-Day DL with a hamstring strain (some have reported it as a tear), sending LHP Evan Crawford to AAA Las Vegas, calling up 1B David Cooper and moving Dustin McGowan to the 60-Day DL to open up a 40-man roster spot for right-handed reliever Ryota Igarashi. Cooper figures to spend most of his time on the bench with the Jays, spelling both Edwin Encarnacion and Yan Gomes at first base and designated hitter. However, it is Igarashi who is the more intriguing of the two call-ups, both for his previous results and the potential value he can provide.
Ryota Igarashi, initially of the New York Mets, posted walk rates of 8.2, 7.7 and 4.0 percent in his three Triple-A seasons, the last coming with the Blue Jays affiliate in 2012. The problem for Igarashi is that he completely loses the strike zone at the major league level. He has walked 14.2% of the batters he has faced in the Majors, contributing to a 1.71 WHIP. Given his Minor League walk rates, I fail to see how Igarashi’s control becomes such an issue in the Major Leagues.
Igarashi features a low-90s fastball, a curve and a high-80s splitter and has been effective against right-handers in his career. He has noticeably more issues with throwing strikes to lefties (55.5%) as opposed to righties at 60.2%. Igarashi’s success against left-handed batters has been limited by his inability to pitch inside to them. With erratic command of the curve, hitters are able to sit on a fastball and wait for a pitch to drive.
Against righties, however, Igarashi has no such problems. He spreads the ball around the strike zone with ease and is able to generate swings and misses with his splitter. Keeping this in mind, Igarashi won’t be a great reliever for the Jays, but deployed as a ROOGY, he could serve admirably, while allowing Frasor and Cordero to take longer appearances.
The Jays’ bullpen was supposed to be a strength of the club, but for much of the year it has been in flux. Sergio Santos has been injured, roles have shifted and other than Janssen and Oliver, the relievers have been erratic. Darren Oliver remains strong as a Jays LOOGY and having Ryota Igarashi as his piggyback right-handed complement may not be so bad after all.
UPDATE: Igarashi gave up two runs in one inning during Friday’s game and faced two batters, retiring neither, on Saturday. That’s One inning plus two batters (ten faced), five hits, two walks, four runs (all earned) and two strikeouts. Looking at the depleted bullpen and his hideous performance, he is a safe bet to head back o Vegas in time for Sunday’s game. Oops.