Should the Blue Jays Try Fixing James McDonald? UPDATED

Justin K. Aller

The Pittsburgh Pirates designated James McDonald for assignment a few days ago when he came off the disabled list, as the Pirates didn't have room for him on the roster during the playoff stretch run. McDonald is a former top prospect that has had his career slowed by shoulder injuries and shaky performances. As I asked with Edinson Volquez a little while ago, should the Blue Jays pursue James McDonald? In the Volquez poll 46% of people said they should attempt to acquire him, which seemed a bit high.

McDonald has been out since April 30th, but in 2011 and 2012 he amassed 171.0 innings each year and his lines were just a little bit similar. Take a look:

Year Age Tm Lg W L W-L% ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB IBB SO HBP BK WP BF ERA+ WHIP H/9 HR/9 BB/9 SO/9 SO/BB
2011 26 PIT NL 9 9 .500 4.21 31 31 0 0 0 0 171.0 176 86 80 24 78 4 142 7 1 5 754 88 1.485 9.3 1.3 4.1 7.5 1.82
2012 27 PIT NL 12 8 .600 4.21 30 29 0 1 0 0 171.0 147 85 80 21 69 6 151 4 0 3 713 89 1.263 7.7 1.1 3.6 7.9 2.19

That's definitely good enough for a back end of the rotation starter or even a bullpen piece. As you can see from his start against the Atlanta Braves earlier in the year, his stuff is still pretty good as long as he can stay healthy:

McDonald is mainly a fastball, sinker, and curveball pitcher and has had a K/9 above 7.50 every year since 2009, although his control has faltered as his BB/9 often pushes 4.00. It's a switch from when he first came up with the Dodgers and was billed as a great control guy, with the ability to strike guys out with his huge curveball.

McDonald turns 29 in a month and is going into his second year of arbitration after he earned a little over $3 million this season with the Pirates. Earlier today, McDonald cleared waivers, but as MLBTR states:

McDonald cleared waivers and was outrighted to Triple-A Indianapolis, according to the International League transactions page. As a player that has been outrighted off his 40-man roster but has three or more years of Major League service time, baseball's collective bargaining agreement allows McDonald to elect free agency following the season.

McDonald shouldn't be expecting a huge pay raise as he hardly pitched this year, but his upside would net him a few million dollars from a team that thinks they could keep him healthy and effective. The other possibility, is that McDonald bides him time in the Pirates' minor league system and stays loyal to the team where he broke into the league as a starter.

UPDATE-

As this tweet indicates, McDonald chose the first option and has elected free agency:

I definitely would put the Blue Jays as one of the top 10 likely destinations for the right hander.

The Blue Jays are beginning to have a bit of a history with saving guys with arm injuries from the scrap heap and their (supposedly) successful use of the weighted ball program should make the team a sought after destination for pitchers looking to save their once bright careers that have been slowed by arm troubles. If he elects free agency, offering someone like James McDonald $4 million to $5 million dollars for a year-long tryout couldn't hurt the starting pitching depth and the possibility of finding a diamond in the rough might outweigh the risks associated with signing McDonald. Even if he bombs out of the league it'd be better than starting Todd Redmond every five days.

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