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Jays Sign Big Arm to Minor League Deal

In another under-the-radar move, the Toronto Blue Jays club signed minor league free agent reliever Jerry Gil to a minor league contract, according to Baseball America's transaction feed.

Gil is not your typical 29-year-old journeyman hurler. He's actually been on the bump for just three full seasons, all in the Cincinnati Reds system. Originally signed way back in 1999, the 6'3'' 195 lbs pitcher began his career in the Arizona Diamondbacks system as a shortstop. In fact, he ranked as one of the club's best middle infield prospects for a few seasons based mainly on his defensive skills, which included a strong arm.

Here is what Baseball America said in 2001 when Gill was ranked as the fifth best prospect in the system:

"Everyone in the organization raves about Gil... Gil has the range and arm strength to play shortstop, and he needs little polish because of his smooth footwork. He's so good defensively that he could push Alex Cintron to second base should both reach the majors. His size gives him good offensive potential, and the Diamondbacks adore his dedication to the game."

Unfortunately he hit just .243/270/.388 in more than 2,600 minor league at-bats. He appeared in 29 games with Arizona at the big league level and hit .174/.182/.221. You can understand the position switch.

A reliever now, Gil spent 2011 in triple-A with the Reds organization. He posted a 3.30 FIP (3.59 ERA) in 54 games. He posted the best strikeout rate of his career (8.33 K/9) but his walk rate of 4.16 BB/9 shows that his control is still a work in progress. Also on the down side, he's an extreme fly-ball pitcher. Gil's repertoire includes a 90-95 mph fastball a promising slider and a changeup.

For what it's worth, Arizona also drafted and developed a strong-armed shortstop named Sergio Santos, who was also a former Jays farmhand, and could spend the 2012 season serving as the Chicago White Sox closer.

Like Cole Kimball, who was recently claimed off waivers from the Washington Nationals, Gil represents a worthwhile risk on a hard-throwing reliever - especially considering the going rate for a top reliever on the free agent market.