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Life in a Vacuum. The Ballad of Sam Dyson as a Blue Jays.

for sale: home Jersey, only used once
for sale: home Jersey, only used once
Brad White

So far I have been looking at the current roster from an assets standpoint. Now I will look at a one case from the last few years which, to many of us, made no sense and exemplify some of my reticence when fellow fans call for moves which go against roster optimization.

"Life in a vacuum"

The 2010 draft

Sam Dyson was ranked 106th in Baseball America’s top prospects for the 2010 first-year player draft. He was viewed as a power starting pitcher, but had been plagued by arm issues at the University of South Carolina. This was one of the reasons he had slipped in the rankings. He did however have a decent last year finishing with a record of 6-5 with a 4.28 ERA, 2.1 BB/9, and 8.8 K/9 over 103 innings.

The Blue Jays used their fourth round pick to draft him, and he was signed at the deadline for an above slot bonus of $600,000. Even though this was under the old collective bargaining agreement, with no pool limits imposed, the amount was considerable. In fact it was the second highest bonus for any 4YR-college player taken after the second round in that draft. The Blue Jays saw something in Dyson that warranted the investment.

The development

As was likely expected by the team, further surgery could not be avoided and Tommy John Surgery was performed in November 2010. Sam Dyson would wait until the Spring of 2012 to make his professional debut.

Dyson started that year in High-A ball. After six starts the Blue Jays decided he was better suited as a power arm in the bullpen, and moved him up to AA in that role. On July 5, 2012, after only three months in the minors, Sam Dyson’s contract was purchased by the Blue Jays adding him to the 40-man roster. When discussing the call up, the Manager at the time was quoted saying Dyson had "maybe the best overall stuff in our organisation" and went on with a glowing review of his potential (source: John Lott). We can easily infer that Dyson was still considered a valuable asset at this point.

He would make his major league debut that same day against the Kansas City Royals. He faced two batters: giving up a walk and recording a strikeout. He would not pitch again until 12 days later, where he got hit badly by the Yankees. His line that day read 0.1 IP, 4 H, 1 BB, 0 K, 3 ER. He would be sent back to the Fisher Cats two days later and stay there until the end of the year. This resulted in the "best overall stuff in our organisation" wasting a valuable option for 0.2 innings. Already, this appears like a glaring asset mismanagement. When looking at what the Jays are facing with their current roster we can see that Relievers with Options are extremely valuable for roster flexibility. The team never explained the reasons for the move.

He would finish the year as the Fisher Cats’ closer putting up solid overall numbers. There were some performance warning signs, mostly in the form of a low strikeout ratio, but then, this was true at the time of his call-up and the glowing reviews.

Fast forward to January, 2013

The team has overhauled itself with some major acquisitions, but at the cost of many of its upper minor league assets being shipped out in various trades. The Jays have also turned over many of the end spots on the 40-man roster with what seemed like a gazillion waiver claims of fringe players. So you would assume Dyson, likely destined to AA or AAA, with two options left, would be a valuable commodity.

On January 22, the Blue Jays sign Mark DeRosa to a major league contract worth $750,000. To make room for him on the roster, they designated Sam Dyson for assignment. To this day I fail to understand the logic. Here are the considerations:

· One month later, the Jays would be able to open multiple spots on the 40-man roster by putting rehabbing pitchers Kyle Drabek, Drew Hutchison, and Luis Perez on the 60-day DL.

· Even though DeRosa was rumoured to have other offers, little would stop the Jays from signing him to a guaranteed $750,000 minor league contract with an out if they fail to put him on roster by February 28, giving him negotiation powers and alternatives.

· It’s Mark DeRosa, a player with a grand total of -0.9 WAR over the prior three years.

· At the time Mickey Storey, Russ Cantzler, and Evan Crawford, to name a few of the lessor names, were occupying spots on the 40-man roster. We are to believe that someone after two thirds of an inning would go from "maybe the best overall stuff in our system" to worse than these three guys.

· Ricky Romero, of the unmovable contract, was still on the 40-man roster.


Dyson was claimed off waiver by the Florida Marlins. Maybe he could have been included in the Mathis trade. The Marlins had one of the early waiver picks so it is likely someone else would have also claimed him, reducing the scenario that this was just a miscalculated attempt to clear a spot on the roster.

The Marlins proceeded to move him back to starting pitching. In stops in Rookie, AA and AAA he pitched 111 innings with a 2.67 ERA and 1.23 WHIP. His strike out ratio of 5.0 K/9P was still low, but the results still lead to the following quote from Baseball America last week: "New Role Turns Sam Dyson into New Pitcher".

For a guy who would not have needed to be added to the 40-man roster until this winter, and for the sake of two short meaningless relief appearances, he was lost with no compensation. This truly was a wasted asset.