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Blue Jays claim Taylor Guerreri; outright Leonel Campos, Taylor Cole, Raffy Lopez, Luis Santos

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MLB: Spring Training-Tampa Bay Rays at Toronto Blue Jays Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports

The Blue Jays continued their fall housekeeping today, outrighting four more players off the 40-man roster in addition to the three last week. Additionally, they made an intriguing waiver claim from the Tampa Bay Rays.

Let’s start there. RHP Taylor Guerrieri, 25 next month, was selected 24th overall in the 2011 draft out of high school in South Carolina, signing for just under $2-million. He debuted in 2012 in the NYPL (equivalent to Vancouver and the NWL for the Jays), posting an excellent 1.04 ERA over 12 starts and 52 innings, with 5 walks against 45 strikeouts.

Combined with low/mid 90s fastball, curveball that projected as an out pitch and developing feel for a change-up, that had him ranked the 62nd overall prospect by MLB Pipeline and Baseball America five years ago, and fourth among Rays prospects by the former (one spot ahead of Chris Archer!).

He followed that up with an excellent first half in 2013 with low-A Bowling Green, 2.01 ERA in 14 starts with a 51/12 K/BB, before going down with Tommy John surgery that, combined with a 50 game suspension for a drug of abuse, effectively shelved him until 2015. He split 2015 between high-A and AA posting a 1.85 ERA over 78 innings, and was added to the 40-man in November to be protected from the Rule 5 Draft.

2016 was Guerrieri’s first season throwing 100 innings, all in AA. The results backed up to a 3.76 ERA with 46/89 BB/K in 146 innings. MLB.com’s report suggested his velocity wasn’t quite back to where it was, he still had the potential for three average or better pitches, or a mid-rotation ceiling.

Unfortunately, 2017 was essentially another lost year, as he suffered an elbow injury in mid-April and though there was apparently no structural damage, he didn’t pitch again. But Marc Topkin reports he’s expected to be ready and healthy for Spring Training.

If that’s the case, this looks like a great move to me, especially since he still has an option year left in 2018. A healthy Guerrieri has a good ceiling as a mid-to-backend rotation arm with a full six years of control, and already with a full season in AA so he’s not very far away. He should slot into Buffalo’s rotation, and though not likely a realistic candidate to help/provide depth out of Spring Training, if he gets on track could be an option if help is needed later in the year.

Regardless, it costs almost nothing, a rounding error against the budget and a 40-man spot over the winter. There might also be the potential to move him to the bullpen, especially if the stuff could tick up. I’d think that’s probably more of the 2019 thing, with 2018 representing a final option to start with the flexibility of having the last option year.

The four players outrighted off the roster were RHP Leonel Campos, RHP Taylor Cole, catcher Raffy Lopez, and RHP Luis Santos. None were particularly surprising, as I had identified all four as on the roster bubble a month ago, though only Campos was out of out-of-options for 2018. Of the original 13 players listed as on the bubble, only 6 remain on the 40-man, with just Rob Refsnyder being out-of-options for 2018.

Campos, 30, was claimed off waivers a year from San Diego and outrighted to Buffalo last January. He found himself back up by late April, and spent 2017 bouncing back and forth, optioned seven times around two major league DL stints. He posted a strong 2.63 ERA in 13.2 MLB innings, albeit with poorer peripherals (4.84 FIP / 5.23 xFIP). He was also very good for Buffalo with a 1.65 ERA in 33.2 innings and strong peripherals. He does have a big fastball, but in the majors his lack of command has been exposed.

Cole, 28, was selected in the 2011 draft (detailed background here) and called up in early August. He broke a toe in his debut outing, and the Jays released him shortly after to free up roster space, re-signing him to a minor league deal and adding him back for the tail end of the season. I wouldn’t be surprised if he stayed in the organization in 2018.

Lopez, 30, signed a minor league deal last winter and started the season in AA. Between injuries and ineffectiveness, he got the call to the big leagues in early August as well, and actually was the strongest contributor of all the backups with a league average 100 wRC+ albeit in just 63 PA. However, he struck out over 30% of the time and his .241 ISO likely isn’t sustainable so it’s very hard to see him as the answer to the back-up catcher hole.

Santos, 26 (27 next season), is something of an organizational soldier having spent the last three seasons in the system after being released by Kansas City out of Spring Training 2015. He’s got decent stuff highlighted by a low/mid-90s fastball and decent results in the upper minors, but command and consistency are the big issues. One day you see him looking great like a bona fide major leaguer, and the next he’s getting plastered. And that’s really the difference between MLB and minor league success.

What’s potentially most interesting is the timing. Today, is the 5th day after the end of the World Series, and therefore the day when eligible minor league free agents are declared. Campos is able to elect free agency regardless (and whenever) since this is his second outright assignment, but that’s not the case for the three others who qualify via six years/renewals having elapsed.

I’m not quite sure how exactly the timing works, whether they will be free agent or if the Jays instead retain their rights in 2018. That will be something to keep an eye on over the next couple days (if you’re interested in that sort of thing(.

With these moves, and Jose Bautista now officially a free agent, the 40-man roster stands at 36. And I would not surprised to see further maneuvering over the next month.