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Blue Jays sign Rhiner Cruz to minor-league deal

Your morning update for everything Blue Jays.

Houston Astros v Texas Rangers
Rhiner Cruz of the Houston Astros pitches in the seventh inning against the Texas Rangers at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington on September 25, 2013 in Arlington, Texas.
Photo by Rick Yeatts/Getty Images

The Toronto Blue Jays signed right-handed relief pitcher Rhiner Cruz to a minor-league deal with an invitation to spring training yesterday.

The 31-year-old is coming off of a 2017 season in which he only played in triple-A for the Atlanta Braves, posting a 2.47 ERA in 54 games, all out of the bullpen. Cruz had a strikeout-to-walk ratio of 2.47 (yes, it was the exact same number as his ERA), up from his 2016 rate of 1.50.

Cruz last appeared in the majors in 2013 with the Houston Astros. He pitched in 20 games (21.1 innings), recording a FIP of 5.16. It was his second season at the major-league level, with 2012 being his first. Despite having a 6.05 ERA and 5.00 FIP with the Astros in 2012, Cruz pitched 55.0 innings for the teams.

Given Cruz’s success in triple-A last year, the Blue Jays are likely to give him a chance with the big-league club this season if such success continues.

The Blue Jays have shown interest in Chris Tillman this offseason, Jon Morosi of MLB Network reported yesterday. While it’s not clear whether the team still has interest in the starter, it seems likely that he is still a potential addition this offseason.

Tillman had the worst season of his career in 2017, posting a FIP of 6.93 with the Baltimore Orioles, his ninth year with the club. He started 19 games and pitched just 93.0 innings. Tillman was worth an astonishing low -2.2 WAR.

Still, despite his awful 2017 season, Tillman was one of the better starters in baseball from 2012 to 2016. Over that five year span, he had an ERA of 3.81 and FIP of 4.27.

As a buy-low option, it makes sense to sign Tillman, especially when considering the lack of starting depth for the Blue Jays. In the worst-case scenario (which is also the most likely scenario), Toronto releases Tillman and eats the money they give him.

The Blue Jays announced their non-roster invitees to spring training on Wednesday afternoon. The list is as follows:

  • Pitchers: Andrew Case, Jose Fernandez, Chad Girodo, Jon Harris, Sean Reid-Foley, Jordan Romano, Chris Rowley, Justin Shafer.
  • Catchers: Max Pentecost.
  • Infielders: Jason Leblebijian, Tim Lopes.
  • Outfielders: JD Davis, Roemon Fields.

Check out Tom’s article from yesterday for more analysis on the news.

A few other things:

  • Jose Bautista reportedly had his eye-sight checked earlier this offseason, and it was “really bad.” Accordingly, he’ll be wearing contacts or glasses in 2018, Peter Gammons of MLB Network said. (The Bautista discussion starts at 0:40.)
  • The Kansas City Royals signed Ryan Goins to a minor-league deal with an invitation to spring training yesterday, as the team announced. Tom’s article breaks down the news.
  • Lorenzo Cain is reportedly letting some teams know that they are no longer being considered as destinations for the free agent outfielder. While the Blue Jays were rumoured to have interest in the outfielder earlier this offseason, there has been no indication of Toronto’s connection to Cain in the past month.
  • Curtis Granderson’s deal with the Blue Jays, now official, is worth $5 million guaranteed with $1.5 million of incentives for plate appearances, Jon Heyman reports.
  • Vladimir Guerrero finally made it to the Hall of Fame!

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