JB: Blue Jays quietly making some useful minor-league signings
By Jay Blue
Canadian Baseball Network
The Blue Jays have made a couple of minor league signings over the past few days that have a few implications for this season and down the road.
First of all, the Jays dipped into the Cuban emigré market by signing mostly-unknown shortstop Javier Monzon. Monzon, who turned 23 just two days before the Blue Jays signed him actually left Cuba several years ago to live with his mother in Spain. After playing baseball for a few years there, he moved to the Dominican Republic where he held a showcase for big league scouts.
I'm somewhat torn as to what to think about how much money Monzon would have commanded. If the Jays had signed him to a bonus over $10,000 it would have counted against the 2015/16 bonus pool which the Jays have already exceeded by almost 15%. The "almost" part of that sentence is the important one. Thanks to the trade of Chase De Jong and Tim Locastro to the Dodgers, the Blue Jays had a bonus pool of $3,395,400 and signed Vladimir Guerrero, Jr. for $3.9 million (these figures courtesy of MjwW ofBluebird Banter). They have $4,709 left in their pool, meaning that if they were to give Monzon more than the $10,000 exemption, that figure would count against their bonus pool, pushing the Jays over the 15% threshold that would limit the Jays to signing players to bonuses of under $300,000 for two years rather than one.
By waiting for Monzon to turn 23, they sidestep this whole issue but it begs a number of questions. Did Monzon's patience cost the Blue Jays extra or were all of the teams interested in him want to wait too? Is Monzon worth more than the $10,000 exemption? If he's that good, why didn't another team with more spending room (or that had blown its spending pool further out of the water) step in and snap him up closer to his showcase date. He was in the Dominican Republic as early as January 2014 and so has had two years to impress scouts and earn himself a contract.
We'll have to wait and see what Monzon brings to the Blue Jays' minor league system. I figure he'll either start in extended spring training or Lansing.
In more recent news, the Blue Jays announced that they have signed catcher Tony Sanchez to a minor league deal with an invitation to big league spring training. This is a deal that I've been waiting for since Sanchez was released by the Pittsburgh Pirates on January 13.
Sanchez has big league experience but is still young enough (at 27) that he can still have some upside. A fourth-overall pick by the Pirates in 2009, he took home a $2.5 million signing bonus thanks to how well he played at Boston College, but the consensus of scouts was that he was excellent defensively but struggled to hit breaking balls.
Still, Sanchez was a Top 100 prospect twice (in the pre-2010 and pre-2011 rankings by both Basebal America and Baseball Prospectus) after he tore the minor leagues up in his first two years of professional ball despite not quite coming through on his big power potential.
Sanchez made his big league debut in 2013, getting 66 plate appearances with the Pirates and hitting .233/.288/.400 with four doubles and two home runs. In his second season, he only played marginally more, getting 80 PAs in 2014 and hitting .267/.300/.360. Last season, Sanchez had only nine plate appearances at the big league level.
His offense has tapered off over the past few seasons in the minor leagues. While he forced his way into the majors by hitting .288/.368/.504 in Triple-A Indianapolis in 2013, he only hit .235/.337/.442 in 2014 and .236/.342/.342 in 2015. He has high walk rates that enable him to get on base (at least in Triple-A) and has been able to cut down his strikeout rate (at the expense of his power).
Still, Sanchez offers the Blue Jays badly needed MLB-ready depth for the minor leagues in case there's an injury to Russell Martin. Sanchez is a far better overall player than Josh Thole, Humberto Quintero and A.J. Jimenez (the next three players in line for an everyday job behind the plate). While he came out of college very polished defensively, it has been said that Sanchez developed the "yips," throwing out only 17% and 14% of runners stealing in his first two big league seasons. When looking at his Triple-A stats last year, that number is also not very encouraging at 18%.
The signing of Sanchez represents another former first-rounder that the Blue Jays have picked up this offseason. The others include Drew Storen, David Aardsma and Daniel Schlereth,