Photo Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

Minor Moves: Alburquerque Signing Made Official, Plus A Minor League Deal For Rhiner Cruz

The Jays are still out there searching for their next Dominic Leone, and maybe it will come in the form of Al Alburquerque or Rhiner Cruz — both of whom have now officially signed minor league deals with invites to camp next month in Dunedin. To wit:

I, uh… I don’t think it’s a particularly good bet that either of these guys turn into anything like Leone, who was recently moved to St. Louis in the Randal Grichuk trade, but it wasn’t a great bet that Leone did either, so… y’know… who knows, right?

To remind: Leone was a waiver pickup last winter who’d pitched to a 6.33 ERA and 6.26 FIP over 25 appearances with the Diamondbacks in 2016. He struck out 23 over 27 innings, walking 12, producing a -0.4 WAR per Fangraphs. He had been a negative WAR pitcher the year before — with an 8.40 ERA over 15 innings, propelled by nine walks and just nine strikeouts. After a very tidy 2014 in he’d hit the skids and lost velocity, but the Jays took a chance, the velo bounced back, and it worked out extremely well for them.

Now, obviously that’s a hell of a best case scenario and we shouldn’t at all expect similar things from these guys, but the more important point is that, with them being signed to minor league deals, it’s all upside here.

I wrote about Alburquerque last week, noting that he saw a nice uptick in velocity of his own in 2017, his ability to keep the ball in the park, and this tweet from Keegan that maybe suggests good things for the former Tiger’s ability against right-handers in particular:

And as for Rhiner Cruz — a name I assure you I hadn’t ever heard until today — a quick scan of his Fangraphs page turned up this:

Those are some pretty nice Triple-A numbers last year, and he was regarded highly enough to be taken first overall in the Rule Five draft in 2011, which led to that full big league year in Houston. Back then the right-hander was averaging 95-96 on his fastball, working with a slider and occasionally a changeup. Whether he looks remotely like that now, or how much has changed… well… that probably requires more research into Rhiner Cruz than I think is justified at this point. But maybe there’s something there.


The mantra you hear so often is that relievers are volatile, which obviously means good can quickly turn to bad, but there’s another side to that coin. Bad can sometimes just as easily — or at least almost as easily — turn to good. I don’t think it works quite as often that way, but adding pieces that at least look like there’s a chance that they might on contracts that don’t matter at all? Sure.

  • AD

    I really albuquerqe will be a key arm in the jays bpen. I remember this guy from a few years back dominating righty bats like jbats and EE. He has a great fastball/slider. Solid pickup. Cruz is just a flier

  • jerjapan

    I’m high on AA’s chance to contribute – he seems a good example of the type of vet getting pinched in the current market. A better comp for Cruz is your Jeff Beliveau types.

    Leone was in a completely different category than Cruz and Alburquerque, given that he was a waiver claim and therefore required a valuable spot on the 40 man. Not sure why folks round here are so quick to write him off as a fungible asset – STL is a model org, and clearly they like him. In his two full seasons in the bigs, he was highly effective in 122 games. Not sure his 38 games between AAA and the bigs in 2015/16 are all that relevant, and that’s not even considering his dominance in the minors.

      • jerjapan

        ??? 38 big league games in 2015 and 2016. Pretty straightforward reply to your SSS numbers in the article – you know, when you imply that his negative WAR in 15 IP in 2015 is somehow relevant. He was average in the minors those years as well, not mediocre.

        • You said “38 games between AAA and the bigs in 2015/16,” which is factually incorrect, as I’ve shown. And I’m sorry, but the fact that he was bad in the majors is relevant. Sample sizes on relievers are small, yes. But you’re trying to call me out for this while simultaneously arguing to make them even smaller by throwing out a bunch of innings that are inconvenient to your weird point. Keep trying tho!

          • jerjapan

            My bad on the clarity of that one – 38 games in the bigs, bouncing between AAA and the show. I’m referring to his 122 IP in his two nearly full MLB seasons, and you are citing his 38 IP in the bigs while on the minor league shuttle. Who’s guilty of cherry picking and ignoring SSS here?

          • Last year’s 70 IP are irrelevant to this post, as I was referring entirely to Leone at the time he was acquired. Maybe figure a basic thing like that out before you go around casting accusations of cherry picking at me, because I’m pretty sure that’s not going not going to go well for you.

          • jerjapan

            Fine, looks like you’ve blocked my reply to your post – is that what ‘not going to go well for me’ means? But even with last year ruled out, my point stands – as a waiver claim, and with the 40 man spot, Leone is not a comp for minor league contracts. Interesting that you don’t even bother with that main idea. I know contrary ideas and debate are taboo round here, but I’ll admit it, I like trying to speak to you in the tone you use to anyone who disagrees with you. Funny though, how that tone has changed the more corporate you are. To me, you are still the guy that walked into the washroom at the silver dollar, loudly announcing that ‘drunk jays fan’ is in the house, only to be met with resounding silence. You can’t handle debate, so you resort to invective.
            That said, I do enjoy your content sometimes 🙂

          • LOL. Yeah, that definitely sounds like me and a very real thing that actually happened. You clearly know me very well.

            Sorry to tell you though, I didn’t block your reply. I’ve looked around in the comment system here and I’m not seeing it — maybe clicking a button is tough for you? Anywho, “not going to go well for you” just means that yeah, your commenting privileges aren’t going to last very long if your objective here is just to give me shit as you fumble through some constantly shifting attempt to create an argument over nothing (which I, of course, now see evidently has something to do with some pathetic grudge you’ve held for literally years). Apologies again pal, but you must be very confused if you think I’m going to put up with that kind of horseshit.

        • jerjapan

          I’m just not savvy with the format … now that I’ve figured it out, sure, you didn’t block me. Go ahead though … I know the whole goal here is a cult of personality. You know it too! You comment on the side details and avoid the key elements. So let me clarify this, so that you can’t obfuscate. Leone is a more valuable asset than any of our minor league signings.

          • jerjapan

            Also, I have no grudge with you. I do have a problem with trollish nastiness on the internet, and I have a lot of evidence that this describes you – aka, your online content. Ask around. Many of your commenters around here seem to like that about you, but in this age of disinformation, I refuse to allow bullies to bully their way into being right.

          • I was talking about Leone at this time last year, guy. And sure he might have been better some degree — as you say, they gave him a roster spot (though having years of relatively cheap control left influenced that value a lot, maybe as much as actual talent). This is, however, a minor detail that had nothing to do with the point I was making, which was that these are pitchers who were bad and looked like nothing pickups but might end up free money like Leone was and did. Congratulations on losing your fucking mind over it though!