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Photo Credit: Kevin Sousa-USA TODAY Sports

Transactions! Blue Jays non-tender three, sign some minor-league deals, and Aaron Sanchez and Kevin Pillar get cut loose

The deadline to non-tender players ahead of arbitration was last night, and the Blue Jays made it through without doing anything controversial. Ken Giles, Matt Shoemaker, Brandon Drury, and Anthony Bass were tendered contracts for 2020, while Luke Maile, Derek Law, and Jason Adam were cut loose to free agency.

What does it all mean?

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The three names that were non-tendered are gone, for now, clearing three more spots on the 40-man roster. They can still come back, most likely on minor-league deals. If the Jays wanted to just dump these players, they would have been designated for assignment prior to the Rule 5 draft to make room on the roster for prospects. Instead, they were kept this long, allowing them to not have to go through waivers and become free agents. That makes it fairly easy for the Jays to bring any of them back on a minor-league deal.

Giles, Shoemaker, and Drury will be eligible to head to arbitration in order to determine their salary for 2020. Bass, who was claimed off waivers a few weeks ago, quickly reached a deal worth $1.5 million ahead of arbitration. Ken Giles is projected to make $8.4 million, Shoemaker $3.8 million, and Drury $2.5 million, per MLB Trade Rumours. 

Another thing to remember, an arbitration deal isn’t guaranteed. If the arbitrator awards, say, Shoemaker $4 million, the Jays can decide that’s too much and cut him before the end of spring training, and they would only be on the hook for between 30-45 days of termination pay. In the case of Drury or Shoemaker, the Jays essentially now have an insurance option if they can’t find an upgrade at either position during the off-season.

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Checking in on some old friends, Aaron Sanchez and Kevin Pillar will both become free agents as the Astros and Giants opted to not tender them contracts.

The Sanchez one isn’t too surprising, as the shoulder injury that ended his 2019 season will also linger into 2020. Given his history, Sanchez was projected to earn $5.6 million in free agency, which is a pretty massive chunk of change for the Astros to spend on a reclamation project. They can still bring him back on a cheaper deal.

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The Pillar decision is a lot more out of left-field. Pillar was pretty good for the Giants after being acquired a few days into the regular season last spring. He was a one-win player who provided a good glove and a little bit of offence and even garnered a 10th-place MVP vote, but, given the fact he was projected to earn $9.7 million in free agency, San Fransisco let him go. He can turn his solid season into a pretty nice payday somewhere.

Finally, we have a crop of players officially being signed to minor-league deals with invitations to spring training.

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A.J. Cole is one we already knew about because he was the non-Gerrit Cole tease signed last week. Andy Burns and Patrick Kivlehan were both veterans in the system last year who will provide depth for the Buffalo Bisons. Phillippe Aumont, a Canadian starter, was in the system in 2015 but hasn’t pitched in the Majors since 2014. He pitched in the Independent Canadian-American League last year, posting an impressive 2.65 ERA over 16 starts. Finally, Justin Miller is a journeyman reliever who struggled with injuries in 2019, but had a good season as recently as 2018.

I suspect we’ll see more minor-league deals before the start of spring training as free agents fall through the cracks. Of the non-tendered players, I could see Maile coming back on a minor-league deal to be organizational depth, given the fact he’s familiar with the pitchers and he has a strong defensive game. But who knows! There’s a lot of off-season left.