Former Blue Jay Roundup: Kevin Pillar signed with the White Sox, Nick Frasso underwent shoulder surgery, and more
23 days ago
After a very boring month of January, things finally started to pick up in early February around the baseball world.
Beyond the headline-grabbing moves of the past weeks, a handful of former Blue Jays have been on the move. Let’s take a look at who’s going where.
Kevin Pillar signed with the White Sox:
Another year, another team for Kevin Pillar, who inked a minor-league contract with the Chicago White Sox with an invitation to the team’s spring training.
Pillar broke into the big leagues with the Blue Jays in 2013, just two years after being selected in the 34th round of the MLB Draft. He spent six seasons with Toronto before the Blue Jays moved him to the San Francisco Giants a few days into the 2019 season. Since then, Pillar has played for the Boston Red Sox, Colorado Rockies, New York Mets, L.A. Dodgers, and Atlanta Braves.
Ken Giles signed with the Braves:
Former Blue Jays closer Ken Giles is trying to make a Major League comeback, this time with the Atlanta Braves, who signed him to a minor-league deal.
Giles had an excellent season with the Blue Jays in 2019 but was limited to just four appearances in 2020 because of an elbow injury. He pitched for the Seattle Mariners in 2022 and didn’t allow an earned run over 4 1/3 innings but hasn’t been in the Majors since. Last year, the righty posted an 8.55 ERA in 20 innings pitching with the Triple-A affiliate of the Dodgers.
Ross Stripling traded to Oakland:
On Friday afternoon, ESPN’s Jeff Passan reported that former Blue Jay Ross Stripling had been traded to Oakland in exchange for prospect Jonah Cox.
I don’t think it’s that bold of a statement to say that Ross Stripling saved the Blue Jays season in 2022. Originally brought in to be a swingman back at the 2020 trade deadline, Stripling found himself in the Blue Jays rotation after an injury to Hyun Jin Ryu.
In 2022, Stripling had a 3.01 ERA and a 3.11 FIP in 134.1 innings pitched, along with a 20.7 K% and 3.7 BB%. The only stat I mentioned there that wasn’t a career-best or high, was his low K%. Unfortunately for the Jays, Stripling was set to become a free agent and signed a two-year, $25 million deal with the Giants, which included a $12.5 million player option, which was ultimately the deciding factor for him to sign with San Francisco.
Stripling had a rough 2023 season with the Giants, posting a 5.36 ERA and a 5.21 FIP in 89 innings pitched. He had a similar K% (18.4%) and BB% (4.2%), but couldn’t keep the ball in the park as he gave up 20 home runs, compared to just 12 the season prior
Hopefully, Stripling pitches well with Oakland and a contending team looks to trade for him. Heck, maybe even the Blue Jays could use him at the trade deadline.
Tyler Heineman traded to Boston:
The New York Mets traded the 32-year-old catcher to the Boston Red Sox for cash considerations.
Heineman spent parts of two seasons with the Jays, registering 53 plate appearances with four extra base hits. His numbers weren’t great in Triple-A this past season, slashing just .214/.331/.365 with a homer in 142 plate appearances for a 60 wRC+.
Still, the Blue Jays liked him enough to re-acquire him by trading Vinny Capra to the Pittsburgh Pirates last season. Could they do the same at some point in 2024?
Max Castillo designated for assignment:
In the same transaction, the Red Sox designated the former Blue Jay for assignment to make room for Heineman.
Castillo made his Major League Baseball debut in 2022, posting a 3.05 ERA and a 4.42 FIP in 20.2 innings pitched with the Jays, along with a 24.7 K% and a 6.2 BB%. However, the Blue Jays traded him along with another prospect that we’ll talk about shortly, to the Kansas City Royals for Whit Merrifield.
The 24-year-old spent time between Triple-A and the big leagues in 2023. With the Royals, he had a 4.43 ERA and a 5.32 FIP in 20.1 innings pitched, along with a 11.2 K% and a 10.1 BB%. In Triple-A, Castillo had a 4.58 ERA and a 6.23 FIP in 116 innings pitched, along with a 19.2 K% and a 5.7 BB%.
If the Jays want to, they’ll have a chance to claim him.
Samad Taylor traded to Seattle:
On Tuesday, the Kansas City Royals traded Samad Taylor to the Seattle Mariners in exchange for cash considerations or a player to be named later.
Taylor was acquired at the 2017 trade deadline when the Jays sent Joe Smith to Cleveland. Taylor’s best season in the Blue Jays organization came in 2021 with the Double-A New Hampshire Fisher Cats, where he slashed .294/.385/.503 with 16 home runs in 374 plate appearances. Taylor struggled with injuries in 2022, but still managed to his nine homers in his 280 plate appearances with the Triple-A Buffalo Bisons.
The 25-year-old found success similar to his Double-A tenure in Kansas’ organization, slashing .301/.418/.466 with eight home runs in 414 plate appearances. Moreover, his BB% increased to 15.9%, while his K% dropped to 20.5%, a significant number because he had a 29.4 K% in Double-A back in 2021.
Taylor also made his big league debut in 2023, slashing .200/.279/.267 with no homers in 69 plate appearances, along with a 10.1 BB% and a 31.9 K%. The most notable hit of his major league career was this walk-off single (that realistically would’ve been a triple had the game not ended – Taylor is that fast).
Hopefully, he’ll get more of an opportunity in Seattle, as his speed and game power are intriguing.
Nick Frasso underwent shoulder surgery:
Some very unfortunate news for former Blue Jay pitching prospect Nick Frasso, who might miss the 2024 season after undergoing shoulder surgery earlier this off-season.
The Blue Jays traded Frasso to the Dodgers a couple of years ago in the deal that sent Mitch White to Toronto. Frasso has put up impressive results in the minors and appeared to be in line to make his big-league debut with Los Angeles at some point in 2024.
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