The Blue Jays announced that they have signed right-hander David Aardsma to a minor league contract with an invitation to Major League Spring Training. Aardsma, a client of TWC Sports, will look to force his way into a bullpen that is anchored by Drew Storen, Roberto Osuna and Brett Cecil. The bullpen should also feature two of Aaron Sanchez, Jesse Chavez and Drew Hutchison — each of whom also figures to get a look in the rotation as well. Other candidates include left-hander Aaron Loup and right-handers Bo Schultz and Ryan Tepera. Last season, Aardsma began the year with the Dodgers but opted out of his contract after a strong showing in Triple-A didn’t yield a promotion to the Majors. The 34-year-old veteran quickly hooked on with the Braves on a minor league deal and saw his contract selected within days of signing. He wound up tossing 30 2/3 innings of relief as a member of the Atlanta bullpen, posting a 4.70 ERA with 10.3 K/9, 4.1 BB/9 and a 29.5 percent ground-ball rate
Right-hander Gavin Floyd “appears headed for [a] deal with [the] Blue Jays,” Jon Heyman reports (on Twitter). SB Nation’s Chris Cotillo tweets that the Moye Sports client is indeed in agreement with the Jays, pending a physical. Floyd, who turned 33 just last week, would serve as a back-of-the-rotation option for the Blue Jays, though it’s tough to imagine he’d be promised a spot in the starting five after throwing just 92 Major League innings across the past three seasons. The longtime White Sox righty underwent Tommy John surgery early in the 2013 season and returned with a flourish with the Braves in 2014 (2.65 ERA in 54 1/3 innings) before missing the remainder of the season due to a fractured olecranon bone in his right elbow. Somewhat astoundingly, Floyd suffered the exact same injury in Spring Training with the Indians last year. He was thought to be lost for the season, although he did return to toss 13 1/3 effective innings of relief late in the year. Given the lengthy list of recent injuries, Floyd seemed like a candidate for a minor league deal, though details on his agreement with Toronto remain unclear. At his best, Floyd has proven to be a highly capable mid-rotation arm, although it’s obviously been quite some time since he was healthy enough to display that over the course of a full season. Nevertheless, from 2008-12, Floyd averaged 190 innings of 4.12 ERA ball with 7.2 K/9, 2.8 BB/9 and a 45.1 percent ground-ball rate
We’ll track the day’s arb deals here: The Orioles have avoided arbitration with southpaw Brian Matusz for $3.9MM, according to Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com (via Twitter). Matusz had filed at $4.4MM, with the team countering at $3.5MM, so he’ll fall just on the low side of the midpoint. MLBTR had projected him to earn just $3.4MM in his final trip through the arb process, so he’ll do a fair bit better than that. The 28-year-old posted career-best results last year, working to a 2.94 ERA with 10.3 K/9 against 3.7 BB/9 over 49 frames. Certainly, a repeat would put him in rather high demand on the open market
The Orioles announced that they have designated left-handed reliever C.J. Riefenhauser for assignment in order to clear a spot on the 40-man roster for right-hander Odrisamer Despaigne, who was acquired from the Padres in a trade. Riefenhauser has had an active offseason, initially going from the Rays to the Mariners in the Nate Karns/Brad Miller swap but spending less than a month as a member of the Rays before heading to the Orioles alongside Mark Trumbo in a trade that netted Seattle catcher Steve Clevenger (and saved about $9MM). He’ll now hit DFA limbo for the first time this offseason, during which time Baltimore can explore trades for the still-promising left-hander or attempt to sneak him through outright waivers (although there’s certainly a chance that Riefenhauser would be claimed by another organization). The 26-year-old Riefenhauser has struggled in his brief exposure to the Majors, to be sure, having logged a 6.30 ERA in a limited sample of 20 innings. However, he’s also excelled at the minor league level, where he’s authored an outstanding 2.15 ERA with 8.7 K/9 against 3.2 BB/9 in parts of three seasons, totaling 113 innings of relief. Riefenhauser doesn’t light up the radar gun by any means, sitting around 89 mph, but that’s passable velocity for a southpaw, and there’s no denying that he dominated lefties between Triple-A and the Majors before a rocky 2015 season, holding them to a .430 OPS in what was a strong season. Scouting reports from Fangraphs, MLB.com and Baseball America have given Riefenhauser credit for at least an average fastball and average slider with a slightly below-average third offering in the form of his changeup. If he’s a two-pitch reliever, he could still carve out a role as a lefty specialist, one would think, though as MLB.com’s most recent scouting report on him indicated, he could take on a bigger bullpen role with some improvement in his changeup. Prior to the 2014 season, BA credited him with a plus heater/slider combo, though his velocity in the Majors has sat below the 91-93 mph mentioned in that scouting report.
The Pirates have designated right-hander A.J. Schugel for assignment, the club announced. His roster spot will be occupied by just-acquired lefty Jesse Biddle. Schugel himself was only recently claimed by Pittsburgh, and he’ll now be destined for his fourth team of the winter unless he clears waivers. The 26-year-old has only seen brief MLB action. He spent last season repeating Triple-A, ending the year with a 4.84 ERA and 6.2 K/9 vs.
10:31am: Biddle is headed to the Pirates, Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com tweets. 10:20am: The Phillies have reached a deal to trade southpaw Jesse Biddle to an unidentified club, Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer reports (Twitter link). The former top prospect had recently been designated for assignment. Since he was in DFA limbo, Biddle was destined to land elsewhere unless he went unclaimed on waivers. Clearly, with a trade being reached, there was sufficient interest that a claim was inevitable anyway. Once a consensus top-100 prospect league-wide, Biddle showed plenty of upside to go with some command issues while rising through the system.
Here are the latest minor moves of note: The White Sox have re-signed righty Maikel Cleto and added outfielder Vinny Rottino, according to Baseball America’s Matt Eddy. Cleto, 26, has been hit around in his limited MLB experience but has shown the ability to miss bats. He spent last year at Triple-A, working to a 3.00 ERA in 51 frames with 10.8 K/9 against 4.2 BB/9. The 35-year-old Rottino has not seen the majors since 2012. He slashed .266/.346/.390 over 514 plate appearances at Triple-A in 2015. The Marlins have added first baseman Zach Lutz, per Eddy. Lutz saw only minimal time in the Mets system last year, but did briefly reach the majors with New York in the 2012-13 seasons. Lefty Edgar Ibarra has joined the Phillies on a minors pact, Eddy adds.
The Nationals have announced the signing of infielder Brendan Ryan to a minor league deal. He’ll receive an invitation to major league camp.
We’ll track the day’s arb agreements in this post: The Giants have avoided arbitration with righty George Kontos for $1.15MM, Jon Heyman reports on Twitter. That’s just a tick above the $1.1MM midpoint between the sides’ filing numbers and his $1MM projection. Kontos, 30, qualified this year as a Super Two. He’s coming off of a strong 2015 campaign in which he allowed only 2.33 earned runs per nine innings over 73 1/3 frames. Though he only averaged 5.4 K/9, Kontos minimized opposing baserunners with an excellent 1.5 BB/9 and 0.941 WHIP.