Claudio Vargas playing for some team I don’t recognize.
The Jays announced in a team release this morning that they had signed five players to minor league contracts, with invites to Spring Training. This includes Claudio Vargas, who we’d already heard about– thanks mostly to a tweet from his agency, Metis Sports (whose slogan Drew suggests ought to be “We Keep It Riel,” which… obviously).
The others are RHP Rich Thompson, LHP Juan Perez, 3B Eugenio Velez and 1B/DH Luis Jimenez. And you may be wondering, just who the hell are these guys? Sure there’s a bunch of PR jazz in the press release, but what good is that, really? Let’s go a step beyond that– the internet will tell us!
Vargas was last seen in the Majors pitching quite terribly for the Brewers in 19.2 innings back in 2010. He pitched only 26 innings, in the Rockies’ system, in 2011, retired, came back to play in the Mexican League to start 2012, then was picked up by the Brewers, where he bounced back nicely, posting a 3.69 ERA and 3.96 FIP in 109 innings over 20 starts for Nashville of the PCL. He doesn’t exactly inspire confidence, but could possibly be serviceable in a pinch.
Thompson, a right-handed reliever, has spent the last few years bouncing between the Salt Lake Bees and the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, getting at least a cup of coffee in each year dating back to 2007, and having a rather decent season in the Angels’ ‘pen in 2011, posting a 3.00 ERA and 3.27 FIP over 54 innings in the Majors (without a pronounced platoon split, either). Thompson only pitched three innings in MLB in 2012, spending most of the year at Sacramento, having been plucked on waivers by the A’s back in April. His velocity seems to be trending downward (though there’s nowhere close to enough data on that for 2012 to say anything conclusive), but he was effective at Sacramento, and I could certainly see him finding his way onto the Jays’ big league roster at some point in the coming season– though, obviously, as filler.
Perez is 34, a hard-throwing lefty, and he blew up real good in the seven innings he threw for Milwaukee in 2012, walking nearly as many batters as he struck out– and he struck out over 28% of batters faced! He was better in the minors, and was effective in 2011 for Philadelphia, as his fastball averaged 94, and he posted a 3.60 ERA with a 2.83 FIP… uh… over five innings, with an even worse walk rate than in 2012 (though his K-rate was 38%). So he’s a big-armed lefty with 27 big league innings at age 34 and whose command seems, somehow, to be deteriorating as he ages. I dunno, maybe they can fix him? Don’t bank on it.
Velez has a career .287 on-base over 718 MLB plate appearances. He’s viewed as a speedy infielder, though maybe less so now that he’s 30, and in spite of the fact that he’s played almost as many big league innings in the outfield as he has at second. In 2012 with the Memphis Redbirds he had his best Triple-A season since 2008, putting up a slash line of .282/.360/.451 with a .358 wOBA and as high a walk rate as he’s posted over any stint of significance at one level. I’m not sure that means anything, but with three, maybe four, middle infielders ahead of him on the Jays’ depth chart, he could be handy piece to have, just in case.
Jimenez has played in the Red Sox, Orioles, Nationals and Mariners organizations, getting his first taste of Triple-A in 2007, and– unsurprisingly– having his best season there last year at age 30. In between, he spent a year in Japan, missed a full year (as far as I, or Baseball-Reference, can tell) in 2010, before signing with the M’s and making his way to the Majors as a September call-up in 2012– a reward for his .312/.396/.516 line (.399 wOBA) in not-quite-Vegas-but-still-PCL-y Tacoma. He’s a left-handed 1B/DH with some pop, and his acquisition seems maybe a bit redundant with David Cooper still in the system. On the other hand, perhaps not: the Jays did just lose Mike McDade. Maybe there’s something there in a very small sense, but he’s long passed the AAAA threshold. Should hit some bombs for Buffalo, though!
So… yeah. Minor league fodder!