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!

Comments (66)

  1. Still hopeful for Marcum and Villanueva. I think we would have a very successful offseason if we can grab both those guys and maybe one lefty reliever if Oliver doesn’t come back. This will protect us until at least the all star break and then we can talk about trades depending on need from there. For now keep all the prospects for insurance.

    • I believe Jeff Blair when he says that AA isn’t going near Marcum, and even if not, no way they do both.

      • Is it just because of injury history?

      • The doesnt seem to be much of a market for Vlllanueva as a starter. Getting him back in Toronto to compete with Happ for 5th starter/swing man spot would be perfect. He’s been very solid in those roles the last two years. A very underrated AA trade

        • The off-season has a ways to go before you should start making bold pronouncements about the market for Charlie as a starter.

          • Charlie Villanueva? He’s going MJ on us? I knew the Pistons were bad –not Raptors bad– but he’s a MLB pitcher now? Crazy! The Jays could get him and Carlos. Double trouble Villaneuva style!!

      • Well in that case just going after Villanueva would suffice. But the problem I see is when AA talks about depth it seems to me like he is just looking to go after players with potential and no real track record in the big leagues. That’s really not going to do much in terms of stability. We need Major league depth also like Lannan, Jurrjens or someone like that who has the big league edge. But AA knows what he is doing so I am hopeful.

        • @Touchemall I think it’ll be later in the offseason before a Lannan or Jurrjens acquisition. Those guys are holding out for a guaranteed rotation slot somewhere, and the money that comes with it. It’ll probably be January before the fringy 4-6 guys that haven’t found homes accept their fate and sign on for non-guaranteed starting roles.

      • Marcum’s gradually declining velocity and control are reasons enough to stay away, IMO. He’s not really the same guy the Jays traded away for Lawrie.

        • Marcum has never had outstanding velocity, his control is good – they’re staying away because he’s asking too much.

      • Agreed. They have so many question marks already in the rotation regarding health that they would probably focus more on someone to give 200 above-average innings rather than ~170 replacement-level innings.

        Edwin Jackson would be a perfect fit, but with how the baseball economy seems to be going apeshit this off-season, there’s almost no way that’s happening.

        Whatever happenns, I just can’t see them going with Happ, whom has never even thrown 170 innings once.

        • If AA wants guaranteed 200 innings then I’d say we better give up hope for an impact signing. No way he will sign Edwin Jackson to be our 5th starter…too much $$$. Not the type of AA signing I foresee. Marcum would be a good option because he “should” come in cheap given his injury history and low velocity. But Marcum strived in the AL East with an 89 mph fastball which he still has. I don’t see any problems bringing him back. But as Lucas said it might be because he is asking too much or AA just doesn’t feel comfortable.

          • I agree for the most part, but if Action Jackson goes for another 1 year deal, then it might be more interesting for AA

        • I’m on the other side re: Happ. I’d be a bit surprised not to see him as the #5, that is, I doubt we’ll see someone added who’s clearly better than him. I think he has a shot to be pretty good in the role if his K and BB rates stay at their 2012 level, (or in the case of K/9, improve as it has the past 4 years). He might have hit 170 innins if he’d been in the rotation as soon as he came from Houston. It’s an optimistic take, but not unreasonable.

      • Meh, I dunno.

        He seemed pretty praiseful of Marcum when he was trading him for Lawrie… in a “I didn’t really want to trade him but I couldn’t pass on the opportunity to get Lawrie” kind of way. With his history of arm injury Marcum is a risk on a longer term deal but the team liked him enough to make him opening day starter so I don’t think it’s a strech to think that they’d like him enough to take him back if the terms were right.

        • “He seemed pretty praiseful of Marcum when he was trading him for Lawrie… in a “I didn’t really want to trade him but I couldn’t pass on the opportunity to get Lawrie” kind of way”

          And what should he have said? “You just got hosed Brewers!”

      • Marcum likes to booze it up the night before he pitches…that is all i will say…..

        • I think it’s a not insignificant chance that if you eliminated everyone who boozed it up the night before a game that baseball would be a sport composed almost entirely of Mormons.

    • The problem that the Jays have is that Happ is too good of a #5 starter. Nobody that’s not clearly better than Happ is going to sign here on a short-term deal and risk getting John Lannan’d in AAA or the bullpen or something if they get injured or they underperform or if Happ beats them out in the spring. There’s no margin for error or injury when there’s 4 entrenched starters and a decent #6 starter waiting in the wings. If I’m a FA pitcher looking at my options, the Jays rotation is not a good situation for me. Established major league starters would be crazy to sign here. Any rotation depth is going to have to be the Aaron Laffey AAAA types that start the year in AAA because they didn’t get a chance to compete for a rotation spot with another club.

      • True, except for guys like Sanchez and Jackson, but they’re probably out of our price range.

        I think the best bet would be to trade for a #5 calibre starter. If you trade for them you don’t have to make any promises. They’d then compete with Happ for the #5 spot, and the loser either goes to the pen or sits in AAA waiting for the inevitable injury.

        What we gain is not quality but depth. A guy like Vance Worley is the type of guy I’m thinking of. Obviously he’s not a candidate now, but the cost to obtain him is illustrative.

      • We also can’t get too carried away with Happ’s ability. He is still new to the AL east and didn’t have the best season in 2011, his 1.535 WHIP over 155 innings in the national league doesn’t paint the picture of a person that is too good to be a #5. His 2012 wasn’t that great at all either, serviceable but he could end up bleeding quite a few losses in 2013.

  2. They should look good in Bisons uniforms

  3. Roster filler which the jays did need. Good time to put up numbers if your a jays prospect don’t you think ? As after the draft guys will get bumped up to the next level.

  4. Saw Rich Thompson pitch down in Sydney, Australia… he and Trent Oeltjen were kings among men in the ABL. Which doesn’t way much, I guess.

  5. The only 1 from these 5 that could actually be up with the team is thompson. The rest are minor league fodder. This isnt the depth AA was talking about I hope. None of these guys are even as good as laffey.

  6. The Mets are negotiating with Dickey while still listening to offers. It sounds like they are pricing the guy out of the market but there are a bunch of teams reported to have an interest:

    http://www.cbssports.com/mlb/blog/jon-heyman/21360496/dickey–mets-only-6m-apart-now-but-team-still-listening-on-trades

    • I would say that the Mets are dumb for not meeting Dickey’s extremely reasonable contract requests (after providing unbelievable value the last 3 years on a cheap contract), but I think they are just trying to get a team to drastically overpay, and if that doesn’t happen they will just re-sign him. I’m not confident that the suggested JPA+Gose would get it done if that was the best offer on the table.

  7. @ Andrew
    Keep it Riel??
    This is GOLD!! Jerry!! GOLD!!

  8. But what of Tomo Ohka?

  9. I don’t think Happ should be the 5th starter. If Romero keeps pitching like he did last year (no reason to believe he wont) than I’d put Ricky fifth. Why is it just assumed that Romero will bounce back? Remember Josh Towers?
    Hey, I hope I’m dead wrong on this but I just dont have much faith in Ricky anymore.

    • aside from towers and romero having the same amount of characters in their last name there is no comparrison. to think ricky will pitch the way he did in 12 again in 13 is less certain then a bounce back season. baseball history is full of players having off years. why is it hard to believe that given the ‘ace’ title, he put too much stress on himself and wasnt pitching the way he should? his velocity was on par. control was the biggest issue and that very well could be chalked up to pressure. as well, how long was his elbow bothering him without him saying anything? im sure that played a role in it as well. with the changes made thus far and him now lining up against next teams 3/4/5 there is reason for just optimism.

    • I don’t think there’s any merit in a Josh Towers comparison with Romero. He’s certainly no guarantee, but he did have surgery aftert he season, and it certainly is plausible that pitching through an injury caused at least some of his troubles. He was a >6 bWAR pitcher in 2011 though. It’s occasionally the case that pitchers just lose it altogether, but it’s pretty rare, and rarer still when they have 3 average to very good years under their belt.

    • What’s funnier:

      People comparing Romero to Towers?
      or
      People in that thread yesterday thinking “Brice Jared” was Romero?

    • What possible difference does it make if you call Happ or Romero the 5th starter? The Jays don’t skip guys if there’s an off day, so it won’t matter.

  10. I really hope that the injury pendulum swings back this year and we do not have to see any of those pitchers in a Jays uniform barring surprise success in Buffalo and them earning a shot.

  11. In general, I think the Jays have learned not to ignore their farm team owners. Syracuse wanted out cause JP didn’t really give a damn and they didn’t have a competitive team. It was a such a shit show in Vegas, I’m sure that AA has promised AAAA guys and a steady stream of prospects for Buffalo on down.

  12. when am I coming back?

  13. I can’t believe this is worthy of conversation.

    • eff you, I’ll take my sparse baseball news where I can get it. Perfect material for a post in mid December

  14. Velez,, I remember one time I was watching a Giants game and the first time I saw him, I thought he was the bat boy. What is he like a buck ten? haha I guess the good thing about him is a bit of speed and some versatility defensively. Works ok as a utility infielder.

    Thompson I have watched a couple times as an angel, seemed decent though I remember him starting for them rather than relieving but from what little I know about him, it seems like a good depth pick up.

    Vargas seems like a possible low risk high reward pick up, here’s hoping he can make the big league club at some point and help out. Maybe after Jeffress hits the bong again or maybe after someone else falls apart.

    Jimenez I actually watched in one Mariners game last year, dude is MASSIVE lol I am sure the good people of Buffalo will enjoy a few taters from this man mountain.

    Perez I know absolutely nothing about but his velocity sounds interesting. Guys are always a little uneasy when there’s a hard throwing guy with a lack of control on the mound.

  15. On the plus side, at least these signings happened after a gigantic trade and the Melky signing.

    Otherwise we would be subjected to Ginger Campbell & Oakville69 making pissy suggestions that this is all Rogers can afford, time to fire AA garbage.

    So there’s that.

    • If it was this point in the off season, well after the winter meetings, and the only players the Jays acquired were these minor leaguers, then I think any Blue Jay fan would rightfully piss and moan. Luckily this conversation doesn’t have any relevance any more though. : )

    • “Fire AA….” Havent heard that line for a while!
      Wow talk about smoking bongs…!

  16. “…doesn’t exactly inspire confidence, but possibly be serviceable in a pinch.
    “… to be deteriorating as he ages. I dunno, maybe they can fix him? Don’t bank on it.”
    “…maybe there’s something there in a very small sense.”

    God, I hope the Jays stay healthy – because I’m brimming with SUCH confidence after reading those glowing endorsements.

    • This won’t be all the depth that they sign, so it’s not so bad. A lot of those smaller dominoes won’t fall for a little while yet. Once rotations start getting filled, whoever is left in the game of musical chairs– and there will be some– will have to take whatever they can get, and AA will swoop for some better options. Kinda like he did with Darren Oliver last year, IIRC.

  17. “we keep it riel” lol

  18. Velez will hit .300 with 30 homers and 100+ ribs lol

    $20.00 bet,,, any takers?

    (disclaimer, this will be after I head down to Spring training and convince him to hit the juice)

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