The Toronto Blue Jays organization continued its streak of avoiding arbitration with one of its players by signing J.A. Happ, Josh Thole, and Emilio Bonifacio late this week. The Jays have not taken a player to arbitration since 1997.
Thole signed a two-year deal worth $2.5 million, with a club option worth $1.75 million in 2015. Happ ($3.7 million) and Bonifacio ($2.6 million) each settled for one-year contracts.
Happ appeared in 28 games with the Astros and Blue Jays last season, going 10-11 with a 4.79 ERA. Based on comments made by Alex Anthopoulos, it appears Happ is ticketed to provide organizational depth and open the year as the team’s 6th starter – a move that pushes Happ to triple-A after spending his last 6 seasons in the MLB. $3.7 million seems like a lot to pay a triple-A player, but Happ, 30, would be a back-of-the-rotation pitcher on almost any other MLB team. That’s how deep the Jays are this year. Look for him to be the first man up to the big leagues should any of the team’s rotation go down with injury. There is a slight change Happ could also serve as a long man in the bullpen, but it appears the Jays are willing to go without a long man due to the strength of the rotation and the fact that Happ has minor league options remaining so he didn’t need to clear waivers to be sent down.
Bonifacio was acquired by the Blue Jays in the November blockbuster trade with the Marlins. The switch-hitter, who was limited to just 64 games last season because of injuries, batted .258 with 30 stolen bases in 33 attempts. Entering his 7th season in the big leagues, Bonifacio will compete with Maicer Izturis for the starting 2B job. Bonifacio has the ability to play 3B, SS, 2B, LF, CF, and RF. If he starts the year on the bench, which is where Anthopoulos is leaning given his comments. Look for him to receive plenty of playing time in many different positions as he gives others a day off. Also watch for him to join Rajai Davis as a late game pinch running threat. I’d like to see him start at 2B and have Izturis come of the bench, but we’ll have to see which way the Jays go.
Thole joined the Blue Jays in the same trade that brought R.A. Dickey to Toronto for a pair of top prospects. He appeared in 104 games with the Mets last season while hitting .234 with 1 homer and 21 RBIs. Thole is expected to fill in every 5th day to catch knuckleballer, R.A. Dickey, whom he caught last year when the two were with the Mets. Thole does, however, have minor league options. Therefore, the Jays could go with the catching duo of J.P. Arencibia and veteran Henry Blanco, 41, if they feel Arencibia or Blanco can handle Dickey. I think we’ll see Thole as Dickey’s personal catcher. Why ruin the chemistry the two had last season?
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