Six years ago I wrote a post profiling what some former Toronto Blue Jays players were doing in their baseball careers. It proved to be surprisingly popular, and still receives a substantial amount of traffic to this day. In the spirit of that post, here’s the 2018 version of Forgotten Former Toronto Blue Jays:
I suppose it’s not fair to label Jose Bautista as a “forgotten” former Blue Jay. After all, he is one of the franchise’s most iconic players. As Bautista spent the 2017/18 offseason in baseball’s purgatory, Blue Jays fans were keenly interested in where – or if – he would resume his baseball career.
That question was answered on April 18th when Bautista signed a minor-league contract with the Atlanta Braves. The goal is for Bautista to assume the full-time third baseman role, and should he do that, he will earn $1 million in salary. However, Bautista must first prove his mettle in the Braves’ minor league system. So far he hasn’t been impressive, though it does take time to get back to game speed – especially for older players.
Former teammate Kevin Pillar said that Bautista was “pissed off” for having to wait so long to sign. Hopefully that anger isn’t getting in the way of his ability to put up numbers, otherwise he may never get the chance to sign again.
Former Blue Jays uber-prospect Travis Snider was in a similar situation to the aforementioned Jose Bautista this offseason. Unlike Bautista, Snider didn’t feel he could afford to bide his time and wait for a contract, so he signed with the Sugar Land Skeeters of the independent Atlantic League.
John Lott published a piece for The Athletic today on Snider and what went wrong. Said Snider:
“There was a point in Toronto where you just become so self-consumed with how long are you going to last, when are you getting called up, when are you getting sent down, all these things that as human beings we experience in some way,” he says. “But I think there was just so much of it so quickly.
“And you could say, maybe I was rushed. But at the same time, if things would have gone a little bit differently and I would have handled them a little bit differently, we could be having a completely different conversation.”
The Atlantic League is widely regarded as the highest-level independent league in regards to the quality of baseball played. Snider feels it’s his best chance to return to affiliated baseball.
The Blue Jays acquired starting pitcher Esmil Rogers from the Cleveland Indians in 2013 for Mike Aviles and the first Brazilian MLB player, Yan Gomes. Rogers did not pitch exceptionally well for the Blue Jays, and was designated for assignment early in the 2014 season so that Aaron Sanchez could be called up. He was most notable for having been nicknamed “Uncle Esmil” by Blue Jays broadcaster Mike Wilner.
— Mike Wilner (@Wilnerness590) July 31, 2014
Esmil was claimed by the Yankees, but didn’t last long in pinstripes. He flamed out after the 2015 season and moved on to play baseball in Korea. He’s gotten himself into trouble for his “antics,” but has been pitching successfully for Nexen this year. He sits at #5 in the league with 40 strikeouts thus far.
Kyle Drabek is most notable for being the centrepiece in the trade that sent Blue Jays legend Roy Halladay to the Philadelphia Phllies. The son of former Cy Young award winner Doug Drabek, Kyle was never able to capitalize on his considerable potential. Injuries derailed Drabek’s promising career; he was never the same after undergoing a second Tommy John surgery in 2012.
Following an unsuccessful attempt to re-start his career as a shortstop in the San Francisco Giants system, Drabek signed with the Sugar Land Skeeters of the Atlantic League. Over 27 innings pitched, Drabek allowed seven home runs and finished the season with a 8.33 ERA.
Drabek signed this past offseason with the Puebla Pericos of the Mexican League. Over the course of two starts, Drabek pitched a total of two innings while allowing 11 earned runs and walking seven for an ERA of 49.50. He has been placed on the “reserve” list – it looks as though his career has come to an end.
Another prominent piece of the Roy Halladay trade – albeit indirectly – Anthony Gose has been trying to resurrect his baseball career as a fire-balling relief pitcher. The left-handed Gose has been able to reach triple digits with his fastball, though he has struggled mightily with his control.
The Texas Rangers signed Gose as a reclamation project this offseason, only to lose him to the Houston Astros in the Rule 5 draft. In Gose’s only spring training appearance, he walked all three batters he faced – prompting the Astros to return the reliever to the Rangers. In an attempt to extract whatever value they can from Gose, the Rangers are using him as a two-way player. However, it seems Gose has been assigned to extended spring training in order to focus on his pitching.
Former Blue Jay Henderson Alvarez was part of the trade that brought Mark Buehrle and Jose Reyes to Toronto from Miami. Since leaving Toronto, Alvarez has been a league average pitcher, apart from a wild no-hitter.
Following shoulder surgery in 2016, Alvarez has seen a decline in his ‘stuff,’ resulting in a total of zero contract offers after a cup-of-coffee with the Phillies in 2017. The Quintana Roo Tigres of the Mexican League signed him and slotted him into their starting rotation. He’s had some success so far, and the 28-year old could find a comfortable home for himself in the Mexican League for years to come.
We explored Tim Johnson’s post-Blue Jays managerial career last year, and it seems as though Johnson is finally shedding the stigma regarding the scandal that led to his departure from Toronto. From Former Blue Jays Manager Time Johnson Resurfaces In Mexico:
…it was announced that former Toronto Blue Jays manager Tim Johnson has signed on to manage the Algodoneros de San Luis of the Northern League of Mexico. The Algodoneros (Cottonmen) are based in San Luis Rio Colorado in the baseball hotbed province of Sonora, Mexico.
Johnson managed the Algodoneros well beyond expectations, earning a call-up to manage the Puebla Pericos of the Mexican League. Johnson took over the .500 Pericos and managed them to a 2nd place finish, a division playoff title, and a berth in the league final – all with a decimated roster.
The Quintana Roo Tigres were impressed so much with Johnson’s managerial style when his Pericos eliminated the Tigres in the playoffs that they offered him the top job for the 2018 season. Johnson’s Tigres are tied for second place so far this season.
- Adam Lind: Following a season in which he hit .303 with a .875 OPS for the Washington Nationals, Adam Lind was signed to a minor-league deal by the New York Yankees in the spring. Two weeks later, he was released. A month after that, he signed again with the Yankees. He currently sports a 1.455 OPS for the Tampa Tarpons of the High-A level Florida State League.
- Dustin McGowan: In 2017, Dustin McGowan pitched nearly 80 innings of mostly effective relief for the Miami Marlins. That earned the 35-year old a minor league deal with Tampa, who promptly released him after three one-inning outings in which he gave up two hits, struck out two and walked two. Although he was released, the Rays offered McGowan the opportunity to stay in camp to work out while he waited for possible contract offers. He is extremely respected by players and coaches alike for his perseverance; the Rays wanted to have McGowan’s work ethic and attitude influence the younger players in camp. In the end, McGowan was able to work out a minor-league deal with the Marlins. He is currently pitching in extended spring training.
- Ricky Romero: It was reported in December that Ricky Romero was trying to make an MLB comeback. Since then… crickets. He’s apparently been working out on his own, but no word in the past five months as to how that is going. Stay tuned… maybe?
- Brett Lawrie: The former Blue Jays third baseman last played an MLB game on July 21, 2016. Since then he’s been out of baseball with no apparent return in the near future. For more on Lawrie’s story, read this excellent piece by Jays Journal.
Player photos courtesy of MiLB.com, koreabaseball.com, and atlanticleague.com. Featured image photo credit: sciencing.com