After the Blue Jays brought him over in the Josh Donaldson trade, we’re now starting to think about where Julian Merryweather fits on this roster
The Toronto Blue Jays had the AL MVP in 2015. They made it to the postseason thanks in part to his efforts. But, like all good things, Josh Donaldson‘s time in Toronto came to an end. After injury took playing time from him, there seemed to be some discontent between the club and the Bringer of Rain. Whether that was because the team was declining or he did not agree (safe to say Donaldson does not disagree quietly) on how the team wanted him to heal/train, he was dealt to Cleveland.
The circumstances that led to the August 31st, 2018 deal (not made “official” until October as Merryweather was a PTBNL) made the return seem underwhelming. Whether the club wanted to get rid of his attitude or not, one would think that Donaldson would have gone for more than Julian Merryweather. This is especially true when you consider that Merryweather had Tommy John surgery that spring. It would be a long time before anyone would be able to properly evaluate the deal.
There were reports on the potential of Merryweather, but even those were mixed. Back in May, 2017, Eric Longenhagen of Fangraphs wrote that he had been told by scouts that Merryweather had little to offer for a 24 year old in A-Ball. Longenhagen had this to say: “He’s deceptive, athletic, touched 95 several times, flashed a plus curveball and changeup” before pointing out that Merryweather could be a reliever, which is what many scouts at the time thought, or he could be a mid-rotation arm. In February, 2018, Fangraphs listed him as a “close to big league ready reliever. Of course, having Tommy John surgery will have an impact on whether and of those thoughts hold true.
The problem for fans was that the club gave up one of their favourite players for an older minor leaguer who just had major elbow surgery. It was a disappointing return, to be sure. That said, TC Zencka of MLBTR pointed this out: “It’s not a flashy return, but six to seven years of a control for a near Major League-ready arm is nothing to scoff at… a supplemental draft pick was no less risky and ultimately, Toronto adds a controllable arm in exchange for an injured player on his way out of town“.
Of course, Donaldson went on to bounce back and earn himself a rather nice payday with the Twins this past offseason and all of the above is water under the bridge, really. What we really are interested in is what, if any, role Merryweather will have within the Blue Jays organization.
After missing all of 2018, he was able to get in some innings in 2019. Granted, they were 6 ugly innings. He also got himself some work in during Arizona Fall League action. In total, he pitched 12 innings, but the real positive is that he was pitching in good health.
Now, we’re here in Spring Training, 2020 and Merryweather is getting in some action, which makes things a tad interesting. A few days ago, Keegan Matheson wrote that Merryweather touched 96 with his fastball. If he can maintain that and his plus secondary stuff, he could very well find himself in the rotation in Buffalo, joining a crowd of guys making their way up.
But, in this day and age, teams know that there is tremendous value in an effective reliever. The days of the bullpen being made of up failed starters are long gone. Instead, a guy who can come in later in the game and collect some strike outs is something teams would love to have. To some, it might feel like a disappointing return for Donaldson, but those people could change their minds if Ken Giles is traded and Merryweather can slide into the competition for that role.
That’s further down the road, though. For right now, the Blue Jays will have to decide if they want to keep his load light, or prepare him to start. It would make sense to ease him into a starting role, but we also know that it is easier to lighten a workload during the season than it is to stretch a guy out to start.
For what it’s worth, Merryweather is projected to see 15 innings over 15 games. That tells us a couple things: 1) it is not likely that Merryweather cracks the big league roster right out of Spring Training and 2) whenever he makes it up to Toronto, he isn’t likely to be in the rotation. Both of these make sense considering how many other options Toronto has for its bullpen in camp.
If the Toronto Blue Jays use Julian Merryweather as a reliever, it could be a rather nice bit of business. If healthy, he presents the stuff that could prove rather effective at the back end of a bullpen. This wouldn’t be the end of the world since Giles could be traded in the next few months. In fact, if Merryweather is healthy, it could make that trade a little easier to make. That said, there is a small chance that, if the club feels he is healthy enough, he could be sent to Buffalo (or New Hampshire) to collect innings as a starter.
What the future holds for Merryweather will depend on his health. It is the most difficult thing to predict, of course. However, what is starting to become clear is that the Blue Jays have themselves a rather interesting arm in Julian Marryweather and he could become a rather nice part of this team’s roster.
*Featured Image Courtesy Of DaveMe Images. Prints Available For Purchase.
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Shaun Doyle is a long time Blue Jays fan and writer! He decided to put those things together and create Jays From the Couch. Shaun is the host of Jays From the Couch Radio, which is highly ranked in iTunes, and he has appeared on TV and radio spots.