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Blue Jays invite Burns, A.J. Cole, 3 more to ST

@KeeganMatheson
December 3, 2019

TORONTO -- The Blue Jays announced a series of five Minor League signings on Monday, all of whom received invitations to Spring Training with the Major League club in 2020. Right-handed relievers A.J. Cole and Justin Miller join the organization, along with infielder Andy Burns and outfielder Patrick Kivlehan, who

TORONTO -- The Blue Jays announced a series of five Minor League signings on Monday, all of whom received invitations to Spring Training with the Major League club in 2020.

Right-handed relievers A.J. Cole and Justin Miller join the organization, along with infielder Andy Burns and outfielder Patrick Kivlehan, who spent much of 2019 with Triple-A Buffalo. Right-hander Phillippe Aumont also returns to the Blue Jays, adding a native Canadian to the mix.

Cole, who had reportedly reached a deal with the club last week, joins the Blue Jays after spending the 2019 season with Cleveland, where he posted a 3.81 ERA with 30 strikeouts over 26 innings at the Major League level. Cole, 27, throws a four-seam fastball that averages 94.4 mph with a high spin rate, making him a natural fit in the Blue Jays’ relief corps after several similar arms succeeded in the ‘19 bullpen.

Miller, 32, adds another right-hander to the reliever mix after the veteran spent the past two seasons with the Nationals organization. Miller owns a career 4.43 ERA in the Major Leagues while averaging 9.2 strikeouts per nine innings, relying on a fastball-slider combo. A pair of stints on the Minor League injured list last season limited Miller to just 15 2/3 innings pitched.

The Blue Jays churned through plenty of relievers in 2019, and they have a recent history of success in finding valuable production from bullpen arms on Minor League deals, so the door will be open for these two and those that follow to compete for roles in Spring Training.

Kivlehan, 29, was acquired from the Pirates for cash considerations in May to provide outfield depth and hit the ground running in his new organization. Across a brief stop in Double-A and his two Triple-A teams last season, Kivlehan hit .255 with 32 home runs and an .871 OPS. Burns, also 29, returned to the club after spending two years playing in Korea and hit .275 with 19 home runs and an .833 OPS for Buffalo with some defensive versatility.

Quebec native Phillippe Aumont will draw plenty of attention as he looks to make another run at returning to the big leagues. The 6-foot-7 right-hander, now 30, was originally selected by the Mariners with the 11th overall pick in the first round of the 2007 Draft. He last pitched in the Majors in 2015 with the Phillies and owns a career 6.80 ERA over 43 2/3 MLB innings, but his raw talent has always been tantalizing.

Aumont was out of affiliated ball in 2019, but he pitched for the Ottawa Champions of the independent Can-Am League, where he posted a 2.65 ERA with 145 strikeouts over 118 2/3 innings. This won’t be Aumont’s first stint with the Blue Jays, after a brief stretch in 2015 with Triple-A Buffalo. At the recent WBSC Premier 12 Tournament, Aumont was dominant as he threw eight shutout innings against Cuba in a 3-0 win, striking out nine.

Bass' deal is finalized

On Tuesday, the Blue Jays made their one-year, $1.5 million deal with reliever Anthony Bass official, avoiding arbitration with the 32-year-old right-hander. Bass joined the Blue Jays just over a month ago as a waiver claim from the Seattle Mariners, with whom he posted a 3.56 ERA with 43 strikeouts over 48 innings in 2019.

Bass will offer the Blue Jays a high-power arm coming out of the bullpen, with a fastball that averages 95.3 mph, according to Statcast. He also keeps the ball on the ground just over 50 percent of the time when he’s at his best. The Mariners trusted Bass with plenty of late-inning situations after he joined them midseason in 2019, with 34 of his 44 appearances coming in the eighth inning or later.

Blue Jays non-tender Law, Maile, Adam

Prior to Monday’s deadline, the Blue Jays non-tendered right-handers Derek Law and Jason Adam along with catcher Luke Maile.

Law, 29, came over to the Blue Jays from the Giants in the deal for Kevin Pillar, who was also non-tendered on Monday. The right-hander posted a 4.90 ERA over 58 appearances for the Blue Jays, but got better as the season went on with a 3.41 ERA after July 1. With a fastball that averaged 94 mph, according to Statcast, Law should have interest from around the league, including the Blue Jays with a return still possible.

Adam was sharp for the Blue Jays after coming over from the Royals in Spring Training and went on to post a 2.91 ERA with 18 strikeouts over 18 2/3 innings. Maile, a veteran of three seasons with the Blue Jays, was coming off a strong season in 2018, but hit just .151 with a .440 OPS in 2019 as the Blue Jays shifted their catching position to the talented young duo of Danny Jansen and Reese McGuire.

Keegan Matheson is a reporter/editor for MLB.com based in Toronto. Follow him on Twitter @KeeganMatheson.