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Blue Jays designate righty Shafer among moves

@baseballexis
November 20, 2019

TORONTO -- Ahead of the Wednesday deadline to protect eligible prospects from the Rule 5 Draft, the Blue Jays did some 40-man roster shuffling. With fewer than two hours remaining before the 8 p.m. ET deadline, Toronto announced the additions of right-hander Thomas Hatch and infielder Santiago Espinal to the

TORONTO -- Ahead of the Wednesday deadline to protect eligible prospects from the Rule 5 Draft, the Blue Jays did some 40-man roster shuffling.

With fewer than two hours remaining before the 8 p.m. ET deadline, Toronto announced the additions of right-hander Thomas Hatch and infielder Santiago Espinal to the roster. In order to make room, southpaw Tim Mayza was assigned outright to Triple-A Buffalo and righty Justin Shafer was designated for assignment.

Protected players
Hatch joined the Blue Jays just ahead of the July 31 Trade Deadline, coming to the organization from the Cubs in exchange for reliever David Phelps and cash considerations. The 25-year-old hurler from Oklahoma – ranked by MLB Pipeline as Toronto’s No. 30 prospect -- began the 2019 season with Double-A Tennessee, where he posted a 4.59 ERA over 21 starts and 100 innings.

He got six turns in the rotation for the Double-A New Hampshire Fisher Cats after the trade, putting up a 2.80 ERA over 35 1/3 frames, walking only two and striking out 34. In three Minor League seasons, Hatch owns a 3.99 ERA.

Espinal, a 25-year-old Dominican-born utility infielder, joined the Blue Jays organization in 2018 via trade, after beginning his professional career with the Red Sox. He was Boston’s 10th-round Draft pick in 2016.

He began the 2019 season at New Hampshire and hit .278/.343/.381 with five home runs, one triple, 21 doubles and 57 RBIs in 94 games. Espinal was promoted to Triple-A Buffalo at the beginning of August and got into 28 games, slashing .317/.360/.433 with two homers, six doubles and 14 RBIs.

Corresponding moves
Mayza has spent parts of the last three seasons on the big league roster with Toronto, but the 27-year-old left-hander has been on the shelf since Sept. 18 after undergoing Tommy John surgery. He led the Blue Jays with 68 appearances out of the bullpen in 2019 and posted a 4.91 ERA.

Shafer put up a 3.86 ERA in 34 outings over five stints with Toronto in 2019, notching 39 strikeouts in 39 2/3 frames. The 27-year-old right-hander also made 24 relief appearances for the Bisons and posted a 3.52 ERA with seven saves in eight opportunities. The Florida native owns a 3.75 ERA in 40 Major League outings and a 3.82 mark over six Minor League seasons.

What’s next?
The Blue Jays’ 40-man roster remains at 40 players. Teams must have an open roster spot to be eligible to pick in the Rule 5 Draft on Dec. 12. Toronto would have the fifth overall selection.

To draft a prospect left exposed, teams must pay a $100,000 fee. If they don’t keep that player for the entire season, they must offer him back to his original team for $50,000.

As was the case with Jordan Romano and Travis Bergen -- both selected by other teams in the Rule 5 process last year and later returned to the Blue Jays -- even if Toronto loses a player, it won’t necessarily lose him for good.

Alexis Brudnicki is a reporter for Baseball Development and Special Projects for MLB.com based in Toronto. Follow her on Twitter @baseballexis.