Toronto parts with right-handed reliever Lincoln in three-player trade
TORONTO -- The Blue Jays used some of their bullpen depth to fill another area of need by trading right-hander Brad Lincoln to the Phillies for catcher Erik Kratz and left-hander Rob Rasmussen on Tuesday night.
The move gives Toronto some much-needed organizational depth behind the plate and brings a little bit more clarity to next year's bullpen. The Blue Jays had too many relievers for seven spots, and it was clear at least one or two would be moved this offseason.
Lincoln becomes the odd man out after a rather frustrating season that saw him spend much of the year in Triple-A Buffalo. He was acquired from the Pirates in a 2012 trade for Travis Snider, but never really settled into the middle-relief role as originally anticipated.
The 28-year-old posted a 5.65 ERA with the Blue Jays after the 2012 non-waiver Trade Deadline and didn't break camp the following year. Lincoln did end up pitching 31 2/3 innings for Toronto in 2013, but he struggled with his command and never really seemed to earn the trust of manager John Gibbons.
The low point of Lincoln's season came on May 9, when he walked Tampa Bay's Luke Scott with the bases loaded in the bottom of the 10th inning. The walk-off walk resulted in a 5-4 loss for Toronto and was somewhat of a symbol for a year that included four trips to the Minor Leagues.
Prospect acquired by Blue Jays
Rob Rasmussen, LHP: Joining Gerrit Cole and Trevor Bauer, Rasmussen was the third member of UCLA's starting rotation that led the Bruins to the 2010 College World Series. He was the Marlins' second-round pick that spring and has been well-traveled since. Rasmussen has been traded four times, going from the Marlins to the Astros to the Dodgers to the Phillies and, now, to the Blue Jays. Rasmussen has never been overwhelming, relying more on his pitchability to get hitters out. He throws his fastball in the low 90s, mixing it with a changeup, slider and curveball. Rasmussen reached Triple-A Albuquerque while he was with the Dodgers in 2013, but was met with disastrous results in one of the best hitting environments in professional baseball. He posted a 6.46 ERA and gave up 10 home runs in 54 1/3 innings. Rasmussen returned to Double-A in August, where he fared much better. He profiles as reliever or possibly a back-of-the-rotation starter in the Major Leagues.
Lincoln does have plenty of upside, though, and he has a very strong chance at a solified role in Philadelphia. He posted a 2.73 ERA with the Pirates in 2012 and has the ability to induce ground balls while also striking out 167 over the course of his career.
A lot of teams could find room for Lincoln in the bullpen, but Toronto faced a numbers crunch as it entered the season. The Blue Jays had eight pitchers who are out of options, and there's a limited number of spots up for grabs.
Right-hander Sergio Santos, left-hander Brett Cecil and right-hander Dustin McGowan are all out of options, but they seem to have guaranteed roles. The other group includes Esmil Rogers, Todd Redmond, Jeremy Jeffress, Luis Perez and, until Tuesday night, Lincoln. Toronto can't send any of those pitchers to the Minors without passing through waivers, so the club had to move some its depth.
General manager Alex Anthopoulos likely isn't done dealing from the bullpen, but the first move adds to his depth behind the plate. Kratz has an option remaining and could compete with Josh Thole for the backup spot with the Blue Jays, but he likely will start the year in Triple-A Buffalo.
Kratz is considered to be a rather strong defender with a strong arm and solid game-calling skills. He's built to hit for power at 6-foot-4 and 255 pounds and draws his fair share of walks, but also strikes out at a high rate. Kratz has spent parts of four seasons in the Major Leagues and owns a career .220 average, .281 on-base percentage and .688 OPS.
The 29-year-old was originally drafted by the Blue Jays in the 29th round of the 2002 First-Year Player Draft. He later signed with the Pirates before moving on to the Phillies' organization, where he spent the past three seasons. Kratz was expected to compete for the backup role with the Phils, but instead goes to Toronto after Philadelphia agreed to a deal with Wil Nieves.
Rasmussen joins the Blue Jays after a very brief stint with the Phillies. He was acquired by Philadelphia late in the year for infielder Michael Young. Rasmussen, 24, likely will begin the season at Triple-A, where he posted a 4.11 ERA in 28 games this year.
The native of California went 3-11 with 113 strikeouts over the course of 135 2/3 innings. He was originally selected by the Dodgers in the 27th round of the 2007 Draft and has spent the past four seasons in the Minor Leagues.