The Toronto Blue Jays made three roster moves Thursday, announcing that left-hander Thomas Pannone, right-hander Jacob Waguespack and infielder Santiago Espinal have been optioned to Triple-A Buffalo.
Pannone has become a familiar face in Toronto over the past two seasons, tossing 116 innings of 5.43 ERA ball with a 2.13 K/BB rate and 7.6 K/9. The lefty has started 13 of his 49 career major-league games, though since Pannone has had more success as a reliever (3.40 ERA in 55 2/3 relief innings, as opposed to a 7.31 ERA over 60 1/3 innings as a starter), he was being considered a candidate for a bullpen role in 2020.
The Jays are a bit thin on left-handed relief options. Aside from Pannone, non-roster invitees like Marc Rzepczynski, Brian Moran, Kirby Snead and Travis Bergen comprise the club’s top southpaw relievers. Though we’re so far in advance of an Opening Day (that might still not even happen) that it’s hard to make clear projections, Pannone’s option could hint that the Blue Jays are going to select at least one of those non-guaranteed contracts.
Waguespack made his MLB debut last season, starting 13 of 16 games and posting a 4.38 ERA, 2.17 K/BB rate and 7.3 K/9 over 78 innings. Though ERA predictors and Statcast metrics weren’t impressed with Waguespack’s output, his 4.38 ERA still represented a decent on-field result for a pitching-starved Blue Jays team.
Toronto made a point of adding pitching over the winter, meaning that younger arms like Waguespack and Pannone (who ranked fifth and sixth in the Jays’ innings list in 2019) will no longer be relied on to such a heavy extent this season.
Espinal is best known to Jays fans as the prospect acquired from the Red Sox in the June 2018 trade that sent Steve Pearce to Boston. Espinal’s first full season in Toronto’s farm system was a successful one. He hit .287/.347/.393 over 521 combined plate appearances at the Double-A and Triple-A levels. MLB Pipeline ranks Espinal as the 22nd-best Jays minor-leaguer, describing him as a potential utility infield candidate based on glove work alone, with an offensive profile that includes “good bat speed” and strong base running.
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