Blue Jays Designate Raimel Tapia, Bradley Zimmer For Assignment

The Blue Jays have designated outfielders Bradley Zimmer and Raimel Tapia for assignment. Toronto also released left-hander Foster Griffin. In corresponding moves, the Jays selected the contracts of righty Yosver Zulueta and infielders Addison BargerSpencer Horwitz and Orelvis Martinez.

Tapia landed in Toronto in the Spring Training deal that sent Randal Grichuk to the Rockies. The hope was to more adequately balance an outfield that skewed right-handed with a lefty-swinging contact bat, but Tapia didn’t have a great year. In 433 plate appearances, he hit .265/.292/.380 with seven home runs. He demonstrated his customarily solid bat-to-ball skills, but he rarely walked or hit for much power.

The 28-year-old was eligible for arbitration for a final time this winter, with MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz projecting him for a notable $5.2MM salary. That always looked likelier than the Jays were hoping to pay for a fourth/fifth outfield type, and today’s designation functions as akin to a non-tender. Toronto can technically trade Tapia in the next few days, but it looks likelier he’ll go unclaimed on waivers and be sent to the open market.

Zimmer also worked as a left-handed bench bat in the outfield. He got into 109 games between Toronto and Philadelphia but only picked up 117 plate appearances. He’s a solid defensive outfielder but has always been very strikeout-prone in the big leagues. That included a 38.5% strikeout rate this season, which featured just a .124/.207/.229 overall mark.

The 29-year-old (30 later this month) had been projected for a $1.3MM arbitration salary. As with Tapia, he’s effectively being non-tendered a few days in advance to clear the 40-man roster spot.

Griffin made just one two-inning relief appearance for the Jays after being acquired from the Royals midseason. The former first-round pick of Kansas City spent much of his tenure with Triple-A Buffalo, working 23 1/3 innings out of the bullpen there. He posted a 2.31 ERA with a solid 24.8% strikeout rate as a Bison.

Turning to the players joining the roster, Martinez and Zulueta were two of the easier calls to keep out of the Rule 5 draft around the league. The former was a high-profile signee out of the Dominican Republic during the 2018-19 international period. He’s appeared among Baseball America’s top 100 overall prospects in each of the past two years, garnering praise for his big power potential. He spent the entire 2022 campaign at Double-A New Hampshire as a 20-year-old but stumbled to a .203/.286/.446 line — albeit with a 30-homer showing that demonstrated his power upside.

Zulueta had a breakout year that saw him traverse four minor league levels. A native of Cuba, he combined for a 3.72 ERA with a huge 33.9% strikeout rate while topping out at Triple-A. Baseball America slotted him fifth in the Toronto organization midseason, praising his four-pitch mix. Zulueta, 25 in January, figures to start next season in Buffalo but could play his way onto the big league roster at some point during the year.

Barger, 23, was a sixth-round selection in the 2018 draft out of a Florida high school. He’s played all around the infield and performed at three minor league levels this year. The left-handed hitter combined for a .308/.378/.555 showing in 526 plate appearances, albeit with higher than average strikeout totals. BA ranked him 18th in the Jays’ system midseason.

Horwitz, 25, went in the 24th round of the 2019 draft out of Radford. He’s outperformed that modest draft stock and now sits on the brink of the majors after combining for a .275/.391/.452 mark in 483 plate appearances at the minors top two levels. He’s primarily a first baseman, putting plenty of pressure on his bat. According to Baseball America, he’s the #13 prospect in the organization.

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