The Toronto Blue Jays, in a bind with several relief pitchers at the bottom of their bullpen depth chart who are out of options, made the first move to gain a little more flexibility last week. They sent out-of-options, right-handed reliever Brad Lincoln to the Philadelphia Phillies for backup catcher Erik Kratz and minor league left-handed starter Rob Rasmussen.
Lincoln has accumulated 220 big league innings since 2010 with his first few seasons spent moving in and out of a starting rotation with Pittsburgh but Toronto has used him exclusively as a reliever. Now out of minor league options, Lincoln was likely going to be on the outside looking in after Spring Training and the Blue Jays wanted to maximize their return on their young righty who has had some serious control issues despite showing a good fastball/curveball combo.
Kratz will compete for the backup catcher’s job after doing a fine job in the past two years as a backup with the Phillies. The fact that he still has options also enable the Jays to send him down to Buffalo if Josh Thole beats him out for the job backing up Dioner Navarro.
Rasmussen, who will be 25 next season, is the real wildcard for the Blue Jays in this deal. The Jays get an experienced minor league pitcher who has amasses 432 2/2 minor league innings in four seasons with three different organizations although the Blue Jays will be the fifth organization for Rasmussen because he was traded from the Dodgers to the Phillies following the end of the minor league season. While he was outstanding in Double-A Chattanooga (with the Dodgers’ organization) last year, Rasmussen struggled particularly when he was promoted to Triple-A Albuquerque in the Pacific Coast League.
Rasmussen’s minor league stats:
|2012||23||2 Teams||2 Lgs||A+-AA||MIA,HOU||8||11||.421||4.25||27||26||0||0||0||142.0||141||82||67||12||54||119||2||13||1.373||8.9||0.8||3.4||7.5||2.20|
|2013||24||2 Teams||2 Lgs||AA-AAA||LAD||3||11||.214||4.11||28||24||1||0||0||135.2||124||68||62||15||60||113||6||8||1.356||8.2||1.0||4.0||7.5||1.88|
Rasmussen is a short (5’9″) lefty who throws with decent velocity for his height, with his fastball coming in between 89 and 92 mph. He’s shown that his curveball is potential average and his slider could be even better. He also throws a changeup that he might not be able to use effectively in the major leagues. Rasmussen could be considered more of a “fringe prospect”; he’s not a premium talent and he doesn’t have the same kind of arm or quality repertoire that a similarly sized guy like Marcus Stroman does.
While Stroman is going to get a chance to make it as a starter, Rasmussen will likely be a reliever if he makes it to the big leagues, which is what Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. told Bob Brookover of the Philadelphia Inquirer when he made the trade. He has been very effective at every level along the way except for Triple-A and pitching out in the PCL is difficult for anyone, much less a pitcher who’s working against his physical limitations and when you look at Rasmussen’s game log, his starts in some of the more eastern cities (Nashville, Memphis, Des Moines) were a little better. He will probably do much better in the International League but will be hard pressed to make what is looking like a very talented Buffalo rotation. While Rasmussen could end up in the Buffalo bullpen, if the Blue Jays want to see him continue to get starter’s innings, he will probably pitch for the Double-A New Hampshire Fisher Cats in the Eastern League.
In the end, the Blue Jays got pretty good value for Lincoln, a relief pitcher who still has some upside but also has some very good major league experience. With the quantity and quality of the pitchers in the 2014 Blue Jays bullpen, they did a pretty good job maximizing value of a guy they didn’t want to lose on waivers in the spring.