Blue Jays Outright Junior Fernandez


The Blue Jays announced that reliever Junior Fernández has gone unclaimed on waivers. He’s been assigned outright to Triple-A Buffalo. He’d been designated for assignment last week after Toronto finalized the acquisition of starter Zach Thompson from Pittsburgh.

Fernández has bounced around a bit over the past few months. Initially an amateur signee of the Cardinals in 2014, he’d spent his entire career in the St. Louis organization until being designated for assignment last September. Fernández landed with the division-rival Pirates on waivers and finished the 2022 season there, making three appearances down the stretch. At season’s end, Pittsburgh designated him for assignment to clear 40-man roster space for prospects they wanted to keep out of the Rule 5 draft.

The 25-year-old then landed with the Yankees and Blue Jays on successive waiver claims. His stay on the Toronto 40-man lasted less than a week, with Fernández claimed on January 5 and DFA five days later. Now that Toronto has succeeded in running him through waivers, he’ll remain in the organization as upper minors depth. Fernández has never previously been outrighted and has less than three years of big league service time, meaning he doesn’t have the ability to elect minor league free agency.

Fernández has appeared at the MLB level in parts of the last four seasons. The righty has thrown 54 innings across 50 outings, compiling a 5.17 ERA. He’s induced grounders on nearly half the batted balls he’s allowed but paired that with a mediocre 18.7% strikeout percentage and lofty 13.9% walk rate.

While he’s yet to find much consistent success, it’s easy to see why multiple teams have given Fernández a look over the past few months. He averaged 98.7 MPH on his sinker and 88.9 MPH on his slider during his 16 big league outings last year. That velocity hasn’t translated into many strikeouts but has gotten a decent number of swings and misses; opponents have whiffed at 13.5% of the pitches he’s thrown throughout his MLB career, a rate that’s roughly two points higher than average.

Fernández figures to get a non-roster invitation to MLB Spring Training. Assuming he doesn’t break camp with the big league team, he’ll report to Buffalo. Owner of a 4.12 ERA and quality 27% strikeout rate through 83 career Triple-A innings, he’ll be an interesting bullpen depth flier for the Jays. He is out of minor league option years, however. That means if the Jays promote him to the majors at any point, they’ll either have to keep him in the big leagues or again make him available to other teams via trade or waivers.

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