The Toronto Blue Jays have been busy on Day Two of the GM Meetings. First they signed utilityman Maicer Izturis and now they’ve added a power arm in reliever Jeremy Jeffress in a trade with the Kansas City Royals. The Jays will send cash considerations to KC. Jeffress had been designated for assignment by the Royals last week.
Jeffress was acquired by the Royals from Milwaukee in the Zack Greinke deal and possesses a big, big arm with a fastball that reaches triple digits. He turned just 25 years old in September, so Toronto was wise to jump in before the Royals had to dump him on the open market, where Jeffress would have been a hot commodity.
I know what you’re thinking. “If he’s so great, why did the Royals DFA him then,” right?
Well, the problem with Jeffress is that he has seemingly no earthly idea where the ball is going when it leaves his hand. You’ve seen Bull Durham? Well from the looks of his numbers, Jeffress is a modern-day Nuke LaLoosh. “He walked 1.8″ “New league record.” “He struck out 18.” “Another new league record.”
He’s made his way to the big leagues in each of the past three years, but Jeffress hasn’t been able to harness his control at all. In each of his three stints in the major leagues, his strikeout rate has improved, but his walk rate has gotten worse. Last season in Kansas City, Jeffress worked in all of 13.1 innings. During that time he fanned 13 hitters. He also walked 13.
It isn’t just a case of having the jitters once he starts playing in stadiums with three decks, either. Through his professional career, Jeffress has battled the strike zone. In seven minor league seasons, Jeffress has walked an average of nearly five-and-a-half hitters per nine innings. Of course, he’s also struck out more than a batter per inning in that span.
If the Blue Jays can get him straightened out, they have a potentially dominant reliever on their hands and one that cost next to nothing to add to the organization. It was an easy decision for Toronto to jump on him when they did. Chances are that the Blue Jays looked at him and think they see something their pitching coaches can fix. But then, pitching coaches always think they can be one ones to find and correct the problem.
The Brewers thought they could fix Jeffress as well. So did the Royals.