Blue Jays sign 5 minor-league free agents including Canadian Aumont

Phillippe Aumont has a history of representing Canada in international play. (Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images)

The Toronto Blue Jays did a little bit of housekeeping ahead of Monday’s non-tender deadline by announcing a batch of minor-league free agents they’ll be inviting to 2020 spring training.

None of those five will be counted on to play major roles for the Blue Jays, but the club is hoping they can provide organizational depth or be pleasant surprises. Here’s a summary of the quintet Toronto is onboarding:

Phillippe Aumont RHP - Aumont provides the Canadian content in the group as a native of Gatineau, Que. The 30-year-old has represented his country in international competition a number of times, most recently at Premier 12 last month in Seoul.

Last season, Aumont thrived with the Ottawa Champions of the Can-Am League, posting a 2.65 ERA in 118.2 innings with 145 strikeouts and just 23 walks and was also the pitching coach of the team. He last appeared in the majors in 2015 with the Philadelphia Phillies.

The big right-hander is undoubtedly a long shot, but he’s a former first-round pick who’s always had good stuff. The problem has just been his inability to command it effectively. While the chances of him finding the handle on his arsenal on the other side of 30 are pretty slim, he’s got a higher ceiling than most minor-league free agents his age.

A.J. Cole RHP - The signing of Cole was reported on Nov. 25, but now it’s been confirmed by the Blue Jays. Of the five players here, he is most likely to make the team considering his relatively strong 2019 campaign and the plethora of jobs available in the club’s bullpen.

Cole brings above-average velocity (94.4 mph) and a bat-missing slider, but struggles mightily against left-handed bats. He posted a 3.81 ERA to go with a 3.83 FIP in 26 MLB innings with the Cleveland Indians last season. The former Washington Nationals’ blue-chip prospect turns 28 in January.

Justin Miller RHP - Miller had a respectable ERA (4.02) in limited MLB action last season (15.2 innings), but his 7.11 FIP betrays the fact he didn’t pitch very well and he lost almost two mph off his fastball going from 94.0 mph in 2018 to 92.2 last year.

Although a solid spin rate could help his superficially-unimpressive fastball play up, the 32-year-old lacks a swing-and-miss secondary offering. It’s tough to see too much potential here, and Miller seems likely to be more of a Triple-A staple than a major-league contributor.

Andy Burns INF - Burns is a familiar name to many Blue Jays fans as he spent six years in the team’s system from 2011 to 2016 and even made a 10-game MLB cameo. The 29-year-old went to Korea for 2017 and 2018 before returning to the organization last year.

The minor-league veteran’s primary calling card is his versatility as he can play first base, second base, third base, and left field. Although his numbers at Triple-A Buffalo were solid in 2019 as he posted a .275/.364/.470 line, it’s tough to envision Burns breaking through now.

Patrick Kivlehan OF - The Blue Jays traded cash considerations to the Pittsburgh Pirates for Kivlehan in May and they’re bringing him back after a strong stint in Buffalo where he hit .247/.336/.534 with 25 home runs. Although the soon-to-be 30-year-old has gotten a couple of shots at the MLB level —most notably a 204-plate-appearance stint with the Cincinnati Reds in 2017 — he profiles as a classic Quad-A thumper.

It would take either a shocking improvement from Kivlehan or a calamitous rash of injuries to see him making an impact with the Blue Jays in 2020.

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