Jays Sign Four -- Including Car Jumping Gathright
The Jays responded quickly, within hours after the non-tender deadline, re-signing backup catcher Raul Chavez to a minor-league deal. The 36-year-old who impressed with his throwing arm in limited action will be invited to major-league camp and is a likely second catcher to an undetermined starter. He was the only one of nine arbitration-eligible Jays that was non-tendered, making him a temporary free-agent for about 12 hours. Clearly, a deal was already in place that had to be announced on Sunday.
In addition, the Jays signed outfielder Joey Gathright, whose true claim to fame thus far in his career is a YouTube video in which he takes a short run and leaps cleanly over a parked car or two (not at the same time). The 28-year-old signed a minor-league deal with an invite to spring training. He has something the Jays desperately need. Speed. But he also has something far too many Jays already have. An inability to hit. He could make the team as a fifth outfielder. Last season the bench featured nobody with any specific skill. This guy could pinch run in late innings. John McDonald was not the answer as pinch-runner.
The Jays quickly moved to offer one-year contracts to Dustin McGowan ($500,000) and outfielder Jose Bautista ($2.4 million). The McGowan contract was a formality, with a slight raise, since he did not pitch at all in 2009. Meanwhile the Bautista contract looks like it was also arranged prior to the non-tender date because the dollar amount is exactly what Bautista earned in 2009. They likely told his agent that they would give him the same money for '10 but if he did not accept, they would non-tender him a contract and make him a free agent. The fact is that Bautista at this point in time is a better fit as a right fielder and a utility man than he might be with any other team. And in this economic climate, accepting the same contract and knowing where you're going to be was probably a good decision.
That leaves six arbitration eligible Jays, with nine players now under major-league contract for 2010 for a total of $63.15 million.