TORONTO – The Blue Jays made another incremental improvement in their quest for a post-season berth, picking up infielder Cliff Pennington from the Arizona Diamondbacks in exchange for minor-league shortstop Dawel Lugo.
The 31-year-old switch-hitter has spent the last three years in the desert after starting his career in Oakland. Pennington had a strong rookie year, hitting .279/.342/.418 with the A’s, but that’s the only season in his major-league career in which he’s had an above-average offensive season.
Last year was his best since – he hit .254/.340/.350 – and he’s struggled to a .595 OPS this season in limited playing time. Pennington is, however, better than Munenori Kawasaki, whose place he will likely be taking on the roster.
Pennington is a major-league defender who can handle both middle-infield spots as well as third base, something with which Kawasaki struggles as a utility infielder. The fact that he switch-hits gives the Blue Jays a threat off the bench against a late-game left-handed reliever.
Over the last two seasons, Pennington is batting .279/.395/.410 against left-handed pitching. He’s a free agent at the end of the season.
As the Blue Jays did in acquiring Ben Revere minutes before the non-waiver trade deadline, they got a little bit better than they were before. It’s now about the final tweaks, improving what’s already a very good team.
The Jays could have gotten by with a platoon of Ezequiel Carrera and Danny Valencia in left, but Revere gives them a legitimate major-league left fielder. They could have gotten by with Kawasaki as the utility infielder, but Pennington gives them a legitimate major-league option at that spot, one who brings better defence and a better bat.
Pennington also gives the Blue Jays added insurance against another extended stint on the disabled list for Devon Travis. He was out six weeks the last time he hurt his shoulder, and while they’re hoping that won’t be the case again this time, there are no guarantees. The more major leaguers a team has on its bench, the better off that team is.
Lugo, a 20 year-old shortstop, was signed by the Blue Jays out of the Dominican Republic when he was 16. He’s tearing it up at low-A Lansing right now, hitting .336/.348/.451 in 31 games, but that’s his second shot at that level after hitting .259/.286/.329 there last year. He started this season with high-A Dunedin and was sent back down to Lansing after hitting just .219/.258/.292 with the D-Jays. In many corners of the Blue Jays’ front office, Lugo is not seen as a future major leaguer.
With Pennington now in the fold, the Blue Jays will keep their attention on seeking a better option for a fourth outfielder – a role now held by Ryan Goins – and an upgrade at the bottom of the starting rotation over the scuffling Drew Hutchison.
Although the non-waiver trade deadline passed at 4 p.m. ET on July 31, trades can still be completed if the players traded pass through recallable waivers. Players who are claimed on recallable waivers can also be traded, but only to the team that claimed them. A player can only be placed on recallable waivers once.
The playoff eligibility deadline is Aug. 31. Any player who is acquired by an organization after that date is not eligible to play in the post-season. Players who are on the disabled list on Aug. 31 – as Marcus Stroman and Michael Saunders are expected to still be – are eligible to play in the post-season.