Cliff Pennington Adds Depth to Toronto Blue Jays Infield
The Toronto Blue Jays took another step towards improving their playoffs chances on Saturday, by acquiring infielder Cliff Pennington from the Arizona Diamondbacks in exchange for minor-league shortstop Dawel Lugo.
The 31-year-old utility infielder has spent the last three seasons in Arizona after starting his career in Oakland, where he posted a strong rookie campaign, hitting .279/.342/.418. But aside from that season, the switch-hitting infielder has been an average hitter at best.
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This season Pennington isn’t hitting much, just .237/.314/.281 with 3 steals, 16 walks and 29 strikeouts. Defensively, however, he is capable of playing second, short and third. So in all likelihood, Pennington will serve as an upgrade from Munenori Kawasaki, where he will pinch run, switch-hit, and provide relief for both Tulo and Goins.
This isn’t necessarily a big deal, but having another major-league defender off the bench certainly doesn’t hurt either. Much like the Ben Revere trade where the Jays could’ve got by with Ezequiel Carrerra and Danny Valencia in left field, at least until Michael Saunders returned, they instead decided to shore up the position and acquire Revere.
Although Pennington won’t be an impact player like Revere is, he is a more proven utility player than Kawasaki is, and one that gives the Jays a switch-hitter off the bench in late innings.
With no set timetable for Devon Travis to return, Pennington also gives the Jays a serviceable backup at second base, should Travis miss an extended period of time.
May 27, 2015; St. Louis, MO, USA; Arizona Diamondbacks shortstop Cliff Pennington (4) flips the ball to first base but is unable to force out St. Louis Cardinals center fielder Randal Grichuk (not pictured) during the eighth inning at Busch Stadium. The Cardinals defeated the Diamondbacks 4-3. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports
Departing the Blue Jays system is 20-year-old shortstop Dawel Lugo. A native of the Dominican Republic, Lugo has played very well at low-A Lansing this season, hitting .336/.348/.451 in 31 games. It’s worth noting, though, that Lugo started the season with high-A Dunedin and was sent back down to Lansing after a dismal start to the season, where he posted a .219/.258/.292 line with the D-Jays.
Much like any prospect, Lugo does show signs of promise. However, his ceiling probably isn’t comparable to former Jays’ shortstop Franklin Barreto, so the organization didn’t exactly part ways with a promising young infielder. Given his development so far, Lugo is probably going to be a career minor league player who will see the odd stint up in the bigs.
With the playoff eligibility deadline set for August 31, the Jays will now turn their attention to seeking a fourth outfielder, as well as an extra arm to spell the struggling Drew Hutchison.
If the Blue Jays are unable to reach a deal during this month, they could always sit tight and hope Marcus Stroman and Michael Saunders return from injury, or even promote Dalton Pompey as their fourth outfielder. Of course, those are all big question marks at this point in time.
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