Newest Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Julian Merryweather, acquired for former MVP Josh Donaldson, is taking that fact in stride.
The right-hander, who is recovering from Tommy John surgery, joked to reporters at Blue Jays Winter Fest on Friday that he has to match Donaldson’s accolade to justify the trade.
“I guess it’s MVP or bust for me, that’s kind of what I’m up against this year,” Merryweather told reporters in attendance.
Toronto officially added Merryweather in October as the “player to be named later” in the Donaldson trade that happened in late August. An impending free agent who had missed most of the season due to a quad injury, Donaldson slashed .280/.400/.520 with three home runs and seven runs batted in for Cleveland in September. The third baseman inked a one-year, $23 million pact with the Atlanta Braves earlier this winter.
OFFICIAL: We’ve acquired RHP Julian Merryweather as the player to be named later from Cleveland to complete the trade of 3B Josh Donaldson.
To make room on the 40-man roster, INF/OF Jon Berti has been designated for assignment. pic.twitter.com/QiwKmmrcBg
— Toronto Blue Jays (@BlueJays) October 5, 2018
Merryweather, 27, was drafted by the Indians in the fifth round of the 2014 draft. Over parts of five seasons in the minors, he accumulated a 23-20 record with a 3.92 ERA in 83 games (65 starts). The 6-foot-4, 200-pound hurler went 7-9 with a 5.32 ERA in 25 starts between Double-A and Triple-A in 2017. He missed all of 2018 after he was initially diagnosed with a UCL sprain that required surgery, and continues to rehab.
Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins — unable to explicitly confirm Merryweather at the PTBNL due him being on the disabled list — told reporters on a September conference call that the organization was satisfied with who they acquired.
“What I can tell you is we’re excited about the return,” Atkins said. ‘It’s a near-term prospect that we feel will impact our major league team in a significant way.”
At the time of the trade, Merryweather was ranked by MLB.com as Cleveland’s 17th best prospect. Given the Berkeley, Calif., native’s age and lack of any MLB experience, the Blue Jays acquired him with the hope he will have a greater impact than the compensatory draft pick the team would have recouped if Donaldson had left as a free agent.
“I’m just excited to be part of the future of the Blue Jays,” Merryweather said. “They have a really bright future as you could see with all the guys in this room. I’m just excited to be part of it.”
The projected swingman underwent surgery last March, so the standard 12-month recovery window puts him on track to pitch in games late in Spring Training. However, Merryweather said he cannot put a firm date or timeline on his return, adding that he will follow the training staff’s protocol.
“I gotta earn that, right? They’re not just gonna throw me out there,” he said of making his MLB debut. “I first off gotta get healthy, go through all the rehab starts and everything they need to do to build up. Once I’m ready and I earn the opportunity, I’ll hopefully be out there, ready to go.”