The waiver wire goes round and round. Just a few days after the Blue Jays lost right-hander Kyle Drabek to the Chicago White Sox, the Blue Jays claimed first baseman Andy Wilkins from the very same White Sox.
Wilkins, 26, is, importantly, a left-handed hitting first baseman out of the University of Arkansas, from which he was drafted in the fifth round of the 2010 draft by the White Sox. Coming up through the minor leagues, Wilkins was known for his power, hitting 23 home runs in his first full season of ball in Advanced-A Winston-Salem in 2011 and hitting 17 in both 2012 and 2013. In 2014, Wilkins kind of exploded when he played in Triple-A for the the full year, hitting 30 home runs with the Charlotte Knights, hitting .293/.338/.558, adding 38 doubles.
Wilkins made it to the big leagues last August 31 and wasn’t all that impressive in his first kick at the big league can, hitting .140/.178/.186 with two doubles in 45 plate appearances. He’s done much better this spring, hitting .333/.400/476 with three doubles in just 25 plate appearances with the White Sox before he was put on waivers and subsequently picked up by the Blue Jays who have assigned him to Buffalo. Playing behind Cuban slugger Jose Abreu, Wilkins likely wasn’t going to get much time in the big leagues this year.
South Side Sox on Twitter posted an interesting reply as to why Wilkins was DFA’ed and made available to the Jays:
— South Side Sox (@SouthSideSox) March 29, 2015
In terms of option years remaining, Wilkins appears to be using his first option year this year (2015), after the White Sox sent him to minor league camp on March 25, likely just a day before he was put on waivers. From what I can tell, he was added to the 40-man roster when he was promoted last season.
This is an interesting pickup by the Blue Jays. Wilkins is still just 26 and has a power-hitter’s type of pedigree from the left side of the plate. While I can’t tell you anything about his defense, if Justin Smoak fails to hit at the major league level, Wilkins could certainly get a chance. Wilkins can be seen as having been traded for Drabek, since he was designated for assignment by the White Sox to make room for the righty. Getting a young, power-hitting first baseman on the cusp of the major leagues in exchange for a pitcher who has struggled at the big league level is certainly not a bad return.
This also smacks a little bit like a retaliatory move by the Blue Jays. We saw some of this last year when Kenny Wilson was selected off waivers by the Twins and the Blue Jays ended up taking Darin Mastroianni back. The Jays eventually reclaimed Wilson but lost him again to the A’s.
While this move could be seen as retaliatory over losing Drabek, the Blue Jays got the kind of player that they’ve been looking for this offseason. They get a player who, like Daric Barton, can play first base and hit from the left side and, like Dayan Viciedo, has some pop in his bat. While Wilkins is a little bit unproven in the big leagues and could very well be a 4-A type player, he’s definitely worth giving him a try in Buffalo.
The interesting part comes next when the Blue Jays have to make room on the 40-man roster for a couple of the players who are likely to make the 25-man Opening Day roster. The Blue Jays had three spots open before claiming Wilkins (assuming that Stroman goes to the 60-day DL) but now, with the prospect of Travis, Osuna and Castro making the club, there’s still one short. If Jeff Francis makes the club, they’ll need to clear another spot and if Steve Tolleson starts the season on the DL and the Jays want to bring another player north, they may have to clear yet another one.
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