The Blue Jays are in agreement with free-agent reliever David Phelps on a one-year deal with a club option for a second season. The deal will pay him $2.5 million in 2019, with plenty of potential incentives in place for 2020 if his club option is picked up. ESPN’s Jeff Passan and The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal were the first to break news of the deal on Thursday night:
Free agent reliever David Phelps is in agreement on a deal with the Toronto Blue Jays, league sources tell ESPN.— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) January 11, 2019
David Phelps deal with #BlueJays, per source: One year, $2.5M with club option. Option worth $1M if Phelps appears in fewer than 30G, $3M if between 30 and 39, $5M if between 40 and 49, $7M if more than 50 and fewer than 40 games finished, $8M if more than 50 and more than 40 GF.— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) January 11, 2019
Clarification: In addition to bonuses for games finished in 2019, Phelps will receive $250K each for 25, 30, and 35 games, $350K each for 40, 45, 50, 55 and 60. Three tiers of bonuses if option in ‘20 is exercised - for fewer than 40 games in ‘19, between 40 and 49, 50 or more. https://t.co/f2nwy3xxRV— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) January 11, 2019
Phelps, 32, missed the entire 2018 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery just prior to Opening Day. He should be back to full strength early in the season, though it’s not guaranteed that he’ll be ready for Opening Day this year — and that’s fair, since the Blue Jays are expected to go through a bit of a rebuild year in 2019 and are likely eyeing Phelps either as someone they can flip at the trade deadline or a potential bullpen piece for 2020, when they could be good again if guys like Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Bo Bichette, and Danny Jansen develop as expected.
Phelps, who reached the majors as a starter with the Yankees, has excelled since being converted to a full-time bullpen role by the Marlins in 2016. Over 55.2 innings split between Miami and Seattle in 2017, he posted a 3.40 ERA and a 1.38 WHIP with 62 strikeouts and 26 walks. With Toronto not really having any reliably consistent relievers, he figures to at least be in position for a setup role, and there’s a decent chance that he could end up stealing the closer’s role from Ken Giles sooner or later.