Thomson signed to one-year deal
Veteran will compete for spot in back end of Jays' rotation
TORONTO -- The Blue Jays have added another arm to hopefully help solve their remaining enigma. The back end of Toronto's rotation is far from being defined, but right-hander John Thomson will now be in the mix for a job.
On Tuesday, the Jays signed Thomson to a one-year, $500,000 contract, which includes incentives based on starts. To make room on the 40-man roster for Thomson, Toronto designated Minor League infielder Rob Cosby for assignment. Thomson joins Shaun Marcum, Josh Towers and Casey Janssen as one of the leading candidates for a starting job with Toronto.
"Our optimistic outlook is to see him as a starter," Blue Jays general manager J.P. Ricciardi said. "There's a lot of arms we're bringing to camp that can hopefully round out the four and five spots [in the rotation]. I think it'll all take care of itself at Spring Training."
Adding the 33-year-old Thomson, who was 2-7 with a 4.82 ERA in 18 games, including 15 starts last season with Atlanta, doesn't necessarily mean that Toronto is done looking for more pitching help. Ricciardi noted, however, that the Jays may end up having to work with the pitchers they currently have in place.
After losing out on both right-hander Gil Meche and former Jays left-hander Ted Lilly in free agency, Toronto turned its attention toward the trade market in search for a No. 3 starter. Ricciardi has tried to find a solution, but has found that many teams aren't very willing to part with pitching.
"We're always looking to make ourselves better, but right now I can't say today that we have anything on the burner," Ricciardi said. "I can't tell you that we'll be going into Spring Training with what we are now, but we might be."
Ricciardi quashed rumors that he was now looking at free-agent starter Tony Armas as a possible solution. The GM said that the Jays had previously expressed limited interest in Armas, but that was no longer the case.
"We have no interest in Armas at this point," Ricciardi said. "We've liked Tony Armas in the past, but I just think right now -- with where we are financially and maybe where he's at -- we're just a little bit too far apart."
Ricciardi insisted that he wasn't frustrated with how this offseason has turned out. Toronto entered the winter with pitching as its top priority, but has been unable to add a strong replacement for Lilly to a rotation that has Roy Halladay, A.J. Burnett and Gustavo Chacin as the only certainties.
"We tried really hard to go after a couple free agents -- that didn't work out," Ricciardi said. "We've exhausted every possible trade opportunity that we think is available to us without making the club worse.
"So, no, we're not frustrated at all," he added. "We know we have [a fourth and a fifth starter] somewhere in there and someone's going to have to emerge as the three."
As of right now, Chacin stands as the most likely candidate to move up to the No. 3 spot. Behind him, it appears to be a four-way battle between Marcum, Towers, Janssen and Thomson for the final two jobs.
"We're trying to replace those 180 innings that Lilly gave us [last year]," Ricciardi said. "Maybe we have to do it with two different guys."
Thomson, who has made 210 career starts over his nine-year career in stints with the Rockies, Mets, Rangers and Braves, had some early success as a starter last year with Atlanta. In his first seven starts, the righty went 1-3 with a 1.59 ERA. Over his last eight starts, though, Thomson went 1-4 with an 8.50 ERA.
Thomson also battled with various injuries a year ago. He had issues with a blister on his right middle finger, struggled with soreness in his throwing shoulder and had a minor elbow injury during the final week of Spring Training. In 1999, Thomson needed major surgery to repair his rotator cuff.
Ricciardi didn't express any worries about Thomson's history of injuries.
"He's got a total clean bill of health on him," Ricciardi said. "He's been good and he's been hurt in the past, too, so we know. It's pretty much a low risk, high reward [situation] for both him and for us. We're hoping that we're both able to take advantage of this opportunity."
Ricciardi added that the Jays wouldn't rule out adding Thomson to the bullpen if other pitchers should emerge as better candidates for the rotation.
As of right now, six pitchers -- B.J. Ryan, Brandon League, Jason Frasor, Jeremy Accardo, Scott Downs and Brian Tallet -- appear to be locks for the 'pen. The seventh spot could go to either Thomson, Davis Romero, Geremi Gonzalez or Fransicso Rosario, who is out of Minor League options.
Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.