Jays Sign Six to Deals; Close with Ben Weber

InsideTheDome.com has learned that the Toronto Blue Jays have signed several more players to minor league deals, and have invited some of those players to major league camp.

Last week the Toronto Blue Jays announced they agreed to a minor league deal with Jason Phillips, with an invitation to spring training. Earlier this off-season the Toronto Blue Jays signed 1B Kevin Barker, and shortstops Shaun Skrehot and Luis Figueroa to minor league deals. Figueroa was invited to the major league camp.

The Toronto Blue Jays have also inked minor league deals with an invitation to spring training, with outfielder Wayne Lydon, catcher Mike Mahoney, and LHP Matt Blank.

Also signed to minor league contracts for the 2006 season are RHP Brian Tollberg, Shawn Soonier, and first baseman Josh Kreuzer.

The Blue Jays are also in discussions with RHP Ben Weber, and one source described that a deal could be near.

The 25-year-old Lydon was not tendered a 2006 contract by the New York Mets this off-season, and was signed to a minor league deal with an invitation to spring training by Toronto. Lydon batted .244 with 2 home runs 43 RBI and had 42 stolen bases for Double-A Binghamton this past season. The speedy outfielder had a career high 87 stolen bases in 2002 while playing in the South Atlantic League, and followed that season with 75 stolen bases with St. Lucie in 2003, and 65 stolen bases in 2004 with Binghamton. Lydon was originally drafted in the ninth round of the 1999 Draft by the New York Mets.

The 30-year-old Mahoney spent that past two seasons in the St. Louis Cardinals organization, and batted .265 with 5 home runs and 27 RBI in 230 at bats with Triple-A Memphis. Mahoney also played in 26 games with the Cardinals in 2005, and batted .156 (10-64) with 1 home run and 6 RBI. The catcher has also played in the major league with the Cubs in 2000 and 2002.

The 30-year-old Blank was originally drafted by the Montreal Expos in the 11th Round of the 1997 First Year Player Draft. On April 30, 2003 the Expos traded the southpaw to the San Francisco Giants in a deal that included RHP Livan Hernandez. The Giants released Blank on July 19, 2003, and the 30-year-old pitcher then spent time with the Braves and Marlins. Blank made his debut in the major leagues in 2000 with Montreal, and went 0-1 with a 5.14 ERA in 14 innings of work. The left-handed pitcher went 3-0 with a 2.91 ERA in 34 innings with Triple-A Albuquerque this past season.

The 33-year-old Tollberg pitched for the Somerset Patriots of the Atlantic League in 2005, before signing with the Houston Astros organization on June 9. Tollberg had a 10-2 record, with a 2.30 ERA, and 51 strikeouts in 94 innings pitched and 14 games started with Somerset. Tollberg played with Triple-A Colorado Springs in 2004, and has minor league totals of a 4.60 ERA with 802 strikeouts to 194 walks in ten seasons. The right-handed pitcher has spent major league time with the San Diego Padres from 2000-2003 and has a career record of 15-16 with a 4.48 ERA. Tollberg missed a large portion of the 2002 campaign after season-ending right-elbow surgery in June.

The 29-year-old Soonier was originally signed by the Kansas City Royals as a non-drafted free agent on August 18, 1998, but was traded on March 15, 2002 to the Chicago Cubs for OF Michael Tucker. After spending the entire 2002 season on the disabled list, Soonier was selected by the Oakland Athletics in the 2003 Rule 5 Draft, but was granted free agency on October 15, 2004. The Royals signed Soonier for the 2005 season and pitched for their Double-A and Triple-A clubs this past season. The right-hander went 3-0 with a 2.18 ERA in 33 innings with Wichita (Double-A), and 3-0 with a 4.81 ERA in 33.2 innings with Omaha (Triple-A).

The 23-year-old Kreuzer was selected by the Texas Rangers in the 16th Round of the 2002 draft. In four minor league seasons, the first baseman has a .261 career average with 28 home runs and 207 RBI. Kreuzer spent the 2005 season with Bakersfield (A) and batted .260 with 11 home runs and 74 RBI.

Weber has spent parts of six seasons in the major leagues with San Francisco, Anaheim and Cincinnati. The right-hander has a career 19-8 record and a 3.77 ERA in 284 career major league innings. The 36-year-old posted an ERA of 2.54 in 2002 with Anaheim and 2.69 during the 2003 season before getting hurt. Weber has pitched just 34.2 major league innings the past two seasons with a combined ERA of 8.05.

The Blue Jays could end up signing one more minor league free agent pitcher this winter before they head for camp.

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