Blue Jays make deals with Howell, Smith official

Blue Jays make deals with Howell, Smith official

TORONTO -- The Blue Jays officially announced the free-agent signings of left-hander J.P. Howell and right-hander Joe Smith on Thursday.

Both relievers received one-year deals worth $3 million after passing their physicals earlier in the week. To make room on the 40-man roster, Toronto designated left-hander Chad Girodo and catcher A.J. Jimenez for assignment.

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Howell and Smith both figure to secure prominent roles in middle relief, joining right-hander Jason Grilli and possibly Joe Biagini as setup men for closer Roberto Osuna.

Smith shuts the door

Howell is coming off a season in which he posted a 4.09 ERA over 50 2/3 innings for the Dodgers; Smith had a 3.46 ERA over 52 innings for the Angels and Cubs.

The potential departures of Girodo and Jimenez come as a surprise, but the Blue Jays were facing a numbers crunch on the roster. Girodo made 14 appearances for Toronto last season and allowed five runs over 10 1/3 innings for Triple-A Buffalo. It was a disappointing season, but he had options remaining on his contract and could have been sent to the Minors if he remained on the 40-man roster.

The only surprise with Jimenez was the timing of his DFA. He is out of options and cannot be sent to the Minors without clearing waivers, but he initially was expected to take part in Spring Training. Veteran Jarrod Saltalamacchia is the favorite to win the backup catching job, and Juan Graterol also will receive some consideration, so Jimenez likely saw the move coming.

Girodo and Jimenez could remain with the organization, but they will have to clear waivers. Jimenez went through this process last spring as well when he was designated for assignment at the end of camp and later cleared before being outrighted to the Minor Leagues. From a depth perspective, a similar fate would benefit the Blue Jays again this year.

Gregor Chisholm has covered the Blue Jays for since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB and Facebook, and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.