Valdez was designated for assignment by San Francisco last Thursday to clear room on the Giants' roster for first baseman Aubrey Huff -- signed as a free agent. Merkin joins a long list of pitchers who will be vying for a spot in Toronto's bullpen this spring.
"Valdez has a power arm with a fastball that can reach up to 98 mph," Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos said. "He's out of options, so we're taking a chance on a reliever with a good arm."
The 28-year-old Valdez appeared in 48 games as a reliever for the Giants last season, posting a 2-1 record with a 5.66 ERA. The hard-throwing righty compiled 38 strikeouts and 28 walks over 49 1/3 innings and finished 20 games for San Francisco. Overall, Valdez has gone 3-1 with a 5.24 ERA in 67 career games with the Giants.
As things currently stand, other pitchers who will figure into the competition for the Blue Jays' seven bullpen vacancies are Scott Downs, Jason Frasor, Brian Tallet, Shawn Camp, Jeremy Accardo, Jesse Carlson, Casey Janssen, Dirk Hayhurst, Josh Roenicke, Rule 5 Draft selection Zech Zinicola and possibly Scott Richmond, who is also in the mix as a starter, among others.
Besides Valdez, Camp, Tallet and Downs are each out of options for the Blue Jays, though those three pitchers are virtual locks for spots in the club's bullpen. If Toronto decides against including Valdez on the active roster come Opening Day, he would have to clear waivers before being assigned to the Minor Leagues, meaning another team could pick him up.
The 6-foot-5 Valdez -- originally signed as a non-drafted free agent by the Braves in 1999 -- underwent Tommy John ligament-replacement surgery on his pitching elbow on Sept. 27, 2006. He returned to the mound in '08, but encountered further elbow issues and landed back on the disabled list. San Francisco acquired Valdez in a 2002 trade with Atlanta.
Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less