As we all know the only bright spot for the Toronto Blue Jays last year was their bullpen. Rarely is there a problem with a good thing. With the final two rotation spots up for grabs, Toronto seems to be at a state of confusion with their pitchers.
With so many pitchers out of options and all the good performances from last season, Toronto has a lot of pitchers competing for a few spots. At this point in Spring Training Toronto doesn’t know whether to start the season with a seven man bullpen or an eight man bullpen. That being said, lets take a look at the pros and cons of a possible eight man bullpen.
- Less fatigue bullpen. Although Toronto had a great bullpen last season, the fatigue on some of the arms are well recorded. All-stars Brett Cecil and Steve Delabar had a poor second half. Brett entered the All-star break with an 1.94 ERA and due to an overworked arm posted a 5.65 ERA and pitched in only 14.1 innings due to a sore elbow. Delabar had a similar season. He posted an ERA of 1.71 before the All-star break but had a 7.02 ERA in only 16.2 innings and had his season cut short too due to a shoulder inflammation. Also, closer Casey Janssen had a sore shoulder plaguing him during the entire season. With an eight man bullpen Toronto can had a workload that wouldn’t be too stressful on the arms of the relievers.
- More Options= better match-ups. With more arms available to John Gibbons the better he can match up against the opposing hitters. Can you imagine a world where you can face David Ortiz with multiple left-handers at different times in the game. With a bigger bullpen, Cecil and Aaron Loup can face Oritz with an eased mind because of the extra pitcher in the bullpen.
- No more options. The main reason Toronto will open the season with an eight man bullpen is that they want to keep their pitching depth that was lacking last season. Many of Toronto’s pitchers are out of options and can’t be sent to the minors without clearing waivers first. With the numbers many of Toronto’s pitchers had last season and the constant need for pitching all over the league, none of the Jays pitchers are safe and most likely not clear waivers. As I pointed out in an earlier post there are many pitchers out of options. With seven pitchers out of options, an eight man ‘pen can solve the problem and keep the pitching depth Toronto now has.
- Creates a weak bench. The glaring obvious is once you add a player you have to take one away. By adding a player to the bullpen you create a weak bench that can cause a lack of offence and fatigue for the position players. An eight member ‘pen would only leave three bench spots available. Those three spots will be occupied by the backup catcher (Erik Kratz), the extra infielder (Macier Izturis) and the fourth outfielder (Moises Sierra-who is out of options). This leaves a lack of fire power and options late in the game.
- Too many relievers can cause rust. With too many options in the bullpen some reliever may just have bench warming duties. The closer will be, well the closer, then you have your set-up man and so on. Basically in a regular seven man bullpen everyone has a role. In an eight man ‘pen you may have your turn skipped because everyone needs to work. Not pitching regularly or in your normal role can cause some pitchers to rust and maybe underperform.
- You do not field the best team. May fans (myself included) wanted to see Neil Wagner in the bullpen when the club opens the season. The single reason Toronto will be carrying a bigger bullpen is that so many pitchers are out of options and they want to keep them in the organization without losing them to other teams through waivers. That means the extra reliever will be on the team just so Toronto can figure out how to use them or if they should be traded.
Right now I can’t tell you for sure if Toronto will carry seven or eight relievers. Maybe just as one of our editors here at the Journal wrote the Blue Jays may benefit if Janssen goes on the disable list. Anything can happen from now until Opening Day.