Blue Jays dream bullpen target: Brad Ziegler

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With the Blue Jays being loosely (and often lazily) linked to every high-profile arm ahead of the MLB trade deadline on July 31st, it’s important to look around the league at some more off-the-radar options. Focusing on the bullpen today, I explored John Axford as a complimentary B-level addition that could intrigue the Blue Jays. If we’re talking big impact, however, Brad Ziegler would be a dream scenario.

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The 35-year old Ziegler has taken a long road to the Major Leagues, not making his debut until age 28 with the Oakland Athletics. After finding his niche in a relief role, he has become one of the game’s more consistent options in the seventh inning an beyond. Somehow, he’s also done so very quietly. I blame the lack of buzz around Ziegler on his strikeout totals which are low for a reliever, but he more than makes up for it.

With the Arizona Diamondbacks sitting at 42-47 and 8.5 games back of the Dodgers in the NL West, Ziegler represents an ideal trade chip. He’s enjoying a career year with a 1.13 ERA and 0.800 WHIP over 40.0 innings, and has picked up 14 saves along the way. His 89.0 LOB% and opponent BABIP of .177 are due for some level of regression, but make no mistake about it: Ziegler is an elite reliever.

His main appeal to the Blue Jays should be his ability to keep the ball on the ground and avoid home runs. His career HR/9 rate of 0.4 is downright foolish and would work wonders in the Rogers Centre, where we saw Aaron Loup and Ryan Tepera cough up a lead with two solo shots on Friday.

Ziegler comes with one of the league’s most unique set of mechanics, too, which ESPN breaks down beautifully in the video below. His calling card is a sinking fastball that sits around 84 MPH, down from 86 MPH in 2013, and he’ll mix in a curveball and changeup.

In a way that has me reminiscent of Darren Oliver during his 2012 campaign with the Blue Jays, Ziegler represents a veteran presence with the ability to recreate the same results every time he steps onto the mound. A reliever that is able to take over a one-run game with a runner on second base and say “Relax, I’ve got this”.

Now in the final year of his two-year, $10.5 million deal with the Diamondbacks, Ziegler has a team option for $5.5 million next season with a $1 million buyout. Much like the Jays’ need for a controllable arm in the rotation to help beyond this year, an addition like Ziegler could also help to remove the annual offseason question mark of Toronto’s bullpen.

The price tag here is clearly much higher than for a reliever like Axford, but I’ll argue that Ziegler is worth his value on the market. His right arm is a ground ball machine, and when slotted in alongside Roberto Osuna and potentially even Aaron Sanchez, Ziegler would give the Blue Jays a legitimate back end that could shorten games dramatically.

Next: Should Blue Jays explore moving Jose Bautista?

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