Oct 8, 2015; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Blue Jays relief pitcher Brett Cecil throws a pitch against the Texas Rangers in the 8th inning in game one of the ALDS at Rogers Centre. Mandatory Credit: Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports
Q4: What’s the plan of attack in the bullpen?
Toronto’s bullpen experienced the best of times and the worst of times in 2015, and didn’t truly take off until a hot Brett Cecil came together with Roberto Osuna, LaTroy Hawkins and Mark Lowe to form a more complete back end. Bullpens rarely carry over in full from year to year, so what will the strategy be to enter 2016 better than ever?
With Hawkins retiring, Lowe hitting free agency and Aaron Loup lacking certainty, some jobs will be available. My hope is that Liam Hendriks is given an opportunity to seize a more prominent role in a later inning slot, but even if that’s not the case, he gives the Jays a strong safety net at the front end of the ‘pen.
There will be the annual spring training surprise, then a handful of arms like Bo Schultz or Ryan Tepera who keep their heads above water for a month at a time through the season. While I expect Alex Anthopoulos to aggressively explore the trade market in search of relief help, I’d also like to see him take a shot at catching lightning in a bottle.
Trending now: Should Jays extend qualifying offer to Estrada?
For every few Joba Chamberlain signings, you might run into someone like Mark Lowe, who exploded in Seattle after an uneven career before being dealt to Toronto. If these signings do not pan out, the loss is minimal, but stockpiling these options is a good place to start.
The Blue Jays would also be wise to enter 2016 with more capable left-handed options out of the bullpen. While Brett Cecil is dominant, his in-game usage often takes him away from being a lefty specialist, and the 2015 playoffs showed exactly what happens when the Jays are left thin for lefty-on-lefty matchups. Perhaps some of those dart throws should be southpaws.
Generally speaking, I expect the Jays to enter the coming season with a more stable bullpen picture than they did in 2015. The time it took for them to get their bearings as a unit put a great deal of strain on the rest of the roster, and if the bullpen can even be slightly above average from opening day, this team will have a much stronger baseline.
Next: Q5: Could there possibly be room for another bat?