Without making significant additions to their bullpen, do the Blue Jays have satisfactory internal options to fill their needs heading into the 2016 season?
The Toronto Blue Jays walked away from the Winter Meetings with a grand total of a Rule 5 pick and a bench signing. Pitcher, Joe Biagini, was claimed from the Giants (Keegan introduced him well HERE). Darwin Barney was brought back to fill the infield bench role. And, that’s about it. With many fans resigning themselves to the rotation (such as it is) being settled, the focus turned to the bullpen.
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But, that area has still been largely untouched. If the season started today, what would the group look like? Would it be good enough? Let’s take a look at how it might play out with the caveat that there is still lots of time in the offseason to add to the mix. But, with impact names flying off the shelf and the cost for said arms higher than we may have thought, it shouldn’t surprise to see the Blue Jays look internally (at their 40 man roster) as much as possible.
As for right now, the club is looking at Roberto Osuna as their closer. And, after watching him dominate in that role last season, this is comforting. In his first big league season, he was worth 1.3 WAR after going 1-6 with 20 saves in 69 innings pitched. His record reflects the fact that the Blue Jays weren’t really sure how they were going to use him in the early part of the season. But, necessity pushed him to the back end and he ran with it. Next season, he’s projected to go 3-3 with 28 saves. Depending on how many close games the offense actually creates, this total could increase.
Aaron Sanchez is an interesting option in that he may be given a look to start next season. But, his low innings total thus far may suggest that they keep him as the set up man. It is not like the club has operated with the idea of keeping a spot in the rotation for him, even though he showed signs of success last season. It is more likely at this point that he stays in the ‘pen. And, that would be just fine. His projected K rate of 20.3% is certainly welcome. He’s projected to go 3-3 with 3 saves and an ERA of 3.85. His plus fastball is a nice compliment to Osuna.
Brett Cecil will be the most expensive bullpen piece the Blue Jays have. MLBTR predicts he’ll see $3.4M in 2016. In him, the Blue Jays get a lefty who has a devastating curveball and put up an 11.60 K/9 rate last season. He also improved his walk rate from the previous year. What is interesting about Cecil is that he was equally successful against righties and lefties. So, his role doesn’t need to be limited to a “specialist”. He’s projected to go 4-3 in 65 innings with a 2.90 ERA.
After these 3, the picture becomes less clear. Aaron Loup will be available as another lefty out of the ‘pen. But, unlike in the past, Loup may not be relied on as much. We’ve seen him get in 65+ innings in the past. This year, with other options available, he’s projected to see just 45 innings. Those 45 innings are expected to see a 3.25 ERA and a K rate of 8.51/9 with a BB rate of 2.95/9.
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The rest of the bullpen appears to be looking at a mixture of the following: righty Ryan Tepera is projected to take on a more prominent role in 2016. Steamer predicts he’ll 55 innings (more than Loup) and go 3-3 with a 3.93 ERA and an 8.10 K/9. His nearly 95 mph fastball and his nice slider could give him an advantage. He hasn’t exactly lit the world on fire thus far in his big league outings. But, in a world where power arms are signing for a fortune, he is a very affordable in house option.
In the same boat as Tepera is Bo Schultz. He’s another one that Keegan profiled nicely and looks to figure into the 2016 plans. He’s projected to 40 innings in just 40 games. He won’t be called upon to eat innings, which is just fine. Steamer thinks he’ll go 2-2 with a 4.06 ERA. Steamer thinks he’ll give up a hit an inning and strikeout 18%. A projected WHIP of 1.32 is not sexy, but it certainly could provide value in this market.
That makes 6 arms that currently form the bullpen. Realistically speaking, this means that there is only room for one (or two) more additions, depending on how the rotation shakes out. Th above list does not include a long man, which would likely come from the 5th starter competition that may take place between Drew Hutchison and Jesse Chavez. While it looks like the Blue Jays need to address an empty bullpen, in actuality they have a group of guys in place that could get the job done. The projections may not be as attractive as you like. But, when you consider projections, you have to remember that some players may be much better than their expectations, just like some may be worse.
In that case, the Blue Jays may look to call on the following guys (their projections are listed):
Steve Delabar– 30 innings, 3.91 ERA, 74.5% LOB, 1.34 WHIP
Pat Venditte– 25 innings, 4.06 ERA, 74% LOB, 1.34 WHIP
Ben Rowen– 15 innings, 4.33 ERA, 71.4% LOB, 1.37 WHIP
Chad Jenkins– 38 innings, 4.51 ERA, 70.9% LOB, 1.39 WHIP
There is no doubt that the Blue Jays would have benefited from any one of the top relief arms this offseason. None of this is to say that the club currently has better internal options. Instead, it is to look at what is currently in house and see what would happen if they are not able to land any additions at all. How does the bullpen look right now? Are you comfortable with it? Is it as bad as you thought? Worse? Have your say below.