Blue Jays and Steve Delabar: The Beginning of the End?
By Shaun Doyle
With Steve Delabar being out of options, will the Toronto Blue Jays risk losing him to a waiver claim? Or, will they stick with him even if he struggles?
Steve Delabar is out of options. That creates an interesting dynamic as the Blue Jays move ever so slowly toward the 2016 season. Often on the outside looking in on the bullpen conversation, Delabar represents a talent that teams will covet if he can manage to find his control. So, if the Blue Jays do not see room for him on the big league roster, they will have to expose him to waivers in order to send him down to AAA, Buffalo. It is a risky move for a team that badly needs bullpen depth. But, would they consider keeping him if he is struggling?
Toronto Blue Jays
Recently, MLB.com’s Gregor Chisholm outlined the 11 players who are out of options with the Toronto Blue Jays. Each of them comes with a varying degree of security with the big league club. It is a safe bet that Josh Donaldson does not have to worry about being optioned. But, Steve Delabar is a different case all together.
He does not come with any kind of security. After a solid 2013 campaign that saw him voted in to the All Star game, he has been up and down in his performance. His 3.22 ERA in 2013 seems a distant memory. His 2014 mark of 4.91 and 5.22 in 2015 outline why the club seems to have lost faith in him, providing him with fewer opportunities. In fact, in the two years since 2013, he’s collected fewer innings than he did in that season. Unfortunately, he’s struggled with his control and keeping his spot in Toronto.
His showings in AAA have been rather good, though. This is what is so perplexing about his situation. He obviously has the talent to pitch well, but has difficulty bringing that talent to Toronto when he’s asked. Consider the following:
2014 AAA: 2-2, 1 SV, 28 IP, 12.21 K/9, 5.79 BB/9, 87.3% LOB, 2.89 ERA, 4.29 FIP
2014 MLB: 3-0, 25.2 IP, 7.36 K/9, 6.66 BB/9, 73.4% LOB, 4.91 ERA, 5.59 FIP
2015 AAA: 3-1, 1 SV, 25.1 IP, 10.66 K/9, 3.55 BB/9, 87.4% LOB, 1.42 ERA, 2.49 FIP
2015 MLB: 2-0, 1 SV, 29.1 IP, 9.20 K/9, 4.30 BB/9, 66.7% LOB, 5,22 ERA, 4.84 FIP
The most frustrating part of watching Delabar pitch has been the command, or lack thereof. According to Fangraphs, he was in the zone just 42.7% of the time. His fastball velocity is tantalizing at nearly 93 mph (and it shows flashes of higher) and it has been a plus pitch for him. But, his slider (at 85.6 mph) has been a let down with a wSL/C value of -5.96.
So, what does all of this mean? At this point, the question mark really lies with the club. We more or less know what the former teacher will bring to the mound. But, do we know how the club will handle him? Given that he’s out of options, they have a decision to make. Obviously, Delabar can help their decision along by having a great spring showing. IF he can display that his control is there, it might make the decision easier.
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But, if he cannot, then the club will have to decide if they want to risk exposing him to waivers. Sending him down to AAA opens up the possibility that even one of 29 other teams sees value in his arm. Those chances are pretty good. There is value there. So, would the Blue Jays look to protect that value by keeping him and sliding him into one of the question mark spots in their bullpen? There is room for him. We’ve seen this club keep players who are out of options in the past to avoid losing them. Could Delabar be one of those players?
Recently, we have seen the Blue Jays overlook Delabar for September call ups, etc. Does that mean they’ve lost faith in him? Likely not. But, it could mean that he has to come into Spring Training with some urgency, if he wants to stick with Toronto. If he doesn’t perform well, or someone else beats him out, we could be looking at the end of his days as a Blue Jay.