Toronto Blue Jays: 5 potential bullpen options still available


The Blue Jays gave their bullpen a shot in the arm with the addition of Drew Storen, but even approaching late January, free agent options remain

As spring training nears and all 30 MLB teams start to finalize their rosters (and spring training competitions), the Blue Jays appear to be one of the clubs that are nearly done making moves. Obviously they have a strong returning core having just broken their playoff drought of over 20 years, despite losing a few key pieces (mostly David Price) to free agency.

Things can still change, but the lineup looks mostly set outside of figuring out who will man left field, Michael Saunders or Dalton Pompey. On the pitching side, the rotation has seven legitimate candidates including Marcus Stroman, R.A. Dickey, Marco Estrada, J.A. Happ.

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The 5th spot in the rotation will go to one of Drew Hutchison, Aaron Sanchez, or Jesse Chavez depending on performance and how the Jays’ brass decides to handle Sanchez. Then in the bullpen, they’ll see newcomer Drew Storen join 2015 closer Roberto Osuna, Brett Cecil, Aaron Loup, and likely one or two of aforementioned 5th starter options in the pen. They also have options like Steve Delabar, Ryan Tepera, Bo Schultz, or even rule 5 pick Joe Biagini among others.

Some may feel slightly underwhelmed (you shouldn’t), but it is unlikely the Jays acquire another impact player this offseason. There is always the possibility of a trade which would shake up the roster, but at this stage Ross Atkins and Mark Shapiro are likely looking to round out their bullpen with some potential bargain arms with only a few weeks until spring training. Still unsigned, here are a few available arms that could be a potential fit north of the border.

Eric O’Flaherty

The soon-to-be 31-year-old lefty will likely look for a one year deal to attempt to re-establish some value. From 2009-2013, O’Flaherty pitched to a 1.99 ERA over 250 innings as a valuable late inning reliever. He signed in Oakland prior to the 2014 season, and was not able to translate that success for the A’s.

He was serviceable in a shortened 2014, but 2015 brought a year of frustration, including a shoulder strain that kept him out for all of May. He was eventually designated for assignment and then traded to the Mets, where he only threw 8.2 innings before being left off the postseason roster.

If O’Flaherty can rebound with his health, he could be a valuable left-handed depth behind Brett Cecil and Aaron Loup. He shouldn’t cost much as he attempts to re-build his value, likely on a one year or possibly even minor league deal.

Manny Parra

Manny Parra may actually get a better deal than what the Blue Jays are willing to give him at this point in the offseason. That said, we’re under a month away from spring training and Parra remains unsigned so the options are dwindling.

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The likely reason he remains unsigned would be his health in 2015, as Parra was effective when he could stay on the field. However, he ended up on the DL three times in 2015 including tendinitis in his bicep and throwing shoulder.

The 33 year old did pitch to an ERA of 3.90 over 32.1 innings in 2015 with a WHIP of 1.175. If he can stay on the field in 2016 the Blue Jays could certainly give him an opportunity to re-establish his value, and provide the left-handed depth they need.

Sean Marshall

As recently as 2012, Sean Marshall was one of the more valuable left-handed relievers in baseball. In his first and only healthy season in Cincinnati, Marshall pitched to a 2.51 ERA over 61 frames, and 10.9 strikeouts per 9 innings.

Since then, Marshall was only able to throw 24.1 innings combined over 2013-14 while battling injuries, and wasn’t able to make it back to the majors in 2015.

Still only 33, Marshall has recently stated that he feels healthy and is excited to try and make a comeback in 2016. The Blue Jays could be the right type of place for Marshall to do just that.

Jason Frasor

The Blue Jays have never shied away from bringing a player (or coach) back to the organization for a second time, with J.A. Happ and Jesse Chavez being recent examples. Jason Frasor makes sense as another arm to look at bringing back as he was always a fan favourite in Toronto.

Now 38, Frasor was still effective in 2015 pitching to a 1.54 ERA over 24 innings for the Royals, before they released him in order to make room for other healthy options. He then made a brief stop in Atlanta. The Royals had the 2nd best bullpen in the MLB last season, so Frasor was simply a casualty of too much depth, rather than underperformance.

Frasor would not be asked to pitch in many high leverage situations with the depth already present in the late innings, and would likely provide a great bridge to those arms on days where the starter didn’t go terribly deep.

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Brian Duensing

Brian Duensing pitched for the Minnesota Twins in 2015 and is still looking for work for next season. While Duensing has experience as both a starter and reliever, he hasn’t started a game since 2012, and has become more of a left-handed specialist with each passing season.

While Duensing has a 3.82 ERA over his last 3 seasons (164 innings), he struggled more than usual in 2015, finished with a 4.25 ERA, and saw his strikeout numbers fall to their lowest total of his career.

All that said, Duensing is still only 33 and left-handed relievers will always have an easier time finding a job. Having the ability to cover a few innings if possible, Duensing could be a valuable 3rd lefty in the pen, but may have to settle for a minor league deal in order to try and re-establish his value after a bit of an off year.

As I said above, the roster is more or less ready to go with major league options, and Atkins and Shapiro may elect to save whatever money they have left for the trade deadline. I would love to see the Jays add another viable left handed option to the fold in order to cover the lack of depth that was exposed in the playoffs, but overall, even the bullpen is looking formidable with the addition of Storen.