Blue Jays rumours: Toronto interested in Antonio Bastardo. Maybe.
A Tuesday report lists the Toronto Blue Jays as being interested in left-handed relief pitcher Antonio Bastardo, who is expected to sign soon
Perhaps the Alex Anthopoulos regime spent more time tire-kicking, or the non-playoff editions of the Blue Jays were an easier target for agents to float as a team “also interested” in their client. Either way, it’s been a while since a good old-fashioned Blue Jays rumour.
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Robert Murray of Baseball Essential cited a league source on Tuesday when reporting that Toronto is interested in free agent lefty Antonio Bastardo. Other interested parties reportedly include the New York Mets, Baltimore Orioles and Los Angeles Dodgers.
Given the circumstances, market rate of free agent relievers and his left-handed value, though, it’s best to take this with a grain of salt for the time being.
Bastardo, now 30-years-old, should be looking for a contract somewhere in the neighbourhood of the 3-year, $18 million deal that Tony Sipp signed earlier this offseason with the Houston Astros (though my bet would be on him coming in below that)
After being traded from the Phillies to the Pirates last offseason, Bastardo enjoyed another solid campaign. Not elite, but solid. He pitched to a 2.98 ERA over 57.1 innings, balancing a 4.1 BB/9 rate with 10.0 K/9.
Over his past three seasons (spanning 164.0 innings), Bastardo has a 3.18 ERA and a cumulative 2.0 FanGraphs WAR.
He also enjoyed another very strong season against left-handed hitters in 2015, holding them to a triple-slash line of .138 / .233 / .215. Aaron Loup certainly isn’t the locked-in option he once was and Brett Cecil cannot be saved for strictly left-on-left situations, especially if Sanchez lands in the rotation, so the fit does make sense on a surface level.
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With any relief pitcher entering their 30s, the first stop is often their velocity chart. Bastardo, to his credit, has kept his average velocity extremely steady throughout his career, even experiencing a slight jump last season with the Pirates. On top of that, his fastball earned the highest PITCHf/x rating of Bastardo’s career.
All great signs, and admittedly I had Bastardo circled as a target I’d like to see from the outset of the offseason, but it’s still a rather complicated fit for the Blue Jays financially.
If the Blue Jays are where many figure them to be financially (close to their limit but with ample wiggle room remaining for smaller moves), a ~$5 million average annual salary would not leave as much flexibility for further depth additions and could eat into Toronto’s trade deadline wallet.
That being said, perhaps their current pockets are deeper than we expect. Guessing the Blue Jays budget remains a fool’s errand. For now, don’t pull a hamstring rushing to the Jays Shop for a Bastardo jersey.