The Toronto Blue Jays enter the 2016-17 option thin in terms of left-handed relief options
The Blue Jays can afford to go shopping this offseason. That much is settled.
Where they’ll shop, however, remains to be seen. When you’re setting up a living room, do you splurge on a 60-inch television and go cheap with the couch, or treat yourself to La-Z-Boy recliners with a discount screen? It’s a matter of balance, and with needs at several spots on the roster, the Blue Jays need to decide where they’ll spend big, and where they’ll hunt bargains.
Brett Cecil‘s free agency and Aaron Loup‘s inconsistencies leave the Blue Jays with no locked-in left-handed reliever for the 2017 roster. Loup is projected to earn $1.2 million in arbitration according to MLBTR and could quickly bounce back from two down years, but the 28-year-old hasn’t exactly convinced the front office to bet on him.
If Cecil does not return on a new deal, lefty relief could become a bargain-hunting area. It’s a risky proposition, but if done correctly, the Blue Jays could take decent value from attacking the market’s middle-to-lower tiers.
Beyond Travis Wood, a higher-end option coming off a World Series Championship, former Jay Marc Rzepczynski offers mid-level value to teams in need just put together strong season between Oakland and Washington. Inconsistencies have followed the 31-year-old since he left Toronto in the Colby Rasmus deal, but he appears to have found “it” at exactly the right time.
Boone Logan is a name that the Blue Jays circled prior to the August 1st trade deadline, but he ultimately stayed put with the Rockies. He’s endured an up-and-down career, but established himself again in 2016 by dominating lefty hitters and holding them to a .142 batting average. His strikeout-to-walk ratio was weak against righties, but as a specialist used correctly, Logan will fit nicely in a Major League bullpen next spring.
Jerry Blevins bounced back in 2016 after a 2015 season largely lost to a broken arm. The six-foot-six veteran posted a 2.79 ERA with the New York Mets, including a career high 11.1 strikeouts per nine innings. He’s pitched left-handed hitters much tougher throughout his career (.588 OPS against), but his splits were closer to being even last season. Blevins should have little trouble finding a two-year deal.
J.P. Howell had quietly been one of baseball’s best left-on-left specialists from 2013 to 2015, posting a 1.97 ERA in 200 appearances for the Los Angeles Dodgers. He held left-handed batters to an OPS under .520 in all three of those seasons, but his numbers derailed in 2016 as his splits reversed. Howell will be an attractive buy-low candidate.
Speaking of buy-low, Eric O’Flaherty may still be worth a swing in the dark despite his 7.52 ERA over 80 appearances since the start of 2015. His season ended early due to a surgical procedure to clean up his elbow, but a minor league deal may tempt the right club given O’Flaherty’s track record as a top-level lefty from 2009 to 2014.