Toronto Blue Jays News

Toronto Blue Jays should knock on Wood

Oct 15, 2016; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Cubs relief pitcher Travis Wood throws a pitch against the Los Angeles Dodgers during the seventh inning in game one of the 2016 NLCS playoff baseball series at Wrigley Field. Mandatory Credit: Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 15, 2016; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Cubs relief pitcher Travis Wood throws a pitch against the Los Angeles Dodgers during the seventh inning in game one of the 2016 NLCS playoff baseball series at Wrigley Field. Mandatory Credit: Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports /
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As spring training draws near, the Blue Jays could use some left-handed bullpen depth, and there may be an ideal candidate still on the market

With Tuesday’s minor league signing of Jarrod Saltalamacchia, and re-upping with Jose Bautista, the Blue Jays have started to round out their roster after a quiet few months this off-season. The patience displayed by the front office is arguably starting to pay off as well, as both “Joey Bats” and “Salty” were signed for relatively cheap deals.

As we’ve seen with several deals recently, players and agents start to get a little antsy after the calendar flips, and contract demands often come down as roster opportunities thin out across the league.

For teams like the Blue Jays who have remaining roster needs, this is exactly how they’ve hoped the remaining free agent market would play out. In particular, the Blue Jays still have needs in the bullpen, and with less than a month before pitchers report, there are several worthwhile options still available. Despite the health of the rotation last year, the club could certainly stand to improve their rotation depth as well.

The left-handed options have been discussed as length (Boone Logan, Jerry Blevins), but one remaining name should be of particular interest to the Blue Jays, former Chicago Cub Travis Wood.

Wood had a strong 2016 season with the Cubs, pitching to a 2.95 ERA over 61 innings with the eventual World Series champions. It was the Little Rock native’s first season exclusively out of the bullpen, and he made the adjustment without much, if any, issue.

Obviously the 29 year old would fill a need for the Blue Jays, as they need left-handed pitching in the bullpen. They’ve also reportedly been linked to him earlier in the offseason as well:

However, the reason Wood could/should be more appealing to the Blue Jays than Logan or Blevins, is the flexibility he brings with his resume. While Logan and Blevins are pretty much textbook “LOOGYs”, Wood has a significant amount of starting experience as well, having been a starter until the 2015 season. He may have thrown a career-low 61 innings last season, but there’s little doubt that Wood is capable of more, if called upon.

The Cubs simply didn’t have a need in the rotation last year, as they rolled out Jake Arrieta, Jon Lester, Kyle Hendricks, John Lackey and Jason Hammel, one of the best five-man rotations in baseball. Like the Blue Jays, the Cubs rotation experienced a mostly healthy season. Combine that with Wood flourishing in a bullpen role, and the opportunity to start never came in 2016.

There have been mixed reports that Wood was looking for an opportunity to start in 2017 again, and that’s where the Blue Jays could have a (very) slight advantage over other potential suitors. They obviously won’t promise him a chance to start with their own established five-man rotation in place, but they could offer a chance to be “next in line”, if the injury bug strikes.

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It may not be the ideal scenario Wood and his agent are looking for, but the Blue Jays could give him a significant role in the bullpen, an opportunity join a potential contender, and they should have the available funds to make a competitive offer. Wood would “kill two birds with one stone” for the Jays, bringing left-handed bullpen depth and another potential starter.

Maybe the lefty holds out for a guaranteed chance to start, but as we get closer to opening day the options dwindle quickly for holdout free agents. Hopefully for the Blue Jays’ sake, that means they’re about to get a bargain and add some much needed depth.

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