The clarity of the Toronto Blue Jays bullpen became somewhat clearer this week after the free agent signings of veteran hurlers J.P. Howell and Joe Smith.
Ross Atkins and company slow played the free agent reliever market after seeing Brett Cecil sign a lucrative 4-year pact with the St. Louis Cardinals and Joaquin Benoit sign an inflated 7.5 million one-year deal with the Philadelphia Phillies. The patience appears to have paid off for the Blue Jays brain trust.
The Blue Jays finally did plunge into the free agent market twice this past week attempting to fill some of the void left by the free-agent departures of Cecil, Benoit and Scott Feldman. Both new signings on paper should replace what both Cecil and Benoit provided.
The 33-year old Howell signed with the Jays for $3 million while terms of Smith have not yet been disclosed but industry sources feel it will be in the neighborhood of the Howell pact.
Howell had a down season in 2016 but traditionally handles lefties effectively and should in all likelihood match what Cecil provided out of the pen.
Smith who is no stranger to Atkins and Mark Shapiro having played for the Cleveland Indians between 2009-13. He was acquired by the Indians in a three-team trade involving the Mets and Mariners, a trade that also saw minor-leaguer Ezequiel Carrera get shipped to the Mariners from the Mets.
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The remaining pen spots will come down to spring training battles between the likes of Gavin Floyd, Lucas Harrell, Aaron Loup, Danny Barnes, Bo Schultz, Ryan Tepera, Glenn Sparkman, Matt Dermody, Chad Girodo, Brett Oberholtzer, Jeff Beliveau, Tim Mayza and Ryan Borucki.
Hopefully, the Jays can still net one of the remaining arms as Luke Hochevar, Travis Wood and Craig Breslow are still unsigned and any of the three could provide considerable upside. The more the merrier, you can never have too many arms.