The Blue Jays have several arms competing for the available bullpen jobs, and among them is 5 year Jays veteran, Aaron Loup.
The Blue Jays have several decisions to make this Spring, with one of the more open competitions being in the bullpen. The likely guarantees include Roberto Osuna, Jason Grilli, J.P. Howell, Joe Smith, and Joe Biagini (if he’s not sent to Triple A as a starter), with the other two jobs seemingly up for grabs.
While the Jays could choose to get creative with the way they build their pen, it’s likely they’re looking for one arm to serve as the long reliever, and the other to thrive against left-handed hitters. With Howell as the lone lefty in the likely-5, the Jays could stand to have a second one.
That takes us to options like Matt Dermody, Jeff Beliveau and many more, including Aaron Loup, who has been with the Jays from 2012-2016. Debuting as a 24 year old, the young, sidearmer added a ton of value to the pen from the left side.
Loup especially thrived in his first three seasons, with a low of a 2.47 ERA in 69.1 innings in 2013, in just his second season as a big leaguer. Forming a capable lefty duo with Brett Cecil, the Blue Jays benefitted greatly in trusting both arms, who both proved reliable.
Since then, he just hasn’t been quite the same, seeing his ERA balloon to 4.46 in 2015, and following it by throwing just 14.1 innings in 2016.
Still just 28, his downturn obviously shouldn’t be age related, and he doesn’t have a ton of mileage on his arm either. He has struggled with injuries more recently, which contributed to his lack of appearances in 2016, in addition to ineffectiveness.
The Louisiana native started last spring with a flexor strain in his throwing arm, which obviously didn’t get the campaign off on the note he had hoped for. He wasn’t able to break camp with the team, and never did grab a foothold on a role in the Jays pen. When he did pitch, he mostly struggled. It’s hard to say if he was ever fully healthy, but the numbers don’t lie.
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Fortunately for the former 9th round pick by the Jays in 2009, the front office only brought in Howell as a likely guarantee from the left side, so there’s still a chance Loup breaks camp this year.
He’s also out of minor league options, meaning he’d have to pass through waivers in order to be assigned to Triple A Buffalo. It’s possible he could make it through waivers, especially if he struggles this spring, but left-handed pitching is hard to find. (He actually falls in a small technicality window where he has an option, but could elect free agency. Check out this handy chart from Bluebirdbanter for more details)
There could be a GM out there who looks at his past success, his injuries last season, and the fact that he’s still only 28, and sees an arm worth taking a shot on. While he’s a popular target for angry fans, the Blue Jays’ brass likely doesn’t see him the same way.
He’s still going to have to earn his job this spring, but don’t be surprised if the Blue Jays decide to give him a long look this Spring, that may extend into the beginning of the season.