Blue Jays’ Atkins: 90% chance of adding a reliever

HOUSTON, TX - AUGUST 04: Aaron Loup
HOUSTON, TX - AUGUST 04: Aaron Loup /

According to Ross Atkins’ statements on Tuesday afternoon, the Blue Jays are still in the market to add a reliever to their bullpen stable.

If there was one thing that drove me a little nuts about Alex Anthopoulos, it was that you could never predict when a roster move was about to happen. Part of that was strategy from the Blue Jays’ former GM of course, but as a fan it was occasionally frustrating, even if it was a wise management style for the most part.

All front offices like to keep a lid on the majority of their activity, but I’ve personally enjoyed Ross Atkins’ willingness to be bluntly honest with the media at times. He fielded questions from reporters on Tuesday, and he took it as a chance to drop a few significant pieces of information, including his confidence that the Blue Jays can ultimately sign Josh Donaldson.

The other nugget of info I found particularly interesting was Atkins’ statements with regards to the bullpen. The young GM admitted that the Blue Jays are not satisfied with the roster and are still working to add before Opening Day. In particular it looks like the bullpen is the targeted area of improvement, with a tweet from Ben Nicholson-Smith revealing that Atkins said it’s “probably 90%” likely that area still gets addressed.

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A few days ago I wrote an article looking at the current group of relievers in Toronto, and how the bullpen may be constructed if the season started today. It included a seemingly guaranteed group including Roberto Osuna, Ryan Tepera, Danny Barnes, and Aaron Loup, and a battle for the final four spots between the likes of John Axford, Al Alburquerque, Craig Breslow, Matt Dermody, Tim Mayza, Carlos Ramirez, and more.

There is enough depth there to put together a pretty decent bullpen, especially if Joe Biagini ultimately gets moved back there as well. However, it never hurts to have more depth, and for the Blue Jays that could push a “good” unit into the “great” territory. For the most volatile area on a baseball team, the more options you have to play with the more likely you are to find a successful formula.

In particular I would think Atkins and company should have their eyes open for an available left-handed upgrade. They brought Loup back by avoiding arbitration on a $1,185,000 deal, and inked Breslow to a minor league deal, but that’s far from inspiring (with all due respect). They also have talented youngsters in Dermody and Mayza, both of whom looked capable of getting big leaguers out down the stretch last year. However, they still lack a southpaw to stick in high leverage situations, and with respect to the two veterans listed above, I’d almost rather one of the youngsters handle that role for now. While it could work, that’s not the place you want to be.

Secondly, I wouldn’t be surprised if they had their eyes on a long reliever type, especially if they intend to start Biagini in Buffalo to begin the year. Out of the group already mentioned, Ryan Tepera is really the only reliever that’s suited for a multi-inning role, but he’s also regularly used as a set-up man as well. Biagini obviously fills that role incredibly well if he’s brought North to open the season, but if I were making a prediction I think he’ll be used as depth for the starting rotation.

Regardless of what they do, it’s refreshing to hear Atkins mention that the front office is still looking to improve. After a quietly solid offseason, there is more to like about this team than a lot of people realize. Adding one more reliever just adds to the upside from the veteran group.

Next: Lessons to take into Josh Donaldson negotiations