The Toronto Blue Jays made a nice splash in the free agent market on Monday when they signed former St. Louis Cardinals closer, and a man with the nickname of ‘The Final Boss’ in Seung-hwan Oh. The South Korean reliever spent 12 years in Asia pitching for the Samsung Lions of the KBO League in Korea, and the Hanshin Tigers in Japan before coming to the MLB in 2016.
The signing of Seung-hwan Oh gives the Blue Jays a quality late inning arm for the back end of the bullpen, despite his 2017 struggles with the Cardinals that saw him lose the closers role after taking it from Trevor Rosenthal in 2016. The deal is for one year, and worth $1.75 million with a club option for 2019 worth $2.5 million. The option can automatically be triggered based on 2018 appearances.
The first season for Oh with the Cardinals was quite good. He pitched so well that he took the closer’s role from Rosenthal. He had an 11.64 K/9 with a 2.03 BB/9, 1.92 ERA, and 2.13 FIP. In 2017 the K/9 went down to 8.19 K/9, and his HR/9 went up to 1.52 compared to 0.56 in 2016. The ground ball rate also went down to 28.7% from 40.0% in 2016. The home run and lack of ground balls really hurt Oh in 2017, despite his stuff remaining largely the same. If Oh can keep the ball in the yard better than he did in 2017, he will get closer to his 2016 form.
The Depth Charts and Steamer projections only has Oh throwing in 10 games, but ZiPS has Oh in 60 games in 58.3 IP. They also have him at a 9.72 K/9, 2.16 BB/9, 1.08 HR/9, a 3.39 ERA, 3.38 FIP and a 0.8 fWAR. I think that’s a pretty safe projection for Oh, which is about in the middle of where he was his previous two years. That would be plenty good enough to set-up for Osuna. That leads us to the state of the Blue Jays bullpen for 2018 as things currently sit.
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The solidified roles look as follows:
Five quality arms in the Blue Jays bullpen is a good start. It also automatically leads people to think of what happens to Joe Biagini. Given all of the arms in camp, this leads me to believe that Biagini will start the year in Buffalo as a starter and be the first guy up for a spot start or an injury to the current five in the rotation. Operating under that assumption, there would be two spots open for the likes of:
- John Axford
- Matt Dermody
- Taylor Guerrieri
- Tim Mayza
- Carlos Ramirez
- Craig Breslow
- Al Alburquerque
- Andrew Case
- Jake Petricka
There are lots of intriguing arms to battle it out this spring. It’s way to early to tell who will emerge with the final two bullpen spots, but regardless, the signing of Seung-hwan Oh allows for more flexibility for the role of Joe Biagini and a really good battle from all the names listed above. On such a low risk deal, if Oh struggles mightily he can be DFA’d, but I’d be surprised if he doesn’t bounce back to be in between his two MLB seasons.
The shape of the bullpen looks good as things currently stand and time will tell what other names emerge to snag the two remaining spots. It’s already a better looking bullpen than last year at this time. Seung-hwan Oh is a lovely move for the Toronto Blue Jays.