Blue Jays: Could Danny Barnes be optioned to Buffalo?

ARLINGTON, TX - JUNE 21: Danny Barnes
ARLINGTON, TX - JUNE 21: Danny Barnes /

Danny Barnes has quickly risen to a high leverage role in the Toronto Blue Jays bullpen over the past couple of seasons. He was very good in limited action in 2016 and spent the entire season at the back-end of the bullpen in 2017. There have been many solid arms who not on the 40 man roster, that are impressing during Spring Training. While Barnes is in no danger of losing his spot on the 40 man, could his rough spring have him begin the year off the 25 man and in Buffalo?

Danny Barnes made it to the big leagues in 2016 and pitched to the tune of a 3.95 ERA and 2.20 FIP. In 2017, Barnes had a 3.55 ERA but his FIP was above 4.50. While he doesn’t throw overly hard with a fastball that averages 92.2 MPH, he strikes out a good amount of batters (23.5%), but sometimes struggles with walks (9.1% in 2017).

He seems to have gotten really got lucky last year as evidenced by his .222 BABIP, compared to .359 in 2016. He still manages to get his guys out, even if it doesn’t appear favourable pitching at Rogers Centre with a 32.2 GB% and and 52.0 FB%.

Barnes seems to have developed a bit of knack for outperforming those unfavourable metrics, but a disturbing trend of giving up the home run ball began, especially in the 2nd half of 2017. His HR/9 in the 2nd half of 2017 was an ugly 2.33. In fact, all around, Danny Barnes struggled quite mightily in the 2nd half of the season compared to a very good 1st half. Could it have been fatigue? It’s possible, but the home run trend is continuing into spring training. The one good thing is that the strikeouts are still there, which is a encouraging sign after the strikeouts dipped by 15% in the two halves a season ago.

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Now, there have been numerous arms that have been impressing during the spring and three of those arms aren’t on the 40 man roster. Two seem guaranteed spots in John Axford and Tyler Clippard. That would fill the bullpen with seven arms:

The other arm really impressing in the spring is Luis Santos. Santos can throw hard and offer the Blue Jays length out of the bullpen. Length is something the don’t currently have. In 16.2 September innings a season ago, Santos struck out 16 batters and had a 2.70 ERA. He looked really impressive and he has looked good again this spring.

Santos is currently not on the 40 man roster, so yet another spot would need to be opened up on top of the two to make room for Axford and Clippard. It won’t be Barnes coming off the 40 man. Matt Dermody has already come off the 40 man to make room for Sam Gaviglio. Sam Moll, claimed off waivers on St. Patrick’s Day is also on the 40 man.

If the struggles of Danny Barnes continues for the remainder of spring, it is possible that he could start the season in Buffalo since he still has options. A spot in the bullpen would then open up for one of Gaviglio or Moll, who are on the 40 man. A very dark-horse candidate is Al Alburquerque as well, but that seems unlikely given the amount room needed.

The one arm off the 40 man outside of Axford and Clippard who’s opened eyes the most is Santos. The ability for him to offer length out of the bullpen is intriguing. If the Blue Jays have an idea of who they’d DFA to make room for Santos on the 40 man, they could look to demote the struggling Danny Barnes to bring up Luis Santos.

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