Blue Jays: Rebuilding or not, don’t trade Ryan Tepera right now

BOSTON, MA - MAY 30: Ryan Tepera #52 of the Toronto Blue Jays reacts during the eighth inning against the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park on May 30, 2018 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
BOSTON, MA - MAY 30: Ryan Tepera #52 of the Toronto Blue Jays reacts during the eighth inning against the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park on May 30, 2018 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images) /

While I fully support the Blue Jays selling off veterans before the July 31st non-waiver trade deadline, they need to hang on to Ryan Tepera for now.

The Blue Jays are already starting to pop up in trade rumours, which isn’t a surprise given their place in the standings right now. There have been rumours connecting the Mariners and the Yankees to interest in J.A. Happ, and a few other rumblings. The latest is that there is interest starting to build in right-handed reliever, Ryan Tepera, according to a tweet from Jon Morosi on Tuesday.

The fact that other GM’s are interested in Tepera makes perfect sense. He’s been an effective reliever since entering the big leagues back in 2015, and has become a trusted arm in the back of John Gibbons‘ bullpen over the last couple of years. Lately he’s been handling the closing duties in the absence of Roberto Osuna, who remains on the administrative leave list while Major League Baseball waits to sort out his inevitable suspension.

Tepera has also been one of the more underrated performers in the American League, especially when you consider the bargain that he’s been when it comes to his salary. He’s earning just $574,000 this season, and will be arbitration eligible for the first time this winter. The Blue Jays have three years of control on his contract, making him a free agent at the end of the 2021 season.

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The 30 year was a bit of a late bloomer, but there’s no doubt that the Blue Jays understand the value that he can provide a bullpen. He’s capable of pitching in high pressure innings like the 8th and the 9th, and has also shown an ability to throw multiple innings when asked as well. He also makes himself available as much as possible, as he was near the top of the appearance leaders in the AL last year when he threw 77.2 innings and made 73 appearances.

For all these reasons and more, I can see why rival GMs will come calling, and why they may even offer the Blue Jays a decent return. However, unless that trade is something that Ross Atkins and Mark Shapiro can’t refuse, I hope they consider hanging on to the Texas native.

You might think it’s a little backwards to hang on to bullpen pieces when a team is entering a possible re-tool/re-build, but in this case I’d argue it makes sense. The Blue Jays entered the season with a pretty solid group, and they’ve performed well overall, but obviously not everything has gone according to plan. If it had, they would be on the right side of .500, and Osuna would still be finishing games, likely on route to another All-Star appearance. Instead, they’re six games under .500, and they entered play on Tuesday being 12.5 back of the second Wild Card spot.

That situation is almost assuredly going to kickstart some major changes with the Blue Jays, and we’re likely to see a few of them in the not so distant future. With the trade market already starting to heat up in the middle of June, the Blue Jays may want to start making their veterans available on the market, especially those that are on expiring contracts. For the bullpen that includes guys like Tyler Clippard and John Axford. There’s a chance it could include Aaron Loup as well, and Seung-hwan Oh has an option for 2019.

Then comes the complicated situation that Roberto Osuna and the Blue Jays find themselves in. Even if the 23 year old is able to escape major punishments from the court system, he’s going to face some sort of repercussion from the league, and likely the Blue Jays as well. When you consider that the Jays play in Canada, and have shown a very progressive decision making model with other transgressions, it’s hard to say if he’ll ever throw another pitch for his current employer.

Add it all up and the Blue Jays bullpen could have a completely different look next year, and maybe even as soon as later this season. That’s the nature of the bullpen of course, but for a team that’s had a pretty solid core over the last couple of seasons, it’s a change that could be difficult to navigate. There are a few arms in the minor leagues that could help this year like Tim Mayza, or Jake Petricka, but I don’t know how the group would look if they were to move 4-5 arms before the trade deadline. Right now he’s also serving as the closer, so they’d have

Quality bullpen help has become a lot more expensive in recent years, and that’s what makes Tepera even more valuable to the Blue Jays. Considering they could be facing an immediate future without some of his other bullpen mates, an uncertain future with Osuna, and the potential for the rotation to be weakened by trading guys like J.A. Happ or Marco Estrada, someone is going to have to throw these innings.

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Add in the fact that the Blue Jays still have those three years of control remaining, and ones that’ll likely still qualify as a bargain, and they don’t have to trade Tepera unless it makes sense. For me, it would take a pretty substantial return to move on from arguably their most reliable reliever, especially with the uncertain bullpen picture going forward.