Blue Jays: Is Trevor Rosenthal worth pursuing as a free agent?

ST. LOUIS, MO - JUNE 15: Closer Trevor Rosenthal #44 of the St. Louis Cardinals pitches against the Houston Astros in the ninth inning at Busch Stadium on June 15, 2016 in St. Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
ST. LOUIS, MO - JUNE 15: Closer Trevor Rosenthal #44 of the St. Louis Cardinals pitches against the Houston Astros in the ninth inning at Busch Stadium on June 15, 2016 in St. Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images) /

In their search for veteran bullpen pieces, should the Blue Jays turn to former St. Louis Cardinals closer Trevor Rosenthal?

Once a dominant bullpen arm, Trevor Rosenthal has fallen on some hard times. Following Tommy John surgery, he’s had to completely re-evaluate his career and plot out a new route to get back on track. The rehabilitation process, while notoriously ruthless and gruelling, appears to be going pretty well.

Recently, Rosenthal himself announced on Twitter that he’d be holding a showcase for major league teams on October 3 in Irvine, California. Jon Heyman of Fancred later reported that the showcase was “well attended”, assumingly by front office executives from various major league teams.

At this point, it’s impossible to know whether or not the Blue Jays sent a representative to scout the showcase. Even if they did, it’s no sure thing that they’re going to offer him a contract, regardless of his current physical condition.

But just for fun, let’s take a look at Rosenthal’s track record and attempt to assess his current value, injuries and all.

His Backstory

A 21st round pick of the Cardinals in 2009, he quickly climbed the ranks of the Cardinals minor league system, earning an early invite to Spring Training and impressing at various levels. Despite being a low draft pick and signing for a paltry $65,000, the Cards were impressed and soon promoted him.

The Closing Days

Following his major league debut in July of 2012, Rosenthal ramped up his contributions to the Cardinals, pitching 75.1 innings in 2013 to a 2.63 ERA and taking over the closer’s role in early 2014. That season, he notched 45 saves and pitched to a 3.20 ERA while striking out 87 in 70.1 frames.

He continued his dominance in 2015, when he saved 48 games, pitching to an even more impressive 2.10 ERA while striking out 83 and walking just 25. A National League All-Star, he came in 17th of the NL MVP voting that year.

Stumbling out of the gate in 2016, the Cardinals took him out of the closer’s role and replaced him by then-major league rookie Seunghwan Oh. The next year, the native of Lee’s Summit, Missouri experienced elbow discomfort and soon underwent the dreaded Tommy John surgery.

Tough Times

Rosenthal was made an outright free agent on November 6, 2017, and has not appeared in a major league game since. While there have been some minor rumblings about him signing a minor-league deal with an undisclosed major league team, Rosenthal himself denied the rumours.

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The Current Value

As Rosenthal noted in a reply to a follower’s comment, the showcase in Irvine will be based around a 40-yard dash and a vertical jump, insinuating that the showcase would be less baseball-oriented and more fitness-oriented, which is a logical starting point for someone recovering from major elbow surgery.

At this point, it’s hard to tell how much value he has, or what his market is. While veteran relievers always seem to have somewhat of a market, Rosenthal, oddly, falls in between the “veteran” and “youngster” distinction, being only 28 years of age but having pitched in over 300 major league games.

If the market is shallow, then there’s no reason to hesitate in offering him a minor-league deal. Even if Heyman’s reports of multiple attendees at the showcase are true, it’s unlikely that every single one of those will be ready to offer him a contract.

Whoever signs Rosenthal should hope he regains some value and is able to be marketed as a decent trade chip come mid-July. The Blue Jays profited off of the solid performances of the aforementioned Oh and John Axford this season, with the latter being signed to a MiLB deal.

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Even though signing Rosenthal might not be the groundbreaking pitching signing many Blue Jays fans appear to be hungry for, it could represent an under the radar, valuable pickup in more ways than one. In general, the Blue Jays should be hunting for these value relievers, signing multiple minor league deals before Spring Training opens up in February. Rosenthal could easily be one of those guys.