After removing Buddy Boshers from the 40-man roster and losing Tim Mayza for the foreseeable future, the Blue Jays are left with just Thomas Pannone as the only lefty option on the current roster to come out of the bullpen. Finding another southpaw or two for the Blue Jays bullpen will be on the checklist for management. Here are some options Ross Atkins can look at.
After Tim Mayza went down with a serious elbow injury late last season, the Blue Jays suddenly had a greater need for a left-hander out of their bullpen. Now that Buddy Boshers has also elected to test free agency, the depth could be tested even further if the need isn’t addressed this off-season.
Thomas Pannone is the most obvious bullpen option for the Blue Jays in 2020, as he is already on the 40-man roster. Pannone looked to have some promise when he was acquired at the 2017 trade deadline for Joe Smith. His fastball sits at just 90 mph, so control will need to become a priority for him. Pannone has proven he is not a starting pitcher as his split between starter and reliever are vastly different. This past season Pannone had an 11.31 ERA as a starter and a 3.54 ERA out of the bullpen.
Buddy Boshers could be an option to return, although not a likely option, especially after he announced that he’ll hit the free agent market. Boshers slowly won me over during the season as he finished the season with 10 consecutive appearances without allowing a run. If Boshers doesn’t get a contract elsewhere, he could be a camp invitee.
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Francisco Liriano announced at the end of September that he would like to pitch a few more seasons. He has transitioned full-time to the bullpen last season and a return to the Jays isn’t out of the question. The native of Dominican Republic could bring some good leadership into the Jays clubhouse. Liriano had a successful season with the Pirates out of the ‘pen in 2019, finishing with a 3.47 ERA over 70 innings pitched and an 8.1 strikeout per nine innings.
Jake Diekman split 2019 between Kansas City and Oakland before becoming a free agent after the Athletics failed to pick up his 5.75 million option. Diekman struck out 84 batters in 62 innings and gave up just three home runs, however, also walking 39 batters. Diekman could be the best option for the Jays to spend a little more at acquiring.
Tim Collins started his professional career with the Toronto Blue Jays and has become a free agent after fighting injuries the last few seasons. Collins is a small-framed, hard-throwing lefty and is likely looking to find an option to help resurrect his career. Collins did struggle in the minors before being shut down, but if he can bounce back to what he had before injuries he could be an effective option in the bullpen.
Tayler Saucedo was a 21st round pick in 2015 by the Blue Jays and has been steadily climbing the Toronto system. He also transitioned into a bullpen pitcher this last season and was dominant at New Hampshire posting 1.01 ERA. Saucedo struggled a bit when he was called up to Buffalo, but picked up six wins.
Kirby Snead was a 10th round pick in 2016 by the Blue Jays and had a similar, but slightly better season then Saucedo this past season. After striking out 14 batters on no walks and four hits over 11 innings in New Hampshire, he played the majority of the season in Buffalo and had success. He had an almost 3:1 strikeout to walk ratio. Snead just turned 25 last month and is the most likely lefty in the farm system to make his MLB debut this upcoming season.
Jake Fishman is another 2016 draft pick when the Jays took him in the 30th round. Fishman has been good at all levels of baseball since being drafted as he has pitched to a 2.97 ERA and 1.15 ERA in all levels from Rookie to one appearance at AAA. What has been extremely impressive is he has struck out 186 batters to just 38 walks over 172 innings. Fishman has made just one appearance at AAA, so a longer test in Buffalo before being called up is most likely.
The Blue Jays have some options already in the organization they can reach to for left-handed pitching out of the bullpen, but it could be valuable to go after a veteran to help with guidance. I’d prefer a return of Liriano or a signing of Diekman, see if Pannone can be a consistent reliever and give the prospects chances throughout the season.