After looking at the starting rotation from the 2015 season, we’ll examine the Blue Jays’ bullpen and what happened to those relievers. The bullpen was built of some young pitchers who looked to be future stars, and some journeymen pitchers that nobody really knew of before the season.
Roberto Osuna was signed as an international free agent as a 16-year old in 2011, and just after his 20th birthday he made the Blue Jays 25-man roster out of spring training. Initially he was not the closer on the team as John Gibbons elected to try both Brett Cecil and Miguel Castro in that role to start the year. On June 22, Osuna came in for two innings, which was his first career save on five strikeouts. In August that season he pitched in 10 games and went 9 for 9 in save opportunities, and at one point saw his ERA drop to 1.87.
In the ALDS that season, Osuna was lights out as he pitched in four games, closed out three of them, pitching a perfect 5.2 innings over those games striking out six. Osuna struggled a bit in the ALCS pitching in three games and allowing a couple runs over 2 2/3 innings. He would finish fourth in Rookie of the Year voting that year.
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Osuna would be one of the top closing pitchers in baseball over the next couple years and in 2016 he pitched in the Wild Card, ALDS and ALCS combining for nine innings without surrendering a run picking up a win and a save. In 2017 he represented the Blue Jays at the All-Star Game. Things were looking amazing for Osuna as by the time he was 23-years old he had already accumulated 104 saves. For reference, Mariano Rivera didn’t make his first appearance until he was 26 and first save at 27. Osuna also had an All-Star appearance and looked like he elevated his game in the playoffs.
However, in 2018 it was reported that Osuna got into some legal trouble during a domestic violence occurrence. Osuna would later agree to a Peace Bond in agreement to the charges being withdrawn. Primarily due to the legal troubles, Osuna was traded to Houston Astros for Hector Perez, Ken Giles and David Paulino. Osuna has continued pitching strong for the Astros and led the AL in saves last year with 38.
Aaron Sanchez was a former first round pick of the Blue Jays and developed as a starter. Due to being on an innings limit his first couple of years, he pitched primarily out of the bullpen. In 2015, with one year of experience, he started 11 games while coming out of the bullpen for 30 games. In the ALDS, Sanchez pitched in all five games and did not allow a run over 5.1 innings. The ALCS was similar as he pitched in four games, and although he got into some trouble, he did not surrender a run.
Sanchez would go on the next season to a remarkable 15-2 record with a league best 3.00 ERA, which led him to an All-Star appearance and votes for the Cy Young award. The next few years would result in his famous finger injuries that derailed his career. Sanchez would end up being dealt to the Houston Astros in 2019 at the trade deadline. He finished out the season but was non-tendered and is currently a free agent.
Liam Hendriks had already pitched in the major leagues for a few seasons but had a career ERA around 6.00 coming into the 2015 campaign. Hendriks found his style in Toronto as he pitched in 58 games, posting a 5-0 record and a 2.92 ERA. After a couple up and down performances in the playoffs against the Royals, the Blue Jays management decided to move on from Hendriks that offseason. He was traded to Oakland where he is now entering his fifth season with the club. In 2019, Hendriks was the Athletics’ closer and he was selected to the All-Star game as he posted 25 saves and a 1.80 ERA.
Brett Cecil was once a back of the rotation starter with the Blue Jays starting in 2009, however in 2013 he was shifted to the bullpen and was one of the most consistent arms for John Gibbons. In 2015 Cecil had his third consecutive season of a sub 3.00 ERA and was coming off a career best 2.48 ERA. Cecil would pitch one more season for the Blue Jays before testing free agency. He signed a massive four year $30.5 million contract with the St. Louis Cardinals, however, Cecil has suffered through injuries and was injured part way through year two of that contract. The southpaw still has one year left on his contract and has not pitched in the big leagues since 2018.
Aaron Loup started his career with the Blue Jays as a specialist in the bullpen and by 2015 he had already accumulated four years of major league experience. Loup had turned into more of an innings eater by the time his time in Toronto was coming to a close in 2018. He was traded to the Philadelphia Phillies at the 2018 trade deadline for Jacob Waguespack. Loup would pitch just four innings for the Phillies before suffering an arm injury and being shut down for the season. The former Blue Jay then signed with the San Diego Padres for the 2019 season and after four shutout performances his season ended in April. The Padres opted not to pick up his 2020 option and he became a free agent. Loup currently has a minor league deal for 2020 with the Tampa Bay Rays.
Stay tuned for Part 2 of the Bullpen.