Blue Jays: The makings of a dynamic long-term bullpen
The Blue Jays have seen some solid work from their bullpen this year, and with the way the group is coming together, they could be good for a long time.
For someone who enjoys watching a roster build, the Blue Jays have been a very entertaining organization to follow over the last few years.
Most people are familiar with the talent that’s developed on the offensive side, led by the likes of Bo Bichette, Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Cavan Biggio, Lourdes Gurriel Jr., and several more players that look like they’ll have bright MLB futures. The starting rotation has really started to come together as well, both in the present and for the long-term. Nate Pearson has made a very positive impression during his first two MLB starts (let’s just forget about Wednesday night), and Hyun-Jin Ryu looks like a solid investment. There are also talented arms on the way like Simeon Woods Richardson, Alek Manoah, Adam Kloffenstein, and several more.
But what about the bullpen? That might be coming together too.
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It was unfortunate that Ken Giles is once again dealing with arm issues that have landed him in the Injured List, but there’s a silver lining there as well. Giles being sidelined has provided opportunity for other relievers to shine, and fortunately there have been several impressive contributions.
Prior to Tuesday night’s blown save, Anthony Bass had been borderline untouchable, and he’s not alone. Jordan Romano has been used as the primary set-up man thus far, and he’s responded by throwing eight innings of shutout baseball, including 11 strikeouts. A.J. Cole hasn’t allowed a run over his first seven innings either, and Rafael Dolis bounced back from a tough first outing and has been great ever since.
Then there are the even more pleasant surprises that have come from starting pitchers who have been used out of the bullpen. Ryan Borucki has been sensational as a reliever and hasn’t allowed a run yet over four appearances, Thomas Hatch had just one blip on the radar, and the same goes for Anthony Kay, who has been utterly dominant.
A bullpen is always a part of a MLB team that is going to turn over a bit year to year, but the Blue Jays could have an interesting opportunity with this group. I say that because many of them are pre-arbitration eligible, and could be under contract in Toronto for a very reasonable amount for several years. Let’s have a look at the breakdown:
Romano: Pre-Arbitration eligible
Borucki: Pre-Arbitration eligible
Hatch: Pre-Arbitration eligible
Kay: Pre-Arbitration eligible
Cole: Two more years of arbitration eligibility
Dolis: Team option for 1.5 million in 2021
Bass: Free agent at season’s end
Giles: Free agent at season’s end
Of course, there are some moving parts here, and I haven’t included every reliever the Blue Jays have utilized this year. Chances are good that Kay will eventually become a starter, and the same could happen for Borucki and Hatch. If it were up to me though, I’d be very interesting in keeping the latter two arms as relievers and using them as building blocks.
It would require re-signing one or both of Giles/Bass, and for the purpose of this exercise, let’s say the Jays bring back Giles, but Bass gets a multi-year deal somewhere else. Even losing one of those two late-inning relievers, you could be talking about a bullpen foundation of five or more arms. And not just any arms, but pitchers that look like they’ll be very impactful MLB relievers. What makes it even more appealing is that they won’t be expensive either, which will allow the Blue Jays to spend their budget elsewhere if they choose, which include other free agent upgrades, or extensions for their young arms.
A bullpen core that includes Giles, Romano, Borucki, Hatch, and another year or two of Cole/Dolis is a great place to start. It would be even scarier if Kay stuck in the bullpen too, but I don’t think that’s going to happen. Even then, it would allow for some yearly turnover, and would give the Blue Jays some consistency from an area that rarely gives a manager that luxury.