With the Toronto Blue Jays experiencing some injuries to their bullpen early this season, the organization might want to start considering some outside help if relievers keep heading to the injured list. As of right now, starting pitchers Tom Hatch, Ross Stripling, and Nate Pearson are on the IL right now while relief pitchers Kirby Yates, Tyler Chatwood, Julian Merryweather, and Jordan Romano also find themselves bit by the injury bug.
While the Blue Jays do possess some depth in the bullpen, it may be wise for Ross Atkins and co. to possibly look at some outside options if some of the relief pitchers are going to be missing some significant time (other than Yates, who is already done for the year).
Considering the season is already two weeks old, the relief pitcher market is not very potent compared to what was available during the off-season, but there are a few options that are available that could benefit the Blue Jays roster moving forward.
A familiar face to the Blue Jays organization, left-hander Francisco Liriano spent two seasons with the team back in 2016-2017 and was most recently in the Jays Spring Training camp as of a few weeks ago.
As Opening Day approached, Liriano was granted an unconditional release from his contract as he was not going to be making the roster, a move that allowed him to sign with another organization, although he currently remains a free agent. For his career, Liriano has fashioned a 4.15 ERA with 816 walks and 1815 strikeouts over 14 seasons and 1813.2 innings pitched.
The reason Liriano is a solid option to consider for the bullpen is that he has proven to be a durable pitcher with both starting and relief experience under his resume. He was also performing well this past Spring Training, pitching in seven games without allowing an earned run while striking out six with three walks. Although he is a left-handed pitcher, the Blue Jays do have a lot of lefties, a veteran with experience like Liriano and a proven track record could be a good option to have if the injuries continue to mount or if players like Chatwood or Romano find themselves missing significant time.
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A right-handed pitcher with seven years of Major League Baseball under his belt, Shane Greene is a potential option to consider given the Blue Jays bullpen injury concerns.
Spending time with the Detroit Tigers, Atlanta Braves, and New York Yankees over his career, Greene began as a starter before transitioning into a relief pitcher during the 2016 season. For his career, Greene has a 4.38 ERA with 157 walks and 413 strikeouts while also collecting 66 saves over the past three seasons.
Considered the best relief pitcher left on the free-agent market, the Florida native has reportedly been waiting for the right opportunity before putting pen to paper. While his career stats are not eye-popping, Greene has performed well the past two seasons and even earned an all-star appearance in 2019.
Considering the Blue Jays rotation is full of left-handed pitchers and quite a few right-handed relievers are on the injured list, adding Greene to the mix could be another insurance arm that comes with experience and the ability to close games. Some may be concerned given he did not have a normal Spring Training and the season is two weeks in already, so the risk regarding the performance aspect or potential injury may be higher given he would be most likely signed to a one-year deal (if he would even consider that length of the contract given the hold out).
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Another former Blue Jay, Jeremy Jeffress signed a minor league deal with the Washington Nationals this past off-season but was released before Opening Day to what the organization calls “an employment issue“. While he may have some off-the-field issues, Jeffress has performed well of late and sports a 3.08 ERA with 387 strikeouts over 424.1 innings pitched. Tread lightly but there if needed.
A victim of multiple injuries last season, right-hander Brad Peacock is currently a free agent that had an unfortunate rough 2020 season prior to heading to the open market. While he may have been limited last season, Peacock sports a 4.01 ERA with a 1.302 WHIP and 587 strikeouts over 554.2 innings of work. The injury concerns may be a concern but the Florida native could be a low financial risk option if the bullpen injuries become too much to bear.
While multiple players are currently on the injured list, the Blue Jays appear to be content to use the depth they have on the roster before considering any outside options. Joel Payamps has been up and down with the team multiple times this season and multiple pitchers made their Jays debuts this season such as Tommy Milone, Ty Tice, and Anthony Castro.
While the Blue Jays may seem satisfied with their current bullpen depth, if prominent relievers like Romano or Merryweather are going to miss significant time, there may be an argument to bring in a veteran pitcher like Francisco Liriano or Shane Greene if the Blue Jays are vying for a playoff spot come October.