Over the past few weeks, the Toronto Blue Jays have hit a rough patch when it comes to winning ball games. Although they post one of the most potent lineups in the league, the pitching staff, namely the bullpen, has been struggling to the point where fans are starting to call on management to do something before it is too late to salvage the season.
While some may argue that with quite a few games still to go and sounding alarm bells in June may be a bit early, the truth is that if the Blue Jays do want to be playoff contenders this season, the current bullpen is not going to cut it.
While the roster has been impacted by numerous injuries to what seems like almost every pitcher, the organization keeps losing the close games, and eventually, these losses will pile up to the point where snagging a wild card spot just isn’t possible anymore.
That being said, if Ross Atkins and co. truly want to add some arms to the bullpen, they may want to make a call to a former employee who is now with the Pittsburgh Pirates organization.
The Toronto Blue Jays bullpen has been struggling to keep runs off the scoreboard these past few weeks, and with fans calling for the front office to do something sooner than later, a call to a former employee may be what the team needs to bring some new life to the bullpen.
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Ben Cherington is currently the general manager of the Pirates, and prior to heading south of the border, he was the vice president of baseball operations for the Toronto Blue Jays, holding the position for almost three years (2016-2019). He was brought in after working his way through the Boston Red Sox and left the Blue Jays back in 2019 to become the general manager of the Pirates.
A small market team in a competitive NL Central division, the Pirates are 23-44 on the season with a rough season still ahead of them. The club appears to be trending towards a rebuild after trading away some veteran assets this past off-season, and while the team does boast a terrible record, there are some quality arms in the bullpen that could make the Blue Jays a better team if the two teams could work on a potential trade.
If Atkins was to pick up the phone and dial-up Cherington, there are a few players he could inquire about that could improve the Jays’ relief corps:
Richard Rodriguez: 1.71 ERA; 26.1 IP; 3 walks; 20 strikeouts; 0.684 WHIP
Chris Stratton: 2.95 ERA; 36.2 IP; 12 walks; 31 strikeouts; 1.173 WHIP
Sam Howard: 2.45 ERA; 25.2 IP; 16 walks; 34 strikeouts; 1.052 WHIP
Kyle Crick: 2.04 ERA; 17.2 IP; 12 walks; 15 strikeouts; 0.962 WHIP
Chasen Shreve: 1.88 ERA; 14.1 IP; 3 walks; 13 strikeouts; 0.837 WHIP
Each pitcher mentioned above has at least 3-4 years of experience pitching out of the bullpen at the major league level and every player except for Shreve is either arbitration-eligible or under team control for at least 2-3 more years.
Considering the Pirates are in the rebuilding phase and could trade away some veteran players for prospect players similar to what the Blue Jays did 2-3 years ago, Atkins could use the deep infield laden prospect list to acquire some quality bullpen arms that are not just one-year rentals (minus Shreve). Rodriguez would require the most prospect capital given he is the Pirates’ closer and top arm in the Pirates bullpen, but acquiring one or two of the players mentioned above would be a step in the right direction towards creating a more stable bullpen for the Blue Jays that shouldn’t involve a top ten prospect.
While these names aren’t the flashiest or eye-popping when it comes to potential trade acquisitions, the fact of the matter is that all five players mentioned above are pitching well this season, and with a current bullpen that appears burnt out and looking for answers, some fresh blood to the pitching corps could be what the team needs to get back on track.
While Ben Cherington might not be with the Blue Jays anymore, the Pirates and Blue Jays have made trades in the past (Jose Bautista anyone?) and it might be time to see if Ross Atkins still has Cherington’s number in order to bring some new life into the bullpen.