The Blue Jays acquired another big league reliever in Trevor Richards on Tuesday, and their bullpen depth chart is slowly starting to take on a new look.
Richards joins Adam Cimber as the new weapons at Charlie Montoyo’s disposal, and their additions couldn’t have come at a better time unless we could turn back time to a month ago. It’s well documented that the Blue Jays’ bullpen has been struggling a great deal lately, and they’ve arguably cost them several wins throughout the month of June. Part of the problem has been underperformance, but the Jays have also faced a ton of injuries from this group as well.
The good news is they’ve already added Cimber and Richards to improve the situation, and there could be more internal help on the way sooner than later. For example, Thomas Hatch was activated from the 60-day IL on Tuesday and assigned to Triple-A, but he could give the big league team some important innings in the second half. While Ryan Borucki was transferred to the 60-day IL, that was purely to make room for the activation of Hatch. Borucki has been throwing off of a mound and working his way back too, and he’s another player that could provide a big boost in the late innings.
I thought it would be fun to have a look at how the current depth chart has changed after the two trades, and how this group could shape up if everyone were to get healthy after the All-Star break. Unfortunately there are a couple veterans in Kirby Yates and David Phelps that are out for the season, but there is still a lot of talent on the IL.
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For the time being, here’s what Montoyo’s depth chart looks like:
1- Jordan Romano
2- Adam Cimber
3- Trevor Richards
4- Tim Mayza
5- Rafael Dolis
6- Anthony Castro
7- Anthony Kay
8- Trent Thornton
9- Tayler Saucedo/Jacob Barnes
On paper there is a fair bit of upside here, but the bullpen would have to go on a pretty impressive streak in order to change the minds of Blue Jays fans. Dolis has really struggled to find the form that made him a solid late-inning option in 2020, and Thornton has looked out of sorts during his most recent outings. Kay has been better of late, but he had some very rough appearances earlier in the year as well.
As I mentioned before, the Blue Jays should have some internal help on the way. If they were able to get all of their weapons back at some point in the second half, the depth chart could look something like this:
2- Julian Merryweather
8- Tyler Chatwood
Extra: Thornton, Castro, Kay, Joel Payamps, A.J. Cole, John Axford
I included Dolis and Chatwood despite the fact that both have struggled in 2021, and I could even see one or both being DFA candidates at some point in July. In fact, if Merryweather were to make it back to the active roster I would almost assume that would mean that either Dolis or Chatwood could be DFA’d, or possibly traded. Admittedly though, that’s a big if. That said, the same could happen to either veteran righty if John Axford completes his improbable MLB comeback.
Regardless, the Blue Jays may need to keep a long-man in the bullpen either way, and that’s the role that Trent Thornton has filled for most of the year. With his recent struggles it’s possible the Jays could turn to Kay, or maybe even one of their current starters. That would only happen if they were able to upgrade the rotation through the trade market as well, but in that case someone like Steven Matz could serve as the innings-eater in the bullpen. To give you one more look, here’s what I see as a “best case scenario”:
2- Arm yet to be acquired
This set up would mean acquiring two more pitchers, with one being a late-inning reliever, and another being the starter that could push Matz out of the rotation. Considering that the Blue Jays haven’t given up much in order to bring in Cimber and Richards, I don’t think it’s out of the question.
There is still work to be done to turn the bullpen into a contender quality outfit, but we’ve gotta hand it to Atkins and his team for the low-cost additions of Cimber and Richards. If they can work their magic one or two more times, there might be hope for this bullpen yet.