After the 2020 Blue Jays season, had you to think of the biggest weakness on the club going into the offseason it would have easily been the bullpen. The team only had a few reliable arms returning, however going into 2022, most of the bullpen will be returning. Here is a look at the main pieces the Blue Jays can count on next season.
Stats: 7-1, 2.14 ERA, 23 Saves
The most important role to solidify is the closer and Jordan Romano has taken that job. The Markham, Ontario born pitcher will turn 29 at the start of the 2021 season and was nothing short of amazing this season.
Romano performed best in high pressure situations and was 23 for 24 in save opportunities, with his only blown save coming way back on April 8. During the stretch run, Romano went 10 consecutive outings without allowing a run while striking out 15 over 11 innings and surrendering just two hits. Romano has one more season before he is eligible for salary arbitration and doesn’t become eligible for free agency until 2026.
Stats: 2-2, 1.69 ERA, 1 Save
In what was arguably one of Ross Atkins’ best trades this season (the cost was way less than what they gave up for Jose Berrios), he acquired Corey Dickerson along with right-hander Adam Cimber from the Miami Marlins back in late June.
Cimber pitched in 39 games for the Jays and picked up seven holds, pitching to an impressive1.69 ERA and 0.96 WHIP in the process. Despite a very low ERA, it was actually elevated because of a three game slide he had in mid-August. After August 18, Cimber posted a 0.98 ERA and was often used in the middle of innings to help get the Blue Jays out of a jam. Cimber is arbitration eligible this offseason but does not become eligible for free agency until 2025.
Stats: 4-2, 3.31 ERA
Shortly after the Blue Jays acquired Adam Cimber, they continued to bolster their bullpen by adding Trevor Richards from the Milwaukee Brewers along with prospect Bowden Francis in exchange for Rowdy Tellez. Richards had a couple of hiccups but for the most part was effective out of the bullpen.
During September, Richards pitched in 13 games, posting a 3.18 ERA over 11.1 innings pitched. Richards isn’t arbitration eligible until 2023 and does not become a free agent until the 2025 season.
Tim Mayza 5-2, 3.40 EA, 1 Save
Tim Mayza went from a feel good story at the start of the season as he bounced back from Tommy John surgery to be the most reliable lefty in the bullpen.
Mayza went right after batters and had six innings this year of fewer than 10 pitches to get three outs. Right-handed batters had a tough time hitting against him as they posted a .221 batting average, but left-handed hitters struggled even more as they posted a slash line of .181/.224/.222 in 77 plate appearances. Mayza is also not arbitration-eligible until 2023 and won’t become a free agent until 2026.
The Blue Jays management goes into the offseason in a better situation than last year as they have most of their high leverage arms returning.
Stats: 0-1, 4.95 ERA, 2 Saves
Julian Merryweather has fought injuries his entire career, whether in the Cleveland Indians organization or with the Toronto Blue Jays.
When healthy, he has been lights-out and can be a good shutdown pitcher. He will be turning 30 next week, but is still not arbitration-eligible until 2024 and won’t become a free agent eligible until 2027. Merryweather was out for nearly five months this year and struggled once he returned, but if healthy, he will likely start the season in Toronto next year.
The 25-year old has fought injuries since he turned pro after being drafted in 2017. Much of the 2021 season was derailed by a variety of different injuries, which led the club pushing him into the bullpen to finish the campaign. Pearson was recalled to Toronto when the rosters expanded in September and in his final eight appearances, he posted a 0.93 ERA while striking out 15 batters over 9.2 innings. The right-hander did struggle with his control but I think Pearson and Romano could become a dominant tandem at the end of games for the Blue Jays. Pearson isn’t arbitration-eligible for one more season and does not become a free agent until 2027.
Going into 2022, the Blue Jays have four key spots filled with Romano, Cimber, Richards and Mayza. While Pearson and Merryweather are big “ifs” because of their injury past, if they can stay healthy they will help fill out he bullpen. The last spots could be filled by free agent signings or opportunities from within by Anthony Kay, Ryan Borucki, Thomas Hatch or other pitchers climbing the ranks. With what the team already has, they are in a way better situation than they were a year ago going into the offseason.
Who do you think takes a big step forward next season from within and who would you like to see the club go out and sign to bolster the bullpen?