Blue Jays: One intriguing bullpen arm that could make a midseason impact

KANSAS CITY, MO - JULY 16: Danny Duffy #30 of the Kansas City Royals throws in the first inning against the Baltimore Orioles at Kauffman Stadium on July 16, 2021 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images)
KANSAS CITY, MO - JULY 16: Danny Duffy #30 of the Kansas City Royals throws in the first inning against the Baltimore Orioles at Kauffman Stadium on July 16, 2021 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images) /

It is no secret that the Toronto Blue Jays could have made the playoffs last season if they had won a few of the close games throughout the year. Finishing one win away from creating a playoff tie-breaker in the AL East is a tough pill to swallow and while different games can be blamed on various areas on the roster, the bullpen specifically had quite a few games over the course of the year where they were the reason the Jays walked away without the win and it ultimately came back to bite them in the end.

The front office did make some solid moves midway through the season, acquiring Trevor Richards and Adam Cimber in late June/July but also had to deal with inconsistency from trade deadline acquisition Brad Hand and from arms like Tyler Chatwood and Rafael Dolis. Both Chatwood and Dolis both had a little too much freedom in high leverage situations last year in my opinion but at the same time, the bullpen prior to acquiring the reinforcements was in rough shape with only Tim Mayza and Jordan Romano being the reliable arms a month or two into the season.

Heading into 2022, the Blue Jays bullpen is in a much better shape with Cimber, Richards, Mayza, and Romano in the mix along with newly signed Yimi Garcia and David Phelps also in contention after signing a minor-league deal. The club could also have Nate Pearson or Ross Stripling in the bullpen depending on how the last rotation spot shapes up and along with internal options like Kirby Snead, Tayler Saucedo, Anthony Castro, Julian Merryweather, and Ryan Borucki, and the relief corps is miles ahead of what the club rolled in with last season.

While the bullpen is in better shape heading into 2022, the Blue Jays would be wise to acquire another pitcher or two considering injuries and inconsistent performance pop up throughout the season. There are a few players still available like Kenley Jansen, Collin McHugh, and Alex Colome but there is one pitcher who could really benefit the Blue Jays bullpen this upcoming campaign, especially at the midway mark in the season.

Spending the past 12 seasons with the Kansas City Royals, southpaw Danny Duffy is a free agent who will be an interesting pitcher to watch this offseason given his 2021 campaign.

A starter for most of his Major League career, Duffy was posting some of his best numbers last season with a 2.51 ERA through 13 appearances before an elbow injury sidelined him for the rest of the season. The Los Angeles Dodgers were so interested in the left-hander that they traded for him at the deadline knowing he was going to be injured for an extended amount of time, hoping he would return towards the end of the campaign and help with the club’s postseason push. That ultimately did not happen after he suffered a setback in his rehab and he would miss the rest of the season, but he was well on his way to posting not only career numbers but contending for multiple pitching honours before the injury.

Southpaw Danny Duffy will be a bullpen arm next season and could be a fit in the Blue Jays plans in terms of relief depth midway through the year.

Now, when a veteran pitcher undergoes a major injury to their throwing arm, there will always be a doubt that said player will be able to return to the same form. For Duffy, he owns a career 3.95 ERA with over 234 appearances (204 starts) with a 3.3 BB/9 and an 8.0 K/9 through 1172.1 innings of work. He underwent surgery early into the 2021/2022 offseason and will most likely be ready to go sometime mid-summer in 2022. It would be doubtful that he finds his way into a rotation spot, an idea the California product confirmed himself, so he will most likely slot in as a bullpen arm for any club willing to take him on.

This could benefit the Blue Jays in a number of ways next season.

For starters, Duffy is a veteran pitcher who could provide some relief help on a club that experienced its fair share of struggles last season. This year is obviously a bit different with Richards and Cimber beginning the year with the club and Garcia now in the mix, but adding a veteran pitcher with playoff experience (he owns a World Series ring) is always going to be a benefit, whether it be on the field or in the clubhouse, a value the Blue Jays front office holds high when it comes to offseason acquisitions.

Another reason is based on injuries and inconsistent performance throughout the year. Considering Duffy will most likely be ready to go around June/July, if the Jays relief corps was to get hit by the injury bug and multiple arms are on the shelf for an extended period of time, adding a fresh arm like Duffy to the mix could be a real difference-maker towards the end of the campaign. He is used to the high-pressure situations considering he has been a starter for most of his career and coming in midway through the season provides the added safety net in case pitchers are injured or some of the internal options are struggling at the Major League level.

Lastly, since Duffy is coming off the surgery and will only be available for half of the year, his price point will not be breaking the Blue Jays bank any time soon. There is the potential that he would be willing to sign a minor league deal similar to Phelps prior to the lockout or at least a low salaried but heavily incentivized contract that benefits both parties if Duffy can find his 2021 form next season. A pretty low-risk contract overall.

Is this deal the flashiest signing? No, it’s not. But it is one that has a lot of upside and pretty much zero risk other than some salary money that is potentially less than what the Blue Jays will be paying Trent Thornton or Ryan Borucki in arbitration this season.

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Taking a chance on Duffy to come in midseason and provide some relief help has little consequences other than he would take a roster spot from someone else on the team, which could be mitigated if multiple players are on the 60-day IL anyway, the very reason he would be needed. If he falters and can’t find his form post-surgery, then he could be DFA’d and make way for another pitcher.