What if they had acted a little sooner?
To wrap this up, I considered asking questions like, “what if the Blue Jays had been able to play all of their home games at the Rogers Centre”, but I think Jays fans universally agree that would have been a big help. Instead, I’ll aim some rare criticism toward the front office and ask, “what if they had made their in-season trades earlier than they did?”.
Now to be fair, we don’t know what trades were available prior to the July 31 trade deadline last year, or which players were being shopped by other teams in May or June. That list may have been very short, or the asking price could have been far too difficult to swallow. Either way, many Blue Jays fans felt that the front office should have acquired some help earlier than they did, especially in the bullpen.
I actually feel like last season was a lesson for both the front office, and also for Charlie Montoyo and the coaching staff. For the front office, I don’t know that they’d necessarily call their decisions last year a mistake, but I do think they’ve shifted to having a greater sense of urgency than they had a year ago. I suspect that if the Blue Jays were bit with the injury bug early in the 2022 season, Atkins wouldn’t hesitate to bring some outside help in. Again, that’s subject to what’s available, but last year’s mid-season struggles in the bullpen proved to be very costly.
As for Montoyo, I think the lesson for the skipper is to have a shorter hook for some of his relievers. We saw too long of a leash for veteran bullpen arms like Tyler Chatwood and Rafael Dolis among others, and it cost the Jays several games prior to the All-Star break. In many cases Montoyo’s hands were tied due to a lack of strong options in the bullpen, but I wouldn’t give his early season management of the pitchers an overly positive grade either.
It wasn’t the only weakness on the roster in 2021, but I would argue that the bullpen proved to be the Achilles heel for the Blue Jays last year. If they had been able to figure things out when they were blowing games early in the year, they might not have needed to go on such an epic run to get back into the postseason picture. Hopefully that’s a mistake that Atkins, Montoyo, and the rest of the Blue Jays’ brain trust can learn from going forward, because this team has a chance to do something special if they can make it back to the postseason. “What if they had made some moves earlier to improve the bullpen?”- Hopefully that won’t be a question we’re asking ourselves again this coming season.