Ideally the Blue Jays will find another arm or two to add to the bullpen picture, but as is they’re already much stronger than they started in 2021.
As most of you likely remember all too well, the bullpen was the achilles heel for the Blue Jays for a significant portion of last season. They eventually brought in some reinforcements and some helped more than others, but it was hard not to think about all of the blown bullpen games early in the calendar when the Jays missed the playoffs by one game. Jordan Romano had an excellent first season as the closer, but unfortunately the bridge to the ninth inning was pretty rocky most of the time.
The good news is some of the additions they made last summer will be sticking around to boost the bullpen as more than just a rental. That’s the case for Adam Cimber, who was acquired from the Miami Marlins last summer. The sidewinder ended up posting a 1.69 ERA and a 0.964 WHIP with the Blue Jays over 39 appearances, and was a badly needed arm that could be counted on in multiple different spots. Cimber will go through his second trip through arbitration whenever the offseason resumes, and the Blue Jays will still have one more year of contract control with the 31 year old in 2023.
The Jays will also have Trevor Richards back in 2022, and he actually has two more arbitration eligible years through the 2024 season before becoming a free agent. The right-hander was quietly very good as well, finishing with a 3.31 ERA and a 0.796 WHIP over 32 appearances with his newest team. He’s bounced around the league a bit to begin his career, but it really looks like he’s found a home in Toronto.
On top of the return of those two veteran arms, Ross Atkins was able to make a pair solid additions to the bullpen before the lockout froze the offseason. Most notably was inking Yimi Garcia to a two-year contract, and chances are he’ll pitch in some sort of late-inning role. The native of the Dominican Republic had 15 saves for the Marlins last season before he was dealt to Houston. so he’s certainly comfortable and capable.
The second arm that I’m excited about is a familiar face in David Phelps. The veteran right-hander was arguably the best reliever in the Blue Jays bullpen when he went down with a season-ending injury last year, and I’m excited to see him make a comeback. The Jays were able to sign him on a minor league deal that gives them some flexibility, and also allows the 35 year old to take his time ramping things back up. That said, I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised to see him win a job before the start of the regular season.
To balance things out from the left side a bit, the Blue Jays have to be thrilled with what they received from Tim Mayza in 2021, and hopefully the southpaw will continue to build on that performance. Mayza was coming off a career-threatening elbow injury and it was hard to know what he’d be able to do last season, and yet he responded with the best numbers of his career. He finished with a 3.40 ERA and a 0.981 WHIP over 61 appearances, striking out 57 over 53.0 innings. He frequently served as the set-up man to Romano last year, and it’s entirely possible he’ll do the same going forward.
Between Romano, Mayza, Garcia, Cimber, Richards, and Phelps, we’re already talking about a group that should be reasonably deep if everyone is healthy. I haven’t even mentioned names like Julian Merryweather, or Ryan Borucki, who are two hard-throwing arms that I still very much believe in. The bullpen could also be the ultimate home for one or both of Nate Pearson and Ross Stripling as well, never mind the rest of the in-house depth throughout the organization.
As I said, I still except that the Blue Jays will look for additional depth in the bullpen, and that could include another proven late-inning arm. Regardless, they’re in a much better position than they were a year ago, and I’m confident that the bullpen won’t be the same type of weakness that it was in 2021.