On Tuesday we learned more about the Blue Jays’ roster plans to start the 2022 season, and it seems like they have a few priorities in mind. One in particular makes me think that they don’t want to make the same mistake twice after running short on pitching early in the 2021 campaign.
I say that because we learned that Trent Thornton, Tayler Saucedo, and Julian Merryweather will all make the MLB roster to start the season, via a tweet from Sportsnet’s Ben Nicholson-Smith. All three are expected to pitch out of the bullpen in some capacity, which will be bigger than usual to start the season. Because Spring Training was delayed due to the lockout, the league has agreed to allow 28-man rosters for the month of April, and like most teams across baseball the Blue Jays are expected to use those additional spots for greater pitching depth.
With a starting group that is expected to include Jose Berrios, Kevin Gausman, Hyun Jin Ryu, Alek Manoah, and Yusei Kikuchi, hopefully the burden on the ‘pen won’t be as great in 2022. That said, despite the lockout the Blue Jays have put together a fair bit of depth over the offseason, and they should be in a much stronger position to withstand any injuries that come their way. As it is it appears that Ryan Borucki and Nate Pearson will begin the year on the Injured List, which is part of the reason for the opportunity for others.
For the time being, the depth chart in the bullpen looks something like this:
1- Jordan Romano
2- Yimi Garcia
3- Tim Mayza
4- Adam Cimber
5- Trevor Richards
6- David Phelps
7- Ross Stripling
8- Julian Merryweather
9- Tayler Saucedo
10- Trent Thornton
Once the calendar flips to May I imagine they’ll cut at least two arms from the picture, and by then it’s possible that Borucki and Pearson could be back in the fold as well. For the time being though, the Blue Jays are doing their best to keep as many solid arms in the organization as they can. It helped that Borucki, who is out of MiLB options, is hitting the IL to start the year, but you can bet that depth for the pitching staff was a priority this spring.
The Blue Jays also signed Andrew Vasquez to a MLB deal over the winter, but he still carries a minor league option, which gave the team the flexibility to option him to Triple-A. At some point it’s possible that either Vasquez or Borucki will fill the role of a second left-hander out of the bullpen, but for Saucedo will get the first crack at the gig to start the year.
The good news is that Ross Atkins and the front office team identified a problem in the bullpen last year, and started to address it in advance of this season. The acquisitions of Cimber and Richards carried over to this season and beyond, and signing other veteran arms should turn out to be a valuable strategy. Here’s hoping the bullpen can find a lot more consistency during the season ahead, because if they can, the Blue Jays should be as good as any team in baseball.