Rotation vs. Bullpen- Which is the bigger priority for the Blue Jays?

TORONTO, ON - MAY 21: Bench coach Dave Hudgens #39 of the Toronto Blue Jays and manager Charlie Montoyo #25 and pitching coach Pete Walker #40 look on from the dugout during MLB game action against the Boston Red Sox at Rogers Centre on May 21, 2019 in Toronto, Canada. (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)
TORONTO, ON - MAY 21: Bench coach Dave Hudgens #39 of the Toronto Blue Jays and manager Charlie Montoyo #25 and pitching coach Pete Walker #40 look on from the dugout during MLB game action against the Boston Red Sox at Rogers Centre on May 21, 2019 in Toronto, Canada. (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images) /

The Blue Jays pitching depth has been tested a lot lately, and unfortunately things are looking pretty thin at the moment.

As we watched this team lose five straight games, squeak out a win against the lowly Oakland A’s on Wednesday, and then get beat up in the series opener against the Seattle Mariners, it’s glaringly obvious that the Blue Jays need pitching help. We’ve been talking about it here for weeks now, but it seems that the need grows by the day.

I know that Anthony Banda and Casey Lawrence were filling in for Kevin Gausman last night, and that the banged up veteran will likely start again as soon as Sunday, but I still think his absence has put a greater emphasis on the need in the Blue Jays’ rotation. Right now the depth chart is perilously thin, and there’s next to no margin for error. However, the same could be said for the bullpen.

So while I’ll admit right away that both the rotation and the bullpen need to be addressed before the Aug 2nd deadline, which area should the Blue Jays target in the immediate term?

The Rotation

The Jays lost Hyun Jin Ryu for the season after he had Tommy John surgery, and now Yusei Kikuchi is on the IL with a “neck strain”, which is likely just the jargon that was necessary to get him off the big league roster and down to Buffalo where he can take some time off and hopefully work on his mechanics.

With Gausman almost having to miss his start in the opener against the Mariners, the Blue Jays are in a tough spot, and it’s painfully obvious that they dodged a bullet when his x-rays came back clean. For the moment, the Jays don’t have any Probable Starters announced, here’s roughly what the next few days could look like:

Fri- Ross Stripling
Sat- Alek Manoah
Sun- Gausman (hopefully)
Tues- Berrios
Wed- Castillo???

As the Blue Jays’ broadcast crew mentioned last night, the coaching staff must be confident that Gausman willl be able to pitch by Sunday since they didn’t save Castillo for a potential weekend start, as he threw 3.0 more effective innings in relief on Thursday. Unfortunately Thomas Hatch’s season hasn’t been going so well in Triple-A either, and things didn’t get any better during his disastrous 2022 MLB debut last week.

At the start of the year I thought the Blue Jays would actually have a fair bit of rotation depth, but with the loss of Ryu and Kikuchi (who, you never know, could figure it out and help later), along with the continued injury problems for Nate Pearson, there aren’t many strong directions to turn here. I had hoped that guys like Hatch, and even Anthony Kay would add another layer of depth, and unfortunately that hasn’t been the case.

While the bullpen certainly needs help, improving the rotation could potentially allow a guy like Castillo to continue pitching in relief in a mostly vacant long relief role, and it also takes some pressure off of the group in general if they’re running out five effective starters. Any way you look at it, the Blue Jays could really use another reliable starter (or two) right about now.

The Bullpen

As I’ve already mentioned several times, the Blue Jays’ bullpen is in need. Admittedly they’ve dealt with some injury issues this year as well, but the bigger problem has been ineffectiveness. For the moment, here’s what the depth chart looks like:

1- Jordan Romano
2- Tim Mayza
3- Yimi Garcia
4- Adam Cimber
5- David Phelps
6- Sergio Romo
7- Trevor Richards
8- Anthony Banda

In Triple-A, but part of the equation:  Matt Gage, Trent Thornton

At first glance it doesn’t appear that things should be as bad as they are, but the Blue Jays have had one of the worst bullpens in baseball over more than the last month. Garcia isn’t yet active as of this writing, but he’s with the team is Seattle and should be available at some point this weekend, so I included him here.

Romano has been mostly solid in the closer’s role, but he could use some help to protect leads late in the game. Mayza hasn’t been nearly as effective since returning from the IL, and while there are some redeeming numbers with the others, the group has since been pretty underwhelming as a whole.

Things are especially rough when the Blue Jays have a lot of innings to cover, which has been all too frequent lately because of the struggles in the rotation. Castillo could certainly help in that regard if they don’t have to use him in the rotation, but they’re really missing the presence of a guy like Stripling, who transitioned into a starting role after Ryu went down with an injury.

More than anything else though, the Blue Jays need another late-inning reliever that can pile up some strikeouts, especially in an ultra-competitive division like the AL East, and with an emerging group of contenders for a Wild Card spot. Every win is going to matter when we’re looking at the standings at the end of the year, and with all due respect, hoping for weak contact on Romo’s slider just isn’t going to get it done against the other contenders.

Next. The mystique might be starting to wear off. dark

Unfortunately we might have to wait until a little closer to the August 2nd trade deadline before these holes are ultimately patched, but hopefully Ross Atkins and company can find a more high-upside solution than the Romo’s and the Banda’s of the world. There are still nine more games until the All-Star break, and right now the momentum is sliding in the wrong direction for the Blue Jays. Hopefully they can get some pitching help before it’s too late.