5: Daniel Bard – Colorado Rockies
A first-round pick of the Boston Red Sox in 2006, Daniel Bard has had a bit of an unorthodox career path. After being one of the Red Sox’s better relievers from 2009-2011, he was made a starter in 2012, where he struggled and was eventually optioned to AAA. Over the next several years he bounced around the minors, struggling to find his footing, before eventually retiring in October 2017.
In early 2020, Bard announced his intentions to return to professional baseball and threw in front of major league scouts. He was subsequently signed to a minor league deal by the Rockies and ended up making their opening day roster.
That season was a big bounce back for Bard as he pitched 24.2 innings in relief with a 3.65 ERA which earned him the National League Comeback Player of the Year. In 2021 however, now as Colorado’s primary closer, Bard struggled to the tune of a 5.21 ERA in 65.2 innings pitched. Things have come back around for him in 2022 though, and it’s made him a prime candidate to be dealt to a better team at the deadline.
Through 34.2 innings this season, Bard has amassed a 2.08 ERA with a 1.010 WHIP to go along with 19 saves. He’s also averaging 10.6 strikeouts per nine for the second consecutive season, which is higher than any current Blue Jays reliever. His peripherals suggest that none of this is a fluke either, with his xwOBA, xERA, xBA, and xSLG all in the 98th percentile or higher. He’s done this all primarily as a two-pitch pitcher, using his sinker and slider each about 50% of the time. Both of these pitches have been extremely effective, and his sinker in particular can be one of baseball’s best pitches, averaging around 98 mph.
As a pitcher, there really aren’t any red flags when it comes to Bard, and he seems like an ideal candidate for the Blue Jays bullpen. Having just turned 37, and only being signed through this season certainly takes away from his long-term viability, but for 2022, he could bring some heat and high-leverage ability that the Jays definitely need right now. The Rockies may not be as bad as they have been in years past, but given how strong the NL West is, they’re still far from competitive so I see no reason why Bard shouldn’t be available for Toronto to acquire.