The Toronto Blue Jays will likely be active in the trade market before the deadline, looking to make deals before the clock strikes at 6 pm ET on August 2nd.
The team’s needs have become clear over the past several weeks, with pitcher help, primarily of the bullpen variety, at the top of the list.
With less than two weeks until player swaps can no longer be made for this season (for playoff eligible players anyway), here are a handful of pitchers, primarily relievers, who could help the team down the stretch.
Blue Jays: A Bard and Barlow bounty?
The story of Daniel Bard is one of the most compelling in sports over the past few years. Originally drafted by the New York Yankees in 2003, Bard opted instead to attend the University of North Carolina.
It proved to be a good decision as he went from a 20th-round pick to being selected 28th overall in the first round of the 2006 draft by the Boston Red Sox. Bard made his debut in 2009 and was solid over his first three years before the wheels started falling off in 2012 to the tune of a 6.22 ERA. He was out of baseball a year later.
Seven years later, Bard worked his way to the majors and signed a contract with the Colorado Rockies. This is his third and best season in the mountains and he’s become one of the most reliable relievers in the National League. He’s pitched to a 2.02 ERA with 20 saves, and 1.9 bWAR. He’d slot into a high-leverage role with the Blue Jays and his veteran presence and inspiring path would only add to his value.
Scott Barlow has emerged as one of Kansas City’s best and most counted-on bullpen arms. He leads the Royals ‘pen in innings pitched, saves, and ERA. He has established himself as the closer but K.C isn’t going anywhere this season.
The Royals’ willingness to trade him is another thing. He’ll be arbitration-eligible for the second time in 2023 and is set to be a free agent in 2025. Trading for Barlow would be an investment not only in this season, but the next and possibly beyond.
Blue Jays: Kuhl, man
The Blue Jays could go back to the Rockies well and inquire about their willingness to part with Chad Kuhl. After spending the first five years of his career in Pittsburgh, Kuhl signed a one-year deal with Colorado and has been their most consistent starter.
As with any Rockies pitcher, examining his home-road splits is a must. Kuhl has a better home ERA (3.52) than his road (4.70) earned run average with the same amount of innings pitched. He’s not a flamethrower, with his velocity topping out at just under 93 mph, but he’s crafty, uses five different pitches, and would be energized by pitching on a contender for the first time in his career.
His trade value may mean the Jays probably wouldn’t have to give up much to obtain him either. He’s got a 7.36 ERA in three July starts. Toronto would trade for him hoping he can replicate his June performance when he had a 3.38 ERA over 29.1 innings pitched, including a rare, complete-game shutout of the Dodgers on June 27th.
Blue Jays: Finish with Fulmer and Finnegan
Michael Fulmer has undergone quite a transformation over the past six years. He came up with the Tigers in 2016 and won the AL rookie of the Year award as a starter. After regressing over the next two seasons, Fulmer returned as a reliever following successful Tommy John surgery in 2019.
He’s been one of the toughest relief pitchers around over the past two seasons and set to become a free agent in 2023, could be a valuable rental piece for the Jays during the final two months-plus of the season.
The Washington Nationals have gone from World Series champions in 2019 to complete also-rans this year. Their quick fall from grace has put not only Juan Soto on the trade block, but any of their other valuable pieces too.
That could include Kyle Finnegan who has logged the fourth-most bullpen innings on the team. The Blue Jays’ lack of swing-and-miss from their relief corps has been well-documented and Finnegan has always averaged over a strikeout per inning. He still has some controllable years left which could give the Nationals pause, but the 30-year-old could be had for the right price.