The Toronto Blue Jays are well underway in the second half of the 2022 Major League Baseball season, as the MLB Draft and All-Star weekend have concluded and the trade deadline is just a few days away.
The Blue Jays currently sit 12.5 games behind the New York Yankees in the American League East, with an 8-2 record in their last 10 games (prior to today’s game against Detroit). The second half of the season is the meat and potatoes of the playoff push, gracefully blessed by the trade deadline which is right around the corner.
The trade deadline and all the Disney-like predictions of star players and blockbuster deals are spewed in the air around the league. While Juan Soto would be a blessing for the Blue Jays, he can’t let it loose on the mound for 3-4 innings; the Jays need arms. Going into any meaningful series in September and onward into the postseason, the Blue Jays bullpen may cause anxiety to many viewers. Currently, the Blue Jay has 8 pitchers on the 40-man roster assigned to the Minor Leagues, and an additional four relievers on the injured list.
With a half-decent starting rotation, these games rely on relief staff.
The Blue Jays must prioritize pitching prior to the trade deadline
This is simple, we’re not asking for star top-class rotational guys, or all-star closers (which we have). A few arms that can enter a game and smoothly clean a plate for 2-4 innings, setting up Adam Cimber, Tim Mayza, Yimi Garcia, and Jordan Romano to secure a win late in the game; that would be mint! Who might fit in such a deal? The following arms could be drastic assistance:
LHP A.J. Puk, Oakland Athletics
Puk is a young southpaw who’s established his role as a reliever for the A’s, in the realization that a starter role would not be so ideal. The 6’7” lefty is 27 years of age, often comparable to Randy Johnson in a short-term aspect. Puk has appeared in 38 games, and 42 innings for the Athletics this season; he carries a 2.13 ERA with 44 strikeouts and only 8 walks. Although this may be a key future piece for the last place A’s, this is a guy who could be on the seller board given Oakland’s position in the standings.
LHP Austin Davis, Boston Red Sox
Another south-paw but this time out of the last seed-struggling Boston Red Sox. He has five years in the league with three different organizations. Very similar to Puk, he’s also appeared in 38 games this year, in 42.1 innings, with a slightly higher ERA of 4.25 and 48 strikeouts with 20 walks. Davis is trusted to get the job done; he’s often compared to J.A. Happ; as a reliever, I can draw a Blue Jays comparison, to ex-Blue Jay, Brett Cecil.
The Red Sox most likely will be sellers, and this pre-arbitration eligible arm could be up for grabs if the club is willing to deal within the division.
RHP Will Vest, Detroit Tigers
From the right side, Vest is a strike-throwing reliever with a dirty slider who gets a ton of ground-ball outs. Vest can eat up innings and even close out games in need-be situations; you can guarantee three innings out of this guy if needed as well. Vest has a 3-2 record with the Tigers this season, with a 3.20 ERA in 34 games. In 39.1 innings, he has struck out 42 hitters, only walking 13. The Tigers may also be sellers, given their current seasonal status, with other potential arms being available as well from their bullpen.
With the Blue Jays peeking at a possible wild card berth, these pitchers amongst various names may be on the selling block and could gel into an effective Blue Jays bullpen. As we approach August 2nd, we’ll track what the team prioritizes.