One left-handed reliever the Blue Jays should sign this offseason

MILWAUKEE, WISCONSIN - OCTOBER 03: Taylor Rogers #25 of the Milwaukee Brewers throws a pitch during the eighth inning against the Arizona Diamondbacks at American Family Field on October 03, 2022 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
MILWAUKEE, WISCONSIN - OCTOBER 03: Taylor Rogers #25 of the Milwaukee Brewers throws a pitch during the eighth inning against the Arizona Diamondbacks at American Family Field on October 03, 2022 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images) /

The Toronto Blue Jays’ bullpen finished strong after the trade deadline, posting a collective 3.57 ERA over the two-month time span and collecting a 9.36 K/9 through that time (ranked at #14).  Overall, the Jays’ relief corps earned a 3.77 ERA, a 4.03 FIP, and an 8.92 K/9, ranking 16th in the league.

At the trade deadline, the Blue Jays added relievers Anthony Bass and Zach Pop, and with Yusei Kikuchi moving to the bullpen midway through August, the group was set heading into the Wild Card series against the Seattle Mariners. While the relievers fared well in game #1, the team couldn’t generate any runs while facing an incredible Luis Castillo/Andres Munoz combo. In game #2 the wheels fell off, and a mixed effort saw the Mariners claw back from an 8-1 deficit that ended the Blue Jays postseason hopes early in October.

It wasn’t the ideal outcome for the Blue Jays considering the hype entering the campaign and the bullpen is one area the club will be looking to improve, with general manager Ross Atkins looking into options this offseason to make the group, “…one of the best bullpens to be there at the end of the year.”

The Jays have a majority of the staff returning under team control next season but one thing they do lack is left-handed options, with Tim Mayza the only dedicated southpaw in the Jays bullpen. Matt Gage was solid during his stints with the club but is free agent eligible after signing a MiLB deal this past offseason and one would think Yusei Kikuchi will move back to the rotation and hopefully pitch to better results next year. The Jays also have Tayler Saucedo, Anthony Kay, and Foster Griffin as left-handed options internally but the club could look to improve the bullpen by finding an outside source this free-agent period.

Taylor Rogers heads to free agency after a down season split between the San Diego Padres and the Milwaukee Brewers. He began the year with the Minnesota Twins but was traded prior to Opening Day to San Diego as part of the Chris Paddock trade package. Fast forward to the trade deadline and Rogers was moved again, heading to the Brewers alongside a package of players with closer Josh Hader heading the opposite way.

Between both the Padres/Brewers, Rogers pitched to a 4.76 ERA through 66 appearances, allowing 34 earned runs off 57 hits through 64.1 innings pitched. He amassed a 2.7 BB/9 on the year but his stats dropped once he was moved to Milwaukee, finishing with a 5.48 ERA through 23.0 innings. Part of the problem in San Diego might not be attributed so much to Rogers as his FIP with the Friars was a solid 2.34, yet it rose once he joined the Brewers, jumping to 5.07.

Rogers was the Padres’ closer to begin the year and held onto the role until the trade, racking up 28 saves through 35 opportunities. With the Brew Crew, the southpaw converted three saves in six opportunities and worked more in a setup role with Devin Williams being the team’s closer.

The Blue Jays should consider signing left-handed reliever Taylor Rogers this offseason

While this may be a risky signing given the struggles he had last year, Rogers is one of the top southpaw options available this winter and his previous track record is strong, authoring a 3.15 ERA through six seasons with the Minnesota Twins that spanned 314.2 innings and included 50 saves.

Another reason the Blue Jays should consider Rogers is that even in what would be considered a down year, he still struck out opposing hitters. He finished the year with 84 punchouts and an 11.8 K/9, with that value increasing once he joined Milwaukee (14.1 K/9). He sat in the 90th percentile in terms of K% and generated an 84th percentile Whiff %, utilizing a two-pitch slider/sinker combination that generated a 4.6% solid contact rate and a 20.5% fly ball rate, which would bode well for a hitter-friendly park like the Rogers Centre. His ability to strike batters out wasn’t a one-off either, as he owns a career 10.6 K/9.

Jordan Romano would likely still close but Rogers could slot in as a left-handed setup option alongside right-handers Yimi Garcia and Anthony Bass, generating the swing-and-miss that the Blue Jays bullpen is needing.

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The risk is there that he can’t shake off the struggles that impacted his 2022 campaign and he also has a projected market value of roughly $13 million, but he could be enticed with a one-year rental-type contract to bring back his value (Robbie Ray type deal) that would fall short of the projected market value.

His ability to strike out opposing hitters and throw from the left side would really benefit the Blue Jays, especially if he can find the 2021 form he found with the Twins.