Blue Jays 2024 Season Preview: Relief pitchers

How will the Jays bullpen be projected to fare in 2024?

Jun 12, 2022; Detroit, Michigan, USA;  Toronto Blue Jays pitchers walk to the bullpen
Jun 12, 2022; Detroit, Michigan, USA; Toronto Blue Jays pitchers walk to the bullpen / Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
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Génesis Cabrera

Génesis Cabrera was one of the key additions from last year’s trade deadline that made a difference for the team during the stretch run. After struggling with the Cardinals for much of 2023 prior to the trade with a 5.06 ERA and 1.56 WHIP, Cabrera surprisingly raised his game to another level after joining the Jays. In 29 appearances, he compiled a 2.66 ERA, 0.97 WHIP, giving up only 7 earned runs with 20 strikeouts in 23.2 innings of work. More importantly, it gave the Jays another trusted lefty out of the pen so that they didn’t need to overwork Mayza, who was the sole left-handed option available prior to Cabrera’s arrival.

With the bulk of the Jays’ deadline acquisitions moving on during this offseason, Cabrera is the only one to remain with the team for 2024. However, both ZiPS and Steamer projections isn’t too kind to Cabrera as they likely took into consideration his struggling portion of the year with the Cardinals in the assessment. His ERA will jump to 4.15, while his K/9 will fall a bit from 9.38 to 9.05. However, his overall effectiveness will remain mostly intact, with holds increasing from 10 to 11 and a WAR staying relatively the same. With the Jays appearing to have given Cabrera a new life after the trade, look for him to be highly motivated going into 2024 and end up beating these projections.

Erik Swanson

In his first season with the Jays after coming over from the Mariners in the Teoscar Hernández trade, Erik Swanson put up some solid numbers overall despite a couple of drastic hiccups along the way. In 69 games, Swanson amassed a 4-2 record with a whopping 29 holds and 4 saves, along with a stellar 2.97 ERA, 1.10 WHIP and 75 strikeouts in just 66.2 innings pitched, all while being perhaps their most reliable setup man. More importantly, he gave the Jays an alternate arm they could also go to as their closer in the event Jordan Romano wasn’t available, at least prior to Jordan Hicks’ arrival at the trade deadline.

With Hicks leaving via free agency, Swanson will return to his usual role once again in 2024 as Romano’s setup man. The bad news is that ZiPS projections has him in for a significant regression with his ERA expected to increase to 3.60. In addition, his total number of holds will drop considerably down to just 13, indicating he will play a lesser role in successfully helping close out ballgames this upcoming season, with some of his teammates stepping up to fill the void. Hopefully, that does not come to fruition as the Jays relied on him heavily last season at the most critical junctions in the game, being the second-most used reliever out of the pen. As a result, any type of downgrade of Swanson could present major issues for the team in the year ahead.