In 2022 the Blue Jays’ relievers ranked sixth amongst American League teams in WHIP. That doesn’t sound that bad, but when the teams above them include the Astros, Yankees, Mariners, Guardians and Rays the importance of a strong bullpen becomes even more evident.
The Jays’ relievers also had the worst hard hit percentage allowed in the AL, and finished the season 11th in FIP. In short, they were ok, but lacked the knockout punch that the best teams in the division possessed.
To address this, the front office traded for Erik Swanson to kick off their offseason action. Last year the Mariners had an elite bullpen, and Swanson was at the heart of that. He pitched to a 1.68 ERA, 1.85 FIP, K% of 34, whilst allowing a hard hit percentage of 26.4%, all better than the combined Jays’ line.
There’s no doubt that acquiring Swanson is of benefit, especially to Jordan Romano who will now have a swing and miss setup man to enter games before him. However, is the move enough considering that it is the only one that has been made to improve the Jays’ reliever room?
With Nate Pearson and a couple of other prospects in contention for a reliever role, it could well be that the front office are content to see how the season starts before making any more moves. This could see opportunities given to the likes of Zach Pop and Matt Gage, who both spent time with the big league team last year, before making their way back to Buffalo.
If a fifth starter isn’t added to the Toronto rotation before the season starts then there could be a lot of emphasis placed on the Jays’ relievers right from the off. In Romano and Swanson there are strong options, but will the rest of the bullpen step up their game?