The Toronto Blue Jays bullpen have come off of a terrific season, with most key contributors slated to return for the 2024 season. Jordan Romano, Erik Swanson, Tim Mayza, Chad Green, Génesis Cabrera, and more, who are all expected to play pivotal roles in the bullpen. Despite losing Jordan Hicks, who recently signed with the San Francisco Giants to be a starting pitcher, the Blue Jays can still go into next season, feeling confident with the arms assembled.
Of course, it's always beneficial to add quality pitchers to any staff, and if the right deal is there, the Jays should still consider making it. On the free agent market, there's still Josh Hader, one of the best relievers in baseball, looking to beat the MLB record for a closer contract according to Ken Rosenthal. There's also Hector Neris, coming off of a terrific year, posting a 1.71 ERA. The relief pitching market can be so fragmented with dozens upon dozens of names to choose from, but if the Jays were really interested in making a reliever addition, they should look no further than Phil Maton.
Who is Phil Maton?
Maton is a 30-year-old right-handed pitcher, coming off his best season to date in his seven-year career. Last season, he posted a 3.00 ERA across 66.0 innings for the Houston Astros. His repertoire includes a curveball, four-seamer, sweeper, and the occasional sinker. Despite the reputation of elite relief pitchers being players who hit 100MPH on the radar gun regularly, Maton is far away from that mold. He averaged 89.0 MPH on his fastball last year, which is significantly below league average. It proved not to be a problem for Maton, as he predominantly threw his curveball 40 percent of the time, where batters could only hit .169 against the pitch, while striking out just over 36 percent of the time against it.
What makes Maton truly stand out from last year was his absolute excellence at preventing hard contact. The former Cleveland Guardian had an average exit velocity allowed at 84.5mph and a Hard Hit rate of just 23.5 percent, which were both in the 99th and 100th percentile, respectively. With his ability to induce soft contact, it becomes much less likely for balls to be hit for extra bases or to get through infielders.
Fit for Blue Jays
What makes Phil Maton seem like an ideal match for Toronto would be to easily slide him into a middle relief role. He could be flexible between either being the first one out after a starter gets pulled, or passing the baton to some of the Jays' higher end relievers. His ability to strike out batters, while allowing very weak contact seems like a perfect match in Toronto, who already has a stellar defense to begin with, leading all of baseball with 85 Defensive Runs Saved. The righty's market value is projected at just $4,059,423, according to Spotrac, so if the Jays were to get Maton for two or three years around that AAV, a great bullpen would look even greater.