Royals shopping pair of relief pitchers, should the Blue Jays strike?

Kansas City Royals v Milwaukee Brewers, Aroldis Chapman
Kansas City Royals v Milwaukee Brewers, Aroldis Chapman / John Fisher/GettyImages

In recent rumors, Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic (subscription required) revealed that the Kansas City Royals have began shopping former MLB superstar closer Aroldis Chapman. In doing so, interested teams will have two options to undertake:

1. Offer a premium prospect package to gain four months of control of Chapman, rather than just two months if acquired at the deadline
2. Include another Royals’ player along with Chapman to help Kansas City shed some salary, along with them getting a better return

Rosenthal would go on to state that the Royals would prefer to add their highest paid star Salvador Perez to any Chapman package. However, with his sizeable contract remaining that would scare off most teams, a more realistic target would be current closer Scott Barlow. However, Rosenthal believed that keeping them separate would actually be more beneficial and net a greater overall return for the Royals at the deadline.

Should the Toronto Blue Jays take a stab at one or both of the Royals’ relievers?

Chapman has had a nice bounce back season so far with the lowly Royals after setting career highs in ERA and WHIP last year with the Yankees. He has posted a 2.82 ERA and a 1.343 WHIP, giving up just seven earned runs, no home runs, 15 hits, 15 walks and 38 strikeouts over 22.1 innings pitched. So he still has a little trouble limiting walks, but his strikeout ability is apparently back. He may not be the lights out Chapman as when he entered the league, but he can still be a dominant flamethrower capable of mowing down batters in the critical latter stages of ballgames.

Barlow had been a solid, dependable bullpen piece for the Royals in the past couple of years as their closer, pitching to an ERA below 2.50 while maintaining an ERA+ close to 190, averaging close to double digit strikeouts per nine innings. This year, he has still been a reliable reliever, but with a slightly bloated ERA of 4.18 and an ERA+ down to 106. But more importantly, he has limited the number of home runs and walks given up, while striking out batters at a higher rate, with just under13 batters per nine innings.

Chapman throws left-handed, and Barlow is a righty, with both usually pitching in late innings (eighth or ninth) and have had lots of experience handling high leverage situations. So whoever acquires this duo will be able to quickly strengthen their bullpen on both sides in a major way without question.

What is the Jays’ current bullpen situation?

Taking a closer look at the Jays’ current bullpen makeup, they have endured a lot of flux recently, with Anthony Bass designated for assignment while Mitch White was subsequently activated off the IL to take his place. Previously, Adam Cimber was just activated off the IL in late May, and Bowden Francis had his contract selected and was promoted from the minors this past Tuesday, then sent back down on Sunday in favour of Thomas Hatch.

In terms of performance, Jordan Romano, Tim Mayza, Nate Pearson, Erik Swanson, and Trevor Richards have been the solid quintet that has firmly secured their spots in the Jays’ big league pen for the foreseeable future. However, those that have been shaky and may be on the bubble include veterans Yimi García, Adam Cimber, and White, with Hatch not being part of the question for now.

The Verdict

Chapman and Barlow would definitely be a huge upgrade over any of García, Cimber, and White, and when you envision them joining the shutdown trio of Pearson, Swanson, and Romano, basically the Jays can have a game won by the fifth inning if they happen to be leading by then, as they would just hand it over to any of those five to finish the game off. In particular, both pitchers would give the Jays the much needed strikeout ability in the backend of their bullpen, and Chapman would give the Jays another strong lefty in the pen in which they severely lack,

However, the main catch will be the duo of Chapman and Barlow will be hot commodities, potentially leading to a bidding war between interested teams. The Jays would most likely want to part with a package that didn’t include their top four prospects in Ricky Tiedemann, Brandon Barriera, Yosver Zulueta, and Orelvis Martinez. So they would be looking more on a package centering on the likes of any of Tucker Toman, Sem Robberse, Adam Macko, and Hayden Juenger, with the Royals needing help at practically every position on their roster.

But with the Jays’ pitching prospects mostly struggling this year, look for the Royals to focus on the Jays’ positional prospects or may even ask for one of the four untouchables mentioned above, especially if the bidding war escalates.

Nevertheless, if the price is right, Chapman and Barlow would definitely be worth picking up for the Jays’ stretch run, as they would likely resolve their bullpen issues for the rest of the year.