If we’re being frank, the Blue Jays bullpen is gassed from overuse. That’s likely to become more glaring an issue as we head in to the stretch run in August and September. And wasting a roster spot on Mitch White because he’s out of minor league options only makes the situation worse.
Case in point: the disastrous Tuesday night loss after the bullpen couldn’t hold a 4-2 lead in the bottom of the eighth inning, or a 7-3 lead in the bottom of the ninth in Los Angeles against the Dodgers.
In fact, only Tim Mayza, Erik Swanson, the newly acquired Génesis Cabrera - who’d pitched the night before - and Mitch White were available.
Jordan Romano, who’d pitched in three of the four previous games through Monday was unavailable.
It’s a tough pill to swallow for Jays fans given Toronto had a four-run lead in the bottom of the ninth, and were facing the 8th and 9th hitters at bottom of the Dodgers order.
The bullpen just might be gassed. Three high leverage arms in the Blue Jays bullpen feature in the top 15 in MLB in terms of appearances: Erik Swanson, Tim Mayza and Yimi García. Romano isn’t far behind despite missing time following left lower back tightness in the All-Star game.
The Blue Jays rank 5th in MLB with 342 appearances by relievers, which may be surprising given how healthy their starting rotation has been, with only six pitchers making starts all season, including Trevor Richards with three starts as an opener. The Jays rank 6th in baseball with 557.1 innings pitched by starters.
To compound the situation, Mitch White is not a reliable relief option for Manager John Schneider. It took only five pitches from White in the bottom of the tenth inning Tuesday for the Dodgers to walk it off, as outfielder James Outman, the number eight hitter in the Dodgers lineup, mashed a double to score Chris Taylor with the winning run in an improbable 8-7 comeback win.
White found himself in that high leverage situation because no one else was available in the bullpen. Cabrera, García, Trevor Richards, Jay Jackson and Romano had combined to pitch six innings the night before, and Cabrera, Mayza and Swanson pitched four innings ahead of the walk-off 10th.
Why wasn’t Nate Pearson available you ask? He was demoted to Triple-A Buffalo after a bad outing because he has minor league options; White does not have options and will have to be either traded (highly unlikely given he has little to no value as a trade asset) or designated for assignment.
General manager Ross Atkins has promised Blue Jays fans more ‘swing and miss’ in the bullpen on multiple occasions. While he’s added Trevor Richards and Erik Swanson - both who can generate strikeouts - he could do better than White and his -0.3 bWAR with pretty much any replacement reliever.
White is a burden on the other relievers because he is so unreliable. The front office would do well to recognize that forcing Schneider to call on him in high leverage situations, like on Tuesday in LA, is a recipe for disaster.
Thankfully the trade deadline is next Tuesday and Atkins has promised to add another relief arm; unless that was Cabrera? Or Chad Green, who has started his rehab assignment coming off Tommy John surgery? We’ll know soon whether he can add better MLB quality bullpen depth like Alex Anthopoulos in Atlanta has done in the past week? It’s time to acquire more depth as the Jays continue their push for the AL East pennant and a playoff spot. Let’s go Blue Jays!