The Toronto Blue Jays are looking to remake their bullpen, but they’re doing so without big name relievers
The Toronto Blue Jays put a lot of effort into revamping their starting rotation. Less famously, the bullpen also received quite a bit of attention with Shun Yamaguchi, A.J. Cole, Rafael Dolis and even Mark Rzepczynski were brought in to compete for jobs. These signings all reflect a familiar approach to this club constructing their relief group. We can go back as far as Alex Anthopoulos and see examples of “lightning in a bottle” attempts and so on.
This approach makes sense if you subscribe to the thought process that says relievers are volatile and you never know from one year to the next just how effective they’re going to be. Aside from the truly elite, it can be a toss up when predicting reliever effectiveness. So, especially in the context of a 2020 season that will see the Blue Jays make strides, but not necessarily compete, it makes sense to try and fill a bullpen this way.
That said, this year’s Blue Jays bullpen is projected (be Fangraphs) to look like so:
Obviously, a lot can happen between no and the beginning of the season (whenever that is) and this list could change. However, it highlights a group with upside, but not much in the way of a proven track record. In fact, when we consider Top Relievers, this list is lacking.
Paul Sporer, the Host of the Sleeper & the Bust podcast over at Rotographs, recently put out a list of his “Top Relievers” and the Blue Jays are not well represented. Of course, this is one person’s opinion and is likely highly debatable, considering there is nothing to indicate why each reliever ends up in the spot their in. However, looking at the list, Toronto’s group will have to prove themselves this season to garner recognition.
Sporer’s list features Ken Giles in the 9th spot, behind Liam Hendriks and ahead of Raisel Iglesias. Then, you can scroll all the way to the bottom of the 72 (why 72?) person list and not find another Blue Jay. Not one.
The fact that Giles is ranked so high is rather interesting, given he isn’t that far removed from his struggles in Houston. However, clearly the world assumes he’s over that hump and has bounced right back in Toronto. And, why not? He put up 1.8 fWAR last season with 23 saves (the team only won 67 games), an ERA of 1.87 and a FIP of 2.27. He was good. He’s projected to hit 30 saves this season and see a K% of over 30%. We’ll leave aside the whole ‘trade potential’ for a moment and just focus on the fact that Toronto has one of the best relievers in baseball closing out games for them.
However, after that, it is anyone’s guess as to how the 2020 bullpen will perform. There are a lot of question marks. For starters, Reid-Foley could be a rather interesting addition to this group. I’ve advocated already that he be moved to the bullpen and it looks like he very well could be. I mean, the starting pitching depth has improved to allow for it, so it has to be considered. It could pay off rather nicely. Could.
Yamaguchi may not necessarily be a lock for the bullpen, since he is still fighting for the 5th starter job as JFtC’s Ryan Mueller wrote already. Given the changes that he has made overseas, Dolis could find himself somewhere on that list, especially since this delayed start to the season allows him time to heal from his appendectomy. Font has been effective, Romano has been touted as a talented pitcher. There is lots of room for this group to surprise a number of people. Of course, it could easily be a revolving door of ineffectiveness as well.
The goal for the Blue Jays is not to collect a bunch of multi-million dollar arms and fill up any “Top” list, especially not in 2020. They look to have made improvements and have depth, which is the real goal. How good this group will be remains to be seen. That said, you can bet that not many people are paying close attention to this group, but the potential is there for that to all change.
*Featured Image Courtesy Of DaveMe Images. Prints Available For Purchase.
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Shaun Doyle is a long time Blue Jays fan and writer! He decided to put those things together and create Jays From the Couch. Shaun is the host of Jays From the Couch Radio, which is highly ranked in iTunes, and he has appeared on TV and radio spots.