Building a Bullpen

Image courtesy of Voltron Central

I’m not exactly sure how one builds a bullpen from the ground up, but I’ve always envisioned it as a process similar to constructing Voltron (or Megazord for the Power Rangers generation).

Separately, the members all have their very own strengths and weakness, but when they come together as one entity, they form a solid cohesive unit. One that’s able to defeat the evildoers of the American League East. That’s how you construct a bullpen, right?

On paper, the latest addition to the bullpen in Francisco Cordero doesn’t really make very much sense. The Blue Jays already have their closer and a bevy of relievers in the bullpen depth chart.


Occasionally, plans change and you have to roll with the punches. That’s why it seems like Francisco Cordero seems like the Blue Jays second choice after Koji Uehara rejected a trade to the Blue Jays.

Both Cordero and Uehara are set to make $4 million this season, but Koji would be the far more coveted asset. Things didn’t turn out how AA wanted, so he went with then next best thing in Cordero.

Prior to this news, one would have assumed the Blue Jays bullpen was all but set for the 2012 season. Santos, Janssen, Oliver, Frasor, Villanueva, Litsch, and Perez were slated to be the seven guys that would break camp coming out of Spring Training. Just as plans changed, the Blue Jays changed with it.

From the outside looking in, it might appear as though the Blue Jays were trying to assemble a bullpen for a contending team. But I think Alex Anthopoulos has an ulterior motive here. He’s trying to stockpile relievers and parlay them into prospects at the trade deadline.

The new CBA basically rained on AA’s parade and now he has to change his entire game plan. Instead of hoping for Type B free agent compensation, he’ll be looking to poach prospects from other teams who will be looking for bullpen help come July. Employing the “buy low, sell high” strategy is actually a pretty good strategy.

Relief pitchers seem to be the hot commodity at the trade deadline these past few seasons, and AA can really capitalize on that by signing Francisco Cordero, Darren Oliver, and others. Come July, I’m sure there will be at least a few managers that will be knocking down his door trying to pry them out of Toronto.

It just doesn’t make sense to sign Francisco Cordero for one year (with no option, mind you) if the team is planning on having him ride out the entire season as a member of the Blue Jays. Any one else could just as easily step in and do the same job for far less money.

Now that leaves Jesse Litsch and Luis Perez to battle for the final spot in the bullpen, and I initially thought they easily would’ve been shoo-ins. Along with Joel Carreno and others, one of either Litsch or Perez will be on the outside looking in come Opening Day.

If the 2011 trade deadline is proof of anything, it’s that the Blue Jays are not afraid to deplete the bullpen and leave themselves short-handed in the long-term if it allows them to acquire the talent that allows them to be better in the long term.


In its current incarnation, this is a bullpen that’s built to win. It’s a relief corp that is constructed to be a contender, but it’s not a bullpen that’s meant to stay together. Some of these guys are going to be moved at the trade deadline.

Ian Hunter

Ian has been writing about the Toronto Blue Jays since 2007. He enjoyed the tail-end of the Roy Halladay era and vividly remembers the Alex Rodriguez "mine" incident. He'll also retell the story of Game 5 of the 2015 ALDS to his kids for the next 20 years.

12 thoughts on “Building a Bullpen

  • January 25, 2012 at 7:34 pm

    Really, the individual zords that combine to form the Megazord had pretty much no power. Except maybe Tyrannosaurus. /geek

  • January 25, 2012 at 8:12 pm

    If I remember correctly, I think the T-Red zord was the only one who could actually defeat an enemy by itself.

    Well, that and the Dragonzord. /nerds unite!

  • January 25, 2012 at 8:58 pm

    Ball fan, what can I say … I always try to bring it back to my favourite childhood toys.

    Next up .. the Ninja Turtles!

  • January 25, 2012 at 10:09 pm

    Devastator > Voltron.

    With that out of the way I look forward to actually reading the article.

  • January 26, 2012 at 5:03 am

    Bluebird, I'm starting to think we should just make a March Madness-style bracket to determine who the best is between Voltron, Power Rangers, Transformers, etc.

  • January 26, 2012 at 7:59 pm


    Seems a pointless exercise, depending on what gets lumped in with "etc.", as Skeltor is the only logical and reasonable answer. Otherwise it's Soundwave (with tapes).

    Great article by the way. I think, like many others, overvaluation of relievers at the deadline is the new market inefficiency. Even if we're getting a Colby Rasmus type player (big upside, down year) for spare parts (especially those that no longer net a compensation pick in the new CBA) it's a great deal for us. It also allows us to to see what our myriad of minor league talent can do, be it from the pen or as a starter.

  • January 26, 2012 at 10:22 pm

    Ballfan, I think we've opened up a can of worms here. There were so many good toys back in the day … I wish my parents hung onto them all!

    Bluebird, I never was a fan of the Decepticons myself, but I always respected Soundwave. Let's be honest … he (not Megatron) was the brains behind the whole Decepticons operation anyway.

    If Alex can somehow manage to parlay any of those relievers into prospects at the deadline, I'm cool with that. The new CBA means he's had to shift his entire game, and this might be a pattern that AA repeats in the future.

    It seems like there's always a contending team at the deadline who's willing to give up a prospect or two for somebody who will only pitch 20 innings or so down the stretch.

  • January 26, 2012 at 11:11 pm

    The Jays could break camp with an 8 man bullpen, they did last year. Ergo, everybody on your list makes it.

  • January 27, 2012 at 6:54 am

    Some of these guys are going to be moved at the trade deadline… but I don't think the return is going to be anything particularly desirable.

    My prediction: The prospect value of a good but not great relief pitcher is going to go way down. A couple of months of a RP isn't going to get the same haul as a couple of months of a RP AND a supplemental draft pick (as it would have been under the old CBA). They'll get you a C level prospect or two each with a high bust probability.

  • January 27, 2012 at 3:35 pm

    Anon 1, that's always a possibility, but I think it's more likely they run with a 4-man bench than a 3-man.

    Davis, Francisco, Vizquel, and either of Thames or Snider. But if they make an either/or decision on Eric and Travis, then it could be a 3-man bench, 8-man pen.

    Anon 2, prospects are always crapshoots, but the more they have in their arsenal, the better. Just look at Zach Stewart for example – he came over in the Scott Rolen trade, and the Blue Jays flipped Stewart in a package deal for Rasmus. So even if these prospects don't come to fruition, they could always be bundled in a package deal later on.

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