Is it just me, or has this been one of the most active offseasons in the relief pitcher market? And not just for closers; we’re talking about setup guys and even middle relief help.
Almost completely out of nowhere, players are getting two, three and even four year deals. Prospects are being traded for closers. And it seems like almost every team is scrambling for the exact same small pool of players.
The Toronto Blue Jays are among those many teams looking for relief help, but for the most part they’ve been relatively inactive in a very active relief pitcher market.
Not to sound like an apologist for the Blue Jays, but all you have to do is simply look at the asking prices for relief pitchers to see why the Jays have opted to stay silent in the background.
Two years and $10 million dollars for guys like Jason Motte and John Axford? Chad Qualls for two years and $6 million? In that respect, one can’t really blame the Jays for walking away from the madness.
The bullpen is obviously an area of concern for the Blue Jays and it’s seemingly one that could always use improvement. So, for the front office to not address those needs as of late is a little concerning, but I don’t think it’s all bad.
Even though it’s still early on in December, there aren’t really very many relief options left for the Blue Jays. Most of the free agent bullpen pieces are already picked over, and many of the marquee relievers have already been dealt.
If the Blue Jays were hoping to show up at the 11th hour and do a little Christmas shopping in the relief pitcher department, there isn’t very much left on the shelves.
While it would’ve been great to see them add someone like Joakim Soria or even Yusmeiro Petit, the Blue Jays will likely have to resort to dumpster diving for relievers. Yes, they will become George Costanza searching for the perfect edible chocolate eclair.
Maybe it’s just because Jays fans have been conditioned to not expect flashy moves for relievers, maybe it’s still the fallout of the B.J. Ryan deal, but I’m perfectly fine with the Blue Jays going after some reclamation projects and bounce-back candidates for the bullpen.
For the most part, I think that’s how successful bullpens are often constructed; teams take fliers on players, they end up turning into found money, supplement that with a few good young impact arms and suddenly you’ve got the Royals’ bullpen.
And that seems to be the trend these days, for franchises to model themselves after the Kansas City Royals and their dominant bullpen. This is probably why teams like the Red Sox are constructing “super bullpens”; to ensure a higher win probably not only in save situations, but in the eighth and seventh innings as well.
We all know that bullpens are extremely volatile; very rarely does the exact same relief corp start Opening Day that finishes the season. Bullpens undergo many iterations throughout the regular season. And that often means that high-priced relievers are often relegated to low leverage situations or cut from the team entirely.
More than any area of a roster, I think the bullpen is the one area where front offices experience the highest rate of buyer’s remorse. And since the nature of the role is so volatile, deals like Darren O’Day’s have the potential to go sideways in a hurry.
One year ago, the Blue Jays were in a similar position as they are right now; their bullpen was in disarray, they had to replace many outgoing relievers, and aside from maybe two or three players, the rest of the bullpen was a giant question mark.
I’d actually say the Blue Jays’ bullpen is position better now than they were one year ago. At the very least, the Jays have the option to employ the tandem of Roberto Osuna and Aaron Sanchez out of the bullpen, Brett Cecil is about a sure of a reliever as the Jays could ask for.
The rest is a bunch of warm bodies, but surely there has to be at least one or two more dependable relievers among Aaron Loup, Bo Schultz, Steve Delabar and Ryan Tepera. And if not, then the Jays dip into the minor leagues and begin to augment the roster that way.
That’s the thing about bullpens; there’s a lot of focus of heavily defined roles, but bullpens are very fluid throughout the 162 game schedule.
It’s much more difficult to find dependable starting pitchers who can go at least five innings every five days. But finding someone to give you a decent inning every few days or so? Teams often throw many things at the wall until they find someone who sticks.
The Blue Jays bullpen will be fine. It’s never going to be the Kansas City Royals’ bullpen and it won’t be the Boston Red Sox bullpen, but the Jays’ relievers will be okay.
Their potent offense can cover up a lot of mistakes, and if not and the Blue Jays are in contention once again at the trade deadline, then they have some work to do.
The Blue Jays will find ways to plug the holes in their bullpen. They may not be via the sexy free agent signing or splashy trade, but the roles will be filled somehow.
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