Bullpen Trade Deadline

The Blue Jays’ Bullpen Needs Help Now, More Than Ever

TORONTO, ON - APRIL 26: A frustrated Toronto Blue Jays relief pitcher Drew Storen (45) reacts after hits on him in the ninth inning during their Major League Baseball game against the Chicago White Sox at the Rogers Centre in Toronto, Ontario. Toronto Star/Todd Korol (Todd Korol/Toronto Star via Getty Images)

If it wasn’t already blatantly apparent that the Blue Jays needed bullpen help, it is now.

It was another poor performance from select members of the Blue Jays’ bullpen and yet another missed opportunity as the Blue Jays dropped the second game of their series to the Seattle Mariners by a score of 14-5.

Many might focus on R.A. Dickey and the shortest outing of his career since 2011, but to me, the narrative of that game should focus squarely on the bullpen, and the club’s desperate need for some relief help.

The need has actually been apparent all season long, but at times, the need has been incredibly prevalent. The front office made a smart move by acquiring Jason Grilli almost eight weeks ago. He’s been a revelation ever since landing in Toronto.



But it’s not enough; the Blue Jays need even more reinforcements in the bullpen.

The return of Brett Cecil and eventually Franklin Morales were supposed to quell any fears of not having a reliable lefty in the Blue Jays bullpen. Morales has been decent (mind you, an incredibly small sample size), but Cecil still hasn’t rediscovered his former self has struggled since his return on June 30th.

And then there’s Drew Storen and Jesse Chavez. Going into Opening Day, these two were projected to be two and three on the Blue Jays’ bullpen depth chart behind Roberto Osuna. Storen was supposed to be a lockdown setup guy and Chavez was supposed to occupy the seventh inning role.

But the two have been anything but lockdown, and their latest appearances simply underscored the team’s need for some reliable relievers.

It’s true that R.A. Dickey exited after only three innings and left his team with a 4-1 deficit, but an additional eight earned runs charged to the bullpen simply put that game out of reach. Correction – Chavez and Storen single-handedly put that game out of reach.

If Gibby can’t go to Chavez or Storen in garbage time, when can he go to them? If they can’t pitch half-decent in a blowout game, how are Chavez or Storen expected to be trusted in a medium-to-high leverage situation?

The short answer is … they probably won’t be anymore.

Had it not been for a five-run sixth inning from Jesse Chavez and a three-run eighth inning by Drew Storen, maybe that deficit would not have been so insurmountable. But when the bullpen (exclusively Chavez and Storen) coughs up eight total runs, that’s nearly insurmountable for the best team.



Those types of games won’t show up as blown saves or blown leads, but how many times has the Blue Jays’ bullpen coughed one up, only to have the offense make a late push and it suddenly be too late? It seems like far too many during this 2016 season.

That means the Blue Jays need absolutely need to be active in the reliever market, and the sooner the better. Hopefully yesterday’s game underscored to the front office that the Jays need to bring in relief help as soon as possible.

Obviously, the sexy names on the market are Aroldis Chapman and Andrew Miller; but even someone like Tyler Clippard from the Diamondbacks would do. Or a Fernando Abad from the Twins or Jake McGee from the Rockies. Somebody … anybody with an ERA under 5.00.

Admittedly, the nature of relievers themselves are quite volatile; they often experience dramatic swings over the course of the season. However, Drew Storen, Brett Cecil and Jesse Chavez have experienced dramatic swings this year alone, similar to the Leviathon at Canada’s Wonderland.

The reason why the Blue Jays may be waiting so long to employ their relief solution is they haven’t quite decided what to do with Aaron Sanchez.

Their trade deadline strategy hinges on what happens with him. If Sanchez goes to the bullpen, then they need a starter. If Sanchez stays in the rotation, the Jays need at least one reliever … probably two. In addition, ideally they should get another starting pitcher just in case.



So no matter what happens in regards to Aaron Sanchez, the Blue Jays need relievers anyway. At this point in the season, they can’t simply hope that Brett Cecil, Drew Storen and Jesse Chavez “figure it out” and get themselves right again; they had four months to do that (with the exception of Cecil and his injury).

A few people asked me on Twitter whether the Blue Jays should simply DFA someone like Drew Storen at this point. As tempting as it might be, the dollar figure on his contract is too great; it’s a sunk cost for the Blue Jays, and they’ve been trying to hide Storen in the back of the bullpen for weeks (as Jays Journal points out).

Frankly, it’s time to bring in some new guys.

Image via Toronto Star/Todd Kroll

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.


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