It’s been obvious over the last several weeks that the Toronto Blue Jays are a good team, but even the best teams need help. And it’s no secret the Jays desperately need some help in the bullpen.
Jordan Romano may be one of the better closers in the American League, but the Jays are missing some high-leverage pitchers in the late innings. Yimi Garcia started to look much better, but then was sent to the IL with a back injury. Adam Cimber has been great since he was traded to Toronto from Miami last offseason and I think David Phelps has been fairly reliable, but he’s much more of a middle innings guy. Despite everyone continuing to say Tim Mayza is a great late-inning reliever, I still don’t buy it. I think he’s fine but if you’re relying on him to get big outs against New York, Houston, Boston, or any of the other big teams in the AL, it’s going to cost you.
Max Castillo has looked decent as the long man in the pen, but he’s a rookie and I highly doubt he’s going to be used in any high-leverage situation. And finally, Trent Thornton should be sent to Triple-A and when he is with the Jays, only be used in mop-up roles. It almost cost the Jays last week against the Red Sox and I’ve seen enough out of him to know by now he’s only good when you’re up by 10 or down by 10.
The Jays have signed Sergio Romo as well, and while he was a dominant reliever in the past, he’s 39 and didn’t look great for Seattle this season. Taking a flier on him isn’t the worst idea though. If he’s good, that’s great for Toronto. If not, cut him.
So, that begs the question — where should the Jays be looking for some bullpen help. David Bednar from Pittsburgh would be a great target. He’s battling a back injury at the moment, but he isn’t expected to be placed on the IL. He’s their acting closer at the moment and he’s been pretty spectacular on a very bad Pirates team. The Jays and Pirates have been trading partners over the past few years, and I think this could be another fit. Bednar is 27 and will be eligible for arbitration next season, so the Jays would have control of his rights. So, it would likely take a decent prospect to pry him outta there.
David Robertson has bounced back beautifully for the woeful Chicago Cubs and wouldn’t require a ton of capital going back the other way. He’s on an expiring deal, so you’d think a middling prospect would get the job done. He’s a veteran that has pitched in pretty much every situation you can think of, so he would immediately improve the bullpen.
Gregory Soto from Detroit is another target the Jays will certainly be looking at. He’s also got some team control, so the ask will be higher than Robertson, but he would provide another lefty for manager Charlie Montoyo to deploy in bigger situations. His career ERA is over 4.00, so while he may be having a great year so far, you just never know with relievers. This could be his best year or maybe his first half is the best he will ever be. A reliever is just as volatile as goalies in the NHL — you never know what you might get out of guys that aren’t the best of the best. Michael Fulmer from the Tigers is another name to watch. He’s also had a great first half and maybe the Jays swing a deal for both of them? Who knows.
Daniel Bard from the Colorado Rockies is another interesting name. His ERA is around 2.00 despite pitching at the batter-friendly confines of Coors Field. He’s had a great first half and he’s on an expiring contract, so he may be worth a look for the Jays.
While these are all fairly big names for the Jays to target, don’t be surprised if they go with some lesser-known guys. It worked last year when they pounced on Cimber and Trevor Richards last season — both of them were really great for the Jays for the remainder of the season. I do think they’ll need to bring in a couple of guys at a minimum.
Bringing Nate Pearson north to the big club and pitching him out of the bullpen may have been a dream for the front office, but it certainly doesn’t seem like that will be the case. He would check off a lot of boxes if it were to happen, but he’s injury prone and hasn’t spent much time on the field once again in 2022. With the fastball reaching triple digits to go along with a slider would certainly play in later innings, don’t count on it this season considering the fact he’s back on the IL already.
I’d be shocked if the team didn’t add a reliever before the all-start break, and while that’s coming quick, this is easily the biggest weakness on the team. Sure, they need another starter and a left-handed bat, it’s not great to be nervous every game once the starter is lifted. The Jays have a real shot this year, and while the window won’t be closed if they don’t make a deep run in 2022, I think it’d be a waste to not add right now.