As anyone who watches the Blue Jays can tell you, this team needs the help of the bullpen. The acquisition of Jacob Barnes, a non-options right-hander who had a 6.27 ERA in 19 games with the Mets, doesn’t change that. And with that need in mind, the front office continues to explore offers for relievers.
Finding the right candidate to bounce back could provide manager Charlie Montoyo with some of the quality innings his reliever pen has so clearly lacked in recent weeks. At best, Barnes is proving to be just as important to this enclosure as Jason Grilli and Joaquin Benoit were in 2016.
But relying on that kind of resurgence from a pitcher who averages one home run for every nine batters he faces is more than dangerous, which is why the Blue Jays are also exploring the upper tier reliever market. From the outside, Richard Rodriguez of the Pirates, Paul Fry of the Orioles, Kendall Graveman of the Mariners, Ian Kennedy of the Rangers and Ross Detwiler of the Marlins all seem like improvements.
Still, non-competing teams have so far kept asking prices high for veteran relievers on their rosters, sources say. And until the July 31 deadline draws near, there is little reason for them to deviate from that position. With that in mind, rebound contenders like Barnes and inside options like Patrick Murphy and Tayler Saucedo are the ones with the odds right now.
Ultimately, it is up to the front office to make the most of this promising young nucleus, asking prices high or not. Ultimately, the goal is to earn playoff spots and championships – not come out ahead in every final rally.
But even though other teams might ask about Jordan Groshans or Nate Pearson, that doesn’t mean the Blue Jays will have to pay too much. In fact, their own recent history at the deadline suggests that veteran relievers should eventually be available for more modest potential returns.
Consider the following trades, which included top performing marginal pitching prospects in senior miners, low level Airmen and, at Forrest Wall, a former top prospect who had seen hard times …
• Joe Smith, 2017 – for Thomas Pannone, starter AA; Samad Taylor, rookie infielder
• Aaron Loup, 2018 – for Jacob Waguespack, starter AAA
• John Axford, 2018 – for Corey Copping, AAA reliever
• Seunghwan Oh, 2018 – for Forrest Wall, AA outfielder; Chad Spanberger Class A first baseman
• David Phelps, 2019 – for Thomas Hatch, starter AA
• Daniel Hudson, 2019 – for Kyle Johnston, starting A +
If these exchanges hint at what to expect, the Blue Jays won’t need to part ways with their top prospects to add veterans to the relieving box. Applying that same logic to the Blue Jays’ current system, triple A players like Zach Logue, Kevin Smith and Logan Warmoth appear to be more reasonable business targets for non-competitors in the weeks to come.
Yet regardless of what happens in the bullpen, there are other needs to consider in the coming weeks. The starting pitching market currently looks weak, and as long as the Blue Jays hover near the 0.500 mark, it’s hard to see them parting with the best rental prospects out there either.
Since the front office of Mark Shapiro-Ross Atkins took over, they have been methodical and systematic when it comes to putting together their list. So even if Max Scherzer were to become available in a few weeks (certainly not a guarantee as he is likely to become the first Nationals Hall of Fame), it would be a major departure from the norm to see the Blue Jays doing the genre. aggressive bid that would be needed to influence the Washington front office – particularly how Toronto’s active roster is currently struggling.
As always, controllable players are another story. If the Blue Jays can add someone who can help them now and in the future, the caliber of available leads instantly increases. For what it’s worth, Kyle Gibson and Yusei Kikuchi both interested the Blue Jays two winters ago and still have several more years of control.
And it’s not just the pitching staff the Blue Jays are looking to reach out to. Along with their search for weapons, they also explored ways to add a left-handed bat to their roster and further increase the team’s offensive cap.
For example, Mike Ford was thought to be on their radar before the Rays bought him from the Yankees. On paper, Joey Gallo, Kyle Schwarber and Corey Dickerson are possible candidates for a team that could use some power to bolster the roster and the bench.
So far, the Blue Jays have yet to make a big deal. And if they wait too long, they risk falling even further in the standings and having to contemplate the extremely unpleasant prospect of listening alone while waiting for free agents like Marcus Semien and Robbie Ray.
That’s not where this team is at, however. At the moment, there are still a lot of avenues open for a front office with a lot of work to do. Over the next six weeks, whoever they choose will determine how much aid the current roster gets.