With the gutting of their bullpen, how do the Blue Jays go about fielding a somewhat respectable relief core for the final two months of the season?
Toronto has had to get by without Roberto Osuna since early May, so the bullpen had adjusted to life without him. With the addition of Ken Giles, for the first time in months, the Blue Jays finally have a legitimate closer. But what about the repercussions of losing Seunghwan Oh, John Axford, and Aaron Loup…how does Toronto go about replacing all these relievers with equally capable pitchers?
At the moment, Toronto’s bullpen consists of Giles, Ryan Tepera, Tyler Clippard, Joe Biagini, Jake Patricka, Jaime Garcia, Luis Santos, Danny Barnes, and Mike Hauschild. Hauschild I imagine, after his stellar performance the other day in Seattle may have just become Toronto’s new fifth starter. And it’s about time. Looking at this list of relievers, one can say with confidence that only Tepera and Giles are a lock to make the bullpen to begin next season. With pretty much only two players guaranteed to be on the opening day roster come 2019, there’s plenty of opportunities for the remainder of Toronto’s relievers to showcase their skills and possibly earn themselves a big league job for next season.
With so many players traded away, the Blue Jays are also in a position to get creative with the relievers they decide to call-up. Justin Shafer and Travis Bergen are two relief pitchers in particular who are having excellent seasons down in the minors. In 41 appearances this year with Double A New Hampshire and Triple A Buffalo, the 25-year old Shafer has a 1.29 ERA. Bergen meanwhile owns a 0.94 ERA in high A and Double A, including 64 SO in just 47.2 innings of work. Considering how well they’ve been pitching, and the sorry state of Toronto’s bullpen, why not give them a shot and see if they might be able to carry on their strong play in the big leagues.
More than anything, what the Blue Jays will miss most about losing Axford, Loup, and Oh was the invaluable experience and leadership they brought to the bullpen. This off-season, look for Toronto to do something similar to what they did last winter. Signing veteran relievers on reasonable contracts, and then moving them at the trade deadline if the team isn’t in contention.