Improving upon the Blue Jays bullpen is probably the least of Ross Atkins’ worries this off-season.
With Roberto Osuna, Ryan Tepera, Dominic Leone, Danny Barnes, Tom Koehler, Carlos Ramirez, and Joe Biagini (assuming he’s in the bullpen), Toronto will have a healthy stock of young and talented relievers to choose from next spring. What the Blue Jays bullpen is lacking however is experience and a real veteran presence to help guide those young pitchers.
Not since the departure of Jason Grilli and Joe Smith has Toronto had that all-important veteran leader in the bullpen. It also says something when your 22-year old closer has more big-league experience than most of the other relievers on the team. Much like LaTroy Hawkins in 2015, Jason Grilli and Joaquin Benoit in 2016, and Joe Smith in 2017, here are a few options the Blue Jays may want to consider bringing in to add some veteran leadership amongst their relievers.
Since making the switch from starting pitcher to reliever back in 2013, Tommy Hunter hasn’t looked back. Although just 31, he’s been in the league for 10 seasons, giving him four more years of big league experience than Toronto’s most experienced relievers (Aaron Loup and Tom Koehler). Hunter is also coming off an impressive year with the Rays where he had a 2.61 ERA and 0.972 WHIP…arguably his best season yet as a reliever.
One of the more reliable relievers you’re going to find. Having pitched seven seasons in the majors, Shaw’s never had an ERA above 3.52 and below 2.59. His career ERA is a solid 3.13. Shaw has also been an absolute workhorse for Cleveland, having led the league in games pitched in three of the past four seasons. Given Shaw’s consistency and big-game performances with Cleveland these past few seasons in the post-season, he’s in line to receive a decent payday that’ll include a multi-year contract.
At 40 years of age and with 16 years in the big leagues under his belt, Benoit is certainly not short on experience. At his advanced age, he’s capable of still being a quality reliever, even if he is coming off a less than stellar year. Benoit was one of the best trade deadline acquisitions the Blue Jays ever made when they acquired him in 2016. Not only did they get him for the underperforming and sour Drew Storen, Benoit also went on to register a ridiculous 0.38 ERA with Toronto in 25 appearances. Even though Benoit is just 16-months removed from that great run he had with the Blue Jays, at his age, he also comes with the biggest risk of the three relievers discussed in this post.