Ever since Brett Cecil signed a 4-year contract with the St.Louis Cardinals, there’s been a void in the Blue Jays bullpen when it comes to reliable left-handed relievers. I’m not a huge fan of the whole idea of a left-handed specialist in the bullpen, especially when the Blue Jays already have several right-handed relievers (e.g. Ryan Tepera and Danny Barnes) who have better numbers against LHB’s than their current group of left-handed relievers.
The idea of a left-handed specialist works when you have a lefty who’s a quality pitcher and worthy of being amongst your top seven relievers. But when you have a left-handed reliever simply for the sake of having a lefty, it only hurts your team and puts that particular pitcher in a position they aren’t qualified for.
One of John Gibbons‘ biggest faults as a manager is how strongly he feels about using his left-handed relievers against the oppositions best LHB’s. This becomes a serious issue when the so called lefty specialist struggles against LHB’s. Take for example Aaron Loup, who’s been Gibbons’ go-to lefty out of the bullpen ever since the departure of Cecil. LHB’s hit .280 (26 for 93) against Loup in 2017, this compared to the .250 AVG (33 for 132) that RHB’s hit against him. And yet Gibbons continues to call on Loup to face some of the opposing teams best LHB’s. I don’t mind the use of a left-handed specialist, as long as that pitcher is actually good at getting out LHB’s. Not since Loup’s best years, between 2012-2014, could he be called a left-handed specialist.
Considering how much Gibbons likes to use lefties out of the bullpen, and the fact that Loup now struggles against LHB’s, the Blue Jays have a need for a more reliable left-handed reliever. When it comes to left-handed relievers, the Blue Jays are certainly not short on internal options with Matt Dermody, Tim Mayza, and Chad Girodo looking to establish themselves in the big leagues. The big question now is whether or not one of these pitchers is ready to step-up and become the number one left-handed option out of the Blue Jays bullpen.
Unless Ross Atkins thinks one of Loup, Dermody, Mayza, or Girodo has it in them to be the bonafide left-handed specialist the Blue Jays are looking for, I have to assume he’ll make a last minute free agent signing for a left-handed reliever. Much like he did last off-season when he signed J.P. Howell on February 9. A few free agent options who appear to be the best fit for the Blue Jays include Tony Watson, Fernando Abad, and Kevin Siegrist.