By: Ian Hunter
Canadian Baseball Network
By nature, bullpens are extremely volatile and unpredictable. Because relievers pitch so infrequently, the results are just as varied. Teams like the Royals and the Yankees have perfected the formula, but the Toronto Blue Jays are learning it’s much more difficult than it looks.
Over the weekend, the Blue Jays’ bullpen coughed up yet another loss, and reiterated just how unstable their relief corps truly is and how there’s a distinct lack of reliable arms in the back of the bullpen.
Who would’ve guessed that after two months, the Blue Jays’ most effective relievers would be Roberto Osuna, Joe Biagini and Jesse Chavez?
As pleasant a surprise as Biagini has been, he’s just one of a few consistent relievers the Blue Jays have. They need more than three half-decent bullpen arms, but unfortunately the Blue Jays have already burned through many of their options.
It’s been a revolving door of relievers being called up after Buffalo. Ryan Tepera and Pat Venditte have already made two tours with the Blue Jays this season, and they’ll likely make a few more.
The Blue Jays’ most reliably lefty, Brett Cecil, is currently on the disabled list. One of their other left-handed relievers in Franklin Morales is also on the disabled list with no timetable for a return.
Luckily, Aaron Loup re-entered the fray, but he may not be the steadying force the Jays need, as Loup experienced an up-and-down 2015 season as well.
Thinking back to last season, the Blue Jays are experiencing many of the same struggles that they did last season. It wasn’t until they anointed Osuna as closer, moved Aaron Sanchez into the bullpen and acquired Mark Lowe and LaTroy Hawkins that the Blue Jays finally sorted their bullpen.
But after the Blue Jays’ magical 2015 postseason run, their farm system is devoid of many coveted prospects; the commodity often used to acquire bullpen arms at the trade deadline. Sure, the Blue Jays could trade off some of their best prospects to get some bullpen help, but then their farm system would be even further behind than it was last year.
Save for an entire overhaul of the bullpen or someone like Drew Storen suddenly turning his season around, this problem will continue to plague the Blue Jays all season long. Unless the Jays plan on plucking Aaron Sanchez out of the starting rotation, there aren’t any internal options either.
It’s not as though Toronto’s relievers have been tasked with picking up a lot of innings. Because the Blue Jays’ starters are consistently going 6-7 innings, the bullpen has pitched the fourth fewest innings in the American League. Compared to previous years, the Blue Jays’ relievers really can’t complain about being overworked.
If you’re John Gibbons, this paints a fairly grim picture when the time comes to taking a starter out of the game and handing the ball over to a reliever. Often times, it’s difficult to trust guys like Storen to get guys out in low-leverage situations, let alone situations where the game is on the line.
After two months of games under their belts, at least the Blue Jays’ group of relievers have provided Gibbons and the coaching staff with some valuable intel. They know Osuna is legit, Biagini has been a pleasant surprise, and there’s still a lack of a reliably lefty in the bullpen.
To put it simply, Storen seems to have lost “it”. The club has stated their faith in him, but behind the scenes, surely the Blue Jays are disappointed in how this transaction has panned out.
The Blue Jays’ converted starters in Chavez and Gavin Floyd have experienced their own fair share of battles and have yet to really settle into their own roles out of the bullpen.
And thus, this is the state of the Blue Jays bullpen; one in flux, and one that will continue to be volatile in nature until some of their veteran relievers perform to the level which they’re accustomed to performing.