The Toronto Blue Jays’ bullpen is in shambles. After posting MLB’s best bullpen ERA through the first month of the 2021 season, Toronto’s relievers have flip-flopped to become one of the shakiest cores in baseball.
Until about mid-May, their relief pitchers walked the tightrope and narrowly escaped disasters posting a 76.8% strand rate, but injuries, poor performances, and the rigours of the regular season have finally caught up to them.
Since May 17, Blue Jays relievers have baseball’s highest walk rate at 12.7%, the sixth highest bullpen ERA at 5.02, and the team has a mere two saves over that 25-game stretch. The Blue Jays have 16 relief losses, tied for the second most in baseball.
Not to mention, the team has lost a bullpen’s worth of relievers to injuries with 10 relief pitchers landing on the injured list. That’s tied for the most in MLB this season, with Carl Edwards Jr. potentially becoming the 11th reliever to hit the IL.
Try as they may, the Blue Jays have used most of their options in the minor leagues and they’ve dug through the table scraps on the waiver wire. The Blue Jays failed to make these strategies work, and now fans are clamouring for the team to make a trade (or two) to beef up the bullpen.
The Jays can’t afford to wait until the July 31 trade deadline because they needed bullpen help weeks ago. With many games slipping away and a lack of reliable relief options, manager Charlie Montoyo’s hands have been tied in crucial situations.
If this team wants any hope of locking down games late and close, the front office needs to swing some deals to bring in reinforcements. And these are five arms the Blue Jays should target in trade, before their bullpen goes into full-on nuclear meltdown.
1. Brad Hand (Washington Nationals)
Maybe the second time’s the charm for the Blue Jays with landing Brad Hand? The Jays were reportedly very interested in the 31-year-old lefty before the club inked Kirby Yates, and we all know how that turned out.
Hand, meanwhile, has been lights out for the former World Series champs, collecting 12 saves and posting a 23.9% strikeout rate. The Nats signed Hand for $10 million and he’s only a rental, but the Blue Jays sorely need back-end relievers, and the veteran closer fits the bill.
He’s been among the most durable and consistent relievers in baseball dating back to 2016, when Hand was converted to a full-time reliever. Ever since, he’s been a three-time All-Star, posting a 2.73 ERA in 331 games as a relief pitcher.
2. Adam Cimber (Miami Marlins)
Oddly enough, Adam Cimber has a link to the previous player on the list, as the San Diego Padres packed him along with Hand to the Cleveland Indians at the 2018 trade deadline.
Cleveland then offloaded Cimber this past offseason to the Miami Marlins, so why not make it three trades in three years? Pitching in the NL East this year, he’s bounced back with a 3.23 ERA in 30 games for the Marlins.
Cimber makes less than $1 million and comes with two additional years of team control. He’s not a big strikeout guy, but his funky sidearm delivery would give the Blue Jays a different look out of the bullpen.
3. Taylor Rogers (Minnesota Twins)
The Minnesota Twins are in the exact opposite position many thought they’d be approaching the All-Star break. Sitting dead last in the AL Central, they’ll almost certainly be sellers instead of buyers this year.
That means selling off anything not bolted down, including pieces of their rotation and bullpen. Taylor Rogers would be the most coveted piece of their relief corps, and the perfect addition to Toronto’s crew.
The 30-year-old veteran is enjoying the best strikeout rate of his career and among the lowest walk totals of his six-year stint with the Twins. At $6 million this season, he’s one of the pricier salaries to take on, but one the Blue Jays could more than afford.
4. Richard Rodriguez (Pittsburgh Pirates)
The Pittsburgh Pirates’ closer might be the belle of the ball with highly sought relievers at the 2021 trade deadline. Richard Rodriguez is enjoying some of the best numbers of his career this year with the Buccos.
Making just $1.7 million and with two years of additional team control after this season, Rodriguez wouldn’t just be a rental for a prospective team, but a bullpen fixture for the next few years. That also means the asking price from the Pirates is going to be that much higher.
He’s been a workhorse for the Pirates dating back to the 2018 season, but the one red flag with Rodriguez is his strikeout rate has dropped by nearly 15% compared to last year.
All things considered, he might not fit in as the Blue Jays’ potential closer or setup man, but he’d be a nice reliever to help bridge the gap between Toronto’s starter and the back end of the bullpen.
5. Daniel Bard (Colorado Rockies)
Last year, Daniel Bard was one of baseball’s best feel-good stories after he cracked the Colorado Rockies’ roster, returning to the MLB after a seven-year absence. It wasn’t a fluke either, as he pitched in 23 games and struck out 27 batters.
He returned to the Rockies again this season, and he’s been Colorado’s de facto closer, with nine saves and a 29.5% strikeout rate, the second-highest of his seven-year career. Bard’s fastball is back into the high 90s, averaging 98 MPH on his heater.
The Blue Jays already have Jordan Romano, who has a very similar skill set as Bard, but as this team has proven in 2021, they can never have too many high leverage relievers. Other than Romano, Montoyo hasn’t had very many reliable go-to bullpen arms with the game on the line.
Bard not only has pitched predominantly in those situations with the Rockies, he’s excelled in high leverage spots. And he’d be a welcome addition to the Blue Jays’ relief corps.