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Blue Jays should turn their offseason focus to their bullpen

Now that the Blue Jays have added to their rotation depth, hopefully Ross Atkins and the front office turn their attention to bolstering the bullpen.

I’d more than fine with the Blue Jays signing at least one more veteran starter to help them get through the 2019 season, but I’m also okay with them entering the season with what they’ve got at this point as well. I don’t feel the same way about the bullpen though.

The rotation has several options at this stage including Marcus Stroman, Aaron Sanchez, Ryan Borucki, and the newly acquired Clayton Richard and Matt Shoemaker. Beyond them they have young depth including Thomas Pannone, Sean Reid-Foley, Trent Thornton and others, so in a rebuilding year they should have enough reinforcements to get the year started at least. The bullpen could be a different story, especially depending on how they decide to line up their starting rotation depth throughout the rotation.

At this stage I would consider Ken Giles and Ryan Tepera to be the only locks for the bullpen. There are plenty of familiar names that should factor in the equation as well including Joe Biagini, Tim Mayza, Danny Barnes, and maybe Sam Gaviglio, if he doesn’t end up in the rotation competition. Even if all of those names worked out to start the year, it’s still not enough to fill out the group, so they’ll need to add a few arms before Opening Day at least.

They do have a few options on their 40 man roster, and some of them could be in the rotation competition to start with, and have the bullpen as a fallback option. Candidates that fit that description could include Gaviglio, David Paulino, Hector Perez, Yennsy Diaz, or Patrick Murphy. There’s also 18 year old Elvis Luciano, who will have to break camp with the team for the Blue Jays to be able to retain his services, as he was a Rule 5 pick from late last year.

Ross Atkins did well by staying patient with bullpen additions last year, and chances are he’ll employ a similar strategy this offseason. There is still a bit of time and there are a lot of pitchers on the market, but the urgency could change for free agents in a few weeks, and that could be when they pounce. They benefitted from picking up Tyler Clippard and John Axford on MiLB deals last year, and got Seunghwan Oh for a complete steal, and there is enough talent left on the market for that to type of situation to happen again.

I sincerely doubt they’re going to make a play for someone in the class of a Craig Kimbrel or Zach Britton, but one would think that there’s still some money in the budget. There are many intriguing back of the bullpen options like Kelvin Herrera, Greg Holland, or even Cody Allen. If they want to look to a more inexpensive tier, how about Brad Brach, Ryan Madson, or a Jake Diekman? The bargain pile could include reunions with Axford or Clippard, or maybe other veterans like Sergio Romo, or Zach Duke.

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It may be another few weeks before we see some of the bullpen dominoes start to really fall, and it might be take Kimbrel, Britton, and even Adam Ottavino signing before the rest of the free agents figure out their market, but the bullpen has been an odd spot in free agency in recent years.   The way things are shaking out, a pretty decent bargain could be had as long as Atkins is ready to act when the time is right.



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