Monday, September 17, 2012
Building the Blue Jays Bullpen for 2013
By Ian Hunter
But that's the thing about bullpens; they might look great on paper, but ultimately the game is played on the field A group of relievers like that really needs to perform as one cohesive unit, not unlike Voltron.
Although Alex Anthopoulos did his best to bolster the bullpen at the trade deadline, there are actually still quite a few question marks going into 2013 as to whether certain relievers will perform well, or whether they will even return at all.
Here's now the bullpen looks to set up for next season.
Current Role: Closer
Projects As: Closer/Setup Man
As far as I'm concerned, the closer's job is his moving forward. He has done absolutely nothing at all this season to plant any seeds of doubt as to whether he can handle the load when given the ball with a lead late in the game.
The funny thing is when he inked his 2-year contract extension, I didn't anticipate Janssen would have pitched this well ... let alone as the closer. But lo and behold, he has come in and blown the doors off and really proven his worth as the captain of the relief corp.
Ideally, I think Casey Janssen would be best suited as a late relief or setup man to the closer, but again ... that's only if somebody else steps in and grabs the reins as the new closer. Simply put, it's his job to lose.
Current Role: Late Relief
Projects As: Late Relief/Setup Man
There's no question that Steve Delabar was the crown jewel that the Blue Jays acquired at the trade deadline. With over three times as many strikeouts as walks with the Blue Jays (39 SO/12 BB), one wonders why the Seattle Mariners even let him go in the first place.
A strikeout weapon like Delabar would play well in high leverage situations late and close, when the Blue Jays need to stop an opposing rally dead in its tracks. A true strikeout reliever with a devastating out pitch is something the Blue Jays have truly lacked these past few years.
My only fear with Delabar is that the league will eventually catch on to his split-finger fastball. As a relatively new reliever in the league, Delabar has the leg up on opposing hitters. But after the way he's carved up the competition, those teams will be getting lots of tape on him in the off-season.
Current Role: Middle Relief
Projects As: Middle Relief
Years of control is undoubtedly one of the biggest things Alex Anthopoulos must look for when trading for relievers. At under three years of service time, Brad Lincoln certainly fits that mold of cost-controlled arms.
Lincoln's strikeouts per 9 innings have gone down a tick since coming over to the Blue Jays (9.1 with the Pirates compared to 7.3 with the Blue Jays), but his dropoff in whiffs may just be attributed from moving to the NL to the AL.
I still like Lincoln in the 6th or 7th inning role with the club next year, but not really in the high leverage situations just quite yet. Also the fact that he was traded for everyone's favourite former Blue Jays carnivore means it will still take me a little time to warm up to Brad Lincoln.
Current Role: N/A
Projects As: Setup Man/Closer
Of all the arms coming back to the bullpen next year, Sergio Santos is the big wild card. When he initially went down in injury in April, the pessimist in me suspected the worst that Santos might be gone for the year. So who even knows if he'll be ready for Spring Training?
Even though Alex Anthopoulos initially acquired Santos with the sole intention of making him the new Blue Jays closer, I don't think Santos will be entitled to enter next season with that role ... he'll have to earn it.
Again, I think the closer's job is Casey Janssen's to lose, but if he at all falters in the early part of the schedule, then Sergio Santos would obviously be the next candidate to step in and take over that role.
With his swing and miss stuff, the Blue Jays might actually be best served to use a combination of Sergio Santos and Steve Delabar in the 7th and 8th innings, or as situations may dictate with runners on base.
I really like what Santos' slider brings to the table, but the wildness of that pitch will inevitably lead to a lot of walks and a lot of wild pitches. Not something you necessarily want out of your closer, but better to come in save situations with no runners on base than high leverage situations with men on base.
It's easy to forget that Santos is set to make just $2.75 million in 2013 and $3.75 in 2014, which seems like a very reasonable salary for any arm in the bullpen. So it's not like his salary is so far any above anybody else's that they would be entitled to use him as closer moving forward.
That being said, I believe that Sergio Santos will grab the closer's position from Casey Janssen in 2013, and they could combine to be a very lethal 8th/9th inning duo the next few seasons.
Current Role: Setup Man
Projects As: Setup Man/Late Relief
It's virtually a no-brainer whether the Blue Jays will exercise their club option on Darren Oliver for 2013. The burning question is whether Darren Oliver is heading for retirement in the off-season, or whether he wants to come back for one last swan song.
Statistically speaking, Oliver is having one of the best seasons of his career, so he's definitely a candidate for regression if he does in fact come back for another go in 2013. But I can't imagine him dropping off so much that that he wouldn't be an effective member of the bullpen.
At this point in his career, Darren Oliver is allowed to call the shots. Even if he wanted to go into semi-retirement in the off-season, and then sign with a contending team at the 2013 traded deadline, I wouldn't even be that upset because he's earned the right to play for a winning team.
Current Role: Late Relief
Projects As: Late Relief
With 500 career appearances under his belt as a member of the Blue Jays, Jason Frasor has been the consummate mainstay in the bullpen the last number of years. Personally, I think he's been criminally underrated during his tenure in Toronto.
If the Blue Jays could bring him back on a one year deal plus an option, I think that would work out well for both parties. What you see with Jason Frasor is more or less what you get, and the organization more or less knows what to expect out of Frasor.
However, Frasor has been with the Blue Jays on a string of one-year deals. The White Sox decided to pick up his club option before trading him back to the Blue Jays, so perhaps Frasor will be seeking the stability of a multi-year contract.
After all these years, I think he warrants at least a two year contact, or maybe a one year contract plus option of they can get away with it. Frasor doesn't strike me as the type of guy who would want to test the free agent waters, so that could play in favour of the Blue Jays.
Current Role: Middle/Late Relief
Projects As: Middle/Late Relief
Brandon Lyon has been a complete revelation this season. He has been unlike his former self, which is precisely why I'm leery of the Blue Jays making him a part of the bullpen moving forward. The likeliness of him reproducing his 2012 season are highly unlikely.
If the price is right, I'd be willing to roll the dice ... but not at his current $5.5 million dollar salary. It seems like Brandon Lyon and Jason Frasor bring the same skill set to the roster, so I feel like the Blue Jays will bring one or the other back next year ... not both.
Current Role: LOOGY
Projects AS: LOOGY
Of the all the rookie arms that have been called up by the Blue Jays, Aaron Loup is the sole reliever that has managed to keep his job. Toronto called him up on July 13th from New Hampshire, and Loup has remained with the club ever since.
Aaron Loup has proven his worth as an effective left-handed reliever, predominantly in short stints where he's been brought in to get just one or two outs.
Since Loup's splits favour lefties (.163 versus lefties compared to .295 versus righties), he seems to fit the bill as the token left-handed relief weapon for John Farrell in the bullpen.
Current Role: LOOGY, Mop-Up/Long Relief
Projects As: Mop-Up/Long Relief
My, how things have changed for Brett Cecil this season. He didn't even break camp on the Blue Jays roster, then he had a brief stint in the starting rotation, and now he's back as a member of the bullpen.
While he's only logged a grand total of five innings as a reliever, the results thus far have been okay. Cecil's fastball velocity has mysteriously increased a tick, as he's been clocked around 92-93 MPH when earlier in the season he was topping out around 89-90 MPH.
Perhaps using Cecil in small doses is the key, rather than planting him in the starting rotation and seemingly feeding him to the wolves every five days. Maybe it's something as simple as Brett knows he's only throwing to 1-2 batters, so he's throwing as hard as he possibly can rather than conserving energy to go 5-6 innings.
I'm still not positive that Cecil will be able to handle the high leverage situations, but for the time being there's nothing wrong with starting him off in middle relief and going from there.