We are now less than two weeks away from pitchers and catchers reporting to Spring Training. With the position side of the roster looking set the Blue Jays front office has turned it’s eyes towards getting a 5th starter and some relief help to fill the space left from Dominic Leone. While the relief market has been one of the few markets where free agents have been finding work there are still quite a few good options out there that are going to get picked up over the next two weeks.
During the Jays Winterfest event, John Gibbons was interviewed about what the Jays were looking for in a reliever. He said “A proven guy that’s been successful,” and “We would love a guy that could give you multiple innings. It doesn’t happen too often nowadays. But really someone that can get some strikeouts maybe late in the game, that’s been through it.” The Jays are looking for a veteran who gets strikeouts and can pitch multiple innings, simple enough. That narrows it down a bit, pitchers like David Hernandez and Matt Albers who signed this week both fit the description quite well, but with them gone who is left in free agency?
3.56 ERA 9.5 K/9 3,1 BB/9 1.5 HR/9
Back in 2014 Romo lost the closing job for the World Series Champion Giants, but has managed to still be a very productive reliever of the past 3 years. Romo signed with the Dodgers in 2017 and had a rough time allowing 17 runs in 25 innings. He was later traded to the Rays where he would finish the year strong with a 1.47 ERA in his 30.2 innings. Romo seemed to have thrived in a multi-inning role getting 11 multi-inning outings last year with 10 of them coming with the Rays. He signed a 1 year deal last year at $3 million and I wonder if he can be signed for a similar figure again.
4.77 ERA 10.76 K/9 4.6 BB/9 1.5 HR/9
Younger than most of the other options, Clippard will be turning only 33 this year. He has always been associated with high strikeout and walk rates and his 2017 was no different. He’s always been able to pitch multiple innings but with how his velocity has been declining and his ERA and FIP has been trending upwards, he would need to have a lower asking price than the $6 million he made last year.
4.10 ERA 8.2 K/9 2.3 BB/9 1.5 HR/9
Oh has been the closer for the Cardinals the past 2 years but after he broke in with an incredible 2016 his 2017 numbers were far more pedestrian leaving him still looking for a job in late January. His pitch velocities are very close to his great 2016 year but he got rocked on his changeup and curve ball this past year. It is possible that he was tipping those pitches or maybe they just weren’t good and he should just use them more sparingly. His splits also took a dramatic shift as lefties went from having a .455 OPS against him to a ridiculous 1.006. If his changeup is the cause of that then simply by using his changeup less or having more success could lead to a bounce back season for him.
3.38 ERA 7.16 K/9 2.7 BB/9 1.22 HR/9
Watson is one of the best left-handers still available and this past year he has shown to be more than a LOOGY, throwing 5 multi-inning outings. He doesn’t get as many strikeouts as other players on this list but he would give the Jays another reliable left-hander besides Loup in the pen. His 2017 numbers are his worst since 2011 but he didn’t lose any velocity on his pitchers and his .309 BABIP could mean he’s a prime candidate for a bounce back season.
5.68 ERA 7.92 K/9 2.64 BB/9 2.03 HR/9
After a successful 2015 and 2016 season Blanton suffered one of his worst seasons of his career. His strikeouts dropped and he allowed 10 homers over only 44.1 innings which caused his ERA to skyrocket. He lost 1.4 MPH off his fast ball as well as a MPH off all his other pitches but it wasn’t the first time that has happened. Blanton saw his velocity decline until he was moved to the bullpen in 2015 when he got a boost in his velocity and found success. He lost almost a month to shoulder inflammation so that could have been the cause for the drop. There are certainly questions if Blanton could bounce back and regain that velocity, but if he could he would be that solid multi-inning reliever Gibbons was talking about.
With Albers and Hernandez gone the Jays options are shrinking but the good news is that they both only got $5 million in guaranteed money over two years. While Watson would probably sign for more, getting a Oh or Romo for that kind of contract could be extremely helpful and cost efficient for the Blue Jays bullpen in 2018.