A solid bullpen is a staple of any team hoping to make a deep run in the playoffs. At the moment, the Toronto Blue Jays’ bullpen is, in the words of Shaquille O’Neal, horr-awful.
From injuries to failed flyers to uncharacteristically poor performances, something needs to be done to solidify a group that has cost the team numerous wins over the past month. Here are four options to fix Toronto’s bullpen woes.
Recall Nate Pearson and use him out of the ‘pen
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This idea is by no means permanent, but it could help the Blue Jays maintain their status as playoff contenders in the coming months.
Right now, Pearson is getting stretched out as a starter with Buffalo, but that doesn’t rule out a move to the bullpen once he is called back up to the big club. His high-velo pitching style could play really well out of the bullpen, and given that only three of his six major league appearances have come against American League teams, the Blue Jays’ division rivals are not familiar with him.
The main concern with Pearson coming out of the bullpen is his walk rate. Walks kill late in ball games, and Pearson walked five batters over 2.1 innings in his last appearance. Still, when you can touch 100 m.p.h with your fastball, you have a shot at stringing outs together. If you take the stressors of going deep in games off of Pearson’s plate and allow him to lock in on an inning, he might just be able to work out the issues that have plagued his young major league career thus far.
Call the Nationals about Daniel Hudson
The Nationals’ Daniel Hudson seems like a perfect candidate to make a return to Toronto. Traded from the Blue Jays to the Nationals in 2019, Hudson was an integral piece in Washington’s improbable World Series run. Now, with the Nationals’ championship window seemingly closing, general manager Mike Rizzo could be ready to move some of his veterans, including Hudson.
Hudson was lights out in his time with the Blue Jays, posting a 6-3 record with a 3.00 ERA and 9.0 K/9. Hudson is 4-1 with a 2.59 ERA and a 12.9 K/9 with the Nats this season. Although he is on the IL right now with an elbow injury, he is expected to return soon. His veteran presence could be just what the Blue Jays need to steady the ship.
Call the Pirates about Richard Rodriguez
The Pittsburgh Pirates are still in sell mode, and that’s a good thing for teams who need pitching.
Closer Richard Rodriguez has quietly become one of the better back-end bullpen pieces in baseball. He’s currently sporting a minuscule 1.91 ERA over 27 appearances with the Pirates this season, and is controllable through 2023.
Rodriguez is in the midst of what is undoubtedly the best year of his career right now, so Pittsburgh would be well-served to cash in on his exploits. The line to inquire about Rodriguez’s services may be long, but the Blue Jays should be near the front.
Call the Rangers about Ian Kennedy
From a flailing starting pitcher with the Royals in 2018 to a shutdown closer with the Rangers in 2021, Ian Kennedy has enjoyed a late-career renaissance.
With the Rangers well out of contention in the AL West, the 36-year-old could be moved by Texas to cash in on a player who might only have a few more years left in his career.
Just like Rodriguez, Kennedy will have no short list of suitors. However, his age might scare off some teams looking to build bullpens for the future. This should not concern the Blue Jays.
Unlike most other teams that are in need of bullpen help, Toronto has elite relievers on the roster; it just so happens that they’re all injured. When Julian Merryweather comes back later this season and Kirby Yates makes his Blue Jays’ debut next year, this unit should be much improved.
Until then, it can’t hurt to bring in some live arms to try and make the most out of 2021.