We can officially add the Blue Jays to the list of clubs seeking pen upgrades. GM Alex Anthopoulos acknowledged that the team was looking at relief arms, including veteran free agent Rafael Soriano, Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet.ca reports (Twitter links).
As a group, Toronto’s bullpen has ranked 20th in earned run average, though advanced metrics indicate that the unit has been every-so-slightly unlucky. Looking at individual arms, only rookie Roberto Osuna and journeyman Liam Hendriks have thrown enough quality innings to register as substantially above replacement level by measure of fWAR, though Baseball-Reference credits Brett Cecil and Steve Delabar with 0.3 rWAR contributions as well (utilizing alternative advanced pitching metrics).
It’s no surprise, really, to hear that the Jays would be looking to bolster their relief corps. The loss of Marcus Stroman for the season left a hole in the rotation, which has had a trickle-down effect, and the club is already trotting out many of its system’s best young arms. Lefty Daniel Norris has been throwing fairly well at Triple-A since his demotion, however, and could conceivably come back up — either entering the pen himself or bumping a starter.
The Blue Jays have struggled, in particular, to retire opposing lefties in the late innings. They’re hitting a robust .261/.346/.426 against Toronto relievers, with a good portion of that damage coming against two of the team’s most-utilized southpaws (Cecil and Jeff Francis). Of course, Francis has now lost his spot, and Aaron Loup has put up better numbers when facing same-handed hitters (while struggling mightily against righty bats).
Soriano, of course, would not be added to match up against left-handed bats, though he was actually slightly better against them last year than when facing righties. But he would potentially offer another option in the closer’s role, moving Cecil into a setup role. Of course, Cecil himself has not been terribly effective against opposing lefties since 2013, but it would not be surprising to see the club go after a LOOGY as well.
Whatever direction the team hopes to go in adding arms, it will need to do some work in the standings to make buying a reasonable option at the deadline. Though the Jays stand just four-and-a-half back in the AL East entering today’s action, they sit five games under .500.