The Blue Jays are “focused on” upgrading the relief corps, general manager Ross Atkins told reporters (including Keegan Matheson of MLB.com). Presumably, that’ll involve acquiring some help from outside the organization, but rival clubs have set high asking prices on potential trade candidates to this point, reports Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet.
On the whole, the Toronto relief unit hasn’t fared all that poorly. Jays relievers have posted middle-of-the-road numbers (3.94 ERA, 24.9% strikeout rate, 10.8% walk rate, 3.98 SIERA) over the course of the season. They’ve fallen on harder times recently, though, pitching to just a 5.25 ERA/4.89 FIP since the start of June. Only Jordan Romano and Trent Thornton have backed up strong run prevention numbers with quality peripherals all year. The Jays did just acquire Jacob Barnes from the Mets, but he’s amidst a poor season of his own, so there’s surely room for further additions.
As always, there are a few quality relievers who figure to be available in advance of the July 30 trade deadline. Pirates closer Richard Rodríguez and Orioles southpaw Paul Fry are each having good years. Cole Sulser, Ian Kennedy, José Cisnero, Michael Fulmer, John Curtiss and Mychal Givens (currently on the 10-day IL) are among the other relievers performing well for non-contenders.
There’s also some chance of the Jays deepening the bullpen with internal options. Atkins didn’t rule out the possibility of Nate Pearson and Tom Hatch, both of whom are working out the rotation at Triple-A Buffalo, being recalled to pitch in relief capacities. The GM also suggested (via Matheson) the Jays could welcome back Ryan Borucki and Julian Merryweather from the injured list in the coming weeks. Borucki is expected back sometime around the end of the month, per Atkins, with Merryweather looking at a potential return in early July.
While the pitching staff looks to be the top priority for the 35-35 Jays, the front office is also looking for ways to add to the offense. Toronto is seeking another left-handed bat, according to Nicholson-Smith, who reports they were interested in first baseman Mike Ford before the Yankees traded him to the Rays this week. Toronto’s incumbent lefty first baseman/DH, Rowdy Tellez, has struggled to a .209/.272/.338 slash line across 151 plate appearances.