Blue Jays get Barnes from Mets in trade

June 19th, 2021

The Blue Jays made a move to address their bullpen on Saturday, acquiring right-hander from the Mets in exchange for Minor League right-hander Troy Miller.

Barnes, who was recently designated for assignment by the Mets, had posted a 6.27 ERA over 18 2/3 innings in 2021. After spending the first nine years of his professional career in the Brewers’ organization, including parts of four in the Majors, Miller also spent time with the Royals and Angels before joining the Mets. His career ERA in the big leagues sits at 4.53, averaging just over a strikeout per inning.

There will be more of these moves to come for the Blue Jays, and more prominent ones, but this represents the very early stages of them working to improve a bullpen that is desperately in need of fresh, competent arms. Toronto’s bullpen opened the season as a surprise success story, but injuries have snowballed and many of the individual hot starts have not been sustainable. Lately, it’s been the club’s greatest weakness, with several late losses recently against division rivals in the Red Sox, Yankees and Orioles.

The Blue Jays had hoped their current trip to Baltimore would help to correct this recent skid after being swept by the Yankees at home in Buffalo, N.Y., but the bullpen let the game slip out of reach again, allowing five runs to the Orioles in the eighth inning of a 7-1 loss to open the series. The Blue Jays need answers, and fast, given how competitive the American League East projects to be down the stretch.

Injuries are still impossible to ignore, though. Presumed closer Kirby Yates was lost for the season to Tommy John surgery and rock-solid veteran David Phelps is done for the year after undergoing right lat surgery. Right-hander Julian Merryweather stepped into the closer’s role early and was dominant, touching 100 mph, but he’s been on the IL since April with a left oblique strain. Getting Merryweather back along with others, like Ryan Borucki, will be a major help, but this group clearly needs a boost externally, as well.

Another option the Blue Jays will have down the stretch is to use their young starters creatively. No. 1 prospect Nate Pearson is finally finding some consistency in Triple-A and Thomas Hatch is building back up as a pure starter, not to mention No. 5 prospect Alek Manoah, who looks right at home in the Major League rotation. They’re all starters for now, and rightfully so, but if this Blue Jays team is able to make a major addition to their rotation between now and the Trade Deadline, there will be the potential for some flexibility with these young arms through September and October.

In Barnes, the Blue Jays will hope to unlock some potential in a fastball that has averaged 94.4 mph this season with a spin rate just above the league average. If something in the range of the 3.93 ERA he posted over his four seasons with the Brewers were possible, the Blue Jays would gladly take it, but the immediate priority for this club is finding fresh arms as options, whether that be in Triple-A or the Major Leagues.

Miller, who goes to the Mets in the deal, is a 24-year-old right-hander who opened the season with a string of strong outings for Class A Advanced Vancouver and earned a promotion in late May to Double-A New Hampshire, where he’s pitched to a 7.20 ERA over 20 innings.