TORONTO -- Relievers are notoriously difficult to project from one year to the next, but one thing working in Toronto's favor this year is that there are plenty of alternatives if somebody falters.The Blue Jays might add another arm or two before the start of the season, but even if
TORONTO -- Relievers are notoriously difficult to project from one year to the next, but one thing working in Toronto's favor this year is that there are plenty of alternatives if somebody falters.
The Blue Jays might add another arm or two before the start of the season, but even if they don't, the club appears to be in a much better position than it was at this time last year. The emerging late-inning trio of Dennis Tepera, Danny Barnes and Dominic Leone has taken care of that.
In a time when teams from all over baseball are having to shell out lucrative multiyear deals to shore up their bullpen, the Blue Jays have been able to stick with the status quo at a bargain-basement rate. Osuna will be in line for a large raise this offseason, but with the other top three not yet eligible for arbitration, this group is as affordable as it gets.
MLB.com is taking a look at the projected bullpen of all 30 teams ahead of Spring Training. Here's how the Blue Jays might stack up:
BULLPEN IF SEASON STARTED TODAY
Roberto Osuna, RHP (closer)
Ryan Tepera, RHP
Danny Barnes, RHP
Dominic Leone, RHP
Aaron Loup, LHP
Tim Mayza, LHP
Carlos Ramirez, RHP
Osuna experienced more than his fair share of ups and downs in 2017, but at age 22 he's regarded as one of the most effective and reliable closers in the game. Combine the ninth-inning security with the trio of setup men and the Blue Jays should have enough pieces to lock down a lot of late leads. It's unrealistic to expect all three of Tepera/Barnes/Leone to match their '17 seasons, but Toronto should have enough depth to facilitate a drop-off from one of the big three and still be OK.
What should the Blue Jays do with Ramirez? He's coming off a borderline historic season in the Minors after not allowing a single earned run over 37 2/3 innings between Double-A New Hampshire and Triple-A Buffalo. His performance as a September callup was not quite as successful, but five earned runs over 16 2/3 innings proved he can succeed on the big stage as well. Toronto is returning its top setup unit from a year ago, but if Ramirez cracks the big league bullpen out of Spring Training, he might give this relief corps the depth it needs. Alternatively, he's ready to step in if Tepera, Barnes or Leone struggle.
WHAT MIGHT CHANGE
Toronto has yet to find a reliable replacement for Brett Cecil, who left as a free agent following the 2016 season. Last year's experiment with J.P. Howell did not work out, and while Loup has his moments, he's not ideally suited to be the primary lefty reliever. The Blue Jays could use a lockdown situational lefty, and while Mayza or Matt Dermody may eventually settle into that role, they provide more confidence as Minor League depth.
The Blue Jays also would be well served to carry a traditional long reliever. That likely means Toronto would have to start the year with one lefty -- or alternatively with Ramirez beginning the season in Triple-A -- but it's an asset the rest of the bullpen needs to stay healthy. Right-hander Luis Santos is one possibility, and if the Blue Jays add another starter then Joe Biagini becomes an option here as well.
Gregor Chisholm has covered the Blue Jays for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB and Facebook, and listen to his podcast.