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Inbox: Hutchison an option for Toronto bullpen?

Beat reporter Gregor Chisholm answers questions from Blue Jays' fans
June 2, 2016

Drew Hutchison is doing well in Triple-A. With Blue Jays relievers struggling, is there a way to work him into the bullpen? -- Dan A., Mississauga, OntarioHutchison eventually could be considered for a spot in the bullpen, but I don't think it's going to happen anytime soon. The important thing

Drew Hutchison is doing well in Triple-A. With Blue Jays relievers struggling, is there a way to work him into the bullpen?
-- Dan A., Mississauga, Ontario

Hutchison eventually could be considered for a spot in the bullpen, but I don't think it's going to happen anytime soon. The important thing to remember is that Hutchison and possibly lefty Wade LeBlanc are the first lines of defense in case someone in the rotation goes down with an injury.
Toronto's starting five has been healthy all season, but if that changes, Hutchison would become a crucial depth piece. If he went into the bullpen now, the Blue Jays would then have to worry about stretching him out again later in the year, and that could cause some problems.
Toronto also would like to occasionally add a sixth starter when someone needs an extra day of rest. The Blue Jays have done that once before, and it's expected to happen again. Hutchison will get his shot to start at some point, and keeping him ready for that role remains the priority.
Can you explain why the Blue Jays acquired Jason Grilli? His ERA is over 5.00 -- how is that going to help the bullpen?
-- Casey T., Moncton, New Brunswick

First and foremost, there isn't much risk here. The Blue Jays are not on the hook for most of Grilli's salary, and the only thing they had to trade was a low-level pitching prospect who wasn't ranked among the club's best. Think of this as a waiver claim; there isn't anything to lose even if it does not work out.
In general manager Ross Atkins' mind, Grilli is trending upward. Atkins thought Grilli potentially returned a little too quickly from a torn left Achilles, and that rushing back caused some issues. That's one possible explanation behind his lack of command, but the Blue Jays were impressed with his 12 strikeouts per nine innings, which is something the club has been missing in relief.

If Devon Travis moves to the leadoff spot, what are the chances the Blue Jays leave Jose Bautista in front of Josh Donaldson?
-- Brodie F., Regina, Saskatchewan

My bet would be that Bautista eventually moves back to No. 3 behind Donaldson, but this possibility can't be entirely ruled out. Bautista hitting in front of Donaldson has worked out pretty well so far, and it could be something that manager John Gibbons looks to continue in the future.
Either way, the long-term goal is to eventually have Travis hit leadoff, but the move isn't necessarily imminent. Toronto wants to wait until Travis is fully up to speed, and although he has looked good at times since being activated from the disabled list, he isn't quite all the way back just yet. The move is going to happen at some point, but it might not be as soon as most of us thought.
How would you personally assess Gibbons' performance as manager? He seems to be the most polarizing manager for fans -- they either love them or they hate him.
-- Louis B., Hamilton, Ontario

There's no doubt about it, Gibbons is a polarizing figure. I think some of that still dates back to his connection to previous GM J.P. Ricciardi, and he also has a sense of humor that might not resonate with everybody in the fan base.
In terms of performance, I think Gibbons does a better job than most people give him credit for. A common criticism is his use of the bullpen, but almost every reliever -- outside of Roberto Osuna and Joe Biagini -- has struggled. It's hard to blame Gibbons for trying to squeeze an extra couple of outs from a starter, and it's equally difficult to criticize specific relief choices when there have been so few reliable candidates to lean on.

I have looked at the list of 2015 Rule 5 Draft pickups, and I'm curious if Joe Biagini is the standout in the list? I know he has a relatively small sample size, but if he continues to project these numbers for the whole season, he's got to be considered the best of the group?
-- Andrew H., Vancouver, British Columbia

A few weeks ago, Baltimore's Joey Rickard would have been the obvious choice. He received some consideration for American League Rookie of the Month honors after hitting .280/.303/.701 with seven extra-base hits in April. Since that time, though, Rickard's production has dipped and he has lost playing time to Hyun Soo Kim.
That leaves Biagini as arguably the top performer, and his run of success has been nothing short of remarkable. He arrived in Spring Training without any guarantees, won a job, began the year as a long reliever and now he suddenly finds himself as a primary setup man to Osuna. Toronto got a steal here, and the fact that he might start in future seasons only adds to his value.
Do you think there is a "magic number" the Blue Jays have to be within striking distance of at the Trade Deadline for them to not entertain trading Bautista or Edwin Encarnacion?
-- Brandon P., Whitby, Ontario

I don't think there's a specific number, but there are a lot of factors that will have to be considered. The standings will be crucial, but the club will also have to consider its health, the health of its rivals and how well it is playing at that particular time.
One important thing to keep in mind here is that Bautista and Encarnacion both have no-trade clauses. They can veto any deal, and the only way I think they would approve a trade is if they firmly believe their team doesn't have a chance. Players often hold onto those hopes for longer than an outside observer, or even a front office.
Toronto also has the ability to extend qualifying offers. That would ensure that the club at least gets a compensatory Draft pick in return, which would at least somewhat lessen the blow of their departure. Unless the Blue Jays completely fall apart over the next two months and are at least seven to 10 games back of both the Wild Card spots and the division, I can't see them selling off quite that quickly.

Gregor Chisholm has covered the Blue Jays for since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB and Facebook, and listen to his podcast.