Blue Jays free agent targets: Relief pitchers

Robert Suarez looks like a perfect fit for the Blue Jays' bullpen. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)
Robert Suarez looks like a perfect fit for the Blue Jays' bullpen. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

The Toronto Blue Jays' bullpen was an area of concern for almost the entirety of 2022, and it culminated with the relief corps blowing an 8-1 lead to the Seattle Mariners in Game 2 of the wild-card series.

Despite featuring a number of sturdy veterans, the Blue Jays ultimately lacked high-leverage arms that could generate swing-and-miss behind closer Jordan Romano. The team also only had one reliable left-handed reliever in Tim Mayza, which limited its options when trying to exploit matchups.

If the Blue Jays want to take the next step in their development, they will need to bolster their bullpen this winter. General manager Ross Atkins has generally been reluctant to shop at the top of this market in the past, but his hand could be forced this offseason.

Here's a look at 11 relievers who could fit the bill, starting with a trio of left-handers.

Taylor Rogers: LHP

Last season's stats: IP: 64.1 | ERA: 4.76 | WHIP: 1.18 | K/9: 11.8 | SV: 31

Rogers took a step backwards in 2022 after posting an All-Star season the year prior. He was traded from the San Diego Padres to the Milwaukee Brewers in the Josh Hader deal, posting a 5.48 ERA with his new club. The 31-year-old southpaw has very strong strikeout numbers and the tools to bounce back in 2023, plus features plenty of closing experience. Like the two names below him on this list, Rogers would bump Mayza into the second lefty role in Toronto's bullpen.

Matt Moore: LHP

Last season's stats: IP: 74 | ERA: 1.95 | WHIP: 1.18 | K/9: 10.1 | SV: 5

Moore thrived in his first season pitching exclusively in relief, as his stuff played up coming out of the Texas Rangers' bullpen. The 33-year-old was frequently able to pitch up to two innings at a time, which would give manager John Schneider more flexibility in how to deploy him. Moore's track record as a reliever is short, but he's an intriguing option to consider.

Matt Moore has reinvented himself as a reliever. (Thomas Shea-USA TODAY Sports)
Matt Moore has reinvented himself as a reliever. (Thomas Shea-USA TODAY Sports)

Andrew Chafin: LHP

Last season's stats: IP: 57.1 | ERA: 2.83 | WHIP: 1.17 | K/9: 10.5 | SV: 3

Aside from the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, Chafin has been one of the most consistent left-handed relievers in baseball since breaking into the majors in 2015. He owns a career 3.23 ERA and has held lefties to a lifetime .603 OPS.

Robert Suarez: RHP

Last season's stats: IP: 47.2 | ERA: 2.27 | WHIP: 1.05 | K/9: 11.5 | SV: 1

Suarez burst onto the scene with the Padres in his first MLB season after pitching in Venezuela, Mexico and Japan. The 31-year-old touches 98 m.p.h. with his fastball and struck out 32 percent of the batters he faced in 2022. The Blue Jays reportedly already have Suarez on their radar, and for good reason.

Kenley Jansen: RHP

Last season's stats: IP: 64.0 | ERA: 3.38 | WHIP: 1.05 | K/9: 12.0 | SV: 41

Jansen is the biggest name on this list and his credentials speak for themselves. Even at the age of 35 he continues to deliver elite results, recording a National League-leading 41 saves in 2022. He brings a wealth of playoff experience and won the World Series with the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2020. Signing him would almost certainly bump Romano out of the closer role, but would free him up to enter the highest-leverage spots earlier in games.

Kenley Jansen would bring loads of experience to the Blue Jays' bullpen. (Photo by Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Kenley Jansen would bring loads of experience to the Blue Jays' bullpen. (Photo by Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

David Robertson: RHP

Last season's stats: IP: 63.2 | ERA: 2.40 | WHIP: 1.16 | K/9: 11.5 | SV: 20

Like Jansen, Robertson has a plethora of closing experience and a World Series ring to his name, and the Blue Jays were rumoured to be interested in him at the 2022 trade deadline. He allowed just one run in seven playoff appearances with the Philadelphia Phillies this fall, helping stabilize a shaky bullpen.

Chris Martin: RHP

Last season's stats: IP: 56.0 | ERA: 3.05 | WHIP: 0.98 | K/9: 11.9 | SV: 2

Martin put together a quietly effective 2022 campaign and reached new heights once he was traded to the Dodgers at the deadline. He posted a 1.46 ERA over his final 26 games with a ridiculous strikeout-to-walk ratio of 34. Martin's ability to limit walks and rack up strikeouts makes him a strong fit for any bullpen, including the Blue Jays. At 36 years old he shouldn't require a lengthy contract commitment, either.

Rafael Montero: RHP

Last season's stats: IP: 68.1 | ERA: 2.37 | WHIP: 1.02 | K/9: 9.6 | SV: 14

Montero's career has taken off since joining the Houston Astros ahead of the 2021 trade deadline. The 32-year-old was a key cog in an Astros bullpen that dominated the postseason en route to their World Series title. Montero also stepped in as Houston's closer while Ryan Pressly was injured, securing 14 saves on the year.

Rafael Montero just won the World Series with the Astros. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)
Rafael Montero just won the World Series with the Astros. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

Adam Ottavino: RHP

Last season's stats: IP: 65.2 | ERA: 2.06 | WHIP: 0.98 | K/9: 10.8 | SV: 3

Ottavino shook off a pair of disappointing seasons when he returned to the National League with the New York Mets in 2022. The vast majority of Ottavino's innings came in the seventh, eighth or ninth frames and he would look good in a similar role in Toronto's bullpen, joining Anthony Bass and Yimi Garcia as a bridge to Romano. He has experience pitching in the AL East, spending two seasons with the Yankees and one with the Red Sox.

Michael Fulmer: RHP

Last season's stats: IP: 63.2 | ERA: 3.39 | WHIP: 1.37 | K/9: 8.6 | SV: 3

Fulmer was another name linked to the Blue Jays at the trade deadline and although he doesn't fit the exact profile of the type of reliever Toronto is looking for, he could assume a middle-inning bridge role as someone who is comfortable recording more than three outs at a time. He could be used the way the Jays deployed David Phelps in 2022.

Ken Giles: RHP

Last season's stats: IP: 4.1 | ERA: 0.00 | WHIP: 1.15 | K/9: 12.5 | SV: 0

This one is a bit of a deep cut but the Blue Jays have plenty of familiarity with Giles. He was acquired from the Astros in the Roberto Osuna trade in 2018 and spent parts of three seasons in Toronto's organization. He underwent Tommy John surgery in 2020 then signed with the Seattle Mariners on a two-year deal before being let go by the club this summer. Giles has shown dominant flashes in the past and could be worth a flier on a one-year, incentive-laden contract as he looks to rebuild his value.

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