DINGERS FROM THE 6IX
Among the Toronto Blue Jays weaknesses last season was the team's lack of left handed relief options. With the exception of Brett Cecil, no left handed reliever pitched more than 15 innings for the Jays last season. This thin crop of options proved to be crucial at times last season, and the lack of skilled arms was the cause. To make matters worse, Cecil signed with the St. Louis Cardinals. No current lefty Jays reliever pitched more than 15 innings or had an ERA under 4.00 regardless of sample size last season. This is a serious issue for a team trying to contend for a World Series. The Jays saw lefty relievers dominate the playoffs; Andrew Miller, Aroldi Chapman, among others all played massive roles in their teams postseason success. So the Jays need to acquire a lefty reliever, but their options are thin.
Of course the Jays could sign Aroldis Chapman. The only big name, big money lefty on the open market, the Jays could decide to make a massive splash and sign the Cuban. Chapman put up 2.7 WAR for the Yankees and Cubs last season and also recorded a K/9 of 13.97. 13.97. Think about that. That's absurd. For his career the fireballer has not had a season with an ERA over 2.70 since becoming a full time closer, and he has also averaged 100.4 MPH on his fastball last season. Chapman only has 2 real negatives. The first, Chapman allegedly had a domestic violence incident last offseason. Second, there are rumours that he is to become the first 100 million dollar reliever ever. This is not good news for any team who wants the big lefty, so it's unrealistic for us to expect the Jays to spend significant money on a reliever no matter how good he is.
So this leaves the Jays with a few options for under the radar free agent relievers. The first is Jerry Blevins, who the Jays have already been connected to be various sources. He put up an ERA of 2.79 and an 11.14 K/9 in 42.0 innings for the Mets last season. In addition, Blevins only real recent struggles came in 2014 where he put up a 4.87 ERA with the Nationals. Unfortunately, Blevins is more of a left handed specialist, as he recorded an 4.77 ERA against right handed batters last season.
The Jays could also pursue Charlie Furbush who did not play in the majors thanks to injuries. In 2015, Furbush recorded a 2.08 ERA and has not recorded a season with an ERA over 4.00 since 2011 and even then, most of those innings were as a starter. Furbush's negatives include the injuries (he's only pitched more than 50 innings once in 2011), his fastball velocity (only 91 MPH in 2015), and a career 4.92 FIP against right handed batters.
Among other options, the Jays could look to sign J.P. Howell. Though he recorded a 4.09 ERA last season, his ERA had not exceeded 2.40 since the Dodgers acquired him. The reason was a LOB% of 74.6% last season, which was the lowest number of his career since 2011. The failed starter has found himself a nice home in the bullpen for the Dodgers in recent seasons, and he could make a nice addition for a Jays club looking to acquire a lefty. Like the previous two options, Howell struggles against righties (4.18 FIP in 2015) and a fastball velocity of only 85.3 MPH.
So the clubs next option is Boone Logan. Another lefty, Logan recorded a 3.69 ERA in the launching pad that is Colorado. Despite struggling at the beginning of his contract, Logan rebounded last year, posting the highest WAR total of his career. His FIP also shows some room for progression, which was 3.23. Logan also pitched more innings last season than in any season since 2012. Like the other options (surprise) Logan struggles against lefties, as he recorded an ERA of 5.30 against righties for his career. Luckily, his velocity was at its highest point since 2013 last year, so I consider Logan to be one of the Jays better options for next season.
In addition, the Jays could consider Marc Rzepczynski to be another left handed relief option. The former Blue Jays managed an ERA of 2.64 in 47.2 IP. He also threw more changeups than ever before out of the bullpen, at 15.5%. Oddly enough, Rzepczynski managed a better FIP in 2015 (3.36 FIP, 5.56 ERA) than 2016 (2.64 ERA, 3.57 FIP). The main cause of this is likely an inflated walk rate, which was a career high of 5.48 BB/9 last season. Of course the Jays have managed to turn good pitchers with high walk rates into successes last season so he may be worth the investment. Another example of a player with extreme righty splits, he recorded a 10.35 BB/9 against righties and a 5.25 ERA at the same time. Despite these problems, perhaps Scrabble could be worth the pickup.
Perhaps the only remaining lefty free agent option is Travis Wood, a former all-star who has split time between the rotation and the bullpen in recent seasons. In 61.0 innings he managed a 2.95 ERA and a career high 77 games last season. Unfortunately, his FIP was 4.54 last season, and Wood managed a K/9 of just 6.93. The good news is that Wood could play the role of lefty reliever and perhaps the 6th starter if there are injuries, but he also has documented struggles against righties for his career, as he has recorded a career xFIP of 4.56 against the opposite hands. However, Wood is a decent option if the club is looking for a lefty swingman.
None of the options is perfect, and the Jays best option has already signed with another team. But the clubs struggle to find a solid trustable lefty may have to be found via trade, as the options are thin unless the club is willing to pay extensive cash or deal with massive splits between handedness. Of all the choices I would most likely support Boone Logan, or Jerry Blevins unless the clubs budget is so large (highly unlikely) that it can afford both Chapman, and filling other holes.