Things are as bleak as they’ve been all season for the Toronto Blue Jays.
Losers of nine of their last 10, the Jays have failed to secure three straight winnable series, with the latest blunder coming in the form of a sweep by the Seattle Mariners. There have been many shortcomings for Toronto this month, including the bullpen’s league-worst 10 home runs allowed and its minus-0.48 win probability added, 24th in baseball.
If there’s one bright spot in all the agony, it’s that Toronto has stumbled at a point in the season when upgrades are available. The MLB draft starts July 17, after which the trade market usually heats up, followed by the All-Star Break from July 18-21, then the trade deadline on Aug. 2.
The Blue Jays are in the market for relievers. Luckily for them, plenty of teams should be selling. Here are three players Toronto can trade for to bolster its bullpen.
Daniel Bard – Colorado Rockies, RHP
This season, Blue Jays relievers have thrown only 3.2 per cent of their pitches faster than 96 m.p.h., ranking them 25th in the league. Beyond closer Jordan Romano, Toronto lacks velocity in the ‘pen. Bard would fix that problem.
The right-hander pairs his sinking fastball, which averages 98 m.p.h., with a nasty slider that helps push his strikeout rate into the 86th percentile. Bard’s power arsenal has also helped him silence hitters all season — his .156 xBA and .255 xSLG rank fourth- and eighth-best, respectively, among relievers with at least 150 pitches this year.
Bard’s only caveat is his 4.7 BB/9 clip, which juices his FIP to 3.60. Still, the free passes have always been part of the 37-year-old’s modus operandi, and he’s currently having his best season since 2010.
Even on an expiring contract, the eight-year veteran will have plenty of suitors. Bard’s stuff is more electric than any current Jays reliever, and he has experience working in the eighth and ninth innings, two important qualities Toronto would be wise to ante up and trade for.
Joe Jiménez – Detroit Tigers, RHP
Six years into his MLB career, Jiménez is finally shining on the mound. The 277-pound righty’s 2.97 ERA is way below his career mark (5.34) thanks to dramatic improvements in his walk numbers (1.9 BB/9) and home runs allowed (0.8 HR/9).
The 27-year-old is a joy to watch, as he effortlessly puts his massive frame into each pitch, snapping off fastballs, sliders, and the rare changeup. This season, Jiménez has done a noticeably better job of limiting hard contact, and his slider is a big reason why.
The Puerto Rico native has always had excellent swing-and-miss capabilities, especially with his breaking stuff, but his slider has been nearly impossible for hitters to square up this season. Jiménez is allowing an average exit velocity of 83.6 m.p.h. on the slide-piece, which is a key factor in his opponents only managing eight extra-base hits off him.
The Tigers are obviously sellers, so a deal between Toronto and Motown makes sense. There’s some risk with trades for volatile ‘pen arms like Jiménez, who has only been an above average pitcher in three of six seasons, but the Blue Jays should take a gamble if they like what they see.
Jiménez isn’t a free agent until 2024, which makes him a more valuable piece beyond this season.
Mychal Givens – Chicago Cubs, RHP
Givens is a cheaper but still serviceable option the Blue Jays should at least consider dealing for. The 32-year-old’s profile is somewhat like Bard’s in terms of walks (4.5 BB/9) and strikeouts (11.3 K/9), though some of his expected hard-contact peripherals are a little closer to the fringes (.408 xSLG).
Like Jiménez, Givens torques his hips and spins off his delivery with a three-quarters arm action that is more deceptive against right-handed batters, who’ve slashed .217/.305/.313 against him in his career. Lefties tag Givens a little harder for a .222/.340/.422 career slash line.
Since his debut in 2015, the Tampa native has quietly been one of baseball’s most underrated relievers, only posting an ERA+ below 100 in 2020, the pandemic-shortened season. It’s also worth noting Givens’ first five-and-a-half seasons came as a member of the Baltimore Orioles, where he would’ve faced some of the most dangerous lineups in baseball in the AL East division.
The right-hander has been traded to a contending team at the last two deadlines. Givens has a mutual option for 2023, so when the Cubs opt to move him — which it appears they will — Toronto should be willing to part with a low-level prospect or two to make a deal happen.
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