As the Blue Jays’ bullpen continues to crumble lately, you can hardly blame Charlie Montoyo for the recent developments. At this point Ross Atkins needs to step in and do something to improve the situation.
The Blue Jays led the Red Sox by a 5-1 score on Friday night and appeared to be in comfort in control of the game thanks to a quality start from Ross Stripling. When the 29-year-old started to run out of gas in the 6th and got into some trouble, Montoyo turned to Tyler Chatwood to try and finish the round. Sadly, Chatwood hasn’t been able to capitalize on his last two solid outings and has reverted to a pitcher who seems incapable of throwing any strikes, let alone getting anyone out.
It has been a disconcerting fall from grace for the California native, who was absolutely off for the Blue Jays earlier this year. These days he looks pretty lost, and in many ways his struggles are symbolic of what we’ve seen of the relief corps in general.
It’s easy to point the finger at Montoyo when things go wrong like Friday, especially after the bullpen has already cost this team a few losses in June. Having said that, I don’t know what the skipper was supposed to do given the weapons he had. Tim Mayza managed to save Chatwood from aggravating disaster, but ultimately Carl Edwards Jr. allowed the tie in the 8th inning, and a Bo Bichette error in the 9th led to the winning run for the Red Sox.
After the game we learned that Jordan Romano was not available for the Blue Jays on Friday as Montoyo cited some forearm strain as the reason his best reliever was not used. Hopefully it won’t be a waste of time as this bullpen really can’t afford to lose their contribution just yet. Even though he’s doing fine and can come back this weekend, his situation highlights what we already know, that the front office needs to step in and help resolve the latest issue facing this list.
On Friday night, the Blue Jays had a reliever pen made up of the weapons used at Chatwood, Tim Mayza, Carl Edwards Jr. and Rafael Dolis. As previously mentioned, Romano was unable to pitch, and Anthony Castro and Joel Payamps had pitched Thursday night, the former having already pitched two days in a row. Beyond that, there was only Trent Thornton, who they generally prefer to keep available for a multi-set appearance if needed. When you break it down, Montoyo’s thought on Friday night makes a lot more sense.
For starters, Atkins will likely have to take a step or two before Saturday and Sunday’s games with the Red Sox to bring in some fresh weapons. Hopefully it could come in the form of options like Thomas Hatch and Patrick Murphy, but we’ll see what the plan is for these two right-hangers in rehab. Atkins is unlikely to consider using someone like Nate Pearson for relief, but desperate times may call for desperate action if things don’t improve quickly.
One of the most favorable solutions is to turn to the commercial market, which unfortunately could still develop. That’s not to say that a trade can’t be completed 6-7 weeks before the deadline, but it usually requires better feedback so your partner pulls the trigger a little earlier. That said, names like Daniel Hudson and / or Brad of the Washington Nationals, or Kendall Graveman of the Mariners could be available and able to bolster the back of the bullpen. None of these weapons would be cheap, but I think it’s time for the front office to ask what the 2021 targets really are. Either way, there are a handful of teams that should be ready to start legitimately discussing trades.
With Vladimir Guerrero Jr. having an MVP-caliber season and premium contributions from expiring contracts like Marcus Semien and Robbie Ray, there’s an argument that the Jays should give a real boost this year. This is especially the case when you look at the AL East and the potential vulnerability of the division. The Yankees have suffered a lot, and the Red Sox and Rays are within reach of the Blue Jays, even though they haven’t taken advantage of their first opportunities this season. They have yet to get George Springer back, and in theory he will add a legitimate impact to the squad as well.
With over 100 games remaining on the schedule, there is still time to turn the boat around and push for a return to the playoffs. That said, it’s hard to imagine the Blue Jays being able to do it without some extra help for the reliever box. As easy as it is to blame Montoyo for the recent scuffles, at this point I think questions need to be directed to the front office.