Here are four selected Blue Jays transactions from the season so far:
4/5: Toronto Blue Jays selected the contract of Marcus Walden from Buffalo Bisons.
4/9: Toronto Blue Jays optioned RHP Marcus Walden to Buffalo Bisons [after not appearing in any of the three games in that time].
4/15: Toronto Blue Jays designated RHP Marcus Walden for assignment.
4/16: Oakland Athletics claimed RHP Marcus Walden off waivers from Toronto Blue Jays.
The argument, as far as I can tell, for having 12 or even 13 pitchers on the roster is you don’t want to overwork the staff. Yet here we have someone who was on the roster for three games, didn’t pitch in any of them, was replaced with a position player when he left, and was so crucial to the on-field success of the team that he’s not in the organization a week later.
This reliever obsession is, of course, the front office’s single defining feature. In 2012 they, on multiple occasions, claimed to need another pitcher because the one he was replacing wasn’t getting into any games. In 2013, a disaster by all accounts, their actual usage revealed that they didn’t need the huge bullpen nearly as much as their continuing roster construction suggests. Only once did they use everyone in the same game, and it was literally the longest game the Jays have ever played. They used the most pitchers in the league last year (tying with the Cubs in MLB) and the most in the majors the year before — currently, just at a league-average 13, but expect that to rise alarmingly as we head into May and June.
It isn’t just the silliness of it all: as I’ve said so many times before, and many smarter people have said before me, there is a real opportunity cost in not having enough position players. This year it was playing Jose Bautista out of position in CF (just one start, so far) because they are carrying 13 pitchers, four outfielders, and no backup CF. Last year it was Edwin Encarnacion who hurt himself and missed a game playing completely out of position in LF. In 2012 they were unable to PH for the several awful hitters they had because those hitters were all they had (this cost them at least a win). The Jays are also the only team to start Jeff Mathis at DH.
It wouldn’t be that big of a deal if the bullpen was great. And many parts of the bullpen are great. Clearly, I was wrong about how effective some of them could be, and full credit to John Gibbons et al. for helping them develop (he was always good at identifying who could pitch). But to go through all of this for Marcus Walden or Sam Dyson or Ryota Igarasahi or Evan Crawford or Edgar Gonzalez or
Jiminy Jillickers Jeremy Jeffress? What is the friggin’ point?