The Toronto Blue Jays entered the season with high expectations after losing to the Kansas City Royals in six games in the American League Championship Series last season. The Blue Jays went 93-69 last year and captured their first AL East Division crown since 1993 last year. It marked the Jays’ sixth division championship in their franchise history.
Toronto started the season ranked No. 6 in ESPN’s Power Rankings and were predicted to win the AL East and even win the 2016 World Series by some ESPN writers as a result of their powerful offense. Bleacher Report and MLB.com also had the Blue Jays winning the AL East.
Toronto led the majors in runs last year, totaling 127 more than any other team, and returned three of the top-10 MLB’s top-three home run hitters — including AL MVP Josh Donaldson. The Blue Jays also acquired reliever Drew Storen, from the Washington Nationals during the offseason, to be closer Robert Osuna’s set-up man.
— Toronto Blue Jays (@BlueJays) May 23, 2016
Toronto has gotten kind of off to a rocky start this season and currently sit in fourth place in the AL East, six games behind the Baltimore Orioles and Boston Red Sox at 22-24. However, the Blue Jays recently took three-of-their-four game set in Minnesota against the Twins to get over the.500 mark (11-10) for the month of May.
— Toronto Blue Jays (@BlueJays) May 22, 2016
A big reason for Toronto’s struggles is its bullpen. The Blue Jays lead the majors in quality starts (31) and rank in the top-10 in ERA (6th), WHIP (10th) and batting average against (10th). But the Jays’ bullpen has blown 7-of-19 save opportunities, which equates to the ninth worst save percentage in all of baseball (63.16 percent). Overall,Toronto’s relievers are 4-13 with a 3.79 ERA and 16 holds. The Blue Jays have used 12 different relievers already and half of them possess ERA’s above 4.00.
In an effort to improve the bullpen, the Jays have made Storen available in trades according to the Toronto Sun.
He has allowed opposing batters to hit.333 against him, which is by far a career-high, and has given up eight extra-base hits — four of which have been home runs. Storen’s velocity on his fastball has dropped nearly two miles an hour (94.1-to-92.2), per FanGraphs.
Is there a market for Storen?
Yes, teams are always looking for quality relievers. MLB Daily Dish reported that several teams have sent scouts to watch him pitch — scouts from the Atlanta Braves, Colorado Rockies, San Francisco Giants, San Diego Padres, Miami Marlins, Kansas City Royals, and Los Angeles Dodgers were present to watch Storen in Minnesota this past weekend. Storen threw one inning during the four-game series against the Twins, allowing one hit and striking out a batter.
The Pittsburgh Pirates are another team that could become interested in Storen as they are interested in improving their bullpen according to the Pittsburgh Tribune Review. The Pirates (23-19) are six games in back of the Chicago Cubs in the NL Central division race, and their relievers have one of the worst ERA’s in the majors (4.33).
His first Major League win.
Congrats Wilfredo Boscan! pic.twitter.com/e38TOvxxxQ
— #VotePirates (@Pirates) May 23, 2016
For his part, Storen seems to be taking these rumors in stride. He was part of trade rumors after the Nationals replaced him as closer with Jonathan Papplebon last July.
“That’s the nature of the business. Obviously, you look at (his contract), and I’m not under team control next year. But I’ve been in this (trade rumours) before and it’s a long process from rumor to something happening. I’m not going to let it affect me.”
Storen, who is in the final year of a deal that pays him $8.38 million this season, has been effective most of his career and has experience as a closer. He is 22-15 with a 3.22 ERA and has converted 97-of-118 save opportunities for his career. Storen’s best two seasons came in 2011, when he recorded 43 saves, and in 2014, when he posted a 1.12 ERA and 0.98 WHIP. Last season, Storen was 2-2 with a 3.44 ERA and 29 saves for the Nationals, with whom he spent the first six years of his career.
Toronto has an opportunity to make up considerable amount of ground in the AL East over the next 12 games. The Blue Jays start a three-game road trip at the New York Yankees on Tuesday — Toronto will send R.A. Dickey, Marco Estrada and Aarron Sanchez to the mound to face the Yanks.
Following the Yankees series, the Jays host division-leading Boston for three games before hosting the Yankees for three games. Toronto, 10-13 against AL foes, concludes its 12-game AL East stretch with three games in Boston.
[Photo by Steven Senne/ Associated Press]