Now that the Toronto Blue Jays' lineup needs have been taken care of, GM Alex Anthopoulos indicated this morning that his final order of business this offseason will be to address both the depth in the starting rotation, as well as the bullpen, tweets Shi Davidi of Sportsnet:
AA says he still will try to find ways to improve. When pressed, he points to depth in rotation, adding to bullpen— Shi Davidi (@ShiDavidi) November 20, 2012
What exactly will Anthopoulos be looking for in terms of relievers though?
The Jays have already gone out and traded for Esmil Rogers and signed fireballer Jeremy Jeffress this offseason.
They also have a bullpen that would already include Casey Janssen, Sergio Santos, Aaron Loup (assuming he gets a chance after his fine performance with Toronto to finish the 2012 season), Brad Lincoln, Steve Delaber, Brett Cecil and J.A. Happ.
Clearly not all of these guys will be starting the season in the Jays' bullpen.
In fact, looking over those list of names, one can see why Alex Anthopoulos may still want to bring in a veteran or two to ensure stability among the relieving core.
Obviously Darren Oliver returning would be a huge boost on its own for this Jays squad, but should he elect to retire, who is going to be the Jays' lefty out of the bullpen for matchup purposes?
J.A. Happ is a southpaw, but lefties have only hit 15 points lower against him than righties have since 2010 (h/t ESPN).
Evan Crawford is another option for the Jays, but he's only thrown eight career innings and was absolutely pummeled by righties (though he was excellent against left-handed hitters). The problem with using a guy like Crawford to start the season is that you know he could fall apart at any minute.
Same goes for Aaron Loup, who was impressive in his time in Toronto in 2012, but is still just a rookie.
So if I were Alex Anthopoulos, my first priority in terms of locking down my bullpen would be to pursue a left-handed reliever as an insurance policy if Darren Oliver does opt for retirement.
One option would be to sign veteran reliever Mike Gonzalez.
Gonzalez has still yet to sign on with anyone and is garnering a lot of interest as the top left-handed reliever left on the free-agent market.
This past season, Gonzalez was signed to a minor league deal by the Washington Nationals, before being called up and having a magnificent season, posting an ERA of 3.03, his best mark since his 2009 campaign.
He was also able to hold left-handed hitters to a batting average of just .179.
The only complication with picking up Gonzalez is that he's a client of Scott Boras and the best southpaw on the market, meaning he'll probably be looking for a considerable amount of coin.
A secondary veteran option would be 37-year-old Randy Choate, who has made a living as a matchup specialist over the last three seasons.
In fact, since 2010, Choate has had 294 at-bats against him by left-handed hitters, compared to just 97 at-bats against him from those who hit from the right side.
Over the past three seasons, Choate has an ERA of 3.25 and left-handed batters have only been able to hit a paltry .173 against him.
Another added benefit of bringing in a guy like Choate?
He spent the first part of the 2012 season with the Miami Marlins, so he'd already know a few of his teammates, including his potential battery-mate, John Buck.
Whether he's willing to make a splash, or just wants a cheap replacement for Darren Oliver should he decide not to return, Anthopoulos has options on the free-agent market.