If they ever want to compete in the AL East, Toronto’s struggles to find a consistent closer needs to be resolved. The current strategy of signing relievers for a year and then letting them go works for a team in transition, it is not a long-term option.
So what approach do the Blue Jays take? The two big free-agent closers this year are Jonathan Paplebon and Heath Bell but I can’t see the Blue Jays pursuing either. Both would require giving up a first-round draft pick and in Paplebon’s case, he has not been as effective in the last couple of years as his usual high standards.
As for the other names, no one really stands out. Jonathan Broxton is young and has had success in the past but a loss of form and injury make him too much of risk. Perhaps it is worth looking at Ryan Madsen who is still quite young and has done a good job as closer in Philadelphia, but with his good form he may be looking for a multi-year deal, a big risk when it comes to relief pitchers.
The Blue Jays may have to look to their minor league system. There are plenty of young arms but most are a few years away from the Major Leagues. Triple-A closer Danny Farquhar has struggled in Las Vegas while Wes Etheridge, who has been outstanding at High-A Dunedin allowing 10 earned runs all year, is still a long way from the majors.
Other options may include converting a starter. Henderson Alvarez is one name that has been discussed. His 100mph fastball and plus changeup would be a perfect combination, but Toronto wants to see what he can do as a starter first.
Dustin McGowan would be an option but management wants him to maintain a routine. A outside bet may be Kyle Drabek. A number of closers were starters who could not control their pitches, but Toronto is a long way from giving up on Drabek.
In short, there is no easy solution.