TORONTO – The obvious answer is usually the correct one. It is for something that José Berríos was the main objective of the Blue Jays in the face of the trade deadline.
The Puerto Rican solves one of Toronto’s most pressing needs if the team is to reach the postseason. His arrival must have a domino effect that will affect the entire mountainous body in the final stretch.
Berríos’s rise has been consistent and, in some ways, low-key. The right-hander was one of the major league’s best pitching prospects heading into the 2016 season when he arrived with the Twins. Its insignia has been its consistency from one year to the next and not exactly the flashy moments and bumps that come with it. And that’s what the Blue Jays were struck by.
In Toronto, Berríos joins a rotation that features Hyun Jin Ryu and Robbie Ray, giving the Blue Jays three starters they can feel comfortable with in a playoff series. That was not the case when the season began. With the arrival of Berríos, Alek Manoah moves to the role of fourth starter, while Steven Matz, Ross Stripling and Thomas Hatch also move to the back of the bullpen. One of the three will almost certainly end up in the bullpen.
Berríos is good, but teams don’t part with their No. 2 and No. 4 prospects until they investigate and are convinced by what they see below the surface.
A well-known product
Since the beginning of the 2018 season, Berríos has worked 577.1 innings. Only six pitchers have thrown more innings in that stretch: Gerrit Cole, Zack Greinke, Aaron Nola, Zack Wheeler, Jacob deGrom and Kyle Hendricks. The innings worked do not reflect success, but the Puerto Rican is in good company.
The Blue Jays need Berríos to give them those tickets. We’re talking about quality innings that have been consistent that are expected to take pressure off the Toronto bullpen. That group was recently bolstered by the arrivals of Brad Hand, Joakim Soria, and Adam Cimber, and they’ll be much more effective if manager Charlie Montoyo calls for three innings a day instead of five.
“The move not only helps protect other openers and [reduce] the reliance on Hyun Jin Ryu and Robbie Ray to stop losing streaks every time they come out, but it also affects our relievers, “said general manager Ross Akins. “Berríos is someone who throws deep frequently and that takes pressure off.”
With great potential
At 27, Berríos is not a typical acquisition for a trade deadline. The Bayamón native arrives with an extra year of control and has that gift the Blue Jays always look for in their pitchers: athletic ability.
The reason for that is twofold. Pitchers with athletic ability are able to repeat their movement to the plate more naturally, which is the key to consistency, as Berríos well knows. It also allows him to make the necessary adjustments, which makes the Blue Jays feel optimistic that Berríos still hasn’t reached his full potential.
“I think with how young he is, and with the athletic ability he has and how hard work that is, it’s easy to imagine him being on the right track,” Atkins said. “That can be how you use your work and how you are learning to attack different teams or how to reshape certain pitches. He has the ability and all the attributes to do all those things. “
A devastating curve
When Berríos makes his debut with the Blue Jays, we must be aware of the curve. It’s its flagship release, it’s incredibly effective, and it’s nothing like the traditional curves we’re used to.
The Berríos curve moves more like Frisby. Expect to see this pitching late in the counts. Berríos ranks third in the majors for curvy strikeouts, and the incredible movement makes it difficult for hitters to hit even when they know he’s coming.