The Blue Jays look to rebound after a miserable 2017, but they’ll need additional pitching depth to do so.
In 2017, few things went as planned for the Toronto Blue Jays. Aaron Sanchez, expected to be a heavy contributor, was lost for most of the season due to persistent blister issues. Francisco Liriano did not perform to expectations after a torrid end to the 2016 season, and a sturdy No. 5 and over some stretches – a No. 4 starting pitcher – was never apparent. While extensive injuries and a meager offense throughout the season bouncing into double plays was certainly more of a detriment to the Blue Jays overall record, the lack of stability at the end of the rotation definitely didn’t help.
By mid-July, Sanchez was done completely. Liriano was traded to Houston at the deadline, and the Blue Jays will finish 2017 with a rotation of Marcus Stroman, Marco Estrada, J.A. Happ, Joe Biagini and Brett Anderson. This…is not a competitive rotation. With a healthy Aaron Sanchez, though, the 2018 starting rotation has a very solid foundation, and should look something like this:
Marcus Stroman, Aaron Sanchez, JA Happ, Marco Estrada
That’s a hell of a start, but its only four names. Brett Anderson and Joe Biagini currently fill out the rotation, but neither have a deathgrip on their posts. To be competitive in 2018, the Blue Jays will need to add a starting pitcher.
Joe Biagini might be the first name that pops up here, but he just hasn’t been good as a starter. Yes, he’s been worth 1.2 fWAR in 2017 over 114.2 innings pitched. That seems fine, until you see he put up an identical fWAR in 2016, but did so over 67.2 innings. His value is strongest in the bullpen.
Brett Anderson could stick around – though he’d have to sign a new contract, and his volatility cannot be trusted when you have a razor-thin margin of error playing in the AL East.
Ryan Borucki is another intriguing name from within the organization. After a promotion to Double-A New Hampshire this summer, Borucki finished the season with Triple-A Buffalo, allowing just 10 runs over his 52.1 combined innings at the upper minors. Borucki is only 23, but will likely start next season mowing down Triple-A hitters again, waiting for his opportunity once a Blue Jays starter goes down, which after this season, seems more likely than not at some point.
While the free agent class of pitchers in 2018 isn’t exactly a load of rich, creamery butter, there are some names of interest, whether or not their names fit well into the Blue Jays plans.
- Yu Darvish – Dream on, dudes and dudettes. Didn’t you learn your lesson when Darvish was posted? The Jays would easily be outbid in yet another Darvish sweepstakes, and this time he has a proven record and gets to pick the team he plays for.
- Masahiro Tanaka – First, he would have to opt out, and with his UCL potentially compromised, that seems unlikely. Second, as with Darvish, Tanaka isn’t likely to go to a team out of the upper echelon of MLB payrolls.
- Lance Lynn is an interesting character, and now that his struggles from 2016 seem completely erased, he’s likely to go to a squad building for a serious run at a title in 2018.
- Jake Arrieta represents a similar situation to Lynn, but he’s a bit deeper into his career. Also, something tells me he wouldn’t be too interested in playing north of the border.
So the big ticket free agents, if you can call them that, probably aren’t coming north. And that’s fine. With Marcus Stroman and Aaron Sanchez atop the rotation (fingers crossed), there’s no need to make a huge slash on the market. But the depth is still an issue, and the Jays have hopefully learned their lesson running journeymen and mediocre MiLB free agents out there to get walloped upon.
The Dark Horses
Over six years in the unfriendly confines of the Tropicana Dome, Alex Cobb has been worth a solid 10+ WAR through both Baseball-Reference and Fangraphs. After an injury-plagued 2016, Cobb had a huge bounce-back in 2017, posting a 12-10 record and a 3.66 ERA.
|6 Yr||6 Yr||6 Yr||3.50||115||115||0||3||1||0||700.0||648||290||272||65||204||10||570||29||2898||112||3.68||1.217||8.3||0.8||2.6||7.3||2.79|
Cobb will likely command a solid contract this offseason, likely in the excess of three years with options and incentives. The thing about Cobb is that he’s lived in the trenches of the AL East, and he’s taken it extremely well. Of course, I wouldn’t blame him for wanting to get as far away as possible this offseason.
In this case, the popular baseball twitter axiom is extremely accurate. Taking a look at Chatwood’s basic stats in 2017 (8-14, 4.65 ERA) tells you nothing of the kind of pitcher he is: one that thrives away from Colorado:
It’s not like this information is secret, but its not something that gets discussed too much in regards to Chatwood. While most of the hype this offseason will be around Darvish, Arrieta and Lynn, there will be plenty of names like Chatwood’s available as well, and they might come at a discount.
With the prospect of never having to pitch in beautiful Denver ever again, Chatwood might be a terrifically cromulent value on the FA market, likely with a one-year deal. Of course, you never know how a pitcher will fair in the hellscape of the American League East, but Chatwood’s current division was the toughest – or possibly the only tough division in the league this season.
Have a sneaky free agent pitcher you would like to see the Blue Jays pursue this offseason? Let us know in the comments.
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Roy’s earliest memories all involve baseball from the early 90’s and the Blue Jays dream teams. He became a Blue Jays fan while watching Carlos Delgado and Shawn Green evolve in Syracuse, NY at the run-down confines of MacArthur Stadium, nestled between highway and swamp. A lifelong baseball player, Roy still plays (P, C, 2B, 3B) in the 25+ Syracuse MSBL for the Liverpool Mets. He watches almost all games with his best buddy Sebastian, a five year old Pug, who could care less.