There are still free agents available for the Toronto Blue Jays to pursue to help them in 2019
The Toronto Blue Jays are not going to compete in 2019. But, that doesn’t mean they can’t still go shopping on the open market. They are just not looking in the high end stores. We’ve seen this already with the trade for Clayton Richard and the signing of Matt Shoemaker. There are a few ways you can look at those deals, but it seems the most logical way is to figure that Ross Atkins will use pitchers like this to fill gaps in the rotation that are meant to be filled by younger, higher upside arms when they are ready. Until then, he will plug holes with low cost alternatives.
Taking this approach and combining it with the old adage that you can never have enough pitching (particularly when it is of questionable quality), it is worth looking at remaining free agents and whether there are some options for the Blue Jays remaining. The fact that you’re reading this means there are. Looking at MLBTR’s 2018/2019 Free Agent Tracker, some interesting names pop up.
I said this a year ago and I will say it again because it makes even more sense this year. Brett Anderson should be on the Blue Jays’ radar. He might be perfect for what they need heading into 2019. The former Blue Jay pitched 80 innings for Oakland last season and didn’t fair poorly. He went 4-5 in 17 starts and put up an xFIP of 3.91. He was worth 0.9 fWAR, which makes his 2018 salary of $1.5M look like a deal.
Anderson doesn’t bring a lot of strike outs to the table as evidenced by his 14.1% K rate, but he doesn’t walk many either (3.9%). Instead, he relied on a 55% ground ball rate last season. He didn’t give up many fly balls in 2018, which is something that should be given consideration when looking for AL East pitching. According to Fangraphs, his Pitch Info values are quite good on his sinker and change up. If the Blue Jays are going to consider using the “Opener” strategy, perhaps a guy like Anderson would fit rather nicely in their staff.
This might be a long shot since there has got to be a contending team out there that is looking at Gonzalez. A lefty starter who has made 30 starts in each of the last 5 seasons and 9 of the last 10 certainly has to be given some serious consideration. It’s kind of a mystery why he is still available, actually. Sure, he’s not likely the 2012 version of himself, but there is quality there.
Oddly, he is projected to make ~17 starts this coming season. His xFIP has increased every year over the last 4, his walk rate jumped to a mark we haven’t seen since 2010. His fastball change combination was still effective in 2018, but his curveball took a major hit. It went from a wCB value of 5.8 in 2017 to an ugly -10.3.
That said, Gonzalez very well could be a signing that makes sense for Toronto. If they are trying to fill the rotation this coming season, and possibly into 2020, Gonzalez very well could be their answer. He just finished a 5yr/$2M deal (that had 2 option years included) and is 33 years old. Perhaps, a year and an option is worth a shot. Heck, 2 years and an option might be just as smart. He put up 2 fWAR last year, but is projected to see just half that. Paying him a Jaime Garcia type deal would not be the craziest idea.
If ever there was a candidate that fits the “tail end of his career- bounce back candidate- lightning in a bottle- rebound” type moniker, it is Ervin Santana this offseason. At 36 years old, Santana is coming off a season where he was plagued by a calcium deposit on his pitching finger. It limited him to 24.2 not very good innings. He is likely looking to prove he can still toss the ball and would likely take a deal that reflects hsi previous mentioned moniker. Considering the Blue Jays’ current plan heading into 2019, this type of guy should be given consideration. He could very well be worth a gamble to eat some innings. For what it’s worth, he’s projected to eat 145 of them.
If the Blue Jays are after some gamble/stop gap hybrid, perhaps Josh Tomlin is worth a look. The 34 year old righty may not have anyone shaking in their boots any more, but maybe he could provide some pitching depth to a team that obviously needs it. Tomlin, who was moved to the Cleveland bullpen could be another candidate to contribute to the “opener” approach if Toronto is interested. He’s projected to toss 90 innings, which is 20 more than he did in 2018.
In 2018, he put up a 7.16 FIP, which could scare off a few teams. The worry with Tomlin is that he has seen a flyball rate of 45% and a HR/FB rate of 21.4%, which is likely to scare off the Blue Jays. That said, if used in a specific set up, which new manager Charlie Montoyo is expected to explore, maybe Tomlin can be consideredas a very cheap option.
If the Blue Jays are going to consider Tomlin, a flyball pitcher, it might behoove them to look at a reunion with Marco Estrada. We know Estrada loves Toronto, so he would be at least open to the idea. The 35 year old is coming off a $13M deal last season, a season where he made 28 starts, but saw his FIP balloon to 5.44. Estrada saw a big dip in his strike outs thanks to a drop in the value of his fastball. Remember, that Estrada had success by balancing his famous change up with the heater. But the fastball had a wFB value of 4.2 in 2017 and it dropped to -11.1.
That said, Estrada would help the Blue Jays’ front office gain some fans this season. He could continue his mentorship of Ryan Borucki and take on a leader role in the clubhouse. We know the organization values good teammates and, by all accounts, Estrada is that. Maybe a one year deal is in order.
Regardless of the name, you can bet that the Blue Jays are not done adding pitching depth. It is in their best interest to continue their search since they are set on looking to their future core. It makes no sense to rush youngsters to significant roles in the big leagues until they are absolutely ready. Therefore, you can bet that the front office is looking at remaining free agents.
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Shaun Doyle is a long time Blue Jays fan and writer! He decided to put those things together and create Jays From the Couch. Shaun is the host of Jays From the Couch Radio, which is highly ranked in iTunes, and he has appeared on TV and radio spots.