Matt Shoemaker only pitched a month for the Blue Jays, but he showed enough for the club to bring him back next season
Rather than mailing in a bunch of posts recapping the 2019 season for the entire Toronto Blue Jays roster, Jays From the Couch is going to look at what players have done in 2019 to earn in 2020. The Blue Jays are a club in desperate need of starting pitching. While the 2019 rotation was hit with injuries, Ross Atkins also traded away 2 of their most popular arms in Marcus Stroman and Aaron Sanchez. What remains is a whole lot of question marks, which is why Toronto needs to tender a contract to Matt Shoemaker for next season.
Shoemaker signed a one year deal with Toronto for $3.5M last winter. He had an interesting escalation clause in his deal that stipulated that he would make an extra $250, 000 if he reached 150, 160, 170 and 180 innings pitched, which could have brought his salary up another $1M. Unfortunately for him, he didn’t even make it to May, but more on that in a bit. Shoemaker is eligible for arbitration, so the Blue Jays could keep him at a rather comfortable price tag.
In just one month of baseball, Shoemaker put up 0.6 fWAR, which makes his $3.5M salary look rather palatable. Considering his injury history, one has to think that he can remain for a cost similar to this past season. If that is the case, the Blue Jays should jump at the chance.
On April 20, 2019, Matt Shoemaker blew his ACL and has not seen game action since. Obviously, the injury was a massive blow to a guy who has been battling injuries for a long time. He was finally pitching effectively and then he had the rug pulled out from under him. It was especially hard to watch since he seemed to have bounced back nicely after a 2018 that saw him pitch just 31 innings to a 4.94 ERA, results that led the Angels to release him.
However, what the Blue Jays saw in April was a 3-0 record, a 1.57 ERA, a 0.87 WHIP and an opponent’s batting average of .163. Now, the truth is that his FIP (3.95) and his xFIP (4.46) show a story of a pitcher who may have been a tad lucky in his results. But, what some other metrics show is a guy who made a conscious effort to throw his splitter way more than in previous seasons and saw the value of each of his pitches increase this year. This shows that there may very well be more value left in Shoemaker’s arm.
ZiPS 3 Year Projections have Shoemaker tossing fewer than 100 innings in each of the next 3 seasons, but putting up 0.9, 0.8 and 0.8 fWAR respectively. Considering the pitching predicament the Blue Jays find themselves in this winter, it would be worth their time to bring him back for 2020. With Ryan Borucki (hopefully) coming back from his elbow issues and Trent Thornton looking like the only other likely member of the rotation next season, Shoemaker is a wise signing. He would be a welcome addition to a group that includes a whole bunch of “maybes” like Jacob Waguespack, Anthony Kay and others.
If the Blue Jays are going to take a step forward next season, they will first need to fill out a rotation. There is no sign that they’ll even entertain the notion of signing a Gerrit Cole type of star even if they do target some free agent arms. Matt Shoemaker may be a gamble, given his injury history, but if the Blue Jays want to raise the floor of their starting pitching, bringing him back is a smart move.
Yes, Shoemaker was good for only a month, but that month, in the context of what the Blue Jays pitching situation looks like, was enough to say he’s earned a shot in 2020.
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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.