Blue Jays Pitching: Being Cheap Paying Off

During the offseason, the Blue Jays passed on David Price in favor of cheaper options. Early on, it is a strategy that is working out well.


When the Toronto Blue Jays’ 2015 season ended, talk immediately switched to how the club would build on its new found success. One such idea was to bring back David Price to keep the good times going. He was a major part of getting to the postseason in the first place. Unfortunately, all this talk coincided with the fanbase having to come to grips with the shock of GM, Alex Anthopoulos departing thanks to new club president, Mark Shapiro coming in. It was a weird time of transition in Blue Jays Land.

All of a sudden, the optimism and joy turned to vitriol and good old fashioned Toronto sports lenses were once again in place. The signing of David Price was looking less and less likely for those who held out hope. The belief was that Rogers was too cheap to fork over the kind of money Price would command or that Shapiro was too Cleveland Indian-y to want to replicate the 2015 success. So, instead, Price signed with the Red Sox and we all raged. We waited, with torches in one hand and pitchforks in the other, to see how the Blue Jays would replace him and fill out the rotation.

They answered by signing Marco Estrada (2yr/$26M) and J.A. Happ (3yr/$36M) for a total of $63M and a commitment of 3 yrs. That is 4 fewer years and $154M less than what Price signed for in Beantown. Could this discounted shopping really replicate the performance of a proven ace and lead us to another postseason experience? Could being ‘cheap’ really pay off?

So far, in 2016, the Toronto Blue Jays are very much enjoying the contributions of Happ and Estrada. Whether it was an issue with (cheap) ownership, or the stubborn new regime (Fire Shapiro!), the cheaper options seem to be paying off early on. The two are making it easier to forget about Price. Of course, the Vanderbilt product is certainly helping out in that department. Let’s put the 3 pitchers side by side:




So far, Blue Jays fans have to be quite pleased with the performance from J.A. Happ, who many see as the direct alternative to Price; the “we got him instead of” option. Added to the disappointment of hoping for Price and getting Happ was the recollection of the pitcher that Happ was in his first tour of duty with the Blue Jays. We all remember the pain and agony of watching him fail to command his pitches and end up with a pitch count of 187 (calculations may not be accurate) in the 4th inning, leading to an early exit, often with the victory in peril. But, in this go ’round, Happ is averaging over 6 innings per start and is walking a batter nearly every 4th inning, on average. He’s only given up 11 earned runs this year. That’s an average of 1.8 per start. His previous Blue Jays WHIP of 1.3-1.4 has been reduced to 1.18 in his 2nd tour.

Marco Estrada returns to attempt to replicate his seemingly ‘out of nowhere’ 2015 coming out party. Adam Lind, who? He’s averaging over 6 innings per start as well. Per start, he’s yielding 1.8 runs. His change up is keeping hitters off balance and off the scoreboard. Like Happ, his WHIP is low. Estrada offers a calming presence every time he takes the mound. He may not be an official ‘ace’, but he certainly is performing like one. He is showing an ability to be a force for the Blue Jays.

Compare these guys to Price’s 2016 and things look quite good. The Red Sox lefty is averaging under 6 innings per start, including two outings where he only went 3.2 IP and 4.2 IP. He’s averaging 4.4 runs allowed per start and each start is worth ~$1M. His 2016 WHIP resembles that of Happ’s 2014, so you can take that for what it’s worth. Price’s strike out numbers are certainly impressive, and likely contribute to his WAR of 1. But, the fact that he’s 4-1 says more about the Red Sox offense and a host of other things than the individual contributions of Price himself.

When you look at the early starts from these 3 hurlers side by side, you have to think that the Blue Jays were super smart in going with the discounted options. For less than half the price (see what I did there?), Toronto is benefiting from more solid performances. AND, they’re getting two such players, as opposed to one.

None of this is to suggest anything regarding the future of David Price. He’s one of the best pitchers in baseball. In fact, a direct comparison of the overall on each of these pitchers would yield a different result and discussion point. But, at the beginning of his time in Boston, he’s being outperformed by much cheaper options. Whether he lives up to his $217M remains to be seen (can anyone?). But, in the early goings, the Blue Jays are looking good for not being able to, or wanting to spend that kind of money. It seems as though the discount shopping is paying off.




*Featured Image Credit: Keith Allison UNDER CC BY-SA 2.0







Shaun Doyle

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.