The Toronto Blue Jays need pitching and could look to free agency to fill their rotation. Here are three options for them to consider.
The Toronto Blue Jays are in Las Vegas, but their trip is not for pleasure. They’re in Sin City to get some business done. It is no secret what the club is looking to add this offseason. They need pitching. In fact, GM, Ross Atkins has said as much: “Young, controllable pitching is very difficult to acquire so we’re not going to easily and readily acquire more Ryan Borucki/Sean Reid-Foley types. Adding at the free agent level is more realistic and something we’ll be looking to do.”
It is so weird to hear the General Manager of the Toronto Blue Jays announce that he’s looking to add via free agency. What about cheap Rogers and all that? It does make sense for them to go shopping, rather than look to make trades. Keeping their young assets in the fold and using potential short term deals to add to said asset stockpile is the smarter way to go. As such, you can expect to see free agent pitching added this winter.
That said, you’re not going to see top shelf free agent talent signed. That doesn’t make sense. No, you can expect to see more Jamie Garcia type deals instead. Obviously, the hope would be that those type of deals work out better than Garcia’s did. The ideal free agent will come on a shorter term and likely be a player who is near the end of their career or looking to re-establish value – a 4th or 5th starter. In a perfect world, he will also be a guy who can eat upwards of 150- 170 innings. I know…wishful thinking. But, again, if they can get value out of this deal, it becomes trade material in July. For the fun of it, we are going to assume that Toronto doesn’t go after the familiar Marco Estrada or J.A. Happ. Fans will love those choices, but obvious choices make for dull conversation.
So, since we know the kind of pitcher the club will be looking for, let’s look at three possibilities.
1- Finding Gio
Gio Gonzalez is 33 years old and has been healthy, making 30+ starts in all but one season since 2010. The one season he didn’t make 30 starts, he pitched 27. He could be a lock for 150 or more innings, which is incredibly valuable on its own. Now, the knock against Gonzalez is that he has lost a bit of his command and velocity. However, his fastball still has positive value (per Fangraphs). He’s put up 3 fWAR in just about every season over the last 9. Last year, he didn’t, but he managed 2.0.
The real concern with Gonzalez is that he is going to need some solid defense behind him. With Lourdes Gurriel Jr.possibly being the starting short stop next season and an outfield that consists of Teoscar Hernandez, Toronto may have to think hard on pulling the trigger on this one.
Convincing a 33 yr old to come to the AL East and have enough success to possibly be traded to a contender in July is going to be tough. Obviously, the right amount of money would do that. Putting up 2 fWAR would justify $18M per season. Gonzalez is not going to get that, obviously, but the MLBTR projected deal of 2 yrs/$24M certainly sounds doable for Toronto.
2- The Older Sanchez
At 35 years old, Anibal Sanchez just might be worth a gamble. He was counted out before and Atlanta took a shot on him. All he did was put up 2.4 fWAR after entering the rotation in May. He tossed a 3.81 xFIP, which is just fine for a back of the rotation guy.
Relying on his cutter way more than he ever did resulted in a bit of a turn around season for him. The pitch saw a massive jump in value, as did his change up. Perhaps, that is a recipe that could serve him well in 2019. His fly ball rate is a tad high (37%), but it isn’t Estrada high. That said, outfield defense would have to be improved if Sanchez is going to be a consideration.
Sanchez is another guy who has a history of putting up 20+ starts fairly consistently, but can he continue to do so at his age? MLBTR has him pegged at 2yrs/$22M, which might be a little high. But, remember, at 2 fWAR, it is underpaying. This type of deal wouldn’t be all that surprising considering his 2018 resurgence. All things considered, if we all woke up tomorrow and read that the Blue Jays had signed Anibal Sanchez for the above proposed deal, we would all nod our heads and say, “Yup. That makes sense”.
3- What the Cahill?
I’ll admit, Trevor Cahill would be the biggest gamble of the three. The 30 year old has been all over the place in recent years. He’s been appearing out of the bullpen after starting for years and has been moved back again. He started 20 games for the Athletics last season and put up 2 fWAR. Here’s what’s to like about him: his GB% is always up over 50%, his 2018 xFIP was back of the rotation worthy at 3.80, his K-BB% was 13.1%.
Last season, Cahill popped off more sliders and relied on a valuable change up to reach a SwStr rate of 11.7%. The problem is that he comes with a lengthy history of injuries. Now, that didn’t stop the A’s from using him for 110 innings. If he is healthy, his projected 1.3 fWAR would certainly look good for the Blue Jays. The question is whether Toronto believes enough in the power of its training staff to keep Cahill on the field, at least long enough to flip him in July.
MLBTR has Cahill at 2yrs/$22M and signing with the Blue Jays. It makes sense since Cahill can use the ground ball and pick up some strike outs. He might be the better bet to bring into the AL East. For my money, this is the guy I’d target.
There exists a very real possibility that the Blue Jays offer Marco Estrada a one year Jamie Garcia type deal, which he’d likely take. It is also possible that J.A. Happ receives an offer, which would surprise if he accepts. He’s pitched his way into a good spot and likely is seen as having value for multiple teams. Since Toronto runs screaming from a bidding war, they could turn their attention to the above list of options.
The three listed above offer the right mix of what we can expect the Toronto Blue Jays to pursue this winter. It’s not sexy, but smart business sometimes isn’t.
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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.