Following the announcement that Matt Shoemaker is out for the rest of 2019, the Toronto Blue Jays have some decisions to make.
The Blue Jays had just completed a sweep of the Oakland Athletics on the road when the news broke. An MRI on Blue Jays’ starting pitcher Matt Shoemaker revealed a torn ACL. He will miss the rest of the 2019 season.
The news is devastating for Shoemaker and the Jays. He has battled various injuries in the past. This year he was healthy and off to an outstanding start, with a 3-0 record and 1.57 era, second best in the American League. All the best to him for a speedy recovery.
His absence means the Blue Jays have a big decision to make. Aaron Sanchez was removed from a game after four innings with a broker finger nail; however the Jays are hopeful that he will be able to make his next start. For the time being, let’s assume that only one rotation spot will need to be filled.
There are a number of directions they could take in order to fill Shoe’s shoes. Let’s take a look at some of their options:
25 Man Roster
In terms of pitchers who are already with the major league club, Sam Gaviglio, Thomas Pannone and Joe Biagini all have previous experience starting games. The thing is, they have all done better as relief pitchers than they did in the rotation. One possibility could be to “piggy back” two of the above – have them go three innings each – in order to fill the spot without significantly changing their role on the team. This could be used as a short term solution until a longer term option becomes available.
In addition to Shoemaker, two other pitchers who were expected to fill out the Jays rotation have yet to pitch for them this season due to injuries. Ryan Borucki is on the 60 day IL, the earliest he could return would be late May and there is no update as to when they expect him to be ready. Clayton Richard could be ready earlier. The elder southpaw is on the 10 day IL with a right knee stress reaction. The injury report section on the Blue Jays’ website says he could be back sometime in April, although there has been no recent update. If he is anywhere close to coming back, the “piggy back” option described above could bridge the gap until he is ready.
40 Man Roster
Another possibility is to promote one of the pitchers who are already on the 40 man roster to the big club. Unfortunately most of the pitchers they might have considered are struggling in the minors. David Paulino and Sean Reid-Foley, both of whom have MLB experience have ERAs of 7.36 and 13.94 respectively at AAA Buffalo. Further down the development ladder at AA New Hampshire, Patrick Murphy and Hector Perez still have work to do with ERAs of 6.11 and 7.84. Yennsy Diaz is off to a good start to the 2019 season with a 3.06 era and very good 0.85 whip. But since he has never pitched above AA, a promotion to MLB might not be the best thing for his development or for the Blue Jays. Another possibility is they could add a prospect to the 40 man rotation and promote him to MLB. Maybe someone like recently re-aquired Jordan Romano who is currently pitching at AAA Buffalo.
Jacob Waguespack might be their best bet in terms of pitchers already in the organization. Even his numbers don’t scream MLB ready – he has an 4.11 era and 1.30 whip – but short of going outside the organization he could be the most promising option.
There are several MLB veteran free agent pitchers who remain unsigned. Not surprisingly, many of them are in their mid to upper 30s (or older) and appear to be past their prime in terms of recent results. 30 year old Dallas Keuchel has the most upside but he will likely command a lot more than the Blue Jays will want to pay, especially in a season where they aren’t expected to contend. Another possibility is 33 year old Gio Gonzalez who was just released by the Yankees organization today. Gonzalez could have some upside left in the tank – he was 6th in Cy Young voting as recently as 2017.
Of course if they just want someone to eat innings there are lots of possibilities including former Blue Jay Nick Tepesch, but presumably they want someone with at least a reasonable chance of pitching well, like they got when they signed Shoemaker.
With a few scheduled off days coming up, the Jays could go with a four man rotation until the first weekend in May. They have some time to hopefully make the best decision possible.
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