With the Toronto Blue Jays revamping their rotation, are they in a position where they don’t need to rely on ‘the Opener’ strategy?
The Toronto Blue Jays have brought in a number of starters in an effort to avoid the carousel we saw in 2019. No longer will we be seeing a ‘make it up as you go’ approach. We won’t be subjected to Edwin Jackson starts and shouldn’t be hearing, “Well, who else do we have?”. At least, that is the plan. Things look to be different this coming season.
The Blue Jays’ front office did not mind paying a bit more for pitching this offseason. Hyun-Jin Ryu got $80M over 4 years, fellow free agent, Tanner Roark got $12M a year for two years and Chase Anderson came in a trade that sees Toronto take on his $8.5M (and possibly the 2021 club option). In the case of Anderson, he’s thrown at least 130 innings in each of the last 5 seasons. Roark also has a history of eating innings. Considering the 2019 season, the argument can be made that the Blue Jays are paying for guys who can pitch a full season. Sure, Ryu comes with an injury history, but he tossed 180+ innings last year.
Toronto’s starting rotation looks like it will have 4 legit major league starters and Ryan Borucki and Trent Thornton fighting for the 5th spot. That gives them 5 starters…actual starters. There shouldn’t be a need to adopt the ‘Opener’ strategy, which is one thing that many were hoping manager, Charlie Montoyo would bring with him in his first season. He did, but the reality is that he had to, not necessarily because it is preferable, but because he had to.
The ‘Opener’ really helps teams who do not have legitimate candidates to start games and go at least 5 innings (pitcher used to go at least 6 or 7…). Toronto doesn’t appear to be that team heading into the 2020 season. This might have some ripple effects for guys like Wilmer Font. He served a purpose last season, so one might think that he is on the bubble. We could see him DFA’d. That said, as our Jeff Q points out, “Font was good with the Jays. It’s only 39.1 IP, so who knows if he’s actually that good, but he posted better-than-avg K%, BB% and barrel rates. That’s not a guy they’re going to DFA.” He could slot into the bullpen, maybe as a multiple innings guy.
However, it isn’t all sunshine and rainbows in Blue Jays Land. There is a very real possibility that the injury bug comes to spread its joy. As mentioned, Ryu has a history of injuries, as does Matt Shoemaker. Any pitcher is susceptible to injury, so we shouldn’t get too excited about seeing 4 or 5 guys collect 180 innings.
This is where the team’s depth will really shine. After the starting 5, they have guys like Thornton (assuming he is sent to Buffalo because Borucki won the big league spot. We could easily swap the names), T.J. Zeuch, Jacob Waguespack, Anthony Kay, Sean Reid-Foley (who should be a reliever from now on) and, at some point, Nate Pearson. This team is much better insulated against injuries than it has been in the past.
So, perhaps, the ‘Opener’ is not necessary for the Toronto Blue Jays in 2020. There was a time where it was all the rage (Thank you, Tampa Bay), but in the context of this coming season, the Blue Jays may not need it. We say “may” because if 2019 has taught us anything, bad stuff can happen and we could very much need an ‘Opener’…which is still better than Edwin Jackson making multiple starts…
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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.