As the world waits for baseball to resume, JFtC takes a look at Matt Shoemaker and what he could mean to the Blue Jays’ future.
December 28, 2018. The Blue Jays signed free agent pitcher Matt Shoemaker to a one year contract. Nobody really knew at that point how much Shoe still had left in terms of his MLB career. He had a variety of injuries in his career before being non tendered by the Angels almost a month earlier.
Shoe was off to an excellent start to his 2019 campaign, before suffering a torn ACL on April 20th which unfortunately ended his season. In five games. His era was 1.57 and ERA+ 292. While he may not have maintained that kind of success had his season continued, anything close to that would easily have made him the ace of Toronto’s staff (especially after 2019 all star Marcus Stroman was traded).
On the other hand, had Shoemaker stayed healthy and continued to pitch well, he also may have been traded. In terms of his future with the Jays, there may be a silver lining to the 2019 injury.
While Shoe’s deal with the Jays was for one year, he does not yet have enough MLB service time to become a free agent. Toronto had the choice to keep him through 2020 which was pretty much a no brainer.
Last September, it was reported that Shoemaker had expressed interest in staying with the Jays long term, and that he and management had talked about the possibility. Yet, a contract extension has yet to get done. While I don’t pretend to have inside info as to why not, it’s possible the ball club wanted to wait and see how the now 33 year old Shoe would bounce back from yet another injury and resulting long lay off.
Shoemaker got a late start to his 2020 spring training. Once he got in to games, he looked very sharp. He pitched 6.2 innings giving up no runs on one hit with one walk and nine strikeouts! And while anyone who knows anything about the game knows that spring training results, good or bad, often don’t translate in to similar results when the games count, at the very least it is promising that he seemed to have picked up where he left off last April.
When Shoemaker has been healthy, he has had a good MLB career to date. He has a 3.81 era, 3.93 FIP and 1.187 WHIP. He has logged 573.2 innings in 106 games. His relatively low innings total could actually be a plus – if he can avoid getting injured, all things considered there could be less regular “wear and tear” on his arm than on many MLB veteran hurlers his age.
The Jays have built a roster with a great deal of potential. They are also a very young team. In terms of their position players at least, they are all quite young. On the current 40 man roster, only Travis Shaw is 30 years old (as of April 16, 2020). The others are in their 20s. In order to contend in the not too distant future, they should look for a mix of youth and veterans. Shoemaker could be a leader on this team, along with Hyun-Jin Ryu who signed a 4 year contract in December of 2019.
Due to the COVID 19 pandemic and resulting indefinite shut down, MLB and the MLBPA signed an agreement covering the 2020 season and several possible scenarios. Included in the agreement is a freeze on MLB rosters. It is unclear if contract extensions would currently be allowed. Even if they are, teams might be reluctant to make financial commitments when nobody knows when baseball (and revenues) will resume.
Whenever things return to normal, the Blue Jays would do well to sign Shoemaker to an extension.
*Featured Image Courtesy Of DaveMe Images. Prints Available For Purchase.
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