Reading anything Blue Jay these days, both on this site and the many other sites that focus on the northern birds are now pretty much fully focused on how Alex Anthopolous is going to wave his magic wand and fix current pitching shortage. Although there may be disagreement on how he should go about it (can I, once again, make it clear that I think it would be a bad mistake to deal any of the upper tier pitching prospects in the system), most agree that anywhere from one to three pitchers should be targeted.
Unfortunately, with numerous other mlb teams in the same market, demand is going to outstrip supply. So, with talk that free agents may not be enamored with Toronto as a landing spot, what with customs to clear, a hitter-friendly ballpark that is a bit of a sinkhole, and the chance to throw the bulk of your games in the AL East, could AA be tempted to be a bit more creative when looking for rotation depth?
Part of the inspiration for this post was my colleague Kyle Matte’s piece on Shohei Otani, an 18 year old Japanese high school pitcher who has stated that he would rather head straight to America than do his service time in the NPB before becoming a free agent or having his team post him.
Otani wouldn’t help the Blue Jays in 2013, but it got me to thinking about what else may be out there. In 2010 the Texas Rangers signed Colby Lewis out of Japan after he had completed two seasons with the Hiroshima Carp. His first season back in the majors was very successful, putting up a WAR of 3.4 according to Baseball Reference. So, is there any other Colby Lewis‘ out there? In reality, the Jays need another arm to get them through next season, maybe the next, as, fingers crossed, the first of the Dunedin Dealers of Doom start reaching the bigs in 2014.
Now, before I continue, a disclaimer. I lived in Japan for a spell and while over there I got to know the subject of the next few paragraphs and would even consider him a friend. When he got off to an excellent start this past season, I kept a log of his peripheral stats to get a feel for how he was really pitching as the Japanese tend to only look at wins and losses. Now, I’m not necessarily advocating the Jays go out and sign Seth Greisinger, I am only trying to illustrate a couple of points. The Jays need pitching. And with the availability of data on the internet, it is easier than ever to crunch numbers and come up with possibilities that, for whatever reason, are not currently plying their trade in the major leagues.
Now, for the numbers. Seth pitched this past season for the Chiba Lotte Marines, but I have also included his ’07 and ’08 seasons
when he was with the Yomiuri Giants:
The reason I included the two earlier seasons was to show what Greisinger was doing around the same time that Lewis was in Japan. In fact, Greisinger led the league in wins in ’08 and was second to Lewis in strikeouts. After a couple of injury marred seasons, SG not only started 25 games in 2012 but did rather well.
Of course, Seth is now thirty-seven while Lewis was thirty when he returned Stateside. And Lewis’ Japanese strikeout and K/BB numbers were off the charts. As I said, Greisinger may not be the answer. But if a rank amateur like myself found a pitcher with a WHIP of 1 and a 2.58 FIP by reading the NPB website then surely the Jays and their scouting department, with access to, and ability to parse far more data could come up with a few names that fit a profile of what they need.
It may not be as sexy as a Zack Greinke or Anibal Sanchez, but let’s be honest they’re not coming to Toronto. And with multiple spots to fill, extending their search parameters for a short term solution, may not be such a bad idea.
(authors note: this piece was written prior to the blockbuster deal pending league approval with the Miami Marlins. Although the trade does move the goal posts a bit, it doesn’t lessen the need to acquire a couple more depth starters as both 2012 and Josh Johnson‘s injury history has showed us)