Nov 2, 2013; Surprise, AZ, USA; Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Marcus Stroman against the West during the Fall Stars Game at Surprise Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Blue Jays Do Not Need More Pitching?

To say the Toronto Blue Jays had a lackluster off-season is an understatement. At the end of the 2013 regular season it was clear to see that the biggest weaknesses for the club was at second base and starting pitching, and while the Blue Jays have been rumored to be the targeted destination to sign either right-handers Ervin Santana or Ubaldo Jimenez, they have not been very active with any free agents to date.

Why not? One year ago the Blue Jays were favorites to win the World Series (according to Vegas) after making deals to acquire proven veteran players. It would only make sense for Toronto to add to their recent spending, right?

Keep in mind that Toronto is returning to spring training with almost the exact team they had last year (minus Josh Johnson who produced all of two wins last season).  It seems that Toronto’s General Manager Alex Anthopoulos realizes this and has other things in mind. With Brandon Morrow returning to health and slotting between R.A. Dickey and Mark Buehrle, and assuming JA Happ will have the fourth spot in the rotation, AA only has one spot to fill this spring. It seems that AA and John Gibbons don’t mind, or even prefer to give the last rotation spot to a player they are already paying. The pitcher who will most likely get the job seems to be the organization’s #2 prospect: Marcus Stroman.

After serving a 50-game suspension for testing positive for performance-enhancing drugs, Stroman returned to Double-A New Hampshire and dominated. Some scouts think that his small 5’9″ frame won’t be able to hold up as a starter, but in 20 starts in 2013, Stroman posted a 9-5 record with a 3.30 ERA. Complement that with a 1.128 WHIP and a 10.4 K/9 and it seems he is ready to get a shot at a big league rotation.

So what does this young 22-year old have to offer a big league rotation? First of all, Stroman’s fastball sits around 95 MPH, said to have reached as high as 100 MPH out of the bullpen. The pitch he uses to get most of his strikeouts is his slider which sits at 85 MPH. Add in a 87-90 MPH cutter and a 82-85 MPH change-up, Stroman seems to be ready for a legitimate shot at the last rotation spot in Toronto. That made Stroman untouchable this off-season because he has so much upside, and I’m sure Toronto will use him at some point in their rotation.

It’s possible that AA signs Santana or Jimenez before pitchers and catchers report to Dunedin, but if they don’t sign anyone I won’t be surprised. Marcus Stroman has the last rotation spot for now, it seems like it’s his to lose. There are other possibilities also. Todd Redmond deserves a look from what he did last season and being a surprise starter. Kyle Drabek and Drew Hutchison  are both coming back from Tommy John surgery and were former top prospects for the organization. Hey who knows, maybe a entire winter off can make Ricky Romero return to form.

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  • Erik Trenouth

    Offseason isn’t over yet, and there are still a few pitchers on the market. And the spot isn’t Stroman’s to lose. He has to have an excellent spring to be considered for the rotation. There are too many things working against him at this point, the least of which are the 5 other guys who are also competing for the spot. I would rather he spent a couple months in AAA, a level he has yet to pitch in, and go from there. In June, if he is needed, then call him up. But there are enough other starters ahead of him that he doesn’t need to be rushed. Unless he blows everyone away in spring training.

    • Andrew van Laar

      I think this is the first time ive ever agreed with everything Erik has said :P

      • Erik Trenouth

        This is the proudest day of my life :`)

    • brad

      spot on

  • brad

    Would I be surprised if the Jays just went with what they had? Nope. Do I think they should? Absolutely not.

    While the writer quite aptly points out the fact that the Jays have an abundance of pitchers capable of holding on to the number 5 spot(and as such a whole ton more depth than last year in case of injury), I would point your attention a little higher up the rotation. At this point, is Dickey a true ace? Likely not, but I would be surprised to see his ERA in the 4s next year. I got him pegged as a high end #2 level starter in 2014. is Beuhrle a good #2? Eh… maybe a low end number two but best suited as a mid rotation type guy. What about Morrow in the 3 spot?…. that’s a million dollar question that I don’t even want to touch. Happ is an OK #4 but would be a better number 5.

    All that to say that spots 1-4 could all be upgraded. Outside of a trade for Price(LOL) there aren’t really any ace caliber pitchers kicking around but there are certainly a few #2 guys left. If the Jays added Jiminez/Santana and shifted everyone else down, they are suddenly far above average in the 2 spot, 3 spot, 4 spot?(Morrow???) and the 5 spot with even more depth for when people go down(Morrow) or suck(….maybe Jiminez/Santana but that’s the risk you take).

    • Andrew van Laar

      But are you will to pay that price for that one pitcher who has question
      marks himself? Santana could have serious issues at the Rogers Center
      with his FB rates and Jimenez… well hes been REALLY bad before last
      year for two years and might have figured it out at the tail end of last

      Here is what I think AA is thinking. If we add one of
      those guys, we may only have payroll for them, nothing else. The bench
      in my opinion sucks monkey bum and needs a serious upgrade or two and
      say we are in contention in the middle of the season, AA will not have
      the flexibility to increase payroll to add a player to get them over the

      These are the thoughts going round in my head.

      • brad

        A quite reasonable line of thinking really. The bench is pretty horrid.

        For what Garza got, I would absolutely take the risk. As far as santana is concerned I think the HR at rogers centre thing is a bit overblown. Last season his FB% was just over 32(quite good really) and he gave up a lot of jacks(at Kauffman no less!). I think this is a positive…. and I don’t think that’s crazy.

        If he had high FB rates and didn’t give up a lot of homers, I would be worried about regression in a move to Toronto. With Ervin, I think it’s just a matter of serving up juicy pitches…. that would be gone in any ballpark. Is it really reasonable to expect him to have a HR/FB over the 12.4% he had last year? Seems to me that just about anything that has a chance to leave the park already does against this guy. I bet if you looked there would be very few balls that died just short of the wall for him last year…..and as such I don’t think he’s give up that many(if any) more HRs in Toronto.

        Further, in his career he has given up just 5 fewer HRs at home(in epic pitchers parks) than on the road…. which seems to support this theory.

      • Justin Jay

        I think the FB/HR rates of Santana are overrated right now. The stat I like is “Number of Starts SP didn’t allow a HR: Santana 18 Dickey 11″ When Santana gave them up, they were in bunches, during the same game, typically solo shots. I can live with that. Jays have a lineup capable of scoring 4-7 runs/night

    • Justin Jay

      Buehrle is not a #2 and ideally you want him a #4 in the rotation. #3 if you had to. There is no true ace on this Jays team and signing a Jimenez or Santana doesn’t give the Jays an ace. In the playoffs, I believe it’s important to have an ace. I don’t believe, however, it is important to have an ace to GET TO the playoffs. I believe a rotation full of #2 and #3 starters may suffice.

      The problem is, unless Morrow shows up, the Jays don’t know what they have on the back end of that rotation and signing a pitcher like Jimenez or Santana would take some of that pressure off. Having a rotation of Dickey, Jimenez/Santana, Morrow, and Buehrle is a formidable one. If the Jays line up continues to hit and stays healthy, they’ll have what’s probably considered the most powerful lineup (that doesn’t mean most efficient) in the AL East. So even if it’s the 2nd worst rotation in the AL East, the lineup should be able to bail out some bad starts.

      • brad

        exactly…..they really need the consistency. IMO the number 5 spot is pretty much covered with Happ/Hutch/Drabbek/Stroman and you know what you’re getting from Dickey and Beuhrle but there’s still 2 rotation spots that just scream “huge risk”. Filling one of those holes with a quality #2 type guy(and the 200ish innings of health that come with Jiminez/Santana) would go a really long way for this team. As it stands, they need 2 pitchers to step up big and I don’t see it happening. 1 is much more manageable

        • Justin Jay

          We’ll see what happens in the next couple of weeks. Opening Day is over a month away. If they sign one, I believe one of the young arms will do enough to be effective. No opening 2 week stretches of starters not getting through 6 IPs and hopefully more efficient hitting should help. 3 of the first 4 series are against AL East opponents, so it will be extremely important to play somewhat close to .500 or better.

  • mike in boston

    I’m with brad. This team is likely better than the 74 wins they put up last year. But by the same token I have seen enough to think they are not good enough to get to 92 wins. Even if everyone comes back healthy and productive, that still falls short.

    • Justin Jay

      According to PECOTA, no team in the AL East is good enough to win 90.

  • Governator88

    The problem is Josh Johnson was signed to be an ace and it didn’t pan out so now that hole is yet to be filled. Not to mention I don’t think any world series caliber rotation would include Happ as a #4 starter. They need to sign a legit top 3 arm and bump down the line. The current fight for #5 would still be just as important for when the first man goes down. I also don’t believe Santana is the right fit for the division, I’d rather take my chance with Jimenez.

    • Justin Jay

      Josh Johnson was never signed and it did somewhat pan out with the team he did sign with in Miami. He was brought in as an X Factor that was suppose to help put the Jays over the top. Dickey, laughably, was brought in and signed to be the “ace.”

      #4 is most likely Happ’s to lose, but there are a few promising arms that could knock him out. And if AA is in it to win it from the start of this season, he’ll go with whomever looks good out of Spring Training regardless of service time and arbitration issues. The Blue Jays were undermined by a poor April and May last season. I’m sure the Jays front office will be thinking about that come decision time for the #4 and #5 spots.

      Why isn’t Santana the right fit? I’m not disagreeing. I just like to hear answers on this.

      • Governator88

        Regarding Johnson, you got me I didn’t mean they signed him as an FA I just meant AA was targeting him for a long time to be a top of the rotation starter and spent a lot of money for that reason. Now that he’s gone, that’s still an empty hole they’ve yet to replace.

        I say Jimenez is the better fit because the 2nd half of his season showed tremendous potential, that he’s turned a page and started utilizing all of his weapons much more than just a fastball/slider guy. He’s recognized that his FB isn’t what it once was and he’s made the right adjustments. But more so than that, I prefer pitchers who strike guys out and give up less home runs. In my opinion, Santana has given up too many dingers year after year and the dome, more specifically in the AL East will chew him up.

        • Justin Jay

          I thought like you did in regards to Santana, but then another writer changed my mind. Santana had 5 games last season where he gave up 3 HRs in a game or more (1 game of 4 HRA). In each of those games, he allowed only 1 more ER than HRA. So it’s not like they’re soul crushing shots.

          Also, his numbers against the AL East, with the exception being the Yankees, was pretty good last season. His career in Rogers isn’t bad either, but it’s a very small sample size. He’s also quite effective at Fenway, however, he’s pretty bad at NY, BAL, and TB. I just don’t think he’s the worse signing, but I do understand your reluctance. Jimenez, from June 7th until the end of the season, was VERY good. He still walked a good number of batters, but K/9 over the stretch was 9.8.

  • Doug Hall

    We can’t expect the young guys to jump in yet. So lets get it done and sign Ulbaldo.