Blue Jays offseason: 5 realistic free agent starters

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Entering the 2016 season, the Blue Jays face many questions with their starting rotation. R.A Dickey and Marcus Stroman will resume where they left off in 2015. With Mark Buehrle retiring and Marco Estrada and David Price headed towards free agency, those vacant spots will need to be addressed in the offseason. Regardless of whether the Blue Jays promote Aaron Sanchez or Roberto Osuna to a starting role, there are some free agent options the Blue Jays should consider.

Jeff Samardzija

Signing The Shark might be a risky pickup. So lets look at the positives and negatives of his potential signing.

Positives –

  1. Was regarded as one of the best available  pitchers two seasons ago
  2. His recent play has brought his asking price down

Negatives –

  1. His performance this year…

Samardzija, in 2014, pitched 219.2 IP with an ERA of 2.99 and a 4.1 WAR. At a tad younger than 30 years old, Jeff was playing his best baseball in his prime years. In the 2014 offseason, Samardzija was traded to the revitalized Chicago White Sox. He was regarded as the number one starter for Chicago entering a contract year, but like most things regarding the White Sox this year – things didn’t go as planned. Samardzija pitched 200+ innings again but would post a 4.23 ERA.

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A lot of fans were shocked with the level of play they saw out of Samardzija this year. With a FIP of 4.23, we can’t blame his entire poor season on the lackluster White Sox defense. Samardzija’s strikeout stuff seemed to vanish from the start of the season (K/9 2014: 8.28 – 2015: 6.86). In 2014, Samardzija loved working from side to side in the strike zone. With an amazing cutter/slider combo, Samardzija was able to keep batters on their heels, swinging at pitches way outside the zone, contributing to his high 2014 GB% of 50.2%.

Samardzija also carries a mid-90s four-seam fastball which he can locate just about anywhere for strikes. Coming through the minor league system, one of Samardzija’s huge areas of concern was his fastball control, but he seemed to fix that in 2014, which was a contributing factor to his success.

In 2015, it seemed like those fastball control problems may have snuck back into Jeff’s game. Throughout the season, Samardzija started relying more on his breaking balls. His fastball was used 15.6% less in 2015, and his two seamer, (one of his best pitches in 2014) was used 15.3% less. With just breaking balls, Samardzjia became predictable the second and third time through the order.

*Samardzija’s pitch value comparison

Samardzija did have some glimpses of his old self. Against the Blue Jays in Chicago, he’d pitch a complete game shutout, and against the Tigers later in the year throwing a one hitter. The White Sox have extended a qualifying offer to Samardzija, who might be a great candidate to be the first person to accept. Samardzija could take the $15.8 Million, prove his ace status under a one year contract and sign that big contract like he was expecting to entering this year. Samardzija did post a WAR of 2.7 this year, but giving him big money over a long period of time with this huge inconsistency year to year might be risky. However, at the right price, Samardzija might be worth that risk.

Next: One of this market's top value arms from Texas...