With the news that the Toronto Blue Jays have signed Marco Estrada to a two year deal at a very team friendly price, Blue Jays fans still have some excitement to look forward to as the club attempt to fill out its starting rotation options. However, building a winner may not result in the kind of excitement we might be hoping for. Signing someone like David Price or Zack Geinke certainly would set the world buzzing. But, there may be a smarter way to build a rotation that may lead to excitement later on.
Toronto Blue Jays
Rather than aiming for that big fish on the free agent market, perhaps the Blue Jays could have a different goal in mind. Ben Nicholson-Smith calls it building a rotation the Royals’ way. Basically, the goal would be to bring in pitchers who will give you 200 innings. If you can’t get, or fail to get, that ace, then you have to target players on the next level down, but who will provide consistency. And, interim GM, Tony LaCava would tend to agree:
“It’s not absolutely essential [to land an “ace”]. If you get consistent starting pitching and your offence is elite, you’ve got a chance to win quite a few games.”
Obviously, the Blue Jays feel very comfortable going into the 2016 with the offense they have currently in place. And, why wouldn’t you? They led the planet in scoring runs. So, maybe they don’t need to bring in that elite ace. Maybe they just need guys who are going to provide the consistency that the Royals got when they targeted someone like Edinson Volquez. It might benefit the Blue Jays to go after those kind of guys.
We know that they are likely after 2 more starters. And, this certainly is the year to look to free agency with the options available. Looking past the Greinke and Price’s of the class, there are some very realistic options that we’ve already looked at here at Jays Journal. It might be interesting to see which of those offers the 200 inning potential and what it would cost for the Blue Jays. A couple of other names are Johnny Cueto, Wei-Yin Chen, Scott Kazmir, John Lackey, J.A. Happ
Let’s take a look at the kind of consistency each of these names would bring and the projected value (from MLBTR) they would bring. By doing so, we might just get an idea about the mart way to build this Blue Jays rotation.
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Zimmerman: 2012- 195 IP, 2013- 213 IP, 2014- 199 IP, 2015- 201 IP (Projected deal: 6yr/$126M)
Anderson: 2012- 35 IP, 2013- 44 IP, 2014- 43 IP, 2015- 180 IP (Projected deal: 3yr/$39M)
Gallardo: 2012- 204 IP, 2013- 180 IP, 2014- 192 IP, 2015- 184 IP (Projected deal: 4yr/$52M)
The Shark: 2012- 174 IP, 2013- 213 IP, 2014- 219 IP, 2015- 214 IP (Projected deal: 5yr/$80M)
Cueto: 2012- 217 IP, 2013: 60 IP, 2014: 243 IP, 2015: 212 IP (Projected deal: 5yr/$115M)
Chen: 2012- 192 IP, 2013- 137 IP, 2014: 185 IP, 2015: 191 IP (Projected deal: 5yr/$80M)
Kazmir: 2012- did not pitch, 2013: 158 IP, 2014: 190 IP, 2015: 183 IP (Projected deal: 4yr/$52M)
Lackey: 2012- did not pitch, 2013: 189 IP, 2014: 198 IP, 2015: 218 IP (Projected deal: 3yr/$50M)
Happ: 2012- 144 IP, 2013: 92 IP, 2014: 158 IP, 2015: 172 IP (Projected deal: 3yr/$30M)
Among this list is varying levels of value. Some may be too pricey. If you’re the Blue Jays, which do you go with? Perhaps targeting a guy who will consistently provide you with 200 innings leads you to The Shark. Depending on just how much money they will have to work with, the Blue Jays could put together a combination of two of these names to join Marcus Stroman, Marco Estrada and R.A. Dickey.
I have not forgotten that Drew Hutchison is still a Blue Jay. But, it is not entirely clear that he will provide 200 innings of consistency. As well, some suggest that Aaron Sanchez and Roberto Osuna could be moved to the rotation. And, they could, but not for 200 innings after spending 2015 in the bullpen. You also have to consider that the Royals were able to build a rotation of 200 inning guys and no real “aces” because they had a very effective bullpen. If the Blue Jays are going to follow this line of thinking, they’ll need to keep that in mind.
So, we know the Blue Jays have money to spend. Just how much is not clear. We have heard that the money will be there if they ask for it. Could they be asking for enough to cover two of the above starters? Would a combination of Chen and Gallardo do the trick? Gallardo and Kazmir? Lackey and The Shark?
If you’re the Blue Jays what do you do?