As of right now, the 2016 rotation for the Toronto Blue Jays looks to be set with the organization reportedly shifting their focus to AAA depth. But, is that a risky gamble in attempting to defend the AL East division title?
Currently, there is a lot of money being spent in MLB. David Price went to the Red Sox for 7 yrs/$217M. Zack Greinke one upped him and went to the Diamindbacks for 6 yrs/$205M. Meanwhile, your Toronto Blue Jays have spent $62M on Marco Estrada and J.A. Happ. It seems this club is building its rotation with a much different pattern than we might have anticipated.
Toronto Blue Jays
Right now, the rotation includes Marcus Stroman, Marco Estrada, R.A. Dickey, J.A. Happ and one of Jesse Chavez or Drew Hutchison. Surely this is not a group that will send shivers down the spines of opposing teams. Aside from Stroman, this group will be decidedly average. And while our Jim Scott suggested that the upside of this group might be better than we think, it is relying on the offense and defense to carry them. This is how the Blue Jays are moving forward. They’re depending on the bats and gloves to bail out the arms.
On Friday, the club’s new GM, Ross Atkins, met Toronto media and suggested that there will be no more big additions to the rotation (Happ is big, right?). This National Post piece by John Lott features a level of confidence on the part of Atkins that Blue Jays fans may not share. Atkins says: “Absolutely, I believe the rotation is enough to contend,” President, Mark Shapiro adds: “You will never hear me not answer that question the same way, which is, a rotation always needs another boost”.
At first, these comments might appear contradictory. The GM is saying that the rotation is fine. The president is saying it needs a boost. However, Lott suggests that it actually means the same thing: the club is happy with its rotation as is, but will be looking to add depth in AAA in the event of injury or severe under-performing.
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This might be disappointing when you consider that there are still a number of impactful arms available on the free agent market. Names like Mike Leake, Jeff Samardzija, Johnny Cueto, Scott Kazmir and Yovani Gallardo are still out there. Any of these guys would represent a boost to the rotation, admittedly at varying levels and varying costs. But, apparently, cost is not the issue as Shapiro added that the club has not reached its mysterious payroll limit and that he’s asked for more money and its been granted. What the limit is and exactly how much “more money” amounts to remain to be seen. But, the Blue Jays are looking to fill all of their holes. They won’t ignore everything else for the sake of the rotation.
So, if you’re expecting another addition to the list of starters this winter, you might want to set your sights low. Right now, it looks as though the Blue Jays are comfortable heading into 2016 with its current group of starters. Will it be enough to defend their AL East title? Can the offense make up for a rotation that is average? The club is certainly banking on it. If there are any additions, they will likely be of the minor league variety, unless one of the above impactful arms dramatically drops their asking price. And, why would they? After seeing the money that Price and Greinke got, they’re not going to be offering any kind of discount. Heck, apparently even Happ is worth $12M annually.
So, the Blue Jays will roll the dice with what some might call a cheap approach to the rotation. The 2015 Royals won the World Series on a similar approach. I only say similar in the fact that there wasn’t a real ace in the staff (Cueto didn’t perform like one when he came over). The 2016 Blue Jays seem to be poised to take that idea and amp it up a bit. They’re putting all of their eggs in this basket. It’s certainly a risk. It could work out really well, or it could blow up in their faces. Time will tell.