Blue Jays: Biagini a lock for the 2018 rotation

Jun 9, 2017; Seattle, WA, USA; Toronto Blue Jays starting pitcher Joe Biagini (31) throws against the Seattle Mariners during the fifth inning at Safeco Field. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports
Jun 9, 2017; Seattle, WA, USA; Toronto Blue Jays starting pitcher Joe Biagini (31) throws against the Seattle Mariners during the fifth inning at Safeco Field. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports /

A lot can happen between now and the start of the 2018 season, but it appears Joe Biagini has all but guaranteed himself a spot in next year’s rotation, despite the rough 7th inning on Friday night.

Just when you think Joe Biagini can’t be any more likeable, he goes and steps it up another notch. The former Rule 5 pick continues to impress and improve with each outing, providing the Blue Jays with another quality start on Friday night against the Mariners.

The big right-hander threw 7 innings against the Mariners, allowing 3 runs on 5 hits, and 2 walks, while striking out 5. He was cruising until the 7th inning when the Mariners were able to tie the game with a double from Robinson Cano, a RBI single by Danny Valencia, and a go-ahead single from Jarrod Dyson. Prior to that though he was spinning another gem, his latest in a string of solid outings since joining the rotation.

The 27 year old is a starter by trade, and hadn’t been a reliever until he joined the Blue Jays last season. In fact, he hadn’t pitched above Double A prior to the Blue Jays taking him from the San Francisco Giants organization at the beginning of last season. As most of us recall, he flourished in the role last year, just as he continues to impress this season.

The chart below doesn’t include his outing from Friday night, but have a look at how he’s performed since converting back to the starter’s role.

Other than getting roughed up a bit by the Atlanta Braves on May 17th, Biagini has been fantastic as a starter. He also keeps getting better as his stamina as a starter returns, something that he’s been out of practice with since being a part of the Giant’s organization.

He’s obviously proving that he’s capable of being a starter, it was just a question of whether he could contribute to the same level that he does as a reliever. As important as he was to last year’s (and this year’s) bullpen, Biagini is proving he deserves a long look as a starter for the long term, which will likely come next spring.

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It’s well documented that both Marco Estrada and Francisco Liriano are free agents at the end of the year, leaving two significant holes in one of the AL’s best rotations. It’s possible the Blue Jays could look to bring back one or both of the veterans, but Biagini’s performance makes it a lot easier to allocation resources elsewhere, knowing their in-house option can get the job done.

The future free agents combine to make 27 million this year, a figure that will go up significantly if and when Estrada hits the market in particular. He signed for 2 years and 26 million with the Blue Jays prior to last season, and will be seeking a well deserved raise. The front office has said they would like to bring him back, but there’s no doubting that he’ll end up being more expensive and potentially difficult to retain.

Knowing that Biagini is under club control through 2021, and is making just $535,000 this season, it’s a near certainty the Jays will look to the California native to take the ball every fifth day next year. It’s highly likely he’ll go back to the bullpen this season when Aaron Sanchez is able to return, which should be considered a plus for the club in the short term, and the long term. His presence in the pen will be huge down the stretch, and it’ll also help keep his innings total from getting too out of control, after having only thrown 67.2 innings last season as a reliever.

Next: Blue Jays: Joe Biagini should return to the bullpen

Despite taking the loss on Friday night, it was another encouraging outing for the quirky pitcher, and another strong case for his inclusion in next year’s rotation. The Blue Jays have already been very fortunate to get a valuable reliever in Biagini as a Rule 5 pick, and if he can continue his strong performance as a starter, that just sweetens things even more. As things stand as of this writing, it would appear he’s a lock to get the opportunity.