Blue Jays’ 2018 Rotation: Never Drew Late?
By Jim Scott
Could a Toronto Blue Jays reunion with Drew Hutchison be in the cards?
The Pirates just outrighted Drew Hutchison.
At the 2016 trade deadline, the Jays made a much-discussed trade, sending Drew Hutchison to the Pirates in exchange for Francisco Liriano and prospects Reese McGuire and Harold Ramirez. The trade was largely viewed as a salary dump by the Pirates, who traded the roughly $18 million remaining on Liriano’s contract for three arbitration years of Hutchison.
(As an aside – there was considerable debate about the value of the two prospects given up. Some saw McGuire, in particular, as a valuable asset given his excellent defense. Others, like John Sickels of Minor League Ball, rated McGuire as only Pittsburgh’s 16th best prospect and graded him as a C+. Neither McGuire nor Ramirez are currently ranked in the Jays’ top 25 prospects.)
Toronto Blue Jays
Many writers (including yours truly) had a bad feeling about the trade. Hutch was coming off a Twilight Zone 2015 in which he had an ERA at home of a dazzling 2.91 (with an xFIP of 3.75) over 92 innings. His road performance, however, was <ahem> “less impressive” – a 9.83 ERA with an xFIP of 4.96. But overall, Hutchison had a 2015 SIERA of 4.09 and xFIP of 4.21 – both respectable 3rd-4th starter levels. With a touch of Ray Searage pixie dust, and turning off his phone’s GPS, Hutchison could well turn into a cheap, inning-eating, middle-of-the-rotation starter for the Pirates.
Didn’t quite work out that way.
He pitched 11 innings for the Pirates in 2016, mostly out of the bullpen, with an unspectacular 5.56 ERA. In 2017, the right-hander threw 159 innings for the Pirates AAA affiliate with a respectable 3.56 ERA, but never got a call-up to the big league team. And now he has been outrighted.
Should the Jays pursue a reunion?
The Jays’ 2018 rotation currently has only two “sure things” – Stroman and Happ. Sanchez has yet to overcome his blisters, re-signing Estrada and Anderson is still only a plan, and Biagini and Koehler come with question marks. So additional depth would be a good thing – particularly depth with a major league pedigree.
And Hutchison should come relatively cheap – likely a minor league contract. If even Ray “Dumbledore” Searage did not see the merit in working with him, few other teams will be likely to try. And as the saying goes, there is no such thing as a bad minor league contract.
He also fits the right risk:return profile. A team might hesitate to gamble on a reclamation project where the player becomes a free agent relatively soon. In that scenario, if the player *does* rediscover his mojo, he just thanks you as he walks out the door. Hutchison will not be a free agent until 2020, and his 2017 salary was only $2.3 million, so if he does play well the Jays will have time to benefit.
And finally, the Jays have the advantage of knowing Drew better than any other team. So if any team can “fix” him, it should be Toronto.
The bottom line
Admittedly, I am biased. I predicted that Hutchison would become a solid, low-mid rotation workhorse, and I would like to be proven right. But even allowing for my mancrush, Drew Hutchison on a MiLB paycheque appears to be a worthwhile gamble. Yes, I said the same thing about Mat Latos last year, but just because a bet loses does not make it a foolish bet. I do not believe that Drew Hutchison would be a foolish bet.