This is the biggest wild card for the 2019 roster, but after taking a closer look at the way things went in 2018, I’m confident there’s a lot of room for improvement.
Starting with the holdover veterans, the Blue Jays are going to be crossing their fingers that both Marcus Stroman and Aaron Sanchez can stay healthy and pitch to their potential next year. Neither right-hander was able to do that last season unfortunately, with Stroman posting an uncharacteristic 5.54 ERA in 19 starts, and Sanchez with a 4.89 ERA in 20 trips through the rotation.
At this point I have a lot more faith in Stroman being able to stay healthy and bounce back from his tough 2018 campaign. A year earlier he was the ace of the staff and pitched to a 3.09 ERA in 33 starts, also throwing 200+ innings for the second consecutive year. Last season he was held back by shoulder problems during spring training, and later by a nasty blister that kept him out late in the season. Assuming he’s fully healthy this year there’s a lot of good reasons to expect a bounce back campaign. I’m not sure we can say the same for Sanchez after two straight years that feel more or less lost, but the talent is still there, and again, it can’t get a whole lot worse.
There have been reports that both pitchers have been asked about a lot on the trade market, especially when it comes to Stroman. That said, I’d be truly surprised if the Blue Jays moved on from either starter, especially at this low point of their trade value, and considering the fact that they have two full years of club control remaining.
Beyond that the Blue Jays will get a full season from Ryan Borucki, and while I don’t think it’s fair to expect him to throw 30 starts and keep his ERA below 4.00, he proved last season that he belongs at the highest level. There could be a mixture of Sean Reid-Foley, Thomas Pannone, or even Sam Gaviglio to start the season, and also the possibility of a free agent signing or two to add some depth.
I believe this area will improve for the Blue Jays over last year, almost regardless of who is brought in or given the opportunity. That doesn’t mean I think they can throw anybody out there, but other than J.A. Happ’s performance before he was traded and Borucki’s surprise contribution, it was a universal disappointment. Jaime Garcia (5.93 ERA in 25 appearances) was a disaster, and Marco Estrada (5.64 ERA in 28 starts) never got things going either.
The bar is not set very high, and whomever makes up the starting rotation for Charlie Montoyo in 2019 should be an improvement.