Blue Jays could still use an innings eater starting pitcher

TORONTO, ON - MARCH 30: Aaron Sanchez
TORONTO, ON - MARCH 30: Aaron Sanchez /

Despite signing Matt Shoemaker on Friday, the Blue Jays could still use another starting pitcher who could provide much needed innings in 2019.

The Blue Jays added a much needed starting pitcher on Friday when they signed former Los Angeles Angel hurler Matt Shoemaker. Shoemaker has struggled with forearm injuries over the last couple of seasons, which allowed the Blue Jays to get him on a bargain rate of 3.5 million with a chance to earn another one million in performance incentives.

Shoemaker is a solid gamble for the Blue Jays, especially when you consider the low cost and the fact that the club will be rebuilding in 2019. That said, he doesn’t provide much of a guarantee because of his injury history, as he made only seven starts last season and 14 the year before. While he’s got solid bounce back potential with a career ERA of 3.93 in 93 starts and 101 appearances, there’s a reason he was available at such a cheap rate.

Unfortunately Shoemaker isn’t the only Blue Jay starter with an injury history either, a fact that could lead GM Ross Atkins to keep shopping for his rotation this winter. That will definitely be the case if the Blue Jays end up trading Marcus Stroman and/or Aaron Sanchez, but for now a subtraction from their assets doesn’t look imminent.

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Speaking of Stroman and Sanchez, their respective injury histories, combined with Shoemaker’s, are what make me believe the Blue Jays could still benefit from adding another starter. Sanchez hasn’t been much healthier than Shoemaker over the last two seasons, making 20 starts last year and just eight the season before. 20 starts doesn’t look awful on paper, but Sanchez has had major issues with blisters, his fingernail, and a finger tendon on his pitching hand, which have severely limited his potential. Stroman should be a safer bet to stay healthy next year, but he battled shoulder and blister issues of his own in 2018.

Beyond those three, the rest of the group will likely be made up of youngsters like Ryan Borucki, and some combination of Sean Reid-Foley, Thomas Pannone, Trent Thornton, or possibly others like David Paulino or Jacob Waguespack. It will be important to provide the young pitchers with an opportunity next year, but that opportunity should come regardless, as most MLB teams need at least 10 starters to get through a full 162 game season.

In an ideal world the Blue Jays would be able to roll out a combination of Stroman/Sanchez/Shoemaker/Borucki and one of the other young guys, but things have been far from ideal over the last couple of seasons and the front office would be foolish to assume that’s going to change. What’s concerning is the worst case scenario, which would be poor health for the veteran arms in the rotation, which would then cause the Blue Jays to go with a very young and inexperienced group.

Again, gaining that experience is significant, but it’s also important to make sure that pitchers are being developed properly, and that can’t always happen at the highest level. Take future first ballot Hall of Famer Roy Halladay as a prime example, who was sent all the way back to A-ball after struggling in the big leagues, which ultimately lead to an incredible career. The Blue Jays need to be able to demote their young assets if that’s what ends up being best for their development, and it could be tough if they face injuries in the rotation.

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It’ll be interesting to see how the free agent market plays out, but there are several innings-eater type starters still available such as James Shields, Gio Gonzalez, or Ervin Santana. There are several other bounce back, low-cost options as well, which could be the route the Blue Jays take this winter. Either way, they could use another arm to help get them through the 2019 season, even if Shoemaker should help to that end.