With Aaron Sanchez’s health still a question mark and Edwin Jackson getting lit up like a Christmas tree, the Blue Jays still need to address the rotation.
It’s going to be a very long season in Toronto for the Blue Jays if things continue the way they’ve been going, and I’m not talking about losing games.
That was bound to happen in a rebuilding year, especially went the front office deliberately bypassed signing reasonably priced free agents so they could give playing time and opportunity to their young prospects. That can be dealt with (with varying degrees of patience, of course), but what’s going to make this a very long season for Charlie Montoyo, the fans, and especially the bullpen, is the status of the starting rotation these days.
There have been highlights, like the strong performance of Marcus Stroman so far, and the emergence of Trent Thornton as a seemingly viable MLB option in his rookie year. Beyond that, it’s been a frustrating first half for the majority of the starters associated with this team, mostly due to injury.
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Clayton Richard finally made his Blue Jays’ debut and has at least joined the team to occupy a rotation spot, but we’re still waiting for Ryan Borucki to do the same in 2019, and that likely won’t happen until at least July. Clay Buchholz is on the IL and it’s hard to say when he’ll be able to return, and Aaron Sanchez has had to leave two out of his last three starts after a handful of innings because of familiar blister and fingernail issues. Sanchez is currently slated to make his next scheduled start on Sunday, but it’s hard to be optimistic about his short term future.
The needs in the rotation were bad enough that Ross Atkins went out and acquired Edwin Jackson from Oakland, but his Blue Jays’ tenure has been a disaster so far. He came into last night’s start with a 0-2 record and a 9.00 ERA in 14 innings pitched, and then got abused by the Rockies, giving up 10 earned runs in 2.1 innings, pushing his ERA to 13.22. If he gets another start with the Blue Jays it will be because of the need for arms right now, but otherwise I’m sure he’d be on the chopping block by now.
I don’t expect Atkins to go out and trade for a frontline starter, but it’s pretty clear there’s a need in the rotation right now. To add another log on the fire, there are still plenty of reports that the Blue Jays are likely sellers of both Stroman and Sanchez sometime in the next two months, which will only thin the herd even further.
In a best-case scenario, Borucki will get the pitcher he was last year, and hopefully some Triple-A starters like Sean Reid-Foley, Jordan Romano, or maybe an emerging Double-A arm like Patrick Murphy can help this team in the second half. That would be a great plus, but hopefully the Blue Jays aren’t forcing someone on to a big league mound before they’re ready.
They tried to avoid doing that too much by acquiring Jackson, but they may have to go fishing in the starter’s pool again and see what they can find. I don’t expect that they’ll be in the running for a guy like Dallas Keuchel, but for a team that’s not actively trying to contend this year, there are options that cross the waiver wire on a near-weekly basis. Not always great options mind you, but “good” may be plenty good enough at the moment.
The other part of that best case scenario is that Sanchez can put these issues behind him and get back to the dominant performer he was in the early part of the season. Whether he ends up on the trade block or not, the Blue Jays could really use a solid start in his rotation spot, especially as the bullpen gets increasingly taxed, and as Jackson continues to get battered.
Right now I don’t know that the Jays can count on either of those situations working out for the best, which probably means Atkins and his staff better keep their eyes and ears open for another answer in the rotation.