The Toronto Blue Jays have not made a serious pitching acquisition since David Price in mid-2015. With the team a few years away from any serious playoff contention, the Jays will need to acquire some quality arms in order to make a deep playoff run in the future.
Coming into 2019, the Toronto Blue Jays were starting to begin the rebuild.
Looking back at the 2016 roster, the only players who remain on the squad in 2019 are Marcus Stroman, Aaron Sanchez, Ryan Tepera, Devon Travis, and Joe Biagini. This just further establishes the rebuild philosophy. The younger players within the farm system are going to start making their way to the active roster and the team will look to hopefully be competitive within the next 3-5 years (emphasis on hopefully).
While I have no issue with the rebuild taking place, and it is clearly going to happen whether I like it or not, it is the outlook of the pitching staff that has me concerned.
The Toronto Blue Jays do boast some excellent pitching prospects in Nate Pearson, Sean Reid-Foley, and Eric Paradinho, but the lack of depth in the bullpen and the fact that only Marcus Stroman is contributing in the rotation is a bit cause for concern. I will note that Matt Shoemaker was pitching well before his injury, but he is done for the year.
When you look at teams that make deep playoff runs or consistently find themselves in playoff positions year after year, they are usually bolstered by a strong rotation that eats up innings and a bullpen that can shut down the later innings.
The Toronto Blue Jays do not possess these qualities.
Looking over the stats sheet for this season, four out of the five regular starters have an ERA over 4.50, and only Biagini, Ken Giles, and Daniel Hudson have an ERA under 4.00 in the bullpen. Even Javy Guerra had an ERA under 4.00, but apparently, the brass didn’t like that and designated him for assignment.
The starting rotation is obviously not what fans and management were expecting throughout the 2019 season. Shoemaker, Ryan Borucki, and Clay Buchholz were supposed to be rotation contributors, but are currently on the 60 day IL.
Edwin Jackson should not have had to be brought in an emergency basis, but the battered rotation and inconsistent/poor starts from Reid-Foley and other Bisons made the decision difficult. Now, when we look back at the rebuild/player management, and the stats start to make more sense.
The prospects are being forced/allowed to play more, and while they get their experience in the big leagues, they will get knocked around. This is all part of the learning curve and all part of the rebuild; possibly accelerated due to the injuries.
The main issue I have with the pitching staff is that if the prospects do not pan out like they are projected to (which happens a lot in baseball), then the Jays will be faced with a difficult situation when it comes to winning ball games.
A strong offensive core cannot supplement a weak pitching staff, and while you will have high scoring games, the Blue Jays will still come out with a loss. The offensive core is also being based off if the position prospects pan out to be as they are projected, but that’s for another article.
The hard truth is that if this organization wants to go back to the playoffs, they will need to go outside of their comfort zone, stop acquiring pitchers that only require a ‘player to be named later’ and get some guys who strike fear into the opposing team. This is essential both in the rotation and the bullpen.
One problem is that since Mark Shapiro and Ross Atkins took over the ball club, the only MLB calibre pitchers the team has acquired are J.A. Happ, Marco Estrada, Joe Biagini, Ken Giles, Clayton Richard, and Matt Shoemaker.
While most of these players did contribute to the team, they aren’t the ace type of material the starting rotation needs or the shutdown 7,8,9 inning guys the team can depend on late in games.
Giles and Biagini are really the only contributing factors on the squad right now from the Shatkins era acquisitions, and even Giles may get traded this year (rebuilds, hooray!). Compound this reality with the probability that two of our better pitchers in Stroman and Sanchez may also get traded over the next two years, the concern I have for the Blue Jays pitching future skyrockets.
To give you an example, over the next two years, the following pitchers will be free agents: Madison Bumgarner, Gerrit Cole, Masahiro Tanaka, Stephen Strasburg (player options), Dallas Keuchel, and Jake Arrieta (player option). Some really good names on the board, and that’s only the tip of the iceberg.
Getting one or two of these starting pitchers who could slot in as the #1 and/or #2 starter along with Stroman (if he is still here) and some farm-raised prospects, could really impact the Blue Jays record in a positive way (for once).
Follow these acquisitions with some dependable arms in the bullpen, and the Blue Jays could orchestrate a shut-down pitching staff, which complemented by strong position prospects creates a playoff calibre team in a tough A.L East division.
This would mean the Blue Jays management would have to stray away from picking up waiver wire pitchers and trading for bargain bin castoffs.
This would also require management and ownership to open up their wallets and go out and sign players by dipping or expanding the salary budget (which they have had difficulty doing over the past four years).
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If you look back at the past five World Series winners, each team had strong pitching staffs that carried the team through the season and deep into the playoffs.
The Astros, Cubs, Giants and Red Sox had elite starting rotations, and the Royals had a shutdown bullpen that no team could buy a hit from.
I 100% believe that if management goes out and acquires some strong pitching acquisitions via trade or free agency, as well as one or two prospects becoming reliable starters, they could push this team to the playoffs.
Although the team is in a rebuild, we cannot rely too heavily on the prospect pool considering the failure/injury rate in baseball is so high.
Not every top prospect makes it to the show and the organization needs to have a backup plan(s) in case this does happen.
If the Blue Jays want to win and create a playoff ready team within the next 3-5 years, they need to acquire more Dallas Keuchel level pitchers and leave the Edwin Jackson’s for other teams.