Blue Jays: Ross Atkins already has what he’s looking for

TORONTO, ON - APRIL 26: General manager Ross Atkins of the Toronto Blue Jays speaks to the media before introducing Vladimir Guerrero Jr. #27 before his MLB debut later tonight against the Oakland Athletics at Rogers Centre on April 26, 2019 in Toronto, Canada. (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)
TORONTO, ON - APRIL 26: General manager Ross Atkins of the Toronto Blue Jays speaks to the media before introducing Vladimir Guerrero Jr. #27 before his MLB debut later tonight against the Oakland Athletics at Rogers Centre on April 26, 2019 in Toronto, Canada. (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images) /
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Ross Atkins recently talked about what he’s looking for in a young starting pitcher. His description sounded a lot like Marcus Stroman to me.

As the MLB season nears the end of its third full month, the trade rumours are going to start flying around with more intensity, especially around a team like the Blue Jays who are clearly out of the playoff race already.

We knew the Blue Jays were likely to be in this position, even if the season has arguably gone worse than most of us expected. That doesn’t change the fact that this is a rebuilding squad that is likely to trade the few remaining veterans they have on the roster and continue working toward a bright future with their young core.

There’s no doubt that the Blue Jays have a plethora of position player talent in their minor league system, and also some already on their big league roster. Not everyone is thriving just yet, but this season has brought a lot of promise not just for Vladimir Guerrero Jr., but also for guys like Lourdes Gurriel Jr., Cavan Biggio, Rowdy Tellez, Danny Jansen, and Trent Thornton. Add in more high-end talent like Bo Bichette and others in the minor leagues, and that’s a reason for optimism going forward.

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While there is a lot of position player talent, you might notice that Thornton is the only pitcher on my list from above. There are other talented arms in the system like Nate Pearson, Eric Pardinho, and the recent first-round pick Alek Manoah, but those names aren’t going to be ready for a while. There are others like Julian Merryweather, or maybe Sean Reid-Foley, but there’s a clear need for pitching depth even if the majority of these guys work out as big leaguers.

Blue Jays’ GM Ross Atkins was quoted in a recent article from Sportsnet’s Ben Nicholson-Smith, summarizing a lot of what I’ve just talked about. The article talked about how the team would like to use some patience with the development of Bichette, but also landed on the subject of this year’s trade deadline, and Atkins talked about the type of pitcher that he’d like to add to the organization in July, if possible.

"“The depth and the numbers are there and we need to continue to push to acquire the types of arms that have the attributes to start in the major-leagues. They’re hard to come by. Someone who can haul innings, be durable and have the ability to get strikeouts, keep the ball in the ballpark and not walk guys – it’s a hard thing to find. We feel like we’ve stacked up a good number of pieces throughout our minor-league system and that guys are going to improve and get better. We’ll have those names coming.”"

His description makes a lot of sense, and pretty much every GM across the game would like to have the same type of pitchers on their big league roster, and more waiting in Triple-A. However, what stuck out to me was the pitcher that popped into my head when I read the qualities he’d like to see in a pitcher they’ll look to acquire:

  • Someone who can haul innings,
  • Be durable
  • Ability to get strikeouts
  • Keep the ball in the ballpark

Sound like someone you know? To me, that sounds an awful lot like a description of Marcus Stroman, who is already in a Blue Jays’ jersey. Sure, he only has 71 strikeouts in 94.2 innings, but otherwise Atkins is talking about what he brings to the table.

We don’t know what the front office has planned for Stroman’s future, but the rumours have continued to swirl that he could be available on the trade market despite his repeated indications that he would like to have his contract extended and stick around. I also realize that he wouldn’t be “starting in the major leagues”, but at just 28 years old he’s definitely young enough to factor into the next successful era of this team.

Next. Predicting where the veterans get traded. dark

Atkins is correct when he says that pitchers like that are hard to find, which is why many Blue Jay fans (myself included) are torn on whether trading Stroman is for the best. If you can bring back the type of return that the Rays got for Chris Archer last season, then yes, you go through with it. But if it’s not that kind of slam dunk move, then do you trade a guy who fits the description of what you need? Atkins and the rest of the front office are likely going to be spending a lot of time asking themselves that very question.

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