If the Blue Jays add an experienced arm or two to their starting rotation for next season, they should have a stronger depth group in 2020 than they did this season.
Even though there are only three games left in the 2019 season and we (okay, me) should be enjoying them, I can’t help but think ahead to next season and I know many of you are already doing the same thing.
With an emerging offensive core that could be just a couple pieces away, the main focus should be on adding to the starting rotation this winter, and even Mark Shapiro has admitted as much when he’s been asked about it recently. It’s been the obvious weakness of this team throughout the season, and it’s an area that will need to be addressed as the Blue Jays move from a rebuilding club into a contending one.
That work should start this winter, and there are several good reasons for why that’s the case. Our own Bob Ritchie talked about it recently, and how the Blue Jays likely need to do some shopping this winter if they want to have an eye on being competitive sooner than later. The front office may prefer to wait until this team is closer to being ready for contention, but there’s also a danger that those finishing pieces won’t be available when you’re looking for them.
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The other reason would be to strengthen the starting group in general, which is something the Blue Jays really could have used in 2019. Veterans like Matt Shoemaker, Clayton Richard, and Clay Buchholz were all brought in for that reason, but unfortunately the trio all spent the majority of the season on the Injured List. Because of that, the Blue Jays have had an opportunity give several young pitchers a chance to start in the big leagues, and that experience should prove to be valuable next year.
If the 2020 season were to start right now and everyone was healthy, my guess is that the Blue Jays rotation would look something like this:
Looking at the above group, I feel like Thornton is the only one who has truly earned a spot for next season, and he might be the only one who really needs one in order to best continue his development. Guys like Waguespack, Kay, and Zeuch could all benefit from some additional time in Triple-A, and Borucki will have to prove that he’s healthy and also build up his arm strength again after a mostly lost 2019 season.
With the current recipe, there’s a good chance that the Blue Jays could be right back to using an Opener on the regular and expecting Charlie Montoyo to somehow piece together a pitching staff. However, if most of the above group is serving as Triple-A depth to start next season, the Blue Jays could be in good shape.
One of the ways they could help themselves would be by bringing back Matt Shoemaker, who actually has one year of arbitration eligibility left. There will be solid free agents available as well, and the Blue Jays should have plenty of trade chips should they find a deal for a starter to their liking. They could also take a chance on a veteran guy like Richard or Buchholz again and hope that next year’s roll of the dice goes more in their favour.
Following that line of thinking, imagine if their starting rotation depth looked a little more like this:
Obviously this is a purely hypothetical rotation, and it’s not an All-Star calibre one either. That said, it would make me feel a lot better about the Blue Jays’ chances of being competitive in 2020, and I believe it would help set up their pitching staff and their entire roster for a more competitive future.
It doesn’t have to be Odorizzi, and in fact it would be ideal if it were more of a high-end starter that could be available like a Gerrit Cole or possibly a Stephen Strasburg (if he does indeed hit the open market). However, I chose Odorizzi because I don’t think the Blue Jays are going to chase the “big fish” this off-season, and I’m not sure they have to yet anyway. There’s also the fact that they’d have to convince an ace to come to Toronto, and that might be a year or two away. Odorizzi could fit the mold of more or a #2-3 starter, but pursuing someone like a Zack Wheeler or even a lesser option like Kyle Gibson would be a big help.
I also threw Michael Wacha into the group as he’s set to hit free agency. There’s really no rhyme or reason to why I chose him, but I feel like he could be a nice bounce back candidate on a “show me” deal after a tough season in St. Louis. He’s the type of mid to lower level starter that could go a long way to helping the Blue Jays get through a 162 game season, and help bridge the gap to the talent in the minor leagues that’s coming like Nate Pearson. If not Wacha, there could be a bunch of pitchers in a similar situation such as Michael Pineda, Ivan Nova, or maybe a veteran left-hander like Gio Gonzalez or Brett Anderson.
The point is, the Blue Jays really should seek some reinforcements for their starting rotation this winter, even if they do want to give their young arms opportunity. It usually takes at least 10 starting pitchers to get through a full season, which means that even by adding three starters this winter, they shouldn’t be taking away much opportunity, if any at all.
This off-season could be an interesting one for the Blue Jays, and it’ll likely tell us a lot about where the front office sees their current group in terms of development. Regardless of whether they hope to move closer to a .500 record or not next season, there are good reasons to bring in some pitching help, and hopefully the front office will do just that.