Blue Jays: Matt Shoemaker the type of veteran leader this team needs

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - APRIL 15: Matt Shoemaker #34 of the Toronto Blue Jays delivers a pitch against the Minnesota Twins during the first inning of the game on April 15, 2019 at Target Field in Minneapolis, Minnesota. All players are wearing number 42 in honor of Jackie Robinson Day. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
MINNEAPOLIS, MN - APRIL 15: Matt Shoemaker #34 of the Toronto Blue Jays delivers a pitch against the Minnesota Twins during the first inning of the game on April 15, 2019 at Target Field in Minneapolis, Minnesota. All players are wearing number 42 in honor of Jackie Robinson Day. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images) /
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The Blue Jays can retain Matt Shoemaker for the 2020 season, and based on his performance and veteran leadership it should be a no-brainer decision.

Over the last couple of seasons the Blue Jays have gotten a lot younger in a hurry in an effort to rebuild their roster. It was a necessary transition after relying on a veteran roster for many years, and already we’re seeing the potential that a future with Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Bo Bichette, and others could be very exciting.

As loaded with potential as the young offence could be even in 2020, it’s no secret that the Blue Jays have a need in their starting rotation, and one of the best solutions is right at their fingertips in Matt Shoemaker. The 33-year-old veteran has one year of arbitration eligibility remaining, which means the Blue Jays can retain his services for the 2020 season. That much should be a no-brainer, even if he’s coming off another lost season to injury.

For those who may have forgotten, the veteran was fantastic in his first five starts with the Blue Jays before he tore his ACL, ending his 2019 campaign. He finished up with a 1.57 ERA and a 0.872 WHIP over 28.2 innings, already earning 1.2 bWAR in that limited amount of time. After a few seasons of battling forearm troubles in L.A., it looked like the veteran was finally going to reach his potential as a big leaguer, and it was a shame to see the freak injury take him out.

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It was a pretty heart-breaking scene when Shoemaker went down in April, pounding his fist into the ground in frustration and showing the fans that he knew the injury was serious. You couldn’t blame him in that moment for being human and letting out his frustrations, especially after all he had been through to get back on the mound before the 2019 season even began.

However, it didn’t take long for Shoemaker to show another one of the reasons he’s a special player to have in your clubhouse, and why the Blue Jays need to retain him for at least next year. Despite being given all kinds of reasons to give up or to wallow in self-pity, the Michigan native vowed to return stronger than ever on social media the day after the injury.

And thankfully it appears that his rehab has wrapped up and gone well, which is certainly an encouraging sign. Shoemaker only tweeted about a dozen times between the injury and this past week, but lately he’s been letting fans know that he’s feeling great and that he’s excited about returning to the mound next year.

And another update on Saturday:

https://twitter.com/MattShoe52/status/1188203851205222402

You can’t help but root for the guy, and I really think his perseverance and determination is exactly the type of veteran leadership the Blue Jays should be looking for right now. What better example than a man who has faced repeated setbacks only to hit the rehab room with enthusiasm each time, somehow maintaining a positive attitude through what likely felt like Groundhog day to the runner up for the 2014 AL Rookie of the Year Award.

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I don’t think it’s fair for us to expect a sub 2.00 ERA in 2020, but I have almost no doubt that Shoemaker will be a more than worthwhile gamble to help shore up the rotation, especially on what will likely be a modest raise from the 3.5 million he made this season. Even if he struggles to stay to perform or with his health going forward, his ‘never give up’ attitude is the type of influence that can go a long way for a young roster like the Blue Jay have right now. For all the reasons I’ve mentioned and more, I’m sure he’ll be back next season, and I’ll definitely be rooting for one of my new favourite players.

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