Between the free agents added to the starting rotation, and the arms already within the organization, the Blue Jays probably don’t need to look for more, at least for now.
There were a lot of exciting moments during the 2019 season for the Toronto Blue Jays, which is a surprising thing to say when we’re talking about a 67-win team. That said, the arrival of budding young stars like Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Bo Bichette, Cavan Biggio, and more gave a lot of us just enough to keep our interest.
The hardest part of watching the Blue Jays last season was the lack of starting rotation depth, especially after Marcus Stroman was traded to the Mets, and even Aaron Sanchez to the Astros. There were young pitchers facing MLB competition that likely weren’t ready, and we had to witness a very rough stretch when Charlie Montoyo had no choice but to keep running Edwin Jackson out every fifth day. It wasn’t pretty.
Thankfully that should change in a big way next season, especially now that the Blue Jays have as many as four veteran arms to lean on in 2020, and bring the team a lot more legitimacy. Matt Shoemaker was around last season, but unfortunately made just six starts before a season-ending knee injury took him out of the picture. He should be healthy and ready to contribute again next year, and will be joined by free agents Hyun-Jin Ryu and Tanner Roark, and also Chase Anderson, who was acquired in a trade with the Brewers at the start of the off-season.
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So far the Blue Jays have committed over 40 million in 2020 to improving their rotation between Ryu (20 million), Roark (12), and Anderson (8.5), and there have been rumours that the club could continue to look for upgrades. Personally, I’d rather see them direct funds to another area of the team at this point, mostly because I think there are enough in-house options to round out a solid rotation.
Even if there were plenty of rough patches along the way, last season was a significant learning experience for several young arms. Trent Thornton made 29 starts (31 appearances), Jacob Waguespack surprised with 13 starts (16 appearances), and Anthony Kay and T.J. Zeuch made late-season auditions as well. After a mostly lost 2019 campaign, Ryan Borucki should be fully healthy and ready to compete for the fifth starter’s spot as well. Sure, they all have minor league options, but I would argue that most or all of them are ready to pitch at the highest level right now.
As the Blue Jays go forward, identifying one or more from that group that can contribute in a significant way will be important, especially because they’re available on rookie-level contracts at the moment. For a team that isn’t making a full-court press to compete in 2020 just yet, using of their own available starters probably makes the most sense.
That’s especially the case when you consider that Nate Pearson will likely make his MLB debut at some point in 2020. The 24-year-old dominated his way throughout Triple-A last season, and if he had more MiLB innings under his belt, I’m sure the fan base would be screaming for him to make the team, as they did with players like Vlad Jr.
However, because he missed nearly all of the 2018 season because of a broken arm sustained on a come-backer in his first start that year, Pearson only has 123.1 professional innings under his belt. Starting his season in Triple-A will be important for his development, but it will also allow the Blue Jays to control the amount of innings he throws next season as he continues to build up the endurance necessary to be a MLB pitcher.
In the event that the Blue Jays find themselves in the playoff race in July, they’ll already get a potential boost if/when Pearson debuts. If injuries or performance dictates they need more help than that, then Ross Atkins and Mark Shapiro could always address the need at that time. For now, the Blue Jays should have plenty of options to help round out their big league rotation, and that’s definitely not something I thought I’d be saying a month or two ago.