After the trade deadline the Blue Jays have plenty of starting pitching depth again, and that could be an important factor in September.
It wasn’t the least bit surprising that the Blue Jays added to their starting rotation ahead of the trade deadline, especially given their recent rash of injuries, and their encouraging place in the standings.
It made plenty of sense when they started by adding Taijuan Walker from the Mariners, and I was pleased with the roll of the dice they made with Robbie Ray as well, further improving the depth. With a healthy Hyun-Jin Ryu, Tanner Roark, and Chase Anderson, as well as Matt Shoemaker and Nate Pearson currently rehabbing and looking to return in 2020, I surprised when Ross Atkins chose to add one more starter to the group in Ross Stripling.
The former Dodger comes with additional contract control beyond this year, and has plenty of experience in the bullpen as well, so the move made sense from that perspective. However, as I look at the Blue Jays schedule for the remainder of the month, the decision of the front office made even more sense. In fact, it might be a good idea to plan to use all six starters for the remainder of the calendar, which would save the relief corps from “bullpen days” that are tough to pull off in this pack-jammed schedule.
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Looking ahead to what’s on deck, Ryu will get the ball on Tuesday to close out the series with Miami, followed by Walker on Wednesday to kick things off in Boston. They also have a double-header to play with the Red Sox on Thursday, and Dal Shulman and Buck Martinez mentioned on yesterday’s broadcast that one of those two start will go to Stripling. In theory, Roark should be available on regular rest for the double-header as well, and Anderson could take the ball on his normal schedule on Saturday, and Ray could make his first start on Sunday, also on regular rest. That leaves them with just 20 regular season games to play.
Looking ahead, the Blue Jays could keep using the six of them from there, and it could be helpful to line up their starters how they want them at the end of the season to clinch a playoff spot, or maybe a game one match-up if things go really well. They have another scheduled double-header on the 18th as well, and let’s face it, we’re always one positive Covid-19 test (from the Blue Jays or their opponents) away from a delay, and there’s always the chance of poor weather too, so that might not be the last one either. Knock on wood, it hasn’t been the best season for the health of starting pitchers around baseball either, so depth is valuable.
With only 26 games remaining on the schedule, there’s probably a fairly easy way to keep six starters active in the role, and again, that would be very helpful to an overworked bullpen this season. That may not come at the sacrifice of Ryu’s regular turn, and maybe they’ll feel that way about others as we go on as well, but having that extra arm could be an important factor as the Blue Jays look to return to the post-season for the first time since 2016.