The rotation still needs another big arm
There were times in 2020 that it felt like the Blue Jays had “too many” starting pitchers, but of course, that’s never the case in reality.
As of the end of the season their rotation options included Hyun Jin Ryu, Taijuan Walker, Matt Shoemaker, Robbie Ray, Chase Anderson, Ross Stripling, and Tanner Roark, and they had plenty of starters-turned-relievers for this year as well. That list includes Thomas Hatch, Anthony Kay, Ryan Borucki, Julian Merryweather, Sean Reid-Foley, Shun Yamaguchi, T.J. Zeuch, Patrick Murphy and more. Walker, Shoemaker, and Ray will be free agents, and Anderson has an option on his contract that they may not renew, but there are plenty of starters in the organization. I haven’t even mentioned or begun my ranting about the future dominance of Nate Pearson, and Trent Thornton should be healthy and ready to contribute again next season as well.
And yet, the Blue Jays still need another top-end starter for 2021 if they want to make it back to the playoffs.
For now, here’s how I would project their rotation for 2021 with their pitchers under contract control.
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I think there are a former starters that are destined for the bullpen for good, and I believe that will be to the benefit of the club and the players. On that list would be at least Borucki, Yamaguchi, Merryweather, and Reid-Foley, and I think each of them can play an important bullpen role next season. That said, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Blue Jays gave Merryweather one more opportunity to start either.
Regardless, looking at the projected rotation is a bit underwhelming, even if there’s a fair bit of a potential here. Beyond Ryu there are a ton of question marks, and that’s not an ideal place to be if you’re planning on aiming for the playoffs. In my opinion the Blue Jays have to at least retain someone like Taijuan Walker, and maybe even look for an even more proven commodity. It doesn’t have to be someone on a long-term deal either, especially because of the talent of the young arms I’ve already mentioned, and plenty more on the way like Alek Manoah, Simeon Woods Richardson, Adam Kloffenstein, and even more where that came from.
With the Blue Jays’ success this season, I really do believe that the rebuild has been sped up and that the front office needs to respond with another rotation upgrade this winter. As we witnessed in 2020, you can never have enough pitching, and with the results of the Wild Card round in the rear view mirror, another premium starter would have been nice to have, or in this case, even to use.