The Blue Jays have a lot of talented arms returning in 2021, but they’ll surely need some reinforcements. How many pitchers need to be added ahead of next season?
Arguably the biggest need for the Blue Jays this off-season is to improve their pitching staff. They could likely use some improvements from the 2020 version that Charlie Montoyo worked with, and they’re also set to lose several arms to free agency. That list includes Taijuan Walker, Matt Shoemaker, Robbie Ray, Ken Giles, Anthony Bass, and more.
That said, the Blue Jays have a lot of talented arms remaining, and their needs are more about raising the floor of performance and expectations rather than depth. Of course, you can never have too much pitching, and depth will still be important, it’s just not as much of a central focus as it was even a year ago.
If I’m Ross Atkins and the Blue Jays’ front office, the obvious place to start is to look at what you’re already working with. And with that in mind, here’s how I see the depth chart for next season as of today.
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Looking at the above, it’s pretty clear that there’s work to do with next year’s rotation. As my colleague Clayton Richer talked about the other day as well, it also feels like Roark could be a trade candidate this winter, as it’s clear that neither he nor the Blue Jays were overly thrilled with how year one of their two-year pact went. There’s no guarantee that happens of course, but I wouldn’t be surprised at all. The Jays also hold a 9.5 million dollar option on Chase Anderson, but it also comes with a reasonable $500,000 buyout and that seems likely.
The way I see it, the Blue Jays should feel pretty good about the depth in their rotation, but they need to add at least one or two starters that can make a difference. That could come in the form of re-signing one or even all of Walker, Shoemaker, and Ray, but I don’t expect that will happen necessarily. There will be some decent starters on the free agent market this winter, and of course the Blue Jays could always look to add through a trade. Whatever they do, I believe they need to sign/trade for at least two starting pitchers, and also hope for a healthy season from Pearson.
As for the bullpen, let’s take a look at who remains after the Blue Jays lose a couple of key relievers to free agency, at least on paper.
Atkins address the media not long ago and talked the club’s pitching plans for next season, which included keeping guys like Borucki, Reid-Foley, and more in the bullpen for good. That will help offset the loss of relievers like Kay, Hatch, and Merryweather, who will all return to a starting role, but the Blue Jays will need to add some talent, and plenty of depth this winter.
One of the first places to start should be trying to retain Anthony Bass, who proved he can perform out of any late-inning role. He was a capable closer, but more likely he would be a solid weapon in the 7th or 8th inning behind an emerging Jordan Romano. Dolis would also help in one of those late-inning roles, and I’m confident the trio could get the job done. If the front office feels differently, there are elite closers like Liam Hendriks on the market too.
I’d feel a lot more comfortable if the Blue Jays signed at least two established relief options, and then did their typical rolling of the dice as they have the last several years. It worked well with guys like Bass and Cole in 2020, and they found cheap and useful arms on the international market in Dolis and Yamaguchi as well, even if the latter got off to a slow start. My guess is the Blue Jays will want to find at least 3-4 veterans to sign on a minor league deal, and they could give them a chance to win a big league opportunity if they earn it. In total, I figure they need to bring in at least 5-6 relievers this winter.
My guess is the pitching staff won’t be the only area that the front office addresses this off-season, but by my count they likely need at least eight new/returning pitchers to help fill out the staff and give them the proper depth. Ideally there will be an impact addition or two in the mix, but either way, the Blue Jays have some work to do before next spring.