Blue Jays: Is there room for a reclamation project in 2021?

BUFFALO, NY - SEPTEMBER 12: Robbie Ray #38 of the Toronto Blue Jays looks to throw a pitch against the New York Mets at Sahlen Field on September 12, 2020 in Buffalo, New York. (Photo by Timothy T Ludwig/Getty Images)
BUFFALO, NY - SEPTEMBER 12: Robbie Ray #38 of the Toronto Blue Jays looks to throw a pitch against the New York Mets at Sahlen Field on September 12, 2020 in Buffalo, New York. (Photo by Timothy T Ludwig/Getty Images) /

As the Blue Jays look for roster upgrades this winter, is now the time for the front office to roll the dice on a reclamation project?

With free agency set to open next week, we’re entering that time of the year where we dissect the roster even more than we do during the season.

With a talented young core in place, the Blue Jays will return the bulk of their current roster for the 2021 campaign. However, they have several free agents of their own set to hit the open market, and there are some roster needs that will have to be addressed one way or another, whether that means by trying retain some of their players, or by looking to free agency and the trade market. As things stand at the moment, the clearest needs appear to be in the starting rotation, the bullpen, and likely at third base as well.

My guess is the rotation will get the most focus in the early stages of the off-season, and you could argue that it’s the greatest area of need. The Blue Jays are set to return Hyun Jin Ryu, Nate Pearson, and Ross Stripling in their rotation in 2021, but after that comes a lot of question marks. Will they keep Tanner Roark for the second year of the deal he signed last winter, or could be a trade candidate? What about Chase Anderson‘s contract option for 9.5 million next year? Or will they try to retain any/all of Taijuan Walker, Matt Shoemaker, and Robbie Ray?

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Whatever the Blue Jays do, I believe they’re in a good position to take a high-end gamble. I believe the first priority has to be signing (or re-signing) a starter to fill the #2 role behind Ryu, and whether that’s Walker or someone from outside the organization, it’s a significant need. However, if they’re able to get that item crossed off of their checklist, I like the idea of taking a bit of a gamble with a second starter.

The biggest reason I say that is because I believe the Blue Jays are well stocked as far as starting depth for next season. I don’t know that they have clear answers for all five of their rotation spots yet, but their 6-12 depth should be very strong, and could include the likes of Trent Thornton, Anthony Kay, Thomas Hatch, Julian Merryweather, Alek Manoah, and more. In theory, that should put the Blue Jays in a strong position, and even allow them to look at a starter with an injury history, but also a history of success.

For example, reports that the Texas Rangers are likely to decline their contract option on Corey Kluber. The veteran has had a terrible time staying healthy over the last two seasons, but he’s also a two-time Cy Young award winner, and I’m sure there will be plenty of GM’s who at least kick the tires on contract talks. He’s the type that could pay off in a big way if he can avoid the Injured List, but counting on a healthy season may not be so wise.

Another option could be a former division rival in Chris Archer, who used to torture the Blue Jays while pitching in Tampa Bay. He ended up missing the 2020 campaign with the Pirates because of surgery to correct thoracic outlet syndrome, but should be able to return next season. There are certainly other options that could fit the “reclamation project” description as well, including their own Robbie Ray, and it’s an intriguing possibility to fill out their group of starters. They’ve made similar additions in the past, such as Matt Shoemaker, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see it again.

Next. Back to Japan for bullpen reinforcements?. dark

In my mind, the biggest upside for the Blue Jays when pursuing rotation help is knowing that they do have some strong depth in place. They’ll need more top-end starting pitching if they truly want to compete next season, but that depth gives them some options for how they go about finding it.