Toronto Blue Jays: Back end rotation help is on the way

After the top three Blue Jays starters Hyun Jin Ryu, Robbie Ray, and Steven Matz, Toronto has used nine other pitchers through their first 36 games. The results have been poor, with an 0-6 win/loss record, a 7.09 ERA over only 50.2 innings pitched, and an fWAR of -0.6, worse than potential replacements. Thankfully, back end rotation help is on the way.

Overall, Blue Jays starters are 9-11 in 36 starts, pitching to a 4.70 ERA and fielding independent pitching (FIP) of 4.57; the 12 starters used to date in 2021 have only tossed 162 innings, dead last in Major League Baseball.

The bullpen has compensated for this with outstanding work over 150.2 innings, compiling an 11-5 record with 9 saves and a 2.82 ERA and FIP of 3.83. But when the relievers are combining for 48.3% of innings pitched, how sustainable is that performance?

Don’t worry Jays fans: here comes the cavalry.

The Rotation Prospects

Alek Manoah was outstanding again on Wednesday with another six innings (76 pitches, 49 strikes) and no runs allowed. He’s 2-0 with a 0.00 ERA in 12 innings with 17 Ks and only 3 hits and two walks against him. The 23 year old is built up to 80 pitches already in Triple-A.

Nick Allgeyer is 1-0 with a 1.50 ERA and 1.00 WHIP over two starts and 12 innings (10 Ks) in Triple-A. Opposing batters only have a .167 average against the 25 year old lefty. He threw 90 pitches on Tuesday, including 61 for strikes. Plus he has a beard to rival former Jays top prospect Daniel Norris.

Simeon Woods Richardson now has a 2.00 ERA in 9 innings pitched with 16 Ks and a 0.89 WHIP at Double-A New Hampshire. He threw 78 pitches (48 for strikes) Tuesday in their win. The 20 year old righty is also built up to 80 pitches.

Anthony Kay will occupy Nate Pearson’s slot in the rotation for now while the big righty works on his mechanics in Triple-A.

Apparently, Blue Jays General Manager Ross Atkins was in the stands Wednesday night in Trenton, NJ to witness this:

The Trade Deadline Rotation Rentals

In addition to the starting pitching prospects at the top two levels of the Blue Jays farm system, the front office should be in a position to add a veteran starter (or two) via trades ahead of the July 30th trade deadline. Given how competitive the 20-16 team has been despite the back end rotation woes, they should be buyers ahead of the TDL.

Looking at which clubs are falling out of contention early, veteran starters on expiring contracts like Max Scherzer, Jon Gray, Tyler Anderson, and José Ureña could all be available.

The Washington Nationals should be sellers of Scherzer if they keep tumbling out of the NL East race, going 3-7 in their last ten games to also fall 4.0 games back in the wildcard race. The soon to be 37 year old has been his usual dominant self in 2021, going 2-2 with a 2.33 ERA in seven starts covering 46.1 innings with a whopping 61 strikeouts and minuscule 0.777 WHIP.

Jon Gray continues to give Rockies fans something to cheer about with a 4-3 record and 2.93 ERA in 8 starts and 46 innings, with 46 Ks and a 1.174 WHIP. Meanwhile Colorado has also dropped seven of their last ten games in the ultra competitive NL West, and are already 7.0 games back in the wildcard race.

Pittsburgh is already well out of the NL Central race and could move 31 year old lefty starter Tyler Anderson, who seems to be enjoying a breakout in his contract walk year at 3-3, 3.05 ERA in seven starts and 41.1 innings, with 37 Ks and a 1.04 WHIP on a bad 15-21 Bucs team.

Remember that no Jays starter has pitched 40+ innings season to date, so any of the above would represent an upgrade for the back end of the rotation. Of course the cost in prospect capital will be relevant here, but with breakout performances this season from Gabriel Moreno, Logan Warmoth, and others, the Jays will be dealing from a position of strength.

We can rest assured that back end rotation help is on the way, and with the pending return of George Springer, and the hot bats of Teoscar Hernandez, Bo Bichette and Marcus Semien adding to a lineup already blessed with Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and a hot Randal Grichuk, those current FanGraphs playoff odds of 56% should likely only improve from here.