The Blue Jays are likely going to be busy in the starting pitching market, and there are a handful of names I’d love to see work with Pete Walker.
What do I mean by that? Most Blue Jays fans will understand that what I mean is I’d like to see Walker get a chance to squeeze the most out of a talented pitcher that hasn’t been able to put things together in recent years. Walker has worked his magic with the likes of Robbie Ray and Steven Matz more recently, and there are several other examples over the years from the long-time pitching coach in Toronto.
As I survey the potential free agent market, I really do feel like the Blue Jays need to make a serious bid to retain Robbie Ray at the top of their rotation. Whether they can get that done or not, I would expect Ross Atkins and company to look for other veterans that could support the back of the group. Matz could also be a candidate to return, but my guess is the Jays would prefer to spend less and look for the next Matz that can have some of their unharnessed potential unlocked.
To me, the most obvious candidate of that description would be Dylan Bundy.
Blue Jays fans are likely familiar with Bundy from his time with the Baltimore Orioles, who made him the 4th pick of the 2011 MLB draft. Bundy never really reached his potential with the Orioles, although he had a couple of seasons that he was at least an above-average rotation arm. That said, the Orioles had hoped for an ace, and it just never really happened.
I remember when Bundy moved on to the L.A. Angels and the optimism that came with a fresh start for the Oklahoma native. He looked like he may be turning his career around over 11 starts during the shortened 2020 season, but unfortunately he couldn’t repeat that type of success this season, finishing with a 2-9 record with a 6.06 ERA and a 1.357 WHIP over 23 appearances (19 starts).
Bundy will turn 29 years old next month, which is just one of the things he has in common with where Robbie Ray was at the time that the Blue Jays acquired him last year. Bundy is coming off of his worst season as a pro, and there’s a very good chance that he’d be open to the one-year “show me” type of contract that the Blue Jays have seemingly grown so fond of. After a very rough 2021 season, Bundy doesn’t have much leverage either, just as Ray didn’t when he signed a one-year, eight million dollar pact to return to Toronto last winter.
Now that I’ve said all that, I have to mention that I see this as more of a back-up plan, or a supporting piece than anything. In a perfect world Ray would return and join Jose Berrios, Alek Manoah, and Hyun Jin Ryu to give the Jays a very strong top four. A guy like Bundy would be a great candidate to battle the likes of Nate Pearson, Thomas Hatch, and even Ross Stripling for the fifth starter’s job, and would have to pitch well enough to earn the gig.
There will be higher profile moves made over the winter, but as we’ve seen over the last few seasons, there’s always at least one lower cost signing that makes a true impact for the Blue Jays. It’s often come from the rotation because of the excellent work from Pete Walker and his crew, and if the Blue Jays are looking for a new project for their pitching coach, they could do worst then Bundy.