Blue Jays: How this offseason will heavily impact Ross Stripling’s role in 2022

Acquired from the Los Angeles Dodgers midway through the 2020 season, right-hander Ross Stripling has been used as both a starter and a reliever since joining the Toronto Blue Jays.

Through 29 outings, Stripling has made 21 starts and owns a 5.00 ERA through 117.0 innings of work with the Blue Jays, accumulating 107 strikeouts and a 1.316 WHIP with an 8.2 K/9 and a 2.8 BB/9. For his career, the Pennsylvania product has pitched to a 3.97 ERA through six seasons in the majors with 511 strikeouts through 172 outings (80 starts).

As of right now, if the Blue Jays are unable to retain Robbie Ray and do not add any pitchers this winter through trade or free agency, there will be two open spots in the starting rotation. Hyun Jin Ryu, Alek Manoah, and Jose Berrios will occupy the first three but then an internal competition would most likely take place featuring pitchers such as Stripling, Nate Pearson, Tom Hatch, Anthony Kay, Zach Logue, Jacob Waguespack, Bowden Francis, and Trent Thornton all vying for a rotation spot.

With Steven Matz heading to St. Louis, there is at least one spot open but the potential for two if Ray decides to head elsewhere. The club has been pretty active on the trade market for pitching as well and is also interested in free agent Kevin Gausman. There are a few different scenarios that could happen but most of them boil down to whether Ray returns to the Blue Jays.

This offseason could produce a number of different scenarios for the Blue Jays, all of which will impact Ross Stripling’s role with the club next season.

Ray Returns and they do not acquire another pitcher

If the club is able to retain the Cy Young winner, it is highly unlikely that the front office will go out and acquire another arm via trade/free agency, meaning there is a spot for Stripling in the rotation if he can post a strong Spring Training. The former Dodgers pitcher would be in the mix amongst the group mentioned above but does possess the most experience at the big league level and would most likely have the inside edge for the spot.

Ray Returns and they acquire another pitcher

While highly unlikely given the amount of salary Ray will require, it is not entirely impossible that the Blue Jays won’t go out and add another pitcher to the rotation. They could trade some prospect capital for a controllable pitcher with experience or continue to add to the payroll by acquiring Gausman or another veteran arm, filling out the rotation with the southpaw also returning. This pushes Stripling to the bullpen in what would be a long-man capacity and would find himself being the first pitcher to take a rotation spot if somebody ends up on the injured list.

Ray leaves and the Blue Jays do not acquire another pitcher

Stripling’s chance of making the rotation is increased ten-fold, as he possesses the most experience of the competing pitchers and the club will be needing some rotation help after missing out big time this offseason. The club could choose to run with a younger pitcher like Pearson or Hatch but Stripling in the rotation will be an added safety net considering two spots are now up for grabs. Highly unlikely Stripling heads to the bullpen in this scenario but fans will be more concerned that the club didn’t add another pitcher to the squad this offseason and let Ray walk.

Ray leaves and the Blue Jays acquire another pitcher

With only one spot in the rotation up for grabs, Stripling does have an edge over his competition but could be moved to the bullpen if he struggles in Spring Training or one of the other pitchers simply outpitches him to begin the season. The club could also choose to move Stripling to the bullpen as an added safety measure if they don’t want to run with Thornton as the long man or want to give Pearson/Hatch a shot in the rotation. Stripling should have the advantage for a rotation spot but other factors could push him to the pen for Opening Day, waiting in the wings until either an injury or a poor performance pushes him back to being a starter.

It will honestly come down to whether the Blue Jays are able to bring Robbie Ray back next season and beyond in regards to how the rest of the rotation shapes up. One would imagine that Ross Atkins and co. would likely add a pitcher if their former ace heads elsewhere so there will likely be a competition for at least one rotation spot come Spring Training.

Personally, I would prefer Stripling in the bullpen compared to starting as I believe Hatch or Pearson is better suited for the rotation considering Stripling has not pitched well since joining the Blue Jays back in 2020. I know he started turning his season around towards the middle of June last year but I think there are better options internally while Stripling provides depth and experience in the bullpen that could be useful in the long-man role.

What do you think Blue Jays fans?