With the departure of Robbie Ray and Steven Matz and the recent acquisition of Kevin Gausman, the Blue Jays roll into Spring Training with a pretty solid rotation that could be considered one of the top starting corps in the AL East.
With Gausman joining the club, the rotation now features four pitchers with Hyun Jin Ryu, Jose Berrios, and Alek Manoah rounding out the rest of the group. The Blue Jays now have one open spot in the rotation, one that could be up for grabs internally this spring or could be fulfilled from a player outside the organization this winter.
While it has yet to be seen how the club plans to use Nate Pearson next year, he along with Tom Hatch, Anthony Kay, Ross Stripling, and a host of other pitchers could battle it out for the last rotation spot. While this could be a way to save some money and look to improve other areas on the roster, if the Blue Jays are serious about contending, they may be wise to pick up another pitcher this offseason to help solidify the rotation.
Here are three potential options:
Joining the Seattle Mariners back in 2019, southpaw Yusei Kikuchi spent eight years in the Nippon Baseball League with the Seibu Lions before jumping ship to Major League Baseball. With the Mariners, Kikuchi has posted a 4.97 ERA through 70 starts with 326 strikeouts and a 1.403 WHIP through three seasons.
The left-hander turned down his $13 million dollar player option this offseason and is trying his luck in free agency, with a few different teams expressing interest in the Japanese pitcher. The Blue Jays are joining the Kikuchi rumour train and the 30-year old could be a solid option at the back end of the rotation but does come with some risk.
With the Blue Jays adding Kevin Gausman to the rotation, there are a few pitchers still available this offseason via trade or free agency who could help solidify the starting five.
He owns a 3.2 BB/9 for his Major League career and has also struggled with giving up the long ball to the tune of a 1.6 HR/9. In a division featuring power hitters on both the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox, Kikuchi could get hit around and any contract with the Jays could turn sour really quick if he struggles to keep runners off base. There is also the potential that he turns into a solid pitcher after working with pitching coach Pete Walker, adding to an already strong rotation that could push the club into the postseason next year. One potential back-end candidate the Blue Jays could consider this offseason.
Examining possible trade scenarios for the Blue Jays, the Oakland Athletics are one team that could pique their interest considering the club is willing to listen to offers for some of their starting pitchers in an effort to bring down payroll. One of the A’s pitchers the Jays could be interested in is right-hander Chris Bassitt.
The Ohio product has quietly put up strong numbers throughout his career, sporting a 3.47 ERA through 106 appearances with 504 strikeouts through 555.2 innings of work. Bassitt was putting together a great season last year before taking a comebacker to the face and missing a month late in the year, eventually finishing with a 3.15 ERA through 27 starts.
The Athletics starter would cost the Blue Jays some prospect capital but is currently in his last year of arbitration eligibility, meaning his price tag will be lower than his teammate Frankie Montas. The Jays’ front office could also go after southpaw Sean Manaea instead of Bassitt, considering he also boasts solid career numbers (3.86 ERA through six seasons) but Bassitt does boast the better numbers although being a few years older than his southpaw rotation counterpart.
One of the bigger names left on the free-agent market behind Marcus Stroman and Clayton Kershaw, left-hander Carlos Rodon is an intriguing option if the Blue jays are willing to open their pocketbook just a little more this offseason.
The Chicago White Sox starter had a great bounceback campaign in 2021, starting 24 games on his way to a 2.37 ERA through 132.2 innings with 185 strikeouts and a 0957 WHIP. Rodon started off strong, throwing a no-hitter against Cleveland in mid-April, and was in the Cy Young conversation until shoulder fatigue sidelined him for a few games and Robbie Ray ran away with the honours.
Rodon is a bit of a risky signing given his injury history, hitting the IL in each of the past three seasons with both the 2019 and 2020 campaigns featuring 60-game stints. Spotrac currently has him valued at $24 million but it would be difficult to imagine him getting that value with the injury past. He could be a solid one-year deal candidate, especially since the White Sox did not tender him a qualifying offer and he is not tied to draft pick compensation.
While lightning may not strike twice when it comes to pitchers churning out Cy Young caliber seasons on a one-year deal with the club, if Rodon can stay healthy with the Blue Jays, he would easily shape up one of the top rotations in the American League next season alongside the current crew.