The MLB offseason is far from over even if it’s currently stalled out, but the Blue Jays have to like the way the rotations for their division rivals are shaping up.
That’s obviously the case when they look at their own group of starters, and it’s possible that they’re not done improving that area of the roster. The Jays started the offseason by extending Jose Berrios’ contract for a seven year term, and then they inked Kevin Gausman to a five-year, 110 million dollar contract. Those two top-tier starters will join Hyun Jin Ryu and Alek Manoah to form one of the top rotations in the American League, and likely the best in the AL East as of now. That’s a nice thing to be able to say when you consider that they lost both Robbie Ray and Steven Matz in free agency, but Gausman’s signing certainly helps mitigate that.
I found myself looking for any baseball news I could find earlier this week, which led me to reviewing all of the free agent contracts that were signed prior to the expiry of the last Collective Bargaining Agreement on December 2nd. I was aware of the vast majority of the deals that took place, but I couldn’t help but smile as I reviewed what the rest of the AL East teams have done so far. Again, they could all still look to improve their pitching staffs once a new CBA is in place, and I expect that at least the Yankees will look to do that, but so far the moves have been pretty underwhelming.
I’ll start with those Red Sox, who have already signed three veterans to join a rotation that already includes Chris Sale, Nate Eovaldi, and a few talented young arms. They lost Eduardo Rodriguez to the Detroit Tigers when he kicked off this winter’s free agent market, and it looks like they’re hoping to fill his spot through volume rather than a direct replacement. So far they’ve signed Michael Wacha, who spent last season with the Tampa Bay Rays, as well as a pair of southpaws in Rich Hill and James Paxton. Hill is a bit of an ageless wonder who will turn 42 before next season begins, and Paxton is coming off of Tommy John surgery and likely won’t be ready for the regular season. As for Wacha, he posted a 5.05 ERA over 29 appearances (23 starts) in 2021, and struggled to a -0.7 bWAR. Not exactly the most aggressive approach from the Red Sox front office.
For the Rays, they rolled the dice on a former Cy Young award winner in Corey Kluber, who will make his latest attempt to regain the form that made him one of the best pitchers in the world. The 35-year-old went through another injury-married campaign with the Yankees last season that held him to 16 starts that covered 80.0 innings. He was pretty effective when he was healthy though, and if the Rays can keep him on the mound then he could be a decent signing. Otherwise the only other rumours I’ve read related to the Rays’ rotation would be speculation about whether Tyler Glasnow could be traded.
With all due respect to the Orioles, the only other team I’m overly concerned with here would be the Yankees, and so far they really haven’t done much of anything. If you want to see a group of frustrated sports fans, go search through Twitter and read the vibe among Yankee fans right now. They’re understandably upset that the front office basically came up empty handed before the expiration of the CBA, and that’s especially concerning because they likely need upgrades at shortstop, centre field, and in their own rotation.
For now the only rotation upgrade the Yankees might be looking at would be the return of Luis Severino, who made a few appearances out of the bullpen late in the 2021 season. Ideally he’ll be able to take one of the rotation jobs next season, but the Yankees still need a reliable top-tier pitcher to slot behind Gerrit Cole. They were hoping Kluber could be that guy for a relatively cheap contract in 2021, but it didn’t work out that way for at least half of the season. This time around they’re likely going to need to do better than that if they’re hoping to make the playoffs again in 2022.
Having said all of that, there is still a fair bit of talent among AL East starters that the Blue Jays will have to face. It’s never going to be easy to have to hit against the likes of Gerrit Cole, Chris Sale, and more, and that’s not going to change any time soon. That said, if the rest of the AL East can’t do more to improve their rotations ahead of next season, I have to think the Blue Jays like the way things are shaping up with the pitching depth charts that they’ll see the most.