This offseason has been pretty exciting for the Blue Jays and their fanbase. After losing Marcus Semien to the Texas Rangers on a seven-year deal and Steven Matz to the St. Louis Cardinals, the front office signed starter Kevin Gausman to a five-year contract worth $110 million before losing Robbie Ray to the Mariners. All within a week before the owners locked out the players as well.
The 2022 roster is going to look a lot different than what fans experienced last year but there is still lots to be hopeful for, as the young core continues to get better and starter Jose Berrios is now signed to at least another five seasons (player option after year five). Factor in that the Blue Jays could still make some moves once a new CBA is in place (hopefully sometime early in the new year) and a front office that appears ready to continue improving the roster, things could get exciting before Spring Training rolls around.
The Blue Jays could look to improve a few different areas before next season and one area is the rotation, as the club currently has four spots occupied and one still up for grabs. While the Jays could let Nate Pearson or Tom Hatch battle for the last spot, the front office could bring in a veteran arm to complete the rotation without blowing out the budget.
One of the more veteran arms on the free-agent market, Zack Greinke heads to free agency after spending the past three years with the Houston Astros. The right-hander owns a career 3.41 ERA through 18 seasons and 530 games, earning six gold glove awards, six All-Star appearances, and a Cy Young Award back in 2009 with the Kansas City Royals.
At the tail end of his career, Greinke has yet to earn a World Series ring and could be looking to add one before he rides off into the sunset. The Blue Jays sit in a strong position over the next couple of seasons to contend and Greinke could be the last piece to finish out the rotation. While fans most likely won’t experience the sub-3.00 ERA pitcher that he was during his prime, a short-term deal for the Florida product could be just what the Blue Jays need for the 2022 campaign that has more than just on the field impacts.
With the Blue Jays looking to improve their roster for the 2022 season, there are three back-of-the-end rotation options the club could look to sign this winter.
Another starter on the open market, right-hander Zach Davies spent the majority of his career with the Milwaukee Brewers before being involved in two separate trades over the past two campaigns. With the Brewers, Davies posted some solid numbers, a 3.91 ERA through 111 starts with a 1.299 WHIP, and continued that success in San Diego during the shortened 2020 campaign. Last season with the Chicago Cubs is one he would most likely want to forget however, as he struggled to a 5.78 ERA through 32 starts and posted the highest BB/9 stats for his career at 4.6.
While his season with the Cubs is one that hopefully isn’t the start of a new trend, Davies is a great candidate for a one-year bounce-back candidate similar to how the Blue Jays signed Ray and Semien to one-year prove-it deals in 2021. For the right price, adding the soon to be 29 year old to a short-term contract could be a great way to finish off the Blue Jays rotation.
After three years with the Seattle Mariners, southpaw Yusei Kikuchi is a free agent after declining his $13 million dollar player option. As a Mariner, Kikuchi put up a 4.97 ERA through 70 starts with a 8.0 K/9 through 365.2 innings of work.
Kikuchi is an interesting name on the market this season, as it was a bit puzzling to see him turn down his player option. His 2021 campaign was his best in the Major Leagues so far (4.41 ERA through 29 starts) and it looks like he is trying to secure either a long-term deal elsewhere or the Seattle Mariners were not going to use him in the rotation moving forward.
If he is looking for a deal worth 3+ years, then the Blue Jays may want to pass on this free agent, as a back-end rotation arm on the books for anything other than a one-two year deal kind of hogties any up and coming starters the club may want to utilize in the rotation like Pearson or Hatch.
If the Jays are able to get Kikuchi on a short-term “bounce back” contract, having him pair up with pitching coach Pete Walker and co. could produce some fun returns for the Japanese pitcher that helps solidify the Jays rotation for the 2022 season, with an internal prospect waiting in the wings if things go South in the number five spot.