Blue Jays: With Kikuchi’s deal, Nate Pearson suddenly feels expendable
After the Blue Jays agreed to a three-year, 36 million dollar deal with Yusei Kikuchi, Nate Pearson’s future in Toronto may not be as certain as it once was.
Prior to Saturday’s news about the Kikuchi deal, Pearson looked to be lined up for a battle for the fifth starter’s job in Toronto, likely against Ross Stripling and Thomas Hatch, among others. Now, the Blue Jays have a pretty set rotation as long as everyone enters the season healthy, and that could steer them in another direction when it comes to Pearson’s future.
If we’re waiting for him to take one of the rotation jobs, the soonest that would come would be after the 2023 season when Hyun Jin Ryu’s contract runs out. That could change due to injury or underperformance of course, but it’s not the easiest path for Pearson to be a regular starting pitcher any time in the next two years. They’re currently pretty loaded with Kikuchi, Jose Berrios, Kevin Gausman, Alek Manoah, and Hyun Jin Ryu. I don’t mean to downplay the need for pitching depth either, and Pearson could always start the season in Buffalo.
That said, I can’t help but wonder if Kikuchi’s deal means that Ross Atkins and the Blue Jays front office would be more open to including Pearson in a blockbuster trade. This is purely speculation on my part, but perhaps Cleveland really likes the big right-hander, and would consider him as an important part of any deal for Jose Ramirez. Maybe the same is said for the Diamondbacks and their versatile star in Ketel Marte.
From what I’ve seen on social media, fans are very split on what they think the Blue Jays should do with Pearson right now. Some seem to think that he’s been destined for the bullpen for a long time anyway, and he’d be a legitimate weapon for the late innings. Provided he can stay healthy, I think they could be right about that. Others seem to think that now may be the time to trade the fireballer that used to have a lot more value as far as prospect status, hopefully capitalizing on some of the shine that still remains. I can understand that argument as well. Still others think that you can never have enough starting depth, and that’s certainly true as well.
For me, the reality will be somewhere in the middle, and that will depend on just how much value a potential suitor may place on Pearson. He could always serve as high-end rotation depth, pitching in Triple-A, or maybe even in long relief until an opportunity comes up as a starter. Considering his injury issues, that’s not a bad place for him to start the year in my mind, but it depends on how he views things, and of course how the club does as well.
It should be a very busy next week or two as far as roster transactions across the league, including for the Blue Jays. It remains to be seen if a big trade is still coming, but if it does, don’t be shocked if Pearson is one of the players going the other way.