The Blue Jays may have dodged on bullet on Friday night after Alek Manoah was hit with a comebacker, but either way it should reinforce something that they already know. This team needs more depth in their rotation.
I’m sure I’m not the only fan that panicked a bit at the prospect of Manoah being hurt. First of all, he’s been the best starter on the team this year, so losing him to injury for any length of time would be devastating. Secondly and almost as importantly, the Blue Jays really don’t have the depth to be able to cover for the loss of a rotation fixture like Manoah.
Right now the depth chart includes Manoah, Kevin Gausman, Jose Berrios, Ross Stripling, and the recent return of Yusei Kikuchi. The jury is still out on whether Kikuchi can actually stick in the MLB rotation, but it was certainly encouraging to see him have a strong outing on Thursday night against the Tigers. Beyond those five, the next man up is likely Max Castillo, a young right-hander with a total of nine big league appearances, and only 20.2 innings under his belt. He’s been mostly solid during his big league audition so far this year, but relying on him for a significant role would be asking a lot at this stage of his career, especially for a team with postseason aspirations.
Simply put, the Blue Jays would be very wise to address this thin area of their roster ahead of the deadline, even if we now know that Luis Castillo won’t be the solution after the Mariners acquired him late Friday evening.
As much as I would love to see the Jays acquire a frontline starter, it’s almost as important to bring some depth into the fold in general. Obviously a top shelf rotation piece would be ideal, but the Blue Jays aren’t in a bad place at all when it comes to what would shape a playoff rotation. That is, as long as their best arms stay healthy of course.
At the moment it really feels like the area that has the potential to be the Achilles heel for the Blue Jays, and I say that while also acknowledging that the bullpen is badly in need of a boost as well. Assuming Manoah is going to be alright and doesn’t miss any more than a start or two, they’re in an okay spot overall. That said, Kikuchi is still a major question mark, and respectfully, Stripling has probably pitched a bit over his head since joining the rotation. Add in the fact that Jose Berrios has had mixed results this year, and the starting group isn’t exactly a strength at the moment.
Where it gets scary is thinking about what happens if one of their staples were to hit the Injured List, and that fear was presented to us in real time on Friday night as Manoah took a knee after being hit with a very hard hit ball. The bullpen is not in a place to carry the rotation either, and considering how tight the AL Wild Card race is going to be when all is said and done, every game is going to matter. This team learned that lesson all too well in 2021 when they missed the postseason by a single game.
So all that said, I won’t lose my mind if the Blue Jays don’t add an ace to the rotation before Tuesday’s trade deadline. However, if they stand pat and don’t add any capable starters at all, well, I can promise you I’ll have more to say about that later on.