Blue Jays: What Yusei Kikuchi’s latest stumble should mean
After another rocky outing against the Orioles, it’s hard to imagine the Blue Jays will turn to Yusei Kikuchi again in 2022.
Thankfully the southpaw was able to recover from a terrible start to his appearance on Tuesday night, but it still felt like a nail in the coffin for trusting Kikuchi for any meaningful innings again in 2022. With just 17 games remaining in the regular season, and still in the thick of the Wild Card and maybe even AL East standings, there’s no time to gamble any more.
That’s less than ideal since the Blue Jays may still need to use a “bullpen day” a couple more times this season, but it also may mean that there’s a little more pressure on Mitch White to perform like a starter instead. On Friday, John Schneider handed the ball to Trevor Richards as the “opener”, and he and Julian Merryweather combined to hold the Orioles down through the first three innings. That’s when Kikuchi entered the game.
Before I could turn my head, Kikuchi had given up a triple to Cedric Mullins, and followed that up by serving up a home run ball to Adley Rutschman to put the Blue Jays behind in the game at the time. Again, thankfully he settled down and struck out four hitters over two innings, but to me it felt like the damage had already been done.
As we have many times throughout the season, Blue Jays were talking about what to do with Kikuchi after his latest rough appearance. One tweet in particular stood out to me, and I completely agreed with what @scottymacthinks had to say:
Simply put, the Blue Jays have better pitching options both on their roster, and even beyond the current 28-man roster. Names like Nate Pearson, or Matt Gage come to mind.
I understand why the Blue Jays have done whatever they can to find a role for Kikuchi, especially with two years left on his contract. Thankfully the three-year pact was front-loaded and he was paid 16 million this year, followed by 10 million each over the next two seasons according to spotrrac.com.
Maybe they can stash him on the roster for the last 17 games, and use him strictly in a blowout scenario or something, but it’s getting hard to imagine we’ll see the 31 year old again in a meaningful spot for the Blue Jays in 2022. I agree with MacArthur’s tweet above that it’s probably worthwhile to give Kikuchi the offseason to try to work things out, and another look in the spring, but this might be a case of a swing and a miss in free agency.
At this point in the 2022 campaign, there’s no time left to treat it as anything but.