Toronto Blue Jays: An offseason checklist for Ross Atkins

TORONTO, ON - APRIL 02: General manager Ross Atkins of the Toronto Blue Jays addresses the media after completing a trade earlier in the day that sent Kevin Pillar #11 to the San Francisco Giants during MLB game action against the Baltimore Orioles at Rogers Centre on April 2, 2019 in Toronto, Canada. (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)
TORONTO, ON - APRIL 02: General manager Ross Atkins of the Toronto Blue Jays addresses the media after completing a trade earlier in the day that sent Kevin Pillar #11 to the San Francisco Giants during MLB game action against the Baltimore Orioles at Rogers Centre on April 2, 2019 in Toronto, Canada. (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images) /
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Blue Jays
Sep 28, 2022; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Blue Jays starting pitcher Yusei Kikuchi (16) throws a pitch against the New York Yankees during the ninth inning at Rogers Centre. Mandatory Credit: Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports /

Investing doesn’t always solve the problem

If we take a look at the Blue Jays’ payroll, there’s no denying that this front office has been willing to invest in the starting rotation. Kevin Gausman inked a five-year, 110 million dollar contract last offseason, Yusei Kikuchi signed for three years and 36 million, and Jose Berrios agreed to a seven-year extension worth 131 million dollars. On top of that, they’re still paying Hyun Jin Ryu 20 million per season as he recovers from Tommy John surgery, although his contract will run out at the end of the 2023 campaign and that money will be off the books.

Despite those investments, the Blue Jays find themselves in need of at least one starting pitcher this offseason, and probably two. As things stand, they expect Alek Manoah to join Gausman and Berrios as the rotation staples, and there are a lot of question marks after that. Ross Stripling is a free agent after a career-best season in 2022, and it’s hard to say whether the Blue Jays will look to re-sign him. He was a crucial part of their success this past season, so you have to think that if they don’t bring him back they’ll at least look to replace him with someone of similar value.

As for the fifth spot in the rotation, it was a disaster of a year from Kikuchi, and it’s possible that he could end up in the bullpen on a permanent basis. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if the Jays gave him another chance to start in spring training, but it’s hard to bank on anything from the hard-throwing southpaw. Otherwise, the rotation options include Mitch White, MAYBE Nate Pearson, or perhaps even a few names we didn’t see much of in 2022 like Anthony Kay or Thomas Hatch. As you can see, depth will be an important thing to address as well.

The good news is the Blue Jays have a very strong pair to lead their rotation in Manoah and Gausman, and there’s a strong chance that Berrios finds his form and pitches to at least the level of a #3 starter. The Jays would be wise to find a way to shore up the middle of the rotation one way or another, and I suspect it’ll be a top priority for the front office as they navigate the hot stove season.

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