Blue Jays ideal starting rotation for the 2023 campaign

TORONTO, ON - AUGUST 31: Alek Manoah #6, Ross Stripling #48, Kevin Gausman #34 of the Toronto Blue Jays walk to the dugout before their team plays the Chicago Cubs in their MLB game at the Rogers Centre on August 31, 2022 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Mark Blinch/Getty Images)
TORONTO, ON - AUGUST 31: Alek Manoah #6, Ross Stripling #48, Kevin Gausman #34 of the Toronto Blue Jays walk to the dugout before their team plays the Chicago Cubs in their MLB game at the Rogers Centre on August 31, 2022 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Mark Blinch/Getty Images) /

Heading into the Blue Jays offseason, the club has top-of-the-rotation arms in both Alek Manoah and Kevin Gausman pencilled in, the question comes what rounds out the rest of the rotation?

José Berríos is coming off the worst season of his career as he posted a 5.23 ERA, which was a large jump from the 4.04 ERA he had averaged throughout the first five seasons of his career.  Despite having his worst year, the 28-year-old Puerto Rican-born pitcher still gave the club quality outings in half of his starts and had a win-loss record of 12-7.  He is signed for at least four more seasons with the club and has a player option for two additional seasons after that, which he can decide on after the 2026 season.

I fully expect Berríos to bounce back next year to be more on par with how he pitched before this past season.  If the goes into the season as the club’s third starter in the rotation, I am not too concerned, but I would love a situation where they get an arm that pushes him back to the number four spot and if that is the case they could have one of the best rotations in the Majors.

Two names that scare Blue Jays fans are Mitch White and Yusei Kikuchi, as those two would be written into the rotation if the season started today.

Kikuchi has two years left on his three-year, $36 Million deal he signed last off-season, however, the contract was front-loaded which leaves just $10 Million owed in each of the next two seasons (so could make it easier to trade if need be).  Kikuchi was removed from the rotation in late August after posting a 5.38 ERA over his first 23 appearances.  He pitched a little better after the change as he had a 3.95 ERA over his remaining nine games, which included having four consecutive shutout appearances to finish the season.

I wasn’t comfortable with the team signing him last year and I am even less optimistic about having him in the rotation for next year.  Ideally, they can find a trade for him, but I doubt that happens, so hopefully, the Blue Jays have him play a similar role that Ross Stripling had to start this season where he fills in as a long relief with the occasional opportunity to start a game.

Looking at the ideal rotation for the Blue Jays in 2023

Unlike Kikuchi, I have a lot more optimism for White who the Blue Jays acquired at the trade deadline.  The club has control of the 6’3” right-handed pitcher until the end of the 2027 season and he isn’t even eligible for arbitration until another two seasons pass.

White spent the first part of the season up and down with the Dodgers organization, as well as back and forth in the rotation and bullpen.  When the club acquired him at the trade deadline it was to fill the back of the rotation spot, but other than his second and third starts with the club he was completely ineffective.  I still see a lot of upside with White, but in the perfect situation he has to earn his spot throughout the season and he doesn’t start the year in the rotation.

As of right now, the Blue Jays have Gausman and Manoah holding down the 1-2 role in the starting rotation, with Berríos being ideally the 3-4 starter.  I am not 100% confident with Kikuchi or White starting games and definitely not both of them, so the club needs to bring in at least one, but preferably two arms into the rotation.

The first pitcher I go after is someone they can already talk with and that is Stripling.

The soon-to-be 33-year-old was arguably the saviour of the club this season after he not only stepped into the rotation when they needed someone but was dominant when called upon.  It is well publicized that Stripling was superb as a starter this year as he posted a 9-3 record after moving full-time to the rotation in early June and had a 2.64 ERA in 19 starts spanning over 102.1 innings pitched.

The 2020 trade deadline acquisition has never made much money over his career as he is coming off his highest earning season of just under $3.8 Million and will be looking to cash in.  The unfortunate part for Stripling is his age and lack of track record to really cash in.  The Athletics Keith Law wrote a recent article identifying Stripling as the 28th top free agent on the market and would offer him a contract of two years at $12 Million per year, which is similar to the deal I stated back in October that I would sign him to, except I would offer an additional third season.  If the club can get Stripling back in a Blue Jays uniform, that will help split the 3-4 role with Berríos, at least until they can get another top arm to push both those guys back.

The Blue Jays need to go big this off-season and try and bring in former two-time Cy Young Award winner Jacob deGrom to have a powerhouse rotation.

The last move is huge and I swing big.  The club knocking on the door of not just the AL East pennant, but truly being a World Series contender.  I take the chance and back the truck up to the soon-to-be 35-year-old and much-injured Jacob deGrom.

The club has wasted $72 Million the last few seasons on Kikuchi and Tanner Roark, so giving a proven ace like deGrom roughly $130 Million on a three-year deal (Max Scherzer-like) should be in the thoughts of management.  deGrom has started just 26 games over the last two seasons, however, when healthy has been an absolute ace.  Injuries kept him out of the Mets’ starting rotation from early July 2021 until this past August, but he was able to make 11 starts down the stretch this season and allowed more than three runs just once and pitched seven quality starts, including striking out double digits five times.  The two-time Cy Young Award winner has been with the New York Mets since they drafted him in the ninth round back in 2010 so it may be hard to get him to leave (especially since the Mets likely will do everything to get him to stay), but I would see what I could do to entice him to come north of the border.

Next. Charlie Montoyo finds new job. dark

My ideal rotation would be deGrom, Manoah, Gausman, Berríos and Stripling; that is unless the club can somehow acquire Shohei Ohtani but that is a completely different article of how you make that work.  This is all just dreaming up a perfect scenario for the club, but until players start signing contracts, you can hope.