Who is in the running for the third-through-fifth starter role?
This is where this ranking again gets tricky. Looking at the Jays’ all-time and single-season WAR leaders for pitchers, we’ve already got two of the top three. But Jimmy Key was teammates with such rotation stalwarts as Stieb, Hentgen, Jim Clancy, Juan Guzmán, Doyle Alexander, Jack Morris, David Cone, Al Leiter and David Wells.
Halladay also overlapped with the great Pat Hentgen in the 1998-99 seasons, as Stieb had also done in 1991-92 when Hentgen was just breaking in as a rookie. Hentgen would go on to post a 26.8 bWAR and 20.2 fWAR in 10 seasons with the Blue Jays, including a monster 8.6 bWAR season in 1996 when he won the first ever AL Cy Young award in franchise history (remember Stieb was robbed in the early-1980s!).
Hentgen also led the AL in innings pitched in both 1996, when he went 20-10 with a 3.22 ERA over 265.2 innings with 10 complete games and 3 shutouts, and then again in 1997 when he racked up another 264 innings with 9 complete games and 3 more shutouts.
Halladay’s inclusion also wipes out another legendary Jays starter in Roger Clemens, who posted the highest ever single-season WAR in Blue Jays history with an 11.9 bWAR in 1997, when he went 21-7 with a 2.05 ERA over an AL-leading 264 innings, which earned him a fourth AL Cy Young award that season.
Clemens would win a second consecutive Cy Young as a Blue Jay in 1998 before being traded to the Yankees ahead of the 1999 season, but unfortunately that knocks him off this list, because Halladay overlapped with Clemens in 1998 when he was a rookie, making two starts and tossing 14 innings.
With Halladay then a mainstay through the 2009 season, we have to fast forward to 2010 to continue our search for an all-time rotation. Ricky Romero (who’d overlapped with Halliday in 2009) and Shaun Marcum were okay, but not all-time greats. Brandon Morrow and Brett Cecil also showed promise at that time but ultimately ended up as relievers.
R.A. Dickey arrived in a big trade ahead of the 2013 season coming off the 2012 NL Cy Young, and was a mainstay of the rotation in his four Blue Jay seasons through 2016, with 130 starts and 824.1 innings. He also helped them to back-to-back ALCS appearances in 2015-16, but his Jays’ ERA of 4.05 and FIP of 4.58 meant his bWAR was only 7.1 and fWAR only 6.2.
Marcus Stroman arrived as a heralded rookie in 2014 and also put up some solid starting pitching in his six seasons with Toronto, compiling a 47-45 record with a 3.76 ERA and 3.60 FIP over 789.2 innings, accumulating a bWAR of 12.5. J.A. Happ compiled fairly comparable numbers as well as a Blue Jay from 2012-14 and again from 2015-18, with a 59-41 record, 3.88 ERA and 3.95 FIP over 745.1 innings which resulted in 10.2 bWAR.
Dickey, Stroman and Happ all have legitimate arguments in favor of making this list. However, it’s time for a controversial choice. After two Halladay and Key at the top, it would be fun to add another southpaw to the all-time Jays rotation of pitchers who were never teammates. Enter David Price.