Blue Jays: Finding a left-handed pitcher to replace Yusei Kikuchi in the rotation

Graeme Wallace
Toronto Blue Jays v Baltimore Orioles - Game Two
Toronto Blue Jays v Baltimore Orioles - Game Two / G Fiume/GettyImages
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Once free agency resumed prior to the 2022 season, the Toronto Blue Jays' first move was to sign Yusei Kikuchi to a three-year contract.

The thought was that adding Kikuchi to a rotation that already included Hyun Jin Ryu and José Berríos would fortify a strong starting unit.

That last sentence is an example of how much things can change for a baseball team over the course of a year. Berrios started the year as the staff ace and promptly led the league in hits and earned runs allowed. Ryu only made six starts and went under the knife for Tommy John surgery in June. Kikuchi had one of the more frustrating seasons by a Jays pitcher in recent memory and was eventually relegated to the bullpen.

While there is hope that all three can bounce back in 2023, that can’t be the strategy. Most of the top southpaws have already been taken off the board so the ones that remain all have some warts but considering they’d be potentially filling a fifth starter’s spot, any of these veterans could be an upgrade.

Wade Miley

Following a rough, two-year patch from 2016-2017 (combined ERA of 5.49) Miley has rejuvenated his career with a pair of solid seasons in 2019 and 2021. He’s not a high strikeout pitcher (under 8 SO/9IP since 2018) and has had seasons with alarmingly high walk rates, but he generates soft contact and an above-average groundball percentage.

Miley would likely sign a one-year deal which is always low-risk and would bring a ton of experience and veteran leadership to the staff.

Danny Duffy

The Blue Jays might be inclined to kick the tires on Duffy, who has had some good years but has had miserable injury luck lately. He was a mainstay on the Kansas City Royals going back to 2011 and was a contributing member of the teams that went to back-to-back World Series in the mid-2010’s.

The Royals traded Duffy to the Dodgers midway through the 2021 season and he’s suffered a pair of setbacks to the flexor tendon strain injury he sustained that May. If he can find his previous form, Duffy could be a valuable addition to the team. He’s got an ERA under 4.00 for his career, has pitched in big games, and would likely push Kikuchi to a relief role.

Rich Hill

Hill has continued to defy father time by continuing to be a usable starting pitcher in the majors into his 40s. In fact, most of Hill’s best years were in 2016 (his age-36 season) and beyond. He doesn’t throw with a ton of velocity but generates his share of non-threatening fly balls and doesn’t walk a lot of batters.

Any of these pitchers would be a worthwhile signing as a left-handed option in the rotation. It wouldn’t be a move that would make a lot of headlines, but they could inspire more confidence in a given start than Kikuchi or Mitch White.

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