Blue Jays: Where does Mitch White fit in when he returns from the injured list?
By Edward Eng
Last year at the trade deadline, the Toronto Blue Jays added starting pitching depth by acquiring Mitch White from the Los Angeles Dodgers. In the deal, the Jays also got infielder prospect Alex de Jesus, in exchange for prospects Nick Frasso and Moises Brito. White was coming off a decent 2021 season with the Dodgers, and continued that success in 2022 with a 3.70 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, with 47 strikeouts in 56 innings pitched prior to the trade.
However, after arriving in Toronto, White would make 10 pitching appearances, including eight starts, and struggled with a 7.74 ERA, 1.74 WHIP, giving up 37 runs in just 43 innings pitched. Despite that performance, the Jays were willing to give him another chance to prove himself, since his previous track record with the Dodgers showed that he could provide some value and effectiveness.
White was expected to battle it out with Yusei Kikuchi in Spring Training for the fifth and final starting rotation spot for the Jays’ 2023 roster, with the other four spots set in stone with Alek Manoah, Kevin Gausman, Chris Bassitt and José Berríos. However, an offseason shoulder impingement injury delayed his buildup for Spring Training, and eventually he was also put on the injured list with elbow inflammation to start the season.
Recently, White has been working his way back into shape, ramping up his activity with bullpen sessions and a simulated game last week. He will most likely require a rehab assignment in the next step before being finally activated from the injured list. But when that time comes, where does he fit in on the current Jays’ roster?
One key point to keep in mind is that White is currently out of options, so he can’t be just optioned to the minors to serve as starting pitching depth. In the current state, his main competitor from Spring Training, Kikuchi, has firmly grabbed a hold onto the fifth rotation spot with a strong start to the season, and White isn’t going to replace any of the other four, so the starting rotation is out of the question.
The best suitable position for him on the Jays roster would be to serve as a long man and potential swingman, similar to what Ross Stripling had done in previous years. The current bullpen lacks a traditional bulk reliever that could pitch two innings or more on a regular basis, so White would fit that need perfectly if effective. But to do so, he will need a bullpen spot to open up because the Jays already have the max 13 pitchers on the roster, so he cannot replace a position player.
For candidates that White could replace currently in the bullpen, both Tim Mayza and Zach Pop have options remaining (Adam Cimber does too, but he just got put on the injured list), but both have been decent so far for the Jays this season (albeit one bad outing that went out of hand in Houston after two quick outs for Pop). Nate Pearson, who had been just called up to replace Cimber, also has options, except the Jays would probably want to give him a longer leash to get a good assessment of what he can bring to the ballclub.
Any other bullpen arm would need to be designated for assignment to make room for White, and among those, both Anthony Bass and Yimi García are currently struggling the most. Bass gave up runs in four of his last five appearances and García gave up runs in three of his last four appearances, putting both of their current ERA above seven. So that will depend on if the Jays have given up already on either of those two pitchers. Or, if one of the bullpen arms unfortunately hits the IL like how Cimber did recently, a spot would become available for White.
But if none of these options become feasible for the Jays, look for White to be potentially designated for assignment himself and perhaps even be traded to hopefully recoup some asset(s) in return. It would be great to give White at least one more chance to see what he could bring to the big club, but if the Jays value what they currently have more, this may be the unfortunate circumstances that may result from it.