The Blue Jays should target these two starting pitchers this offseason
The Toronto Blue Jays are in their offseason mode, with multiple decisions to make in anticipation for the 2023 campaign. The Blue Jays showed the ability to compete with this year’s squad, and that it can only go up from here given their current core. What would the birds prioritize this offseason? If anything, I would assume pitching would top the list.
If anything was taken away from this extra short playoff hype for Toronto, it should be the importance and depth of the pitching staff. After pulling your top starters such as Alek Manoah, Kevin Gausman, and Ross Stripling (who never got a chance to throw in the playoffs), it is difficult to decide who was next in line.
The Wild Card Game 3 starter decision would have been Stripling; in a best of 7, we would have seen José Berríos before it came around to Manoah/Gausman again in a prospective ALDS matchup, but that would be a risky move given his struggles this year, and after Berríos, there really was no other option.
The Blue Jays now have a long list of free agent pitching options to consider, along with multiple trade opportunities that will be expressed at the annual General Manager’s Meetings later this year. With three valuable catchers and multiple prospects that could be of interest, the Blue Jays have assets to move if needed, and there’s room for another starter or two, especially if Stripling does not return.
Blue Jays should consider these starting pitchers in the free agency market
Starting Pitcher – RHP Jameson Taillon
Most recently with the New York Yankees, right-hander Jameson Taillon would be a phenomenal addition to the Blue Jays pitching staff, with the ability to be a number 4-5 starter in the rotation.
Taillon showed a pretty good year with the Yankees, going 14-5 with a 3.91 ERA, striking out 151 sticks, while only walking 32 hitters. Taillon is a highly dependable arm, chucking 177.1 innings this year while being called on to big situations by the Yankees. He also owns a career 1.98 ERA through five starts and 27.1 innings at the Rogers Centre, and even though the sample size is small, it is encouraging to see that he has only allowed six earned runs and two home runs in a hitter-friendly ballpark.
The Blue Jays would see Taillon fit perfectly in the pitching puzzle with his repertoire, playoff experience, and ability to pitch in the American League East. Taillon is also not tied to a qualifying offer this winter, so the Jays would not be tied to draft pick compensation should they sign him.
Starting Pitcher – RHP Taijuan Walker
We would love to see Jacob deGrom in a Blue Jays uniform; however, I don’t think the wallet will be generously open to that extent.
Right under deGrom is another Mets arm that came up big for their club this season, and another guy that can really solidify the Blue Jays' starting rotation; Taijuan Walker. The 30-year-old free agent and former Blue Jay went 12-5 this season with a 3.49 ERA, striking out 132 batters, and only walking 45 guys over 157.1 innings this year. Walker has shown to be a big-game pitcher, with dependable options, the ability to work counts, pound the strike zone, and command the fastball well. On top of that, he is not tied to a qualifying offer this winter, unlike deGrom or teammate Chris Bassitt.
The trade market also holds some ground for starting pitching, as the Blue Jays American League East counterparts, the Tampa Bay Rays, may have some names on the market.
The Rule 5 draft will creep up on Tampa Bay, as their prospective arms need to be protected, possibly putting current starting pitching on the trade block. Can the Blue Jays possibly move a catcher or a prospect for Drew Rasmussen or Ryan Yarborough? These are all possibilities and should be strongly considered as well.