Three pitchers the Blue Jays should target as minor league depth

As the adage goes, “You can’t have too much pitching.”

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Samurai Japan v MLB All Stars - Game 4 / Atsushi Tomura/GettyImages
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With reports Toronto has signed Cuban right-hander Yariel Rodríguez to a four-year, $32M deal that has yet to be officially announced, the pitching staff for the Blue Jays’ 26-man MLB roster looks pretty much set for the 2024 season. Gone from the 2023 staff is starter Hyun Jin Ryu, along with relievers Jordan Hicks, Jay Jackson and Adam Cimber.

Starting pitching depth on the 40-man roster currently includes Mitch White, Wes Parsons and Bowden Francis, who could be stretched back out after tossing 36.1 innings of relief for Toronto last year. He also made 7 starts for Triple-A Buffalo in 2023, with a 2.67 ERA over 27 innings.

Top prospect Ricky Tiedemann should start the year with the Buffalo Bisons as well, but after only pitching 62 innings combined last year in the minors and the Arizona Fall League, the Jays won’t be in any rush to promote their 21-year old stud.

No. 13 prospect Chad Dallas should also see a promotion to Buffalo this year after making 18 starts covering 96.2 innings at Double-A New Hampshire in 2023, and being named the Jays’ right-handed pitcher organizational All-Star by MiLB.com.

Relief pitching depth on the 40-man roster includes the aforementioned White and Francis, along with Nate Pearson, Zach Pop, Yosver Zulueta, Hagen Danner and lefty Brendon Little. White and Trevor Richards are both out of minor league options, so they would have to be made available to other clubs if they don’t make the 2024 MLB-roster.

One of those pitchers on the 40-man will also have to be traded or designated for assignment to make room for Rodríguez when his deal becomes official.

Pitchers Toronto could add as minor league pitching depth for 2024

With the departures of Zach Thompson (free agency), Casey Lawrence (released), Thomas Hatch (claimed off waivers by Pittsburgh) and Drew Hutchison (released), the organization needs to replace 54 starts at Buffalo. The trade of Double-A starters Sem Robberse and Adam Kloffenstein to St. Louis for Jordan Hicks means 35 starts for New Hampshire in 2023 will need to be replaced.

Certainly internal options can be used to fill those gaps, but a few depth signings can’t hurt. As the adage goes, “You can’t have too much pitching.” Only five MLB starters, including Chris Bassitt of the Blue Jays, pitched 200 or more innings in 2023, down from 44 just twenty years ago in 2003.

On average, MLB teams used 28 pitchers over the course of the 2023 season; the Blue Jays were below average at only 26. But that figure includes an inning from utility infielder Ernie Clement, and just 0.1 innings from the hard luck Hagen Danner, who suffered an oblique strain in his major league debut. It’s reasonable to ask if they’ll enjoy such good health again from their pitching staff in 2024?

As the Blue Jays’ minor league pitching depth has been thinned out, there are also opportunities to try catching lightning in a bottle with minor league signings this offseason. Could they find someone like Joe Mantiply, who Arizona signed as a minor-league free agent from the Yankees in 2019?

As of early December last year, there were 284 minor league free agents from AL organizations and 289 from NL organizations in 2023, including former MLB All-Stars, regulars, utility players and top prospects.

Let's take a look at 3 pitchers the Blue Jays should target as minor league depth.