Toronto Blue Jays: The 10 worst moves by GM Ross Atkins since 2015

May 15, 2023; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Blue Jays president Mark A. Shapiro and Toronto Blue
May 15, 2023; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Blue Jays president Mark A. Shapiro and Toronto Blue / Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports
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10. Free agent pitcher misses: Tanner Roark, Kirby Yates

Ahead of the 2020 season, the Blue Jays signed then-33-year-old free agent starter Tanner Roark to a two-year, $24 million deal to help stabilize a rotation that had used 21 starters in 2019. It ended up being an abject disaster, with Roark DFA’d by April 2021. He pitched his way out of baseball after making only 12 starts in a Toronto uniform, with a 6.75 ERA and 7.03 FIP over only 54.2 innings. The self-proclaimed “diesel engine” never became the durable workhorse he’d been from 2016-2019, when he made 30 or more starts each season, posting a 3.99 ERA over that stretch with Washington, Cincinnati and Oakland. In fact, Roark allowed the 3rd-most homers in MLB as a Jay in 2020, plus three more in his one start for Toronto in 2021.

That mistake was compounded with failed trades for pitchers like Chase Anderson, Trent Thornton and Anthony Kay, constant injuries to free agent starter Matt Shoemaker, and eventually led to then 23-year old rookie Alek Manoah being called up in May 2021 after only 9 starts and 35.0 innings in the minors. Could some of Manoah’s struggles so far in 2023 be attributed to being overworked over 51 starts and 308.1 innings pitched in 2021-2022?

While Hyun Jin Ryu, Robbie Ray, Steven Matz and Taijuan Walker helped the Blue Jays rotation, other attempts to stabilize the rotation and bullpen via trades and free agency as the Jays entered their current competitive window proved to be misses. 33-year old closer Kirby Yates was signed on a $5.5 million gamble ahead of the 2021 season despite two physicals that should have raised red flags, and underwent Tommy John surgery that spring.