* The Blue Jays have accomplished a lot … and they still have a long way to go needing relief help, an upgrade in the infield and they could use a back-up outfielder. Todd Redmond will be counted upon to eat up a lot of innings as the long man.
By Andrew Hendriks
Baseball’s Winter Meetings are in full swing and despite the Blue Jays emerging as one of the most active teams in the majors this off-season, there are still areas that need to be addressed prior to opening night in the Bronx.
Mirroring a strategy similar to the clubs overall draft tactic, Alex Anthopoulos and his front office team have targeted the best available talent on the market this winter.
With exception to the acquisitions of both outfielder, Michael Saunders and second baseman, Devon Travis, Toronto has yet to address the clubs most glaring weakness. A weakness that comes in the form of it’s current pitching situation with regards to the bullpen and — after the Josh Donaldson trade — lack of starting pitching depth in the minors.
As it stands, the Blue Jays staring current starting rotation pans out as follows: R.A. Dickey leads the pack followed by Marcus Stroman, Mark Buehrle, Drew Hutchison and Aaron Sanchez, who claimed the fifth starters role after the Blue Jays dealt J.A. Happ to the Mariners in exchange for Saunders earlier this December.
Based off their cumulative 2014 numbers, that group of starters accounts for a total of 898 2/3 innings of work.
Not taking into account extra inning’s, which are as common in baseball as grass and bats, a 162 game schedule equates to a grand total of 1,458 innings. If this starting rotation were to come close to repeating their overall totals from last summer (and that’s a big if), they would, in turn, delegate somewhere around 600 innings to the bullpen in 2015.
That’s 600 frames left to a pen that, as it sits currently, includes lefties, Brett Cecil and Aaron Loup along with right handers in Todd Redmond, Marco Estrada, RobRasumussen, Chad Jenkins and Kyle Drabek.
That’s two long-men in Estrada and Redmond, a lefty killer in Loup, a two-time Tommy John recipient in Drabek as well as a pair of youngsters who combined, have yet to record 125 innings in Jenkins and Rasmussen and Cecil, the most experienced of the group who’s greatest strength comes in the form of a plus curveball that, at times, seemingly comes and goes at will.
Compounding the issue is the fact that with Casey Janssen out of the picture, the club is also down a proven closer.
With a starting rotation built on a pair of soft tossing veterans and a trio of rookies, adding additional relief help will be key if the Blue Jays want to round out their pitching corps ahead of spring training this February.
Additionally, adding a few starting depth options may also prove to be just as valuable as in an age of pitch counts and innings limits, Toronto may be faced with some tough decisions — with regards to their young starters– as the season wears on.
Currently, the club enlists a pair of experienced arms in Liam Hendriks and Jeff Francis who will likely start the season down on the farm, ready to step should the situation arise. In addition to them, the Blue Jays may opt to keep Daniel Norris in triple-A, giving the promising young hurler an opportunity to hone his craft while remaining stretched out and available to step into the starting rotation in if needed.
Of course there is always Redmond and Estrada, both of which have started at various points throughout their respective careers. That said, with the shortage of arms in the bullpen, the duo may be best suited to remain in a relief role in 2015 as their jump to the rotation may further hamstring the bullpen.
Once an organizational strength thanks to both Sean Nolin and Kendall Graveman, who like Norris, propelled through the Jays minor league system in 2014, Toronto’s internal starting pitching has been depleted over the course of this off-season and although the injection of Donaldson into the Blue Jays offensive attack is sure to pay dividends in the run column, it came with a price tag of two quality depth options
With a lineup that could still benefit from adding a middle infielder along with an additional outfield option, the Blue Jays focus will likely be directed towards the mound this week as Anthopoulos and co. look to solidify the teams pitching situation while alleviating some pressure on Toronto’s young guns.
It’s been a busy off-season to date … and, by all accounts, it’s far from over.
– Follow Andrew Hendriks on Twitter (@77hendriks)