By Jay Blue
Blue Jays from Away
In my last post, I wrote about how the Jays would be going into 2015 without a Plan B at many positions if things don’t work out with the players currently slotted in. My primary concerns in the “Plan B” category were in center field, first base and in the starting rotation. Today, I’ll go into a little more detail about what the issues are regarding the starting rotation, as currently constructed.
The biggest issue that I see with the way the rotation is set up now is Aaron Sanchez. Not that I think he’s an issue. I want him to be in the starting rotation and I’m glad the Blue Jays made room for him so that he can a regular turn. The issue is that if he doesn’t perform in the rotation, what are the Blue Jays going to do?
I updated my last post (follow the link above) to discuss what I thought of the 6-10 starters pitchers currently in the Jays system. In my own personal depth chart, I’ve got Marco Estrada, Liam Hendriks, Daniel Norris and Todd Redmond as my #6 – #9 starters (with probably Jeff Francis and Scott Copeland in there at #10 and #11). Here’s what I wrote last time (go read the whole article anyways), in response to commenter @DXpwns:
I love Chad Jenkins but I just don’t think the Blue Jays see him as a starter. That leaves you Norris (completely unproven in the major leagues, with only a handful of AAA starts), Marco Estrada (mediocre success in the starting rotation, coming off a down year, and he’s a guy who gives up a lot of home runs coming into Rogers Centre), Liam Hendriks (a guy who has never posted an ERA under 5.00 in the major leagues, despite a very solid FIP and xFIP last year — he could be a guy who always underperforms his expected stats and peripherals) and Redmond (a guy whose stats blow up when he faces batters multiple times as a starter). It’s true that almost any guy that you get for the depth positions behind the starting rotation is going to have warts (and if he’s so good, why isn’t he a starter with another team) but, to me, none of the guys the Blue Jays have ready to go are truly able to sustain “solid” production through a big chunk of a season. All four of them could be really good, but I think there’s a lower chance of that than of them being below average.
Each pitcher has flaws and, as I wrote before, that’s to be expected. If they didn’t have flaws, they’d be in the starting rotation of the Blue Jays or some other team. Do I think that the flaws are “terminal” (in this case meaning deadly to the club if they’re out there starting for them)? No. In Norris’s case, the flaws are simply that he hasn’t had much experience in the high minors. Drew Hutchison came to the big leagues without any Triple-A experience so that flaw is definitely not “terminal.” The question I was raising was whether the Blue Jays were willing to rely on pitchers who might either have some growing pains or have the potential to be not very good in a year in which they are clearly going for the playoffs. I won’t break down every pitcher any more but I’ll say that they all could be good but they all could have issues too.
This brings me to my main point. The Blue Jays will bolster their rotation depth by the end of the offseason. Whether it’s through waiver claims, minor league free agent deals or small trades (or small parts of bigger trades), there will be some changes to that depth chart before the 2015 baseball season starts. The big question is how good the depth will or can be and this is where the problem lies.
Do you want to bolster the rotation by bringing in a big league guy? If you do that, you push Aaron Sanchez back out of the rotation. As I mentioned above, I want Aaron Sanchez starting but if he falters, gets hurt (he has had injuries in the minors), or just hits the wall (his highest inning total in the minors was last year at about 133), who is going to pick up the slack? Again, any of the guys mentioned above as the #6 – #10 starters have their merits but they also have their warts. Bring in a #5 starter and Sanchez likely heads back to the bullpen where he will spend another year pitching on an irregular schedule without pumping up his innings total. We will also go another year before we really find out if he’s going to be a starter (in their recent top prospects list, BP noted that they see Sanchez’s ceiling as a #2 starter with a more realistic view as a #3) or a reliever. I definitely don’t want that.
So here’s where Alex Anthopoulos is going to earn his money: Find as good of a depth starter as you can without him being so established that he would expect to be in the rotation (à la J.A. Happ). Who’s out there? I’m not entirely sure; I tend to focus on the Jays and I’ll do my due diligence on players once the Blue Jays show interest or sign someone. That said, I like the idea of going after a Kris Medlen, who was non-tendered by the Braves. Recovering from a second Tommy John surgery (as is teammate Brandon Beachy), Medlen may be a little more expensive than the traditional minor league free agent but the upside is far higher. That said, Medlen’s injury history is not good and the Blue Jays might have to offer an incentive-laden contract, which they’re not likely to do.
What do you think fans? Who should the Blue Jays go after to sign to bolster the rotation depth but who wouldn’t expect to be in the rotation unless something went sideways?
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