Starting Pitching Options
Friday, November 12 2021 @ 09:09 PM EST
Contributed by: John Northey
This is a big one. Who is in the rotation in 2022? We know 3 almost for certain in Berrios, Ryu, and Manoah. But who will be the other 2?
Here in Toronto we have...
- Ross Stripling: For a stretch he looked like the solution - after 6 frustrating starts (3 1/3 to 5 IP each time, ERA of 7.20) he was put into the pen and Trent Thornton was given the start on May 24th. 1 inning and 5 runs later Stripling got another shot and ran big time - 7 IP 0 R. Over that game and his next 13 starts he was great - 3.29 ERA 68 1/3 IP 20 BB 62 SO but 12 HR was a warning. One start he only got 1 out vs 6 runs (July 19th) but 11 times out of 14 he got 5+ IP in. Very good for a 4/5 starter, probably good enough for a 2/3 in some cases. Then he got hurt, and only had 4 more appearances in 2021, very poor ones - 10.13 ERA over 8 IP. Which Stripling are we more likely to see in 2022? If you know please let the Jays know as I'm sure they want to know. If it is the very good one then he is in the rotation. If it is the early on/late in the season one then he is release bait. Entering his age 32 season he is in his final year pre-free agency. I'm sure he is working hard to get back to that guy we saw for 14 games.
- Nate Pearson: The big hope. Nothing to say here - he gets hurt a lot, can throw 100 MPH, hasn't established himself and might end up in the pen out of desperation to keep him healthy.
- Thomas Hatch: Lots here wanted him up earlier but he didn't do much in his 3 appearances - 3 2/3, 4 IP in his 2 starts giving up 4 runs total. Then 1 relief game 3 runs in 1 1/3 IP. In AAA he had 15 games (14 starts) 64 2/3 IP 4.04 ERA 2.6 BB/9 vs 9.7 K/9 - not a bad 6th guy but I hope he isn't one of the top 5 going into 2022.
- Anthony Kay: Just 11 games, 5 starts in 2021 and he did poorly. July 19th was his last ML appearance. 4 times he didn't allow a run (twice as a starter going 4 and 5 IP) but a 5.61 ERA shows he really wasn't good. In AAA he did worse - 8 starts, 8.89 ERA over 26 1/3 IP. He gets the K's (better than 1 per inning) but also walks over 4 per 9 IP. Not bad to keep around in AAA but I'm not sure he is even worth a 40 man slot at this point.
- Trent Thornton: Never lasted more than 2 2/3 IP (bad for a long man/spot starter). 92 ERA+ wasn't horrid, but wasn't good either. 10 games in AAA in the pen, 10 1/3 IP 8 H 2 R 0 ER 2 BB 8 SO. Potential still, but not deserving a lock for the team, let alone the rotation at this point. Iffy on a 40 man slot.
- Elvis Luciano: Looked very hopeful at one time but was removed from the 40 man roster and resigned here. Just 37 IP over 12 starts and very wild with 4.4 BB/9 and just 8.3 K/9 which nowadays is poor. I don't see a future starter here anymore,
Ugh. In house has very limited options - Stripling, Hatch, Kay, and Thornton are at best 5th or 6th starter material right now. Pearson is a fading hope.
So what about free agents? * = given a Qualifying Offer.
- *Robbie Ray: would be nice to keep, but dang will he be expensive in years and dollars. 4 years $100 mil is one estimate, 5 years $125 another, 5 years $130 another. You get the idea. 4-5 years at $25 per seems to be the general feeling from what I'm seeing. His value is kept down due to the question marks from his recent past (leading majors in BB/9 in 2020), it all depends on if 2021 was for real or a fluke. Many see the Jays holding onto him thanks to his relationship with the pitching coach and how well he has been received by the fans (his tight pants thing becoming a big deal for example). I suspect if the Jays stay close to the best bid he'll stick around. But who knows? Someone might go nuts and offer 7 years or $30+ per or something nutty like that.
- Steven Matz: the other Jay free agent. Like Ray, 2021 was a much better year for him than 2020 (44 ERA+ after 3 years of sub 100's). Like Ray he is a risk due to that. 3 years at $12-14 mil per seems to be the view on him. A solid #4, not bad #3 for the rotation. I doubt he'll get a lot of high bids and if someone offers $15 per for 3 he'll probably take it.
- Max Scherzer: Oh wow, now that would be nice eh? A future HOF'er who is still doing well. But he is late 30's and had a dead arm in the playoffs which cuts his value significantly. 2-3 years at $30-35 mil per is the expected price here. I doubt the Jays will do that, but dang would it be nice eh? Just work him less, and do the same for Ryu - make them both every 6 day guys so they both have some strength at the end maybe. But will the Jays have any shot at him? Contenders yes, but where does he want to play? Born in St Louis I could see him joining the big crowd of great players who went there at the end for a few years at a lower price than they'd get elsewhere. No QO due to being traded during the season.
- Marcus Stroman: expected to get similar money to Ray (4-5 years at $20-25 per) but I don't see a path to him coming back after the burning of bridges that happened when he left. No QO due to getting one last winter.
- *Eduardo Rodriguez: It would be nice to take a guy from Boston wouldn't it? 4 years at $20 per is the expected price - he is an upgrade from Matz but downgrade from Ray. Had bad luck on BABIP last year leading to his 4.74 ERA. Seems like a guy Walker would like to work with.
- Kevin Gausman: another solid guy who had a career year last year. Eats lots of innings, did it in the NL West (vs Dodgers & Padres) so he is used to pressure. A 2 pitch pitcher ala Ray. 3-4 years at $18-22 per.
- *Noah Syndergaard: missed most of 2021 and 2020 due to injuries. Given a QO by the Mets and would be nuts not to take it.
- Carlos Rodón: was having an amazing season before injured, then came back strong late (2.35 ERA after coming back late August). 3-4 years at $15-20 per is expected. I'd limit him ala Ryu to try to keep him healthy all year. Or you limit his innings each start to 5-6 max.
- Clayton Kershaw: Sweet, but he is staying in LA I'm certain. Or goes to the Angels to stay in the area.
- *Justin Verlander: another future HOF'er but one who missed 2020/21 (1 start total over those 2 years). Like Syndergaard I'd be surprised if he doesn't just take the QO he was handed.
- Jon Gray: No QO, so very tempting as he only costs cash. He rejected a 3 year $35 mil deal from Colorado. Expected to sign for 3/$15 per. Has been up and down in Colorado - from 2 years in the 130's ERA+, to a 78 in 2020. Would be solid in the 4/5 slot I think.
- Kwang Hyun Kim: from Korea, he has pitched in St Louis for 2 years fairly effectively. 134 ERA+ over 145 IP. A low K guy who counts on strong defense (St Louis had that in spades last year). 2 years at $7-10 mil per is all that is expected due to that. Worth looking at if the Jays fail to get anyone else, or if they blow the wad on one guy and want a cheaper option to finish the rotation.
- Others of note: Anthony DeSclafani, Corey Kluber, Alex Cobb, Zack Greinke, Michael Pineda, Yusei Kikuchi. All decent for the 5th slot.
Phew. Lots of free agents out there this year. Might cut the prices down, but also means many teams are looking to resign their guys or want to upgrade. Could see the Jays waiting until the last minute to sign a 5th starter hoping one of these guys drops their demands to a low dollar amount in late February/early March. If the owners do a lockout things will get very chaotic for these guys.
Then comes trade candidates. I'll list a few, but almost anyone is potentially a trade candidate. Two teams jumped out via MLB.com
and the 3rd via a Morosi tweet
- Marlins: Sandy Alcantara, Pablo Lopez, Elieser Hernandez. Via MLB Network’s Jon Morosi tweet about it the Jays are very interested in these guys at the right price and Alejandro Kirk appears to be target #1 for Miami (assuming they can't touch Moreno of course). Alcantara is the best of the batch with over 200 IP last year with a 131 ERA+. Lopez a tiny bit better 136 ERA+ but just 102 IP. Hernandez only had a 100 ERA+ in 51 IP and is the oldest of the 3 at 26, the others are 25. All 3 are free agents after the 2024 season so tons of control potentially. Either Lopez or Alcantara would be a very good #4 starter (behind Ryu/Berrios/Manoah) while Hernandez would probably be a solid #5 if healthy. Any would be an upgrade over the batch we've got behind the big 3 right now, while Alcantara would be ahead of Ryu as well IMO.
- A's: rumored to be wanting to dump quality for prospects to prep for a future move to Vegas. Frankie Montas has 2 years of control left, and had a 121 ERA+ late year over 32 starts/187 IP. Sean Manaea has just 1 year left, 32 starts/179 IP last year with a 104 ERA+/107 lifetime. Chris Bassitt though is the best bet to be traded with a 130 ERA+ in 27 starts/157 IP entering his age 33 season and final season pre-free agency. A package deal to get one of those guys plus Matt Chapman might work well for both teams.
- Reds: like the A's are rumored to be wanting to cut payroll (weird in that easy division they live in but they are a very small market). Luis Castillo (2 years of control, 33 starts, 187 IP in 2021, 120 ERA+/123 lifetime), Tyler Mahle (2 years of control, 33 starts last year 180 IP, 127 ERA+ but just a 106 lifetime), and LH hitting LF Jesse Winker (2 years of control, 140 OPS+ last year, poor defense) are all rumored to be up for dealing. All 3 would fit the Jays nicely, to put it mildly.
So lots of things to debate. 3 teams with good trade candidates that the Jays GM must drool over, 18 free agents worth thinking about, and a few in house options for those last 2 rotation slots that are open. I'd say Ray is #1, then lord knows what is #2. My gut says the Jays try to get 2 guys signed via free agency if the price is right but will talk with anyone who wants to trade quality pitching as long as the price is right. The Marlins pitchers are ideal with the 3 years of control, but I'm sure Atkins wouldn't object to a quality arm for just 1 year if the price is low enough.