The Blue Jays took a step toward filling out their starting rotation by signing free-agent right-hander Matt Shoemaker to a one-year deal worth $3.5 million U.S.
The 32-year-old Shoemaker gets a guaranteed contract despite a string of recent injuries, including a right forearm sprain that limited him to 21 starts over the past two seasons. He had a second operation to address the problem in May. He returned to the Angels in September and pitched 251/3 innings down the stretch, striking out 29 batters.
As a rebuilding club coming off a 73-win season, bringing in top names in free agency was out of the question for the Blue Jays, who had entered this past season thinking the rotation would be one of their strengths, but those hopes were derailed by injuries and subpar performances. Barring further moves, the 2019 staff will feature Marcus Stroman, Aaron Sanchez and Ryan Borucki. Last season’s Blue Jay pitcher of the year, J.A. Happ, tested free agency after a late-season trade to the Yankees and re-signed with the Bronx Bombers.
Shoemaker could become the fourth man in the mix. Trent Thornton (acquired from the Houston Astros for infielder Aledmys Diaz in November), Sean Reid-Foley, Thomas Pannone and Sam Gaviglio will also contend for rotation spots, and there’s still a chance that the club could sign or trade for another arm.
Shoemaker’s repertoire includes a sinker, split-finger fastball, curve and a slider. In 2016, his last full season, he went 9-13 with a 3.88 ERA over 160 innings with the Angels, notching 143 strikeouts. In six September starts, he posted a 4.97 ERA and never exceeded five innings in a single outing. He made his debut with the Angels in 2013 and his best year was 2014 — 16-4 with a 3.04 ERA.
The Jays’ 40-man roster is now full, with more moves expected. Mississauga-born outfielder Dalton Pompey and right-handed reliever Oliver Drake could lose roster spots to make way for any additions.
Laura Armstrong is a sports reporter based in Toronto. Follow her on Twitter: @lauraarmy