The Toronto Blue Jays added starting pitching depth in Matt Shoemaker and Clayton Richard. At only $5 million between the two, there’s nothing wrong here.
The Toronto Blue Jays have finally acquired some starting pitching depth at the major league level. They signed Matt Shoemaker, and traded for Clayton Richard. Shoemaker, most recently of the Los Angeles Angels, and Richard acquired from the San Diego Padres, both figure to likely bring their respective experience to the rotation. These moves aren’t flashy and definitely aren’t long term puzzle pieces, but they provide depth at a cheap cost and that’s never a bad thing.
I want to start by talking a bit about Clayton Richard, who resembles a bit of Jaime Garcia just from the left side. Richard has had three seasons where he’s posted an fWAR of 1.5 or higher. Those were in 2009, 2010 (2.4), and 2017 (also 2.4). The 35 year old Richard has primarily been a starting pitcher throughout his career but has shown an ability to be effective as a lefty in the bullpen.
In 2015, Richard appeared in 36 games with just nine of them as a starter. He threw to a 3.83 ERA and 3.58 FIP. Most attractive was his 59.3% groundball rate that season. He was also decent against left handed hitters. Richard has been somewhat effective against lefties as a southpaw pitcher throughout his career. For that reason, he could be a potential bullpen arm if the likes of Thomas Pannone, Sean Reid-Foley, or Trent Thornton pitch better than him in the spring and win a rotation gig.
As a starter, Richard doesn’t appear as a good fit in the Rogers Centre with his extremely high HR/FB numbers the past two seasons, rates of 19.4% in 2017 and 17.8% in 2018. Those are also while pitching in the cavernous Petco Park in San Diego. When healthy, Richard has reached the 200.0 inning plateau twice, back in 2010 and 2012 while just missing in 2017 with 197.1 innings. He can roll up groundballs nicely too, but we said the same for Jaime Garcia a season ago.
There is a bit of good with Clayton Richard. There’s is quite a bit of poor and bad as well. At just $1.5 million, as the Padres are paying half of Richard’s $3 million, it’s worth a flier. Richard could snag a rotation spot, but his decent work as a lefty out of the bullpen with some spot starts mixed in could be a better fit for this Blue Jays team if the kids pitch better than Richard during the spring.
Now for Matt Shoemaker, a move I liked quite a bit. Shoemaker was signed for just $3.5 million (with innings pitched incentives) and because he was non-tendered, the Blue Jays have him under club control for 2020 as well. Shoemaker has made just 21 starts over the last two seasons because of a right forearm extensor strain, but when he returned he looked effective for the Angels.
For his career, Shoemaker has a 8.09 K/9, 2.13 BB/9, 1.22 HR/9, 40.0 GB%, 3.93 ERA with identical FIP and xFIP totals. Those aren’t horrible numbers by any means. The home run rates could be a problem in the American League East, but we said the same for Marco Estrada when he first was traded here in 2014. He ended up being just fine.
Due to injury, Shoemaker’s last effective year was 2016 for the Angels with 27 starts totalling 160.0 innings. In that season, he had a 3.88 ERA and 3.52 FIP with a 3.5 fWAR, which is pretty good production. Two seasons prior, he was second in rookie of the year voting after a 3.04 ERA and 3.26 FIP in 136.0 innings pitched.
Shoemaker’s best weapon is his split finger fastball. According to Statcast, when Shoemaker threw that pitch 381 times in 2017, the opposition was held to a .226 batting average against it with 39 strikeouts and a 32.5 whiff percentage. In an even smaller sample size of 139 split fingers thrown, batters only hit .140 against it, with 24 strikeouts and 48.1% whiff percentage. His sinker has been hit hard over the last two seasons, but it has proven to be effective for him as well.
If Matt Shoemaker starts the year healthy and throws well, the extra year of control with him could make him a good trade candidate at the deadline for teams needing some pitching help. He could be a very nice rotation option and he should be all but secured a rotation spot with Aaron Sanchez, Marcus Stroman, and Ryan Borucki.
At just a combined $5 million (plus incentives) between both Matt Shoemaker and Clayton Richard, these are a pair of nice little moves to add rotation depth and even a bullpen arm in Richard. The Blue Jays also don’t need to rush Sean Reid-Foley into the rotation if he doesn’t pitch well in the spring, though I still think Reid-Foley will get the 5th spot with Richard in the bullpen. Nothing wrong with either of these moves by the front office.