The Toronto Blue Jays need to get some pitching this off-season and that is likely the only position they will dip into for the free agent market.
The Toronto Blue Jays are more than set for 2019 from a position player standpoint. There is a steady handful of close to major league ready prospects and ones a bit further down the system that could push for a gig as the season moves along. However, there still remains to be a bit of a gap from the three “set” rotation arms and the pitchers in the system. The same could be said for potential bullpen arms. All that being said, unless it’s via trade, the Blue Jays likely will be only players in the pitching market for the 2018-2019 free agent class.
If you went through and looked at who would be a lock for the rotation and bullpen, it would probably look something like this:
Those would be your locks for the pitching staff. There are others who you’d expect to see open the season in the bullpen like Danny Barnes, Tim Mayza, and Joe Biagini. They’re close to locks, but something tells me they could all be hard pressed to break camp with the Blue Jays if they’re pushed by younger arms in the system or free agent signings.
The same thing you say about the bullpen could go for the likes of Sean Reid-Foley and Thomas Pannone for the rotation. Both likely would be preferred to start in the minors and be the first two arms up in case of an injury. Sam Gaviglio‘s role is up for debate heading into 2019 as he showed he could be relied upon for a back end of the rotation, or swing man in the bullpen type role.
Any way you slice it, there’s going to need to be some additions to the Blue Jays pitching staff and barring something unforeseen like a trade, the only avenue the Blue Jays take in free agency is the pitching route. It’s a good off-season to be needing to spend on rotation and bullpen arms as well. These are some of the arms available that you could realistically expect to see the Blue Jays to sign for the rotation (in my opinion):
Shields would be a stable innings eater and likely could be had on a Jaime Garcia type deal. The Blue Jays could choose to re-unite with J.A. Happ, as Pete Walker is likely to be retained as pitching coach and the veteran has said he loves playing in Toronto. Gio Gonzalez put together a strong finish with the Milwaukee Brewers, but the two names on this list that would interest me the most are Lynn and Pomeranz.
Lance Lynn figured something out with after being acquired by the New York Yankees at the deadline. All of his numbers got better and I mean all of them. In 20 games started with the Minnesota Twins, Lynn racked up a 0.8 fWAR, had a BB/9 of 5.45, and HR/FB of 15.0% just to name a few. In 11 appearances, nine starts with the Yankees, he posted a 2.1 fWAR, cut his BB/9 to 2.32 and HR/FB down to just 4.5%. Despite a pedestrian 4.14 ERA, his FIP was 2.17.
Drew Pomeranz was horrendous with the Boston Red Sox and for that reason alone, he could probably be had on a team friendly deal. He’s still relatively young as well at age 30 so a multi-year contract isn’t out of the question. He’s one season removed from a 3.2 fWAR and 3.84 FIP. He could be a solid bounce back option following a disastrous 6.08 ERA, 5.43 FIP in 2018. He also was originally drafted by the Cleveland Indians while Mark Shapiro and Ross Atkins were in the organization. Out of the two, I’d prefer Lynn, but perhaps the Blue Jays will surprise people and go for an upper echelon arm. That’s doubtful though, which is why Lynn would be realistic.
The relief market is littered with talented back end of the bullpen type arms:
Given that Cleveland is saying veterans are up for sale, they’re seem unlikely to bring back Cody Allen or Andrew Miller. If there was a season for the Blue Jays to spend on a bullpen arm this is the year to do it with a lack of internal arms outside of Tepera and Giles to fill the back end of the bullpen. Allen could be intriguing as a bounce back candidate and the Cleveland connection.
Other bullpen arms who would be a tier below those names and likely a much more Blue Jays type signing include:
There are a ton of quality bullpen arms that could be had on bounce back type deals. Carson Smith tops that list for me. They could also look for late in the off-season signings like bringing back John Axford. Regardless, expect the Blue Jays to be players for multiple bullpen arm signings.
There is a lot of good pitching options for the Blue Jays to look into for the 2019 roster. Given the depth of position players, the likely free agent signings will only be pitching. It will definitely be interesting to see how the Blue Jays fill out the pitching staff for 2019.