The Blue Jays could certainly benefit from adding some depth to their starting rotation, and free agent Martin Perez could be well worth a flier.
Ross Atkins and the Blue Jays might be trading away position players in order to make room on the 40 man roster, but they could still use some help on the pitching staff. Atkins made a move to that end on Saturday by trading Aledmys Diaz to Houston for Trent Thornton, a right-handed pitcher who made 22 starts last season in Triple-A.
Thornton could join the stables of young Blue Jays pitchers looking or an opportunity in 2019, and there are several talented in-house options. That said, I would fully expect that Atkins will look to the free agent and/or trade market to add to their depth, and there are several different routes they could take. If they do take a flier on a starter who had a rough 2018 season, I hope they explore the idea of signing Martin Perez.
To be fair, the former Texas Ranger was pretty bad in 2018, pitching to a 6.22 ERA and a 1.781 WHIP in 22 appearances (15 starts), totalling 85.1 innings. For the 27 year old it was a pretty significant step back, especially after it looked like he was developing into a useful mid-rotation option in Texas.
He’s pretty young to be a free agent, but that’s because he broke into the league at the tender age of 21 in 2012. His best season came back in 2016 when he went 10-11 with a 4.39 ERA, making 33 starts and throwing 198.2 innings for the Rangers. While 2017 wasn’t bad, he’s struggled to find that 2016 form again, let alone build on it.
As a result of his recent struggles one would think that he’d likely be available on a pretty cheap contract, and maybe even a one year deal. Left-handed pitching always finds value in baseball, but in this case Perez will be looking to get his market value back to where it was a year or two ago before he commits to the long term anyway, and that could play in the Blue Jays’ favour.
It’s expected that they’ll roll out a rotation that will include Marcus Stroman, Aaron Sanchez, Ryan Borucki, and some combination of Sean Reid-Foley, Thomas Pannone, and Sam Gaviglio. However, we’ve watched it happen time and time again that MLB teams need way more than six starters, so there’s a very good chance that someone like Perez could provide the Blue Jays some much needed value, and potentially a place for a rebound season.
Mike Axisa over at www.cbssports.com recently wrote an article talking about some possible buy-low candidates for the Oakland A’s, and for many of the same reasons that he argued that Perez would fit in Oakland, he could work in Toronto as well. He correctly points out that Perez threw nearly 70% of his pitches for fastballs last season, and something as simple as an adjustment away from relying so heavily on that pitch could make a big difference in today’s game. Sometimes a simple change of environment can be huge as well, and some new voices can be the guidance that a relatively young pitcher needs to turn things around.
The best case scenario is that Perez signs and shows that he can still be a useful starter, which would be beneficial for the 2019 Blue Jays, and likely for Atkins in July before the trade deadline. In a worst case, the Blue Jays would lose nothing but a minimal amount of money, and they could replace the Venezuelan with someone like Reid-Foley or Pannone later on in the season, which could also lessen the workload of the young pitchers.
There are several options on the market that the Blue Jays could explore this offseason, and while I hope they don’t rule out spending some real dough to invest in the rotation for more than next year, I’m not opposed to taking a chance on someone with upside. Perez makes about as much sense as anyone who could be available on the cheap.