The rebuilding Toronto Blue Jays have a terrific young core of position players, headlined by third baseman Vladimir Guerrero Jr., shortstop Bo Bichette, and second baseman Cavan Biggio. While they have some intriguing arms in the minors, like Nate Pearson and Alek Manoah, their 2020 starting rotation looks depleted. The front office has indicated that they will only make a push once they feel that the team is ready to contend for a World Series, so fans can expect the Blue Jays’ offseason to be dedicated to once again pursue cheap, veteran options.
The best candidates for the Blue Jays will be the pitchers that could do well enough to net them valuable pieces at the deadline. Serviceable pitchers that have had AL East experience before would be a lift for this staff. There is also a fit for pitchers who were once a top prospect but never lived up to expectations. This is a list of five starting pitchers who are realistic targets for the Blue Jays in 2020.
Michael Pineda has turned in a productive season for the Minnesota Twins, posting a 4.15 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, 4.7 BB%, and 21.5 K% in 122 innings. While Pineda’s fastball velocity has decreased to an average of 92.5 MPH, it remains an effective pitch. Pineda also has terrific control along with the ability to strikeout hitters at a decent rate. The home run rate remains an issue and pitching at the home run haven that is Rogers’ Centre could be problematic.
Pineda certainly has experience in the AL East, which is a positive. He can be a solid innings-eater with strong control, which this team sorely needs. The starting staff for the Blue Jays have struggled with command and have posted a 9.0 BB%, which is second highest in the MLB – only the Miami Marlins are worse. Pineda is only 30 years old and he could also potentially be a trade deadline chip for the 2020 season.
Jake Odorizzi is another former top prospect with AL East roots who turned in a nice bounce-back season in Minnesota, just like Pineda. Odorizzi has posted a 3.50 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, 8.8 BB%, and 25.1 K% in 126 innings this year. His fastball has an average velocity of 92.8 MPH, but it’s been a very effective pitch this season. He also has a splitter that has helped get hitters out.
Odorizzi does a better job of limiting home runs than Pineda, but he does not have the same control – the walks can sometimes be an issue. His 8.8 BB% is the 12th highest in all of MLB. This won’t help limit baserunners, but he would be great for veteran leadership. Odorizzi was able to put up a couple of solid seasons while in Tampa Bay, so his AL East experience would be valuable to this rebuilding rotation. He is also relatively young and would be entering his age-30 season in 2020.
Drew Smyly has done a decent job since signing with the Phillies on July 18th, posting 4.71 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, 7.7 BB%, and 25.6 K% in 28.2 innings. This has been his first season in the big leagues since 2016, due to a lengthy recovery from Tommy John surgery. There’s a decent chance that Smyly’s production improves as he shakes off the rust and becomes adjusted to pitching in the majors once again. Let’s not forget that he was the centerpiece of the David Price trade to the Detroit Tigers back in 2014. He also showed the ability to be successful in the AL East – back in 2015, he posted a 3.11 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, 20 BB, and 77 K in 66.2 innings with the Rays. Still only 30, Smyly would be a nice left-handed innings-eater with upside for more.
Drew Pomeranz has really struggled since 2017, but he has still shown the ability to miss bats – he put up 92 strikeouts in 77.2 innings as a starter in San Francisco this year. Like Smyly, Pomeranz is a left-handed starter with experience in the AL East. Pomeranz still has a 92+ MPH fastball with a decent curveball. While he can struggle with control, he does a decent job limiting home runs. He turned in a successful season with the Red Sox back in 2017, posting a 3.32 ERA, 1.35 WHIP, 69 BB, and 174 K in 173.2 innings. Pomeranz would be entering his age-31 season in 2020 – he would be another cheap option with upside for this rebuilding team.
Matt Moore has struggled with injuries and ineffectiveness since 2016, but this is a former consensus number one pitching prospect who is worth a flyer. Before his season-ending knee injury, Moore showed some improvements early this year, posting 10 shutout innings with only 1 walk and 9 strikeouts. He also averaged 93 MPH on his fastball, which is an increase from 92 MPH in 2018. Moore had the best season of his career in the AL East with the Tampa Bay Rays back in 2013, posting a 3.29 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, 76 BB, and 143 K in 150.1 innings. While it’s highly unlikely he even comes close to his lofty expectations as a prospect, Moore can be a decent bottom-end starter for this rebuilding team. This is the kind of “dart-throw” the Blue Jays’ front office should try as they attempt to re-construct this rotation.
The Blue Jays offseason could see them bring back Matt Shoemaker and have a couple of these veteran options to go along with young pitchers like Trent Thornton, Jacob Waguespack, Ryan Borucki, Anthony Kay, Drew Murphy, and Nate Pearson for 2020. It will be necessary for the front office to target low-cost options to round out the rotation this offseason. The team has started the service time of the hitters. This year the Blue Jays offseason needs to be about adding cheap, veteran options with AL experience to help eat innings.
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Author’s Twitter: @FAmmiranteTFJ