The Blue Jays piece-de-resistance last season was most certainly their world class starting rotation. At one point in the season, after acquiring Francisco Liriano, Toronto had six bonafide big-league starters. In 2016, Toronto’s starters could do no wrong. Not only were they pitching as well as could be expected, but if one of them were to have been injured, they had the luxury of a legitimate sixth starter waiting in the wings.
When the Blue Jays lost R.A. Dickey to free agency this off-season, they also lost much of the depth in their starting rotation that served them so well in 2016. With Marcus Stroman, J.A. Happ, Aaron Sanchez, Marco Estrada, and Francisco Liriano, Toronto could still boast at the beginning of the season of possessing a strong starting five. But when Sanchez, Happ, and Liriano all went down to injury early this year, Toronto’s once dominant rotation was suddenly searching high and low for suitable replacements.
How is Toronto supposed to feel about their starting rotation next year considering that as things currently stand, only Stroman, Happ, and Sanchez will be returning? Given Sanchez’ blister issues, Toronto can realistically only depend on Stroman and Happ…beyond those two, if Sanchez is injured yet again, what are the Blue Jays to do when it comes to filling the remaining three spots in the rotation?
If the rotation woes from this season have taught the Blue Jays anything, it’s that they cannot expect to compete in 2018 if forced to lean heavily on starters such as Mat Latos, Mike Bolsinger, and Cesar Valdez. No disrespect to those pitchers, they might be very adequate for a spot-start from time to time, but if they were to start for the Blue Jays over an extended period, it might make for a very long year.
Perhaps Joe Biagini beginning the 2018 season as a starter and not having to bounce back and forth between the bullpen and rotation will lead to him becoming a successful starter. And maybe even a return of Marco Estrada is in the cards. If Biagini and Estrada were to be part of the Blue Jays rotation next season, it still leaves many questions about whether a starting staff of Stroman, Happ, Sanchez, Estrada, and Biagini can get things done over an entire year.
The Blue Jays aren’t even sure if Sanchez will be able to stay healthy for a whole season. If the starting rotation stands any chance of getting back to the standard they set back in 2016, Toronto will either have to add a free agent arm or hope one of their minor league pitchers is ready to step-up in a big way. Considering that Toronto’s top pitching prospects are still looking a ways away from being major league ready, the Blue Jays may be best served to go out and spend a little money acquiring a free agent such as C.C. Sabathia or Alex Cobb.