At first glance, the Blue Jays rotation looks solid with Aaron Sanchez, J.A. Happ, Marcus Stroman, Marco Estrada and Francisco Liriano. The club led the American League with a 3.64 ERA in 2016. Sanchez is already one of the best starting pitchers in Baseball and will only get better. But, it is also the area that carries with it the most potential risk.
Murphy’s Law teaches us that everything that could possibly go wrong will eventually. An injury, inconsistency or a general loss of form could leave the club badly exposed in a hyper-competitive AL East. Small margins often make the difference in baseball. And the Jays just do not have much margin for error when there are so many question marks everywhere else.
The Blue Jays look to be in excellent shape but there is just too much potential for things to go wrong. Stroman is not coming off the best season. Happ, Estrada and Liriano are on the wrong side of 30 and durability could become an issue.
To his credit, Ross Atkins appears to understand this, signing Lucas Harrell, Gavin Floyd, Mat Latos, Brett Oberholtzer and T.J. House this summer. To go along with Mike Bolsinger and Rule 5 pick Glenn Sparkman. But Atkins’ attention is primarily focused on replacing Edwin Encarnacion’s bat and rebuilding the bullpen.
Harrell appears to have the best chance. Last season, the right-hander made nine starts split between the Braves and Texas before a groin injury ended his season in August. He has a career 4.77 ERA in 448.2 innings over six MLB seasons. Sparkman has a fastball that averages 92-94 mph.
The Jays signed right-hander Mat Latos last week. The 29-year-old has been a starter for most of his career, posting an impressive 3.60 ERA. However, last season he had a 7-3 record with an ERA of 4.89 in 17 total appearances split between the White Sox and Nationals. That included 12 starts. He posted a 4.95 ERA in 2015, also split between three clubs. He has been injury prone and is a gamble at best.
The club has two promising right-handers in Sean Reid-Foley and Conner Greene in the farm system but it is always unreasonable to expect young pitchers to make the leap from the minors straight into the starting rotation.
A trade involving a position player like Tulowitzki, Upton Jr., Devon Travis, or a package of prospects could just be their only option.