It’s safe to say that back in 2016 the Blue Jays were carried into their second consecutive post-season on the strength of their starting rotation. Two seasons ago, J.A. Happ, Aaron Sanchez, and Marco Estrada were all on top of their game. And even though Marcus Stroman and R.A. Dickey weren’t at their best, they still rounded out nicely what was a formidable rotation.
The Blue Jays starting rotation in 2018 on the other hand has plenty of question marks…
Will Aaron Sanchez be over his blister problem?
Can Happ and Estrada remain healthy and get back to the form that served them so well in 2016?
Who will be that all-important 5th starter?
How do they address the lack of starting pitching depth that plagued them in 2017?
Even if Stroman, Sanchez, Happ, and Estrada remain healthy for most of 2018, Toronto still needs at least one more legitimate starter. Looking over the list of remaining free agent starting pitchers, it doesn’t take long to realize there aren’t all that many players who’d be a good fit for the Blue Jays. Toronto isn’t likely to go out and spend big money on Alex Cobb or Lance Lynn, nor do they have any plans on spending really big money to land Jake Arrieta or Yu Darvish.
Perhaps a one-year deal at a reasonable amount for Jaime Garcia or Jason Vargas would make for a decent fit. But considering the lack of candidates in free agency who are a good match for the Blue Jays, Toronto might be best served to put their complete faith behind Joe Biagini and see just how much he’s capable of when he knows he has a set place in the rotation.
In 2016, Biagini earned a spot in the Blue Jays bullpen out of spring training and was one of their best relievers. Last year he was moved around so much between the bullpen, starting rotation, and the minors, that he never even had a chance to adjust and struggled because of it. It’s pretty clear Biagini makes for a better reliever than he does a starter, but given Toronto’s lack of options when it comes to starting pitchers, he’s likely to get a real good shot to establish himself in Toronto’s rotation.
If Ross Atkins and Blue Jays management have learned anything from watching their starting pitching this past year, it’s that a patchwork group of replacement starters like Cesar Valdez, Brett Anderson, Mike Bolsinger, Chris Rowley, Mat Latos, Nick Tepesch, and Casey Lawrence is a risky approach for a team that considers itself a contender. As painful as it might be for Toronto to go out and spend a little money when they have a potential 5th starter in Biagini or even Taylor Guerrieri, it’s in Toronto’s best interest to sign at least one free agent starter who’ll be able to hold their own in the big leagues in case an injury does occur to one of their top five starters.