As Jays fans know, you can never have enough pitching ready to step into MLB duty in case of an injury. That’s great news for the 2014 edition of the club, as they’ve got many multiple options when it comes to rotation replacements. It makes it very difficult, however, when scanning the Majors for possible trade partners, to find anything that looks like a real obvious match as far as bringing a front end starter to the club.

One could probably be talked into the idea that finding a true one- or two-type starter is simply too difficult, and maybe not even entirely necessary for next year’s version of the club. Teams have done plenty well with rotations fronted by a group of pitchers as good as Brandon Morrow, R.A. Dickey and Mark Buehrle when they’re healthy and at their best, and someone who slots in more with that group, rather than clearly surpasses them, would still prove a very nice addition for the club.

Problem is, this first year of the current core’s three-year window failed so spectacularly that it’s very possibly in the Jays’ best interests to look for a pitcher who figures into their future plans rather particularly.

You see, next year could be Brandon Morrow’s final year with the Blue Jays. I doubt it will be– he’s got a $10-million option, with a $1-million buyout for 2015, and far too much talent to let him just walk– but it’s possible. And while R.A. Dickey and Mark Buehrle each have two guaranteed years remaining, for the entirely of the 2015 season they’ll be 40- and 36-years-old respectively.

I’m not saying I expect those guys to fall off a cliff– in fact, I think Dickey’s second half has shown that, at least next year, he’ll very possibly be better– but that’s still not the greatest situation beyond 2014. It’s potentially tenable if the Jays can find appropriate pieces to fit in around the three, but that’s kinda the rub.

Perhaps next year the Jays will find among their surplus of young arms a potential long-term key rotation piece to go along with Morrow in 2015, but as much as everybody remembers liking Drew Hutchison, it looks like the only really high-end ceiling among the group might belong to Marcus Stroman. However, he is not only one of the Jays’ best pieces of trade bait this winter– if they really want to keep pushing their prospect chips into the middle of the table– but, as we’ve all heard by now, his small stature raises all kinds of questions about his ability to actually translate the excellent stuff and mound presence he brings to a starting role at the big league level.

Furthermore, if Stroman is to be relied on as a key young starter in 2015, you’re going to want him to come into the season with some experience, meaning room in the rotation will need to be made for him in 2014– if not right off the hop, at least some point in the season.

Those are quite a lot of eggs to put into that one basket, if you’re looking only at internal options, and even if that absolute best case scenario works out for Stroman, the top end of the rotation looks awfully thin without finding someone from outside of the organization– consider that Aaron Sanchez, who only pitched 86 innings this year (and will only be able to add 30 tops in the Arizona Fall League), will not likely have his workload up enough to be a full-season contributor by 2015 in even the best of circumstances.

Clearly, then, you can’t put all of your eggs in that basket. What’s more, another 2013-like disaster next year creates the very real possibility of the club being forced into selling off the ageing pieces of their core in order to get younger– which could happen as soon as the middle of next year, even!– with a view to 2015 and beyond, when the guys who this year were at Dunedin and Lansing really start knocking on the door, with a wave of young talent ideally coming in behind them. (Fingers crossed!)

What it would be optimal to find, then, I think, is someone who can be around long enough to help bridge that gap. Someone on a contract of at least three years, or someone with at least two years remaining, who is reasonably young, and you think you have a decent enough chance of re-signing.

Sure, the Jays could go year-to-year, or try to find someone who’s deal would expire at the same time that everyone’s could, after 2015– save for Jose Reyes, though Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion and R.A. Dickey also have 2016 options– but unfortunately, even though finding a pitcher will be a complicated enough trick in its own right, I think the Jays genuinely need to be considering the next iteration of their club as they go through the process, unless they’re willing to leave open the possibility of looking at a club a year from now that is about to get much younger, and a situation that, for a couple of years, very well might get more dire.

(And, yes, a high-end pitching prospect who spent most of this year dominating Double-A, like Noah Syndergaard, would look awful good in such circumstances, but… so it goes.)

That doesn’t mean I think they need to seek this white whale at the exclusion of everything else, or that this is some long-winded way of saying that they need to go big with free agent spending, but for me, finding more than just a pitcher to help in 2014 is something that’s got to hold a lot of weight, especially if you want to believe you’ll be able to be competitive in 2015, even with a potentially vastly different roster, which could genuinely see the departures in the next calendar year of Dickey, Buehrle, Rasmus, Bautista, Cabrera, and others.

Maybe I’m overstating all this, and maybe a front office shouldn’t operate under that kind of cloud of fear– especially since, in whatever parallel universe where all those guys are sold off next year, surely you’ll get some halfway decent pieces back as well– but I just wonder if you create a bigger mess for yourself if you bring an older pitcher for the short term than you do a younger pitcher for a bit longer. The latter isn’t always necessarily preferable– there’s no such thing as a bad one-year deal, don’t forget– yet taking that sort of view won’t make the task Alex Anthopoulos is faced with any easier.

And just what does that task look like? That’s what I’ll explore in the coming days in this series– the preamble to which you’ve just read– as I’ll follow the same path as I did last winter, scouring the trade market for potential fits, examining which free agent possibilities appear intriguing, and looking at which Jays we may have seen the last of in order to make it all happen. All of it will be with a view to the long-term roster issues I’ve outlined in this post, and– almost certainly– will get nowhere near what will actually take place over the course of the coming off-season.

Should be fun though!

Of course, you can get a sneak peak of many of the guys we’ll be talking about if you check out Ben Nicholson-Smith’s piece today on the pitching market over at Sportsnet.

Comments (73)

  1. I’m not sure I buy the idea that, somehow, trading a few of the Jays’ potential starters for other potential starters outside the organisation will be a net win. Any pitcher is a roll of the dice whether the Jays already have him or not, and I don’t think it’s safe to assume all 10 or so potential starters are so much more likely to go up in flames than people outside the organisation.

    • Who put that idea forward?

      • Seemed implicit in talking about “AA’s quest for pitchers.” Well, that or he’s going to burn position players for pitchers; unless Gose and Sierra are worth a lot more than I think they are, that ain’t happening. (Or, I suppose, he’s going to burn bullpen arms for starters, which…might actually be plausible. OK, maybe it’s not implicit in the heading.)

        Obviously the Jays’ FO has a lot more information about their own guys than we do; if they decide to pull the trigger on such a deal, they’re probably doing so based on the information they have. I don’t really get why the media and DJF commenters seem to think it *must* happen, though; another roll of the same dice seems quite likely to come out at least a little better than this one did.

    • And if you’re going to pine for Syndergaard, you also must pine for Wells and Michael Taylor in the outfield, no Rasmus, Alvarez instead of Buehrle, and Hechavarria at SS (Escobar wasn’t staying). Can’t just take the good rolls when you roll the dice, as tempting as it may be to imagine you can.

      • Wrong.

        • Hindsight bias is a shitty thing. When you pine for Syndergaard, you’re almost wishing that the Jays would make all of their *other* decisions based on the same policy and reasoning that led to them, but somehow done the Dickey trade differently. This is really easy to think about; unfortunately, it’s also totally unrealistic. Undoing all the good moves too is a useful trick for getting around it.

          • Sighing in admitted hindsight at one that got away and doesn’t look like our favorite deal ever, is far different than calling for AA’s head because he is clearly a bigger idiot than Rob Ford and Hitler combined.

          • No, you’re not.

  2. Had that shit for Atari 400

    • Yeah- Colecovision too.
      Could never figure out why “BC” went the way of the dodo but we still have fucking “Hagar”.

  3. Blow it up!

    • Dumb.

      • Short term, yes.

        But long term, not a bad idea.

        If we can get SERIOUS prospects for guys like EE, Rasmus, Bautista, Reyes, Buehrle, Lind, JPA, Janssen, Cecil…

        Guys that will actually make an impact. Even as role players, you can turn each of those guys (save for Janssen, Buehrle and maybe JPA) into 2 or more players.

        Restocking the farm can be quick. Then money can be diverted to scouting, sign a few cubans over, and boom.

        Back in it.

        • You should probably look at prospect burnout rates before suggesting that two “SERIOUS prospects” for one Edwin is a good deal.

          If you aren’t going to try to contend when you have two ridiculous players in Bautista and Encarnacion come out of thin air and a bunch of other solid pieces already in place, those flags that fly forever probably aren’t going to fly for you.

        • So armchair, you’re saying to trade away all of our major league high end talent so that a few years from now we can have high end major league talent.

          Maybe you should give me all your money and in a few years I’ll give you the same amount back.

  4. AA has a very difficult off season ahead trying to improve the club without sacrificing the future.

    The one trade that does need to be made is Buehrle. Yes, he will eat up 200 innings this year, and his stats have improved. But the key stat for the Jays is his record against the AL East, which is terrible. You cannot have a starter that can’t win against the east when most of your games are against the east.

    • No. “The key stat” isn’t his record against the AL East. WPA would be one part of the picture, salary would be another part, and innings pitched would be the rest. You’d be replacing him with your sixth-best starter, who probably isn’t very good.

      Let’s assume his 2014 performance will be in line with his 2013 performance; unlike many other pitchers, this doesn’t seem like an unreasonable assumption. Maybe a bit worse, maybe a bit better, but roughly the same thing. You won’t replace his 200-odd innings, which are another, I dunno, 40 innings that your bullpen doesn’t have to pitch, with your sixth-best starter. Your sixth-best starter will probably be a bit worse at run prevention, causing the Jays to lose another 2 or 3 games. Your bullpen will suck more because it’s taxed more heavily.

      Trading Buehrle for nothing would be a major step backward for the Jays.

      • The Jays are going nowhere if they can’t win against the east.

        Either trade or free agency they need to bring in starters that can win against the east, you can’t simply give away 10 wins a year to your east rivals with a starter who can’t get the job done.

        It does you no good to have Buerhle eating 200 innings at very high salary if you are going to finish 5th in the east again because you can’t win games against the teams that matter in the standings.

        • @ Z,

          this is exactly how hockey writers write about baseball in the newspaper.
          It’s just dumb, you’re not saying anything.
          do you have a list of pitchers who have pitched better against the AL east than the rest of the divisions? what about a player makes him capable of winning in the east?
          would you not want Adrian Gonzalez? he didn’t win in the east but the dodgers seem to be looking good this year.

  5. Doesn’t matter until the starters stay healthy no matter the acquisition

    • No team’s starters stay healthy.

      • Lots of teams have much better records, though. See: Reds, Cincinnati.

        • Or Cardinals, St. Louis

          Further, some teams DO stay healthy. Look at the White Sox or Royals. Given the insufferably long stretch that has seen the Jays lose player after player to injury, there must be more method than madness to injury liklihood.

  6. The more I think about the Jays, the more I think they should spend the off season getting good (or great) defensive players for 2b and C, and maybe LF (depending on what they think of Melky’s recovery) and worry about the pitching after that. I think those upgrades, plus a full season of Lawrie, will go a long way towards making the pitching look better. Assuming that Morrow, Buerhle, and Dickey are a given, you then let Romero, McGowan, Hutchison, Happ, Redmond, Stroman and Nolin fight it out for the last two spots.

    (Note – I’m not saying that pitching isn’t important, just that I think improving the other two problem areas is more important).

    • Obviously Maicer and Bonifacio turned out to be…nowhere close to what anyone thought they’d be. But they, uh, *used to be* competent second basemen, and I don’t think anyone foresaw their complete, unmitigated meltdown.

      (Come to think of it, Johnson, Hill, Maicer, and Boni all turned into pumpkins when playing 2B at Skydome. WTF?)

  7. I think that we should look at keeping much the same for 2014, including Josh Johnson. I would not offer him a qualifying offer, but rather sign him to a 1 year deal (for around 8M) and give him 1 more chance.

    I would even keep Arencibia. I think he looks a lot like Edwin when everybody hated him. He has shown flashes of brilliance and with better pitch selection could be a .270/.300/.480 with 30 HR type guy. If people are debating a 12M chance on JJ, how is Arencibia not worth a 3M shot?

    Everybody is so quick to forget the 56 total bases he hit for in September. The only difference between then and now is pitchers learned that they don’t have to throw strikes to get him out. He was still swinging at everything, only difference was the the pitches he sees. He only walked twice that month,

    He can swing the bat, it’s just a matter of him being more than a 5′oclock hitter.

    • He won’t sign for 1 year, 8M. Maybe 10M, but if you don’t qualify him, he may prefer the same 10M but from another city.

    • The problem isn’t just JPA’s bat. It’s also his sub-par defense. He just isn’t a very good catcher. And it’s a bad position to be carrying a guy with minuses in both categories.

    • “I would even keep Arencibia. I think he looks a lot like Edwin when everybody hated him.”

      Duuuuuude. Edwin’s OPS as a Blue Jays is well over .800. Including the bad times.

      JP’s OPS as a Blue Jay is in the .600′s.

      Also Edwin has more walks than strikeouts AND has actually been slugging. JP has 5000 strikeouts AND a laughable slugging % this year.

      They are almost total opposites.

      • @sons.

        Edwin was Dfa’d by the Jays in 2010 . They tried to get rid of him twice.

        Watching Edwin (e5) play 3rd was a disaster.

  8. Honestly – everyone just have an “average” year, record-wise….but stay healthy.
    I’ll take a dozen or so wins from Dickey and Buerhle, and 10 wins from Morrow (if he defies all odds and manages 20-odd starts for the Jays)
    Maybe we can cobble together a healthy 4 and 5 starter from the ten or or so AAAA pitchers on the roster, and scoop a dozen wins between the two of them.
    Wouldn’t this be academic if AA goes out and grabs Tanaka in the offseason? Interesting to hear the new rules on the posting procedures for Japanese players. I’m not sure if it helps the Jays or not.

    • What I find interesting is that you used the word academic in the same comment as planning pitching needs based on pitcher wins.

      • And I found it sorta sad that you felt the need to be pedantic….or, even worse, failed to see the point entirely.
        I just wanted everyone to have an “average” year – and the numbers reflected an average year for those pitchers. – but moreover, to have a healthy year.

  9. If anyone thinks that letting ” Romero, McGowan, Hutchison, Happ, Redmond, Stroman and Nolin” fight for the last 2 spots of the rotation is a good thing, then we will not compete next year and finish behind the astros.

    Only way out of this mess is unfortunatly splash money around, sign Garza and Kuroda.
    Left JJ go sign elsewhere, buddy enver wanted to play in toronto in the first place.

    • I might be willing to take the other side of your “Jays finish behind Astros” bet depending on what odds you want to give.

    • I disagree, obviously, in that I think a lot of the poor pitching this year is actually poor defence, and fixing that will make a big difference (see Pittsburgh)

      • +lots to Steve R. Looked to me like the pitchers didn’t trust the d and started going for strike-outs with bad results.

    • What a troll

    • Can you stop saying ridiculously fucking dumb things, Greek Bailout. Thanks.

      • I should add that I’d be fine with bringing back Johnson, thus making all those guys compete for one spot.

      • Thanks for that call out, AS. Greek bailout’s comments are as dumb as a Greek bailout.

  10. Did anyone hear them talking about the new posting system for Japanese players? Now the top 3 teams all get to negotiate with the guy. I think that is fascinating. Does that happen after the bidding for that Tanaka guy?

  11. I’m far from an expert but signing Tanaka (whom I know little about other than stats I have seen) seems like the move to make, especially for a company like Rogers. The posting fee will amount to a rounding error in their consolidated numbers and will not count against payroll. Also with exclusive negotiating, they don’t have to worry about competing with other teams, and don’t have to overpay for factors working against them such as artificial turf, playing in Canada, poor record this year, etc.

    • +1. Tanaka is an intriguing option – especially after witnessing the success of Yu Darvish in MLB.

      • It’s also probably important to note that Tanaka has had the year he’s had despite the fact that Japanese baseball was using modified springy baseballs to make it easier for players to hit home runs.

        • I concur, we should be in on Tanaka, but I just see the Jays f*cking the bidding process up again. The miss on Darvish is the reason we’re having this conversation right now.

          • Yeah, but not for the reason you might have in mind. If they took Darvish, that’s an immediate outlay of over $50M and an outlay of maybe $11M annually over five years. So call that $21M per year for five years. No way the Marlins or Mets deals happen. Or the Cabrera signing, ill-fated as it seems.

  12. Sadly I think we need to offer Johnson a qualifying offer.
    He’s not going to sign a 1 year deal with the Jays anywhere near market value.
    Not when he can sign that same deal in a cushy NL locale where he can set himself up for a big payday the following year.
    The free agent options are limited, I’d love Garza but so would the Yanks, Sox, Cards, Cubs and both LA teams. So I think that’s a pipe dream at best, plus he’ll be looking for a 5yr/$90 million type contract. Santana in my opinion isn’t much better than Johnson, he’s been up and down his whole career and he’ll come at the cost of a 1st round pick. Given the payroll constraints and the fact that any deal for a SP will have to include Sanchez, I just don’t see any other reasonable alternative.

    • The question is: if you would pay Johnson 14M for 1 year, and have no way of really knowing what you’ll get, why not sign a healthier and more known commodity for 14M x 5 years?

      • I get what you’re saying but who do you want to give that $14 x 5 years to Scott Feldman? Ubaldo Jiminez? Gavin Floyd? Tim Lincecum?
        You’re not getting Matt Garza for anywhere near $14 million a season and there isn’t a decent guy out there that will accept a contract of that nature.

        The type of players likely looking for a 1-2 year contract include.
        AJ Burnett, Chris Carpenter, Halladay, Kuroda, Arroyo, Tim Hudson, Barry Zito
        None of these guys are sitting at home right now with a hard on to play in the AL East. Excluding Kuroda who if he stays in the MLB will certainly sign back with the Yanks or head back to the Dodgers.

      • I agree that we should seriously think about offering Johnson arb, unless AA knows something we don’t know about who is available and at what price. Thing is, 14 mil is a 2-2.5 win player. While Johnson isn’t the 5 win pitcher he once was, one could very easily see him rebounding to 2 wins next year, see Burnett, AJ. for a guy who was garbage for two years then rebounded and is throwing well again. Johnson still has good stuff, Fastball still averaging roughly 93, he just needs to figure out how to throw his secondary stuff for strikes.

    • Johnson’s got that ineffable, tantalizing quality called “potential”. Even this year, in the two or three starts when he was “on”…man, he was pretty damn good. Every GM wants to get lucky on that “potential” – and be the one that managed to get that quality to unfurl.
      On that elusive quotient alone, some GM will say “what the fuck, it’s only money”, roll the dice and take a flyer for 8M dollars or so.

  13. Boy Kyle Lohse, who I suggested we pick up after all our off-season deals were finalized this past winter, would’ve been a great signing.

  14. I got one ticket in section 113D tonight that I need to give away cause a friend can’t make it, PM me and I’ll forward the ticket to you for free if you’re interested in watching the game with me!

  15. does the training staff need to be replaced?

  16. Morrow is probably done; see gagne and padilla vis a vis radial nerve entrapment. So Dickey, Buerhle,and then a big clusterfuck. We need Cecil and Mcgowan to come back to be starters and hope we catch lightning in a bottle. Originally Mcgowan came back as a starter because it was thought that would be easier on his arm than relieving, possibly due to his diabetes. I do think Hutchison has the makeup to be a solid starter, but Drabek, Nolin and Stroman should be there just for depth, which is obviously needed.

  17. Tanaka.

    I’d rather not see AA burn away more of the farm in trades then he already has. That basically leaves MLB free agents, Home-grown talent, Cuban defectors, and Japan as the avenues to approach. Any free agent of note may result in a draft pick forfit, there are no Cuban Pitcher defectors of note that I’m aware of, and what homegrown depth there is left (and represents a potential significant upgrade on the JA Happs of the wortd) is too far from the majors.

    That leaves Japan and that means Tanaka.

  18. Could you go easy on the the Syndergaard stuff until he has at least some success at the MLB level.

  19. +1 on the BC. Is that a Commodore 64 screen shot? That’s the version I had.

    Though my 70 year old parents knew the full likelihood of this possibility when they planned a trip to Toronto to watch their first Jays game (this series next weekend against Tampa) back in March (among other things, then onto NYC), still sucks that they see a watered down Bisons lineup and not the “top” one that they watch on TV many nights over the past years (decades, really)

    Tickets I ponied up for a few rows up from homeplate could be had for a fraction of the cost now was well, though my dad said it well tonight, when he has the front row seat for the final games of JPA.


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