Well the calendar says the number of days is getting shorter… til Spring Training! And the Blue Jays still have some gaping holes in the lineup if they want to compete next year or give the fans a reason to fill the Rogers’ Centre better than any other AL park yet again. In the past couple of weeks I”ve discussed some of the obvious needs- someone to replace Bautista’s bat (atlhough still noting that Jose himself would be , or should be, welcomed back but at a reduced rate and with a lesser role than he’s played for the past 7 years) , the middle infield, a real major league calibre catcher to back-up Russell Martin, the need to add to the starting rotation. Today we wrap it up like a gift with a few more holes to plug.
Starting with the #5 starter. Thankfully even the team itself seems to acknowledge they need to add in another starting pitcher (see the team website) although, as we heard here, to me they need two. Heck, given the propensity of pitchers to get injured, they would do well to add 3, but two might be adequate. I said here that they should not plan on Aaron Sanchez being in that rote in ’18- perhaps he will, but given the inexact nature of medical know-how on his blister problem, it’s unwise to assume it will solve itself- and should add a primo #4 guy, either by free agency (Lance Lynn or yu Darvish perhaps) or by trade for Josh Donaldson should he want too much in ways of a long-term deal beyond ’18 (which perhaps could leverage Carlos Martinez from the Cards or Drew Pomeranz or Rick Porcello from the Red Sox.) We’ll assume that gets done and still say, who is #5?
Joe Biagini was a puzzle in 2017. At times he looked comfortable and competent on the mound, then the next outing would look like a beer-league castoff. I wouldn’t write him off, especially for the future, but think he and the team would benefit from him having another year at buffalo to refine his skills.
Most of the Jays pitching prospects are either mediocre, or good but at a lower level in the minors, so it’s improbable a solid prospect will come up and dazzle at the Big League level in ’18. The team lists TJ Zeuch as their top pitching prospect, and the 6’7” rightie has a wicked 96mph fastball but not much else yet, and was 3-6 at A level in ’17. Pencil him in as “possible” for 2019. Ryan Borucki is an intriguing prospect, being a southpaw who’ll be 23 by Dunedin time. Tommy John surgery in ’13 put him a bit behind on the curve, but also should suggest he should be in prime health. Last year, between all 3 levels of minors, he started 27 games , went 8-8 with a 2.93 ERA and had a better than 4:1 K:BB ratio. He just might be the spring surprise for the team in a few months, but I’d prefer not to bet the farm on it.
So, the team needs a #5 starter. If the #4 spot is solid (See above), they could do worse than looking for a cheap starter looking to show that he still belongs, such as Yovanni Gallardo and/or Jake Peavy. Offering either a minor league deal with lots of incentives should they rebound to major league level, would be a good gamble.
Which leaves the left side of the bullpen. the right side looks solid, with Roberto Osuna, Ryan Tepera, Carlos Ramirez being promising, team rookie-of-the-year Danny Barnes and perhaps Joe Biagini among others, but the southpaw end is a bit weak. Aaron Loup’s sidearm worked a bit better last year, and Matt Dermody showed promise but there’s no denying (once again, see official Jays website) they could do with a more reliable arm there. To me, Zach Duke is the obvious candidate. The former star was coming back from Tommy John surgery last year, and did so quicker than most. And effectively. He held rightie hitters to a .148 avg last year, curiously enough, and from 2014-2016 averaged better than 70 games a year with a 2.75 ERA. At age 35, he won’t be getting a blockbuster deal, and all indications thus far seem to suggest the price of relievers may be dropping (unlike many other places on the diamond.) It’s not unrealistic to think he might sign a one year, maybe $2M deal to prove he’s in good form still and look for one last, 3 or 4 year deal in 2019 to retire on.
Go to it, Ross Atkins! May Santa be good to him, and to all of you too! And, as we look back on the season gone down, may Santa bring the team the spirit and work ethic of the dear departed Roy Halladay. A handful of players in the locker room with Doc’s ethics would go a long ways to assuring a happy October 2018.