Toronto fans can be very optimistic towards the Blue Jays having assembled the best mix of young and veteran position players in baseball. This team has a batting lineup that ought to get better year after year, as the younger players mature and learn the league. We can also congratulate Blue Jays management and ownership for finally signing top, proven and elite talent in free agency. In back to back years, the Blue Jays signed top pitching free agent Hyun Jin Ryu and top position player free agent George Springer, all good news. So why then does this team still feel so incomplete?
As usual, the doubtful anticipation comes down to the quality of starting pitching. With top pitchers available in free agency this off-season, the question is: why didn’t Jays’ management pay up to get another high quality starting pitcher? There is no point in being ‘half pregnant’ towards a playoff run; the team should have been hiring top proven talent while other teams are figuring out their budget in a second Covid-19 riddled season.
The Blue Jays are in a unique situation with Covid-19 in that their ownership has a monopoly on media rights to programming their games in Canada, which means tons of television revenue. The window should have been now!! The Jays’ payroll will increase when Guerrero Jr hits arbitration in 2022, Bichette in 2023 and Biggio in 2024. The free agent funding will greatly diminish when our stellar youth demands higher salaries, meaning spending on top talent now makes sense while the up-and-comers get their league experience and there is still room on the payroll to play with.
An optimistic fan perspective might be that the Jays have many starters and will consider a “staff by committee” approach. Analytics states that pitchers’ ERA significantly drops a third time through batting order, so for some this is a good reason to pitch by committee. But the truth is, pitching by committee is also a polite way of saying there is not enough quality starters on the team. A pessimistic fan on the other hand has zero faith that this current starting staff can get them through the season.
Ryu is the only stud pitcher and is a bona fide ace. He is undoubtedly their number one starter, but beyond that there are so many question marks. Nate Pearson is certainly a promising prospect for a starter, but he has yet to show that he is ready for the big leagues due to nagging injuries. Roark, Ray, Chatwood, Stripling and Matz have all had similar career paths qualifying them to be good enough to stay a starter, but perhaps not good enough to be a consistent top-of-the-rotation pitcher. Optimistic fans will remind everyone that Roark and Ray have shown in past seasons that they are capable of having a successful season, but we should not place our 2021 season on past pitching hopes.
So, together with Blue Jays management, we Jays fans will be holding our collective breath in high hopes the current team will be within reach of the playoffs at trade deadline. Maybe then, enough teams will have fallen out of contention and the Blue Jays can trade to finally fill in the rotation gap, thus allowing us the post-pandemic sigh of relief we all desire in order to simply relax, sit back, and cheer on our team through a successful playoff run…*fingers crossed*.