Over his first 5 starts this season–his first in a Toronto uniform–righty Matt Shoemaker was one of the best pitchers in the AL East. Though likely benefitting from a .183 BABIP, Shoemaker’s 1.57 ERA across those first 28.2 innings was likely even more than GM Ross Atkins bargained for when the club signed the embattled pitcher to a one-year, incentive-laden $3.5MM contract back in December.
Of course, those five starts were only prelude to yet another unfortunate Shoemaker injury, as the veteran suffered an ACL tear on Apr. 20 that ended his season prematurely. Though 2019 didn’t turn into the fairytale campaign he might have hoped, Shoemaker now tells TSN’s Scott Mitchell that both the pitcher and the Toronto front office seem to have some interest in giving it another go in 2020 (link). “We’ve had some small discussion showing my interest,” Shoemaker told Mitchell, “To be completely honest with you, I’d like to be here and I’d like to be here long term.”
In a subsequent tweet, which is speculation of his own, Mitchell adds that Toronto may be wise to simply offer the 32-year-old Shoemaker another one-year deal in the area of $3.5MM–although he figures that the attachment of a club option for 2021 may be prudent for the Jays this time around (Twitter link). At first glance, that seems like relatively sound reasoning from the Canadian reporter.
After all, it was mostly a litany of previous injuries that suppressed Shoemaker’s value heading into 2018-2019 free agency. In 2016, the righty was hit by a comebacker in the head–an incident which ultimately led to brain surgery. After battling back from that ordeal, Shoemaker was sidetracked by issues with his throwing arm in 2017 and 2018. All told, the righty hasn’t surpassed the 100-inning threshold since 2016–but there’s no arguing with the Michigan native’s track record when he has indeed been healthy enough to toe the rubber.
Through 98 career starts and 573.2 innings, Shoemaker owns 3.81 ERA, 3.93 FIP, 8.06 K/9, and 2.17 BB/9 numbers–more-than-respectable marks for a man who went undrafted in 2008 out of Eastern Michigan University. If Atkins and his cadre are confident enough in Shoemaker’s April showing to believe that his arm issues are truly behind him, it may indeed make sense to run it back one more time in 2020–assuming that rehab on his injured knee continues to progress well.