The Blue Jays have been connected to several free agent starting pitchers this offseason, with club GM Ross Atkins voicing a desire to “add significantly” to a staff that, as presently constructed, is relatively short on proven arms. With free agent starters beginning to trickle off the board, Toronto’s course from here forward may become increasingly tricky to plot, as noted in an exploratory piece from Gregor Chisholm of the Toronto Star (link). Kyle Gibson, a starter in whom Toronto was said to have an interest, has signed a multi-year deal with the Rangers, while Jake Odorizzi, another reported target, opted to accept his qualifying offer from Minnesota. In Chisholm’s view, many of the remaining available options offer an unpalatable mix of red flags. Zack Wheeler is a “massive risk” in the writer’s view, while arms like Madison Bumgarner, Cole Hamels, and Hyun-Jin Ryu are unlikely due to either age or their “expected desires to play for a contender”. While Chisholm is justified in being doubtful of a truly earth-shattering free agent acquisition, given the club’s history in the open market, an observer might note that Atkins could be able to sell a veteran pitcher on a near-term return to contention in Toronto, given the club’s ample payroll space and trove of quality young players. After all, last offseason saw Manny Machado settle in with San Diego based partly on the club’s general organizational direction, and Jays youngsters like Bo Bichette, Vladimir Guerrero Jr., and Nate Pearson could all make for appealing future teammates to any of the market’s higher-end starters.
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- But what if Toronto’s front office does decide to eschew higher-priced free agent starters in favor of a few Black Friday bargains? That’s the question asked by Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet, who identifies three potential open-market additions who, for various reasons, may be willing to accept relatively marked-down deals. While Jordan Lyles and Wade Miley would each make for reasonable innings-eating inclusions into Toronto’s pitching corps, Nicholson-Smith tops his list of potential bargains with big righty Michael Pineda. By my own addition, it seems reasonable to conclude that Pineda could start garnering interest from clubs seeking value on their holiday shopping lists. Though some teams will surely be wary of a player who is slated to miss the first six weeks of 2020 due to a PED suspension, that pockmark on Pineda’s track record could theoretically help create a value proposition for an interested club; moreover, though Pineda’s bottom-line results in the bigs have largely been ho-hum–with a career 4.04 ERA in 800-plus innings with the Mariners, Yankees, and Twins–underlying metrics include a 3.67 career FIP and a career 4.47 K/BB ratio. With a four-seamer that dropped down to 92.5 mean mph in 2019, Pineda won’t be most imposing addition to a team’s front end, but he’s a known commodity who would certainly slot in well to a rotation like Toronto’s.
- The Jays have been said to have interest in former NPB player and MLB hopeful Yoshitomo Tsutsugo, leading Kaitlyn McGrath of The Athletic to forecast his potential fit into the Toronto position player mix. Atkins recently cited Tsutsugo’s versatility as one of his key benefits, in reference to the fact that the 28-year-old has played the corner outfield, first, and third in recent seasons with the Yokohama DeNA BayStars. However, scouting reports on Tsutsugo’s defense have generally been damning with faint praise. Of Tsutsugo’s 2019 stint at third base, veteran NPB scribe Jim Allen says: “It’s not that he could play it OK, but it didn’t bother his offense at all.” This type of hedging leads McGrath to conclude that Tsutsugo’s ultimate destination in Toronto would likely be first base, with his patient, left-handed bat likely pushing Rowdy Tellez to the margins of the roster. Tsutsugo would likely happily receive calls for Toronto, due to his stated lack of preference for geographical location, but interested teams will only have until Dec. 19 to agree to terms to a deal that will pay a dependent release fee to his parent club in Yokohama.