The Blue Jays made one of the first strikes of the offseason when they re-signed southpaw Robbie Ray to a one-year, $8MM deal next week. That certainly doesn’t sound as though it’ll be the only rotation addition for Toronto this winter, however. General manager Ross Atkins told reporters in a Zoom call yesterday that he plans to remain active in his pursuit of rotation upgrades.
“I feel good about acquiring another free agent — I can tell you that — in the starting pitcher market,” Atkins said (Twitter thread via the Toronto Star’s Gregor Chisholm). “That doesn’t mean it will happen, but I feel like we have a chance to do it. … If that doesn’t happen, we’ll turn to the trade market. But we’re working on them simultaneously.”
Toronto already has a fairly deep crop of rotation options. Ray joins Hyun Jin Ryu, Nate Pearson, Tanner Roark and Ross Stripling as likely rotation pieces, with depth pieces including Trent Thornton, T.J. Zeuch, Anthony Kay, Jacob Waguespack, Sean Reid-Foley and others. Because they already have a number of options in place to soak up innings, Atkins made clear that his goal in future additions is not to simply bolster that depth but improve the options at the top of the staff. Sportsnet’s Ben Nicholson-Smith tweets Atkins adopted a quality-over-quantity attitude when talking about the club’s continued pitching pursuits.
That doesn’t necessarily mean that the Jays are committed to acquiring an ace and nothing else. Adding a solid mid-rotation piece would still be prudent, given that each of Ray, Roark, Stripling and Pearson struggled to varying extents in 2020. If the Jays do want to put the pedal to the metal, so to speak, it’s worth noting that Atkins and club president Mark Shapiro came over from the Indians organization where top free agent Trevor Bauer has spent the bulk of his career.
Lower-risk but still-solid options include the likes of Kevin Gausman, Jake Odorizzi, Masahiro Tanaka and Jose Quintana, among many others. Old friend Marcus Stroman is also on the open market, although he had some harsh words for the front office after being traded in 2019. The possibilities on the trade market are too plentiful to count, although the Jays reportedly came close to striking a deal for Pirates righty Joe Musgrove prior to the Aug. 31 trade deadline.