logo image

Do the Toronto Blue Jays Have Enough Pitchers Reporting?

Well, at least we won’t have to suffer through any more posts on which free agent pitcher, Ubaldo Jimenez or Ervin Santana, the Jays should sign. As Baltimore, provided he passes their physical (something their prospective new closer didn’t do), will be Jimenez’ home for the next four years. If you believe some of the reports out there, the Jays had been offering (or are willing to offer) in the neighborhood of three years at $27 million for either of the top two remaining free agent pitchers.

I think those figures are now a pipe dream at best. If Santana was, in any way, reconciling himself to three years at under $10 million per season, then seeing Jimenez get over $12 million from a team willing to give up their first round 17th overall) draft pick, will surely put a stop to that. Remember, despite his obvious warts, Santana and his agents started the hotstove season expecting five years for $100 million plus. Now, he’ll probably need to be a bit more realistic and take something in the neighborhood of the Jimenez and Matt Garza deals (who signed for very similar terms, without a compensation pick attached).

I’m assuming here, but given the fact that Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos had to have been talking with Jimenez’ agent, I’m guessing that he more than likely got the chance to improve on the O’s offer. If he didn’t see the value then I think we can rule the Jays out of the running for Santana.

On the surface, if you value one WAR at $6 million and assume both Santana and Jimenez will match their 2013 seasons of 3 and 3.2 fWAR respectively (the projection system Steamer says 2.7 and 2.5 but I’ll be optimistic) than $12 million per season is not a bad deal. Of course, at 31, you would expect some regression over the life of a deal, so four years for Santana may be a bit of a stretch, but initially, at least, the deal would be reasonable.

The Jays, however, have been talking a lot about how the 2013 World Champion Boston Red Sox did not make many moves coming into last season but relied heavily on players who had been injured or struggled in 2012 returning to form. It’s an interesting theory, and given the luck the Jays had with injuries last year one that does hold water. So they may not be looking at Santana as a straightforward addition of three wins. I found this article at fangraphs which sorted all 30 mlb teams by who would benefit the most with the addition of Santana or Jimenez (pegged at three wins each). The premise is quite simple, assume 200 innings from the new guy, and subtract 200 from the back end (or replacements) of your current rotation.

The Jays came out roughly middle of the pack with an additional one and a half wins with either of the two free agents in their rotation. At that total, $12 millions doesn’t seem like fair value. In fact, going back to Steamer, it has Marcus Stroman at 1.2 wins over just 77 innings pitched. If you throw in 123 innings at replacement level (say Todd Redmond, projected at 0.6 WAR and Esmil Rogers, projected at 1.2 WAR) then you basically have Ervin Santana at a lot less money.

Obviously Steamer is not the be all, end all, but the more you read, the more you can see what the Jays might thinking. Santana would more than likely slot in at number three behind R.A. Dickey and a healthy (key word) Brandon Morrow. If you factor in the progression of Marcus Stroman and Jays number one prospect Aaron Sanchez then Ervin drifts down the pecking order as he ages.

The final nail in the Santana coffin will be the draft pick compensation he comes with. The Jays have an advantage over many teams in that their 1st round pick is protected, but they would still give up their 2nd rounder (49th overall) and the accompanying slot money that goes with it. If the Jays internal models value that pick more than the potential one and a half win benefit that Santana brings in 2014, declining after that, then they won’t pull the trigger.

So, assuming no Santana (and there are really no other viable free agents out there aside from him) who is coming to camp then? I’ve included a table below of a potential rotation chips with their current contract status. I’ve also added in the top three positional players by WAR, which I’ll explain more later:

Player 2014 2015 2016
R.A. Dickey 12M 12M 12M/1M*
Brandon Morrow 8M 10M/1M*
Mark Buerhle 19M 20M FA
J.A. Happ 5.2M 6.7M/.2M*
Drew Hutchison ARB1
Marcus Stroman
Kyle Drabek ARB1
Sean Nolin
Todd Redmond ARB1
Esmil Rogers 1.85M ARB2
Ricky Romero** 7.5M 7.5M 13.1M/.6M*
Colby Rasmus 7M FA
Jose Bautista 14M 14M 14M*
Edwin Encarnacion 9M 10M 10M/2M*

(* – team has club option, with lower amount being buyout cost)

(** – I’ve included Romero simply because the salary he is owed may affect other signings. I don’t believe he’ll start a game for the Jays in 2014)

The Jays do not really have much pitching money committed beyond 2015. If they are not willing to pay someone like Santana for four years at a reasonable cost then you have to assume they looking at other ways to fill the gaps. Which could be one, or a combination of three scenarios:

1) Waiting for their prospects to develop and integrate into the rotation. This is a risky one, considering the washout rates of even the best prospects. I’m an optimist at heart (too much of a fan) so believe that Stroman and Sanchez will be in the rotation and making positive contributions by 2015. Sean Nolin should be as well. Still, even a glass half full guy can’t expect those three to then be the top of the rotation come 2016. Beyond those three, there’s a bit of a gap as to when the next top tier talent arrives. I would say it’ll be Daniel Norris who is slated for high A Dunedin this year. I have his ETA in Toronto at 2016, but that is being VERY optimistic.

2) Look to make a splash in the 2014 free agent pool. I don’t know if there are better options out there next year (and this post is getting too long for me to look) but if the Jays are seriously taking a hardline with their five year rule then they’ll struggle to bring in any truly top tier talent.

3) Wait for their plethora of live arms in the lower levels of the minor leagues to prove themselves enough to be considered trade bait. Then use them to acquire mlb ready talent.

It’s worrying. The rotation in 2014 is thin, despite what looks to be a pretty decent bunch competing for the role of 5th starter. The top of the staff is too dependent on guys like Morrow, Dickey, and Happ having bounceback, injury free seasons.

Then, in 2015 you assume Happ is bought out. If Rasmus is not re-signed then you are looking to add to both your pitching staff and replace two thirds of your outfield (Melky Cabrera will definitely not be back).

If the younger players, like Anthony Gose, Kevin Pillar, Stroman, and Sanchez haven’t developed enough to be considered every day players then the Jays have a real problem on their hands. Add in the potential unhappiness of their two best players, who could be quite frustrated at the clubs lack of direction, and the nightmare that was 2013 would be looked on with fondness compared to what is to come.

But hey, pitchers and catchers have reported, and hope springs eternal.

Marcus Stroman and Aaron Sanchez at Spring Training (image courtesy of BlueJaysFromAway.com)

Marcus Stroman and Aaron Sanchez at Spring Training (image courtesy of BlueJaysFromAway.com)

Leave a Reply