Wednesday, the Vancouver Canadians announced the lineup for their upcoming annual hot stove luncheon. One of the highlights of what has to be one of the worst months of the year. The luncheon raises money for Challenger Baseball, the UBC varsity program as well as the Canadians own baseball league while allowing fans to interact with members of the Blue Jays field and front office staff.
To say January’s lineup is exciting would be a mild understatement. Not only are they bringing out the biggest Blue Jay free agent signing in quite some time in East York, Ontario born Russell Martin but three fifths of the projected rotation are joining him in youngsters Drew Hutchison, Aaron Sanchez, and Marcus Stroman. It’s almost like the Jays brass said to Martin, ‘soooo, these are the kids we want you to mould into superstars on the field, so you may as well start baby-sitting them now.’
Of course, both Stroman and Sanchez are ex, albeit brief, Vancouver Canadians with Sanchez here for 10ish days in 2011 while Stroman made his pro debut at the Nat in July 2012. So they have some connection to the city. But make no mistake, with this lineup, the Jays are pitching (see what I did there??) the future. And it does look rosy.
So forgive me if I’m a wee bit worried.
I touched on this somewhat in my rundown on the Jays transactions thus far. While I am thrilled that either Aaron Sanchez or Daniel Norris will slot into the 5th rotation spot instead J.A. Happ I’m uneasy that 60% of the Jays starting staff is going to be manned by a 24 year old with only 243 mlb innings and a TJ surgery under his belt, a second year guy who was very impressive in his rookie season, but can he maintain that? And a rookie.
(as an aside, I’d much rather have Norris competing for the 5th starting spot in Toronto, despite the inherent question marks that comes with, then deal him for a reliever. As many scouts are saying that’s what the price will be. So there’s that.)
As Ewan Ross and I touched on during the podcast, it would generate a ton more confidence if those four kids were competing for say two spots while the other two provided depth in Buffalo. I realize youth will need to be served sooner or later, as both R.A. Dickey (40) and Mark Buehrle (35) are not getting any younger. Nor are they really getting any better.
And that brings me to point two. If the Jays were served by two legit frontline starting pitchers then handing the final three spots to potential would be far more palatable. In reality though, both Dickey and Buehrle are mid to back end starters on a roster that has legit championship aspirations. So now, not only are the Jays handing three jobs to kids, they are also asking them to do some pretty heavy lifting.
For fun, let’s look at how Steamer sees the Jays rotation next season. Given Aaron Sanchez’ role last year I think we can take his negative prediction with a grain of salt:
|2014 Total IPs||2014 WAR||Steamer|
I’ve added a few other names which we’ll discuss later but for now, the Jays. If we were to believe Steamer, all bar Stroman are in line for a regression. Having Stroman at 3.3 wins is also a regression if you take into account the cumulative nature of WAR. His wins in 2014 were based on the 130.2 innings he threw at the major league level. Steamer projects that he’ll throw 192 in 2015 so the 3.3 wins is actually a slight decline. This is due to a predicted increase in his FIP, from an all world 2.84 to a more ‘feet on earth’ 3.54.
Again, prediction analytics are not the be all, but I would be absolutely thrilled if Stroman put up between three and four wins in 2015. Not so much for what is predicted from the rest. That won’t be good enough.
Aces are tough to come by. Everybody needs them. Which is why they are so expensive (and also why I included the numbers for three of them above).
The Jays were never, despite some speculation, in on the Lester sweepstakes. Even the Red Sox, who aren’t subject, to the same extent at least, to the payroll parameters that Toronto is, felt he was a bit too rich at 31 years old.
Lester’s AAV with Cubs is $25.8 million. #RedSox, based on arbitration projections, would pay Masterson, Miley and Porcello $26 million.
— Pete Abraham (@PeteAbe) December 11, 2014
I’ve included the projections of the three names above. You can see why Boston may be more inclined to go with the innings they can provide over a solitary arm.
I do believe Stroman, Sanchez and Norris are destined to be frontline starting pitchers. And at their current cost and control, there is no way the Jays should be trading any of them. But to expect two of them, possibly all three to be the bedrock of a starting staff…….? I don’t know.
Relievers are fungible. The season before last the Jays ‘pen was excellent. Who could have predicted the implosions we saw from Steve Delabar and Sergio Santos? In the opposite direction, maybe next year we see someone else step up and deliver.
If there is any money left over in the Rogers coffers. I think it needs to go to a starter.