When you walk the streets of Toronto and inhale the vibe of its sports fans, one thing becomes abundantly clear, there is a definite pecking order among where their loyalties lie. The Toronto Maple Leafs will always be their first-born child, a right of passage to generations past, present and into the future.
Throughout time, the second spot in the city’s hierarchy undoubtedly went to its boys of summer and middle-child, the Toronto Blue Jays, with the lowly trouble-maker and baby of the family coming in at a distant third, the Toronto Raptors.
With the Jays failing to capitalize on their 2013 mega-hype and the Raptors recent surge up the NBA ladder sparking renewed enthusiasm, that second spot is officially up for grabs.
Right now, I want to take a look at the glaring hole in the Jays’ starting rotation and analyze options for the ever-elusive fifth spot — an annual Achilles-heel of the big-league club.
With a projected starting five of R.A. Dickey, Brandon Morrow, Mark Buehrle, J.A. Happ and the mysterious masked-man to be named later, it’s readily apparent that an injection of life is sorely needed.
That mystery can soon be solved by the addition of free agents Ubaldo Jimenez or Ervin Santana, but the Jays could decide to stay in-house and reward a starter who emerges out of spring training. If Alex Anthopoulos remains gun-shy in the pitching marketplace, the options are as follows.
Esmil Rogers had some solid outings for the Jays in 2013; his overall performance, however, resulted in too many frustrating moments. Fans opting to beat the traffic and jump ship in the seventh inning became an all too familiar existence when Rogers got the starting nod. Rogers did claim 96 strikeouts in 137.2 innings, but when you mix in a 9.9 Hits/9, a 1.42 WHIP and an alarming 21 home runs against, it’s safe to say he wasn’t fooling anyone.
Franchise magic eight-ball says: Simply an innings eater moving forward with minimal chance to make an impact. The starting over/under on Rogers’ jerseys being sold in 2014 come in at -5.
Wild card names such as Kyle Drabek and Drew Hutchison are major boom-or-bust options. Drabek being one of the few still suiting up in a Blue Jays’ uniform from the perceived-at-the-time Roy Halladay blockbuster deal with the Philadelphia Phillies and Hutchison a 15th round potential diamond-in-the-rough selection in the 2009 draft.
Both right-handers initially showed promise as their respective major league career’s got underway. Hutchison holding his own in 2012 with a respectable K/9 of 7.5 and and a strikeout-to-walk ratio of 2.45, with Drabek showing flashes of being a worthy piece to help fill the massive void caused by Doc Halladay’s departure. All of their built-up momentum would be stifled by the dreaded young pitcher’s curse of Tommy John surgery.
Franchise magic eight-ball says: Both potential feel-good stories that could supplant themselves in the back end of the Jays’ 2014 rotation, but the risk factor equals that of just calling and not raising when you get dealt pocket-jacks.
Prospects Aaron Sanchez and Marcus Stroman are potential saving graces. In any trade discussion with Toronto, these two young fireballers are at the top of any GM’s asking price list. With the state of the rotation in flux, it creates a colossal conundrum for this organization: Mortgage more of the future to help win-now or hope the fast-track development of these two power-arms sees them arrive in the big-leagues sooner rather than later. Stroman, who made Double-AA hitters look downright silly last season in New Hampshire, will likely be the first call-up.
For a closer look at Stroman, check out fellow Blue Jays writer Jonny Adornetto’s piece on his 2014 season impact.
Franchise magic eight-ball says: Blue Jays would be wise to hold on to these two future center-piece frontline starters. The future and upside is just too immense. The potential of being thrown into the fire too early makes for a tricky dice-roll. Holding down the fort with other options would be a wise investment.
Franchise Magic eight-ball also says: Toronto is not the favorite in Vegas anymore as many factors must fall into place to even sniff a piece of the spotlight. Although it wouldn’t be the first time a hand was won going all-in with a flush draw. They better move fast, though, because the Raptors are splashing the pot.