Inbox: Blue Jays turn attention to pitching in '20

Beat reporters Keegan Matheson and Alexis Brudnicki answers fans' questions

October 7th, 2019

TORONTO -- The Blue Jays are squarely focused on pitching this offseason, but there’s plenty of tinkering to be done surrounding their young positional core.

The heavy lifting will begin when the MLB postseason wraps up but, until then, here are your questions about what comes next for the Blue Jays.

How many starting pitchers do you think will have guaranteed spots going into Spring Training? How many will come as free agents, trade or internal candidates (i.e. Matt Shoemaker, Trent Thornton) and how many do you leave open for internal competition (i.e. T.J. Zeuch, Anthony Kay, Nate Pearson, etc?)
-- @LamarcheChris

Let’s open with the presumption that the Blue Jays will acquire at least one starting pitcher via free agency or trade who is clearly locked into their rotation. You can also expect some more depth moves, given the club’s recent history, and a crowded group of young arms that the Blue Jays hope to strike gold with.

Both general manager Ross Atkins and manager Charlie Montoyo mention names like Jacob deGrom, Corey Kluber and Mike Clevinger as pitchers who became front-line starters despite reaching the Majors without a top-end prospect pedigree. Hoping that a fringe starter discovers his inner Cy Young isn’t the safest strategy in baseball, though.

Trent Thornton has an inside track, but not a guarantee. Nate Pearson should absolutely be part of the rotation at some point in 2020, but it’s a question of when. Beyond that -- and the presumed addition or two -- it’s wide open.

“Nothing is etched in stone,” Atkins said recently. “I think Trent Thornton has probably put the best foot forward, but his offseason will be very important. A lot of guys could make huge strides. Jacob Waguespack, Ryan Borucki’s bounce back, hopefully Sean Reid-Foley is the Sean Reid-Foley of 2018. T.J. Zeuch, his transition has been extremely encouraging. Anthony Kay has been everything we expected him to do and then some.”

Borucki’s name has fallen out of these conversations after he missed nearly all of 2019, eventually undergoing left elbow surgery to remove bone spurs, but don’t forget his 3.87 ERA over 17 starts as a rookie in 2018. Atkins fully expects Borucki to be a full go in Spring Training, and you can expect him to be given every opportunity to win a job. Some workload management would need to be part of that conversation, though, after throwing just 6 2/3 innings this past summer.

-- Keegan

Do you think the Blue Jays will trade any of our young position players for pitching? If so, who do you think is on that list?
-- @TraceyLaurence

Toronto’s front office has made it abundantly clear that acquiring arms is at the top of the offseason priority list, and that it would be looking to do so by any means possible.

“We’ll consider trades if they’re there, and we have to continue to think about developing the core that is here,” Atkins said at his end-of-season media availability. “It’s not good enough just to have depth -- you have to have Major League pieces and guys who can contribute in significant ways.”

Certainly, making trades is a viable option and a number of the organization’s freshest faces offered a glimpse of their potential down the stretch of the season. While it’s unlikely the Blue Jays would be willing to move players they are seemingly looking to build the franchise around, it’s worth noting the abundance of young outfielders who were splitting time in the Majors in September.

“If you look to the way that winning organizations are built, that is a big part of it,” Atkins said, when asked whether the club would consider trading some of its young players for more established ones. “You have to have talent to trade from. And we will continue to build that talent to ensure that we have the depth to not only acquire via free agency, but via trade. And we feel that we have the talent to do that. It just has to make sense for us.”

-- Alexis

How realistic is it that an internal candidate takes a key role in the Blue Jays 2020 outfield? Would this change the free agency strategy? Is a combination of Lourdes Gurriel, Randal Grichuck, Teoscar Hernandez and Derek Fisher the most likely outcome?
-- @curtisbutcher1

If the outfield is addressed in any way this offseason, that would likely come in center given the existing options in the corners. The likeliest outcome is still the four names you’ve mentioned in some order, but it’s also possible that the Blue Jays roster a fifth outfielder under the new roster rules.

This situation could remain a bit fluid, too, given Montoyo’s tendency to move players around and make sure everyone gets their reps. Unless the Blue Jays go out and add a solid bat to their first base and DH picture, that DH spot could be a natural fit for whichever outfielder isn’t playing on any given day. Of the group, Teoscar Hernandez and his late-2019 surge are particularly intriguing.

-- Keegan

Will the Blue Jays go after any of Japan’s top players this offseason?
[email protected]

With Andrew Tinnish at the helm of international scouting for the Blue Jays, as the department’s VP, it should be easy for team supporters to rest assured that the organization is doing its due diligence on the international market. While the most recent signings out of Asia include Ryan Feierabend, who made just two appearances in the Majors this season, and Andy Burns, who spent his year at Triple-A Buffalo -- both coming from the Korean Baseball Organization -- there’s little doubt the Blue Jays would make a move if they saw a fit in Japan.

-- Alexis