Wednesday, February 5, 2014
One Last Time: Ervin Santana or Ubaldo Jimenez?
By Ian Hunter
Will they or won't they sign a starting pitcher already?
That's the question which has been asked umpteen times this offseason about the Blue Jays and their need for pitching. So much so that I think the Blue Jays fan base is become numb towards any news of Ervin Santana or Ubaldo Jimenez coming to Toronto.
The latest reports suggest that Santana and Jimenez are essentially Toronto's for the taking, and as the days draw closer to Spring Training, the asking prices on Santana and Jimenez drop further and further.
The funny thing is it almost seems like everyone is waiting on the Blue Jays to make the first move, so they can make their move afterwards.
While any of those guys would be welcome additions to the Blue Jays starting rotation, it got me thinking ... Toronto's starting pitching is not only looking pretty thin this season, it's also looking really thin in 2015 and beyond.
Yesterday I came across this post on FanGraphs via MLB Trade Rumors in which Dave Cameron looks ahead to the 2015 crop of free agent starting pitchers. The big names include Max Scherzer, James Shields, Jon Lester, Homer Bailey and Justin Masterson.
Odds are half of them will likely sign contract extensions with their respective teams, which will leave the other teams to fight amongst themselves for three or four mid to top-tier starting pitchers.
Just looking ahead to next year, here is the Toronto Blue Jays starting pitching depth chart for players that are under contract or have club options for the 2015 season.
R.A. Dickey - final year of two-year contract ($12 million)
Mark Buehrle - final year of four-year contract ($19 million)
Brandon Morrow - club option for 2015 ($10 million)
J.A. Happ - club option for 2015 ($6.7 million)
Ricky Romero - final year of five-year contract ($7.5 million)
So not only do the Blue Jays have to worry about starting pitching this year, they also have to look ahead to 2015 and beyond.
Everyone seems very focused on this season and the increasingly short window the Blue Jays have for contention, but this list of pitchers just reiterates how uncertain their starting pitching really is.
If things go horribly once again for the Blue Jays when it comes to pitching, they'll have to dip into the free agent pitcher pool once again next offseason. And with the calibre of pitchers projected to be on the market and their likely astronomical asking price, that's not a very tenable situation for the Blue Jays.
However, that could all be fixed simply by signing one of Ubaldo Jimenez, Ervin Santana, or perhaps even both. It wouldn't elevate the Blue Jays starting rotation as one of the best, but it would at least make their rotation respectable.
The other good thing about signing either of those two is it at least shores up part of the Blue Jays starting rotation for at least a few years.
The Santana vs. Jimenez thing has been done to death this offseason, and while both guys have their strengths and weaknesses, at this point either guy would provide an upgrade over what the Blue Jays already have.
I'm not really looking at the pitcher so much as I am the spot. It's kind of sad that it's come to this, but the only requirement I'm looking for right now is for someone to log 200 innings. If they can be above average while doing it, then that's a bonus.
Ideally, guys like Marcus Stroman, Drew Hutchison and maybe even Aaron Sanchez will contribute over the next few years, but it's nice to have at least some big league talent locked up in the starting pitching department.
Say if they sign Ubaldo Jimenez and he has a decent season and Marcus Stroman joins the club mid-season and has a decent run - that gives the Blue Jays a pitching surplus, which means they could afford to deal somebody like Mark Buehrle (as they were rumoured to in the past).
Although it might not be the best business practice to sign and trade a player not long thereafter, the Blue Jays could ink Jimenez or Santana to a low-ball contract now and receive fair market value for them in return in a year or two.
Aside from the second round draft pick, the Blue Jays have nothing to lose by signing Ubaldo Jimenez or Ervin Santana. It really is a unique opportunity for them to grab a free agent starter without surrendering too much in the way of money and draft picks.