Offseason Tracker and Analysis: Toronto Blue Jays

This past season, the Blue Jays witnessed the debuts of young phenoms Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Bo Bichette, and Cavan Biggio all make their debuts, while star pitching prospect Nate Pearson isn’t far behind. It’s safe to say that the front office should be optimistic about the team’s future, though this could be a pivotal offseason for the club- they’ll likely take the first step towards exiting the rebuilding phase by adding some veteran talent.

Expected Direction: Adding Some Veterans To Complement Their Young Stars

Blue Jays Acquire SP Chase Anderson

anderson
Photo Cred: CTV News Toronto

Full Trade: Blue Jays Acquire SP Chase Anderson From Brewers In Exchange For 1B Prospect Chad Spanberger

Grade: 4/10

In a bit of a puzzling decision, the Blue Jays have traded for starting pitcher Chase Anderson, while exercising his $8.5 million club option. Anderson, 31, has been a well-below average starting pitcher the past two seasons, posting subpar K-BB ratios with high fly ball ratios. Now, he goes to the AL East, where his tendency to give up home runs could be exposed dearly. It’s safe to say I don’t understand this move at all- you can find better starting pitchers for $8.5 million and a prospect than someone who posted a 5.26 xFIP last season.

Blue Jays Sign SP Tanner Roark 

roark
Photo Cred: CBS Sports

Result: Two Years, $24 Million

Grade: 6/10

We knew coming into the offseason that the Blue Jays would be in the market for veteran starting pitchers, as their rotation is both young and inexperienced. However, similar to the Anderson trade, their signing of Tanner Roark is extremely questionable. After all, the 33-year-old had a very poor 4.64 xFIP, and ranked below the 20th percentile in every expected statistic, according to Baseball Savant. Once a sinkerballer, his ground ball rate has continued to shrink, while he also allowed more hard contact. In other words, he’s a below-average starting pitcher, yet Toronto gave him a multi-year commitment worth $12 million per season.

Blue Jays Sign RHP Shun Yamaguchi

yamaguchi
Photo Cred: BlueJays Nation

Contract Details: Two Years, $6 Million

Grade: 8.5/10

Going into the international market to add more pitching depth, the Blue Jays have signed Japanese right-hander Shun Yamaguchi to a two-year contract worth $6 million, with a posting fee. Yamaguchi, 32, has been a very successful pitcher in Japan as both a starter and reliever; he was once a star closer, but last season, he had a 2.91 ERA with a 10 K/9 with 170 innings pitched. Whether it’s in the rotation or the bullpen, he’ll be of use to the Blue Jays, who are thin on options in both areas.

Blue Jays Sign INF Travis Shaw

shaw
Photo Cred: UPI.com

Contract Details: One Year, $4 Million

Grade: 9.5/10

In their first move to add a position player to their roster, the Blue Jays have brought in corner infielder Travis Shaw on a one-year contract worth $4 million. Shaw, 29, is the epitome of a bounce-back season. In 2017 and 2018 with the Brewers, he was on the better third basemen in baseball, posting WARs of 3.5 and 3.6, respectively. However, his production fell off a cliff last season, as he was a below-replacement level player (-0.8 WAR) with a 47 wrc+. What went wrong for Shaw? For starters, his 33.3% strikeout rate was 15% higher than the previous season, and when he did put the ball in play, he was unlucky (.216 batting average balls in play). Still, with a 147 wrc+ in Triple-A, he clearly didn’t forget how to hit, and had the Brewers been able to exercise patience with him (hard to do when you’re in the midst of a playoff push), he’s too talented to have not seen his numbers rise. For a Blue Jays team that is a) trying to be more competitive next season and b) could benefit from an extra trade-chip, Shaw fills all the boxes for them- this is a great signing that comes with a very high potential reward relative to the cost.

Blue Jays Sign SP Hyun-Jin Ryu

Hyun-jin-Ryu
Photo Cred: Sportsnet

Full Contract: Four Years, $80 Million

Grade: 7/10

At the beginning of the offseason, Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins promised that he was going to add pitching that would “contribute in significant ways”. Well, he accomplished that goal in stunning fashion, signing starting pitcher Hyun-Jin Ryu to a four-year contract worth $80 million. Ryu, 32, is the fourth pitcher who has been acquired by Toronto this offseason, but without a doubt, he’s the most impactful addition- he’s the team’s de facto ace. He’s dealt with several injuries in the past, but last season, he pitched in a career-high 182.1 innings, and posted an impressive 3.32 xFIP. He may not have an overpowering pitch arsenal, but with elite command (1.18 BB/9), and a knack for inducing ground balls (50.4%) and soft contact (20.3%), he’s established himself as one of the game’s better pitchers. Now, that comes with the major caveat of him being healthy, which is what makes this such a risky deal, but if he can even give them 20-25 starts, he’ll be a nice addition. Still, for a team that appears to be a year away from actually competing, it definitely feels like they jumped the gun with this overpay; a four-year contract for any 32-year-old, especially one with such an extensive injury history, is a little ludicrous.

Blue Jays Sign RP Rafael Dolis

dolis
Photo Cred: Yahoo! Sports

Contract Details: One Year, $1.5 Million (2021 Club Option + $1 Million In Incentives)

Grade: 8/10

Adding yet another pitcher internationally, the Blue Jays have signed reliever Rafael Dolis to a one-year deal, with a club option for 2021. It’s been since 2013 since Dolis has pitched in the major leagues, and when he did, he was far from impressive- 5.39 FIP in 44 1/3 innings with the Cubs. However, ever since moving to Japan to play in the Nippon Professional Baseball league, he’s been excellent, posting a 2.49 ERA with strong peripherals (9.9 K/9, 2.7 BB/9) in 209 innings between 2016 and 2019. There’s no guarantee that he’ll be able to translate that success to the majors, but regardless, it’s a move with practically zero risk for Toronto, who was thin on bullpen depth anyways. In the search for productive relievers, more teams should make signings like this.

*Will Be Updated With Every Move The Blue Jays Make

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