Free Agency Primer – Part 2


Yesterday in part 1 of 500 Level Fan’s 2015 Free Agency Primer we looked at Infielders, Outfielders, and Relievers, and made a guess as to who the Jays might be interested in.  More importantly, we made a guess as to the realistic chances that Toronto could actually sign any of the players.  The result was that even though a guy like Chris Davis, Ben Zobrist, Jason Heyward, or Alex Gordon would look great in a Jays uniform, there is little to no chance that management opens the vault for a non-pitcher.

Especially a non-starting pitcher.

Which brings us to today – a look at the free agent starting pitchers.

As it stands right now, with David Price and Marco Estrada becoming free agents and Mark Buehrle set to possibly retire, the Blue Jays 2016 rotation looks to be Marcus Stroman, R.A. Dickey, and whatever is left of Drew Hutchison’s confidence.  There has been discussion about moving Aaron Sanchez back to the rotation, and potentially moving Roberto Osuna as well.  Any help from the minor leagues is still years away, meaning there are several question marks.  As we saw last year, when the team broke camp with Daniel Norris and Aaron Sanchez in the rotation, question marks aren’t a good thing.

So who can plug the holes?  There are a ton of starting pitchers available, ranging from the truly elite to the avoidable.  The elite are more than likely out of Toronto’s budget (sorry Zack Greinke), and the avoidable should be…well…avoided (we don’t want a repeat of the Josh Towers or Tomo Ohka debacles).  So who does that leave?

Here are 10 possibilities:

David Price (yes he is a member of the elite, but we will include him anyway)

Pros – elite pitcher; possible 2015 Cy Young winner; by all accounts loved his time in Toronto; great teammate

Cons – price and term will likely be over and above what Shapiro and team will be willing to offer; by all accounts seems to be locked into the Cubs

Interest Level – 10/10.  After the end of 2015, of course the Jays want him back.

Realistic Chance – 1/10.  The only reason it’s not a 0 is because he was already here and there’s a small, tiny, minuscule chance that his time in TO, and guys like Stroman can convince him to return.

Jordan Zimmermann

Pros – 195+ IP in four straight seasons; above average ERA+ in five straight seasons; won’t turn 30 until May; not in the elite tier, so price and term will be more manageable

Cons – numbers generally down across the board last year; never pitched in the AL; still likely to command > $100 million

Interest Level – 9/10.  Not quite an ace like Price/Greinke, but would still slot in at 1 or 2 on the SP depth chart

Realistic Chance – 3/10.  MLB Trade Rumors predicts he will land with the Jays, so there’s that.  It would be nice, but I’m not holding my breath.

Johnny Cueto

Pros – had a great 2015 season and even better 2011-2014 stretch; World Series experience

Cons – fancies himself to be a top-3 arm in all of baseball, which he isn’t; absolutely imploded in the playoffs at Rogers Centre, and in Pittsburgh a few years ago; concern of an elbow injury

Interest Level – 5/10.  While he would upgrade the rotation, I have a hard time seeing the Jays showing a ton of interest after seeing his performance against them at the end of the season.

Realistic Chance – 0/10.  Not after he was destroyed by the Toronto fans in October.

Doug Fister

Pros – was outstanding from 2011-2014; off year in 2015 likely lowers his asking price

Cons – he was pretty awful last year and dealt with injuries; not overpowering

Interest Level – 5/10.  A similar style to Marco Estrada – but if they want somebody like Estrada, why not just bring back Estrada?

Realistic Chance – 3/10.  I would think the Jays make an offer only if they whiff on everybody else.

Marco Estrada

Pros – fantastic 2015 with the Jays; dominated down the stretch and in the playoffs

Cons – career high in innings by far; best year of his career, so regression is a concern; looking for a huge salary increase

Interest Level – 9/10.  Judging by how successful he was last year, there has to be interest in bringing him back (at the right price)

Realistic Chance – 7/10.  He might test the open waters, but there’s a good chance he stays home and sacrifices a bit of money for extra term.

Wei-Yin Chen

Pros – solid and dependable, if not spectacular; consistent ; left-handed; AL East experience

Cons – not overpowering; struggled badly against right-handed batters; Scott Boras client; prone to home runs; comes with a qualifying offer attached

Interest Level – 6/10.  If only because he’s a lefty.

Realistic Chance – 1/10.  Boras will insist on either a high dollar value or a 5-6 year deal (or both).  Thanks but no thanks.

Jeff Samardzija

Pros – strikeout pitcher who showed flashes of brilliance last year and in prior years; dependable – 30+ starts for 4 straight seasons

Cons – let’s be honest – he stunk last year, leading baseball in ER, HR, and Hits

Interest Level – 7/10.  Was last year a fluke?  I’m willing to believe the Blue Jays think so and would be interested in the righty to slot in behind Stroman.

Realistic Chance – 3/10.  It all depends on the market, but the guess is that somebody throws a ton of money at him convinced that 2015 was an outlier.  I don’t think it will be the Jays.

Mike Leake

Pros – young (turns 28 on Thursday); fairly consistent – 190+ IP, sub 4.00 ERA each of the last three seasons

Cons – contact pitcher who is HR prone; low strikeout rates; will likely demand a fifth year

Interest Level – 4/10.  With his age he can demand a bit more than some of the older pitchers, but doesn’t have the track record that screams $80-$100 million

Realistic Chance – 2/10.  Risk outweighs potential reward.

Chris Young

Pros – coming off back-to-back solid seasons in ’14 and ’15; generally keeps the ball in the ballpark; doesn’t walk many; due to his age can potentially be signed to a one-year deal; relatively inexpensive

Cons – age (will turn 37 in May); soft thrower with low strikeout rate; depends heavily on defense (FIP over 1.50 higher than ERA in past two years); hasn’t reached 30 starts in a season since 2007

Interest Level – 6/10.  Mainly depends on the market.  If Estrada leaves and the Jays haven’t added anybody, I can see interest in Young increasing towards late winter.

Realistic Chance – 4/10.  Again, it all depends how the early part of winter plays out, but I can see Young coming on a one-year deal with an option as the #4 or 5 man in the rotation.

Dillon Gee

Pros – he was kind of decent in 2013?; should be fairly cheap after being dumped by the Mets

Cons – has not been very good for two years; only made 7 starts last season before being demoted;

Interest Level – 3/10.  This screams reclamation project, which is not really a thing the Jays should be interested in.

Realistic Chance – 7/10.  For some reason I can’t get the thought out of my head that Gee becomes the fifth starter after the Jays take a gamble on him.  He should be relatively inexpensive with something to prove, and at the very least be better than the 2015 version of Hutchison.

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