Matt Shoemaker’s Blue Jays tenure has been excellent. Short, but excellent. Will it continue?
The Jays inked the oft-injured runner-up for 2014 American League Rookie of the Year to a one-year show-me deal in the off-season, and, over the course of five starts, he showed everyone that he could still pitch. Despite having his previous three seasons derailed by injuries — first, a line drive to the head that ended in 2016 season, and, after that, forearm issues that held him to roughly 100 innings in 2017 and 2018 — Shoemaker dominated for the Jays early on.
He finally looked like the top-of-the-rotation starter he was with the Los Angeles Angels before all of those injuries stacked up. Through four starts, Shoemaker scattered just five earned runs while striking out 23 batters and walking just nine. Then, three innings deep into what looked like his fifth-straight quality start, the injury bug bit again.
Shoemaker hurt his leg while chasing a member of the Oakland A’s in a rundown between first and second base. It was a heartbreaking scene as a devastated Shoemaker pounded the grass in frustration, knowing that this was going to be yet another serious injury.
He was diagnosed with a torn ACL in his left knee that would immediately end his season. Shoemaker finished the 2019 season with a 1.57 ERA over 28 2/3 innings. He still ranks third, according to Baseball-Reference, among Blue Jays starting pitchers in WAR.
Over the weekend, Scott Mitchell tweeted out that Shoemaker was interested in sticking around with the Blue Jays long-term.
With his ACL recovery going smoothly, arb-eligible Matt Shoemaker would like to find common ground with #BlueJays on a new deal quickly.
“We’ve had some small discussion showing my interest. To be completely honest with you, I’d like to be here and I’d like to be here long term."
— Scott Mitchell (@ScottyMitchTSN) September 14, 2019
Shoemaker, who’s coming off a one-year deal worth $3.5 million after being non-tendered by the Angels last winter, is under Blue Jays control for two more seasons before he can hit unrestricted free agency. The Jays could easily qualify Shoemaker and bring him back at a similar cost to his 2019 salary, or they could work out something with more term.
While Shoemaker’s 2019 season being mostly wiped out presents some concern about what to expect from him in 2020 and beyond, he showed in his brief stint that his arm issues are behind him. Also, given the fact this was a freak ACL injury, nagging issues shouldn’t be a concern.
The Jays have a pretty massive need not only for starting pitching next season, but veteran pitching. As of right now, we’re looking at a 2020 starting rotation of something like Trent Thornton, Ryan Borucki, Anthony Kay, T.J. Zeuch, and Jacob Waguespack. That, uh, isn’t ideal. I mean, giving young arms a chance to show what they have in 2020 isn’t a terrible strategy, but you can’t roll with a rotation full of rookies and sophomores.
Shoemaker would be a nice veteran to add to the mix of young starters carving things out at the Major League level. Beyond his presence, he might actually be, you know, good. Had Shoemaker injured his ACL in like February and come back to make those five starts in September, it would be a no-brainer to have him here in 2020, and perhaps beyond. I know this logic is flawed, but Shoemaker’s April showing should be worth something.
If there’s a chance for the Jays to take a bit of a gamble on Shoemaker, it would be worthwhile. His value is low right now due to the uncertainty that surrounds him, so the Jays could potentially work out a multi-year-team-option-based contract that favours them in the long-term.
The sample size wasn’t big, but Shoemaker proved that he’s a guy worth taking a gamble on.