Daily Duce: Pitching, pitching, and more pitching


The off-season is predictably off to a very, very slow start as the two biggest dominos, Gerrit Cole and Stephen Strasburg, have yet to fall. Given the way things went last year with Bryce Harper and Manny Machado, it isn’t going to happen any time soon either. Also, the fact both Cole and Strasburg (along with the top position player on the market, Anthony Rendon, to boot) are Scott Boras clients isn’t going to help speed things up either.

The most interesting thing we have from the past few days is this report from our old pal Gideon Turk, who spoke with a source connected to the Blue Jays organization about where the front office is at this winter. Don’t worry, even though his profile photo is a picture of a tooth, this information is reliable.

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Checked in w/ Jays source, some updates: – Kicked tires on Cole/Stras, won’t be involved. – Doing lots of work on SP a tier down. – Not concerned about missing on Gibson, did like Odorizzi a lot. – Exploring starters in trades who are signed long term on non-contending teams.

First thing’s first, the Jays aren’t going to be on Cole or Strasburg. It was never going to happen, as badly as we might have wanted it to. You can get as angry as you’d like about Rogers not ponying up enough cash to bring on board either of these elite starters who could be game-changers for the team, but you also have to consider whether they’d actually like to play here.

I always see the San Diego Padres signing Machado last winter as an example of how a random non-contending team can come out of the woods and throw a bunch of money at a player and lure them on board. That’s a fair comparison, to an extent. The Padres, like the Jays, are around the corner from contending, but they aren’t quite there yet. Machado obviously knew that when signing that he was going to be a part of the upswing process.

The difference here is that Toronto isn’t San Diego. It just isn’t as desirable of a location. I’m not saying Toronto is some kind of dump, or anything, as plenty of players have raved about their time playing here, but it isn’t Southern California. Regardless, I think Machado is the exception more so than the rule when it comes to marquee players signing a big contract in the middle of their prime on a non-contender.

As a random aside, I have a feeling we see both Cole and Strasburg, a couple of California Boys, head home this winter. One of them ends up with the Dodgers and one ends up with the Angels. Just a hunch.

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Next up, we have the note that the Jays are interested in starters who are a tier down. This is interesting, because who do they consider to be in the second tier?

Are Cole and Strasburg alone in that top tier? Or are names like Hyun-Jin Ryu, who finished second in NL Cy Young voting, and Zack Wheeler, who has finally become the top-of-the-rotation starter he was billed to be, in that top tier with them? Beyond that, how big is this second tier? Is Kyle Gibson, a guy who the Jays were apparently interested in, as suggested by the nex note, part of that tier? I don’t know. It’s hard to say.

That brings us to the next point, which mentions Gibson and Jake Odorizzi, two starters that the Jays missed out on. Gibson ended up signing a reasonable $30 million deal over three seasons with the Texas Rangers. That’s a pretty low-risk deal for a reliable, though unspectacular starter. Still, there are plenty of other Gibson-level names out there, like Wade Miley, Tanner Roark, and so on, who won’t warrant more than three years on a deal.

I’m interested in Odorizzi’s name coming up again. He was one of those names that seemed so perfect for the Jays, given his age, ability, and history of being solid in the AL East, but he ended up taking the Twins’ qualifying offer. His goal is to do what Yasmani Grandal did last year, which is to put together a big season on a one-year deal and cash in afterwards without draft pick compensation attached to his name. I bet the Jays will be in on Odorizzi again next winter.

Finally, we have a note about the Jays being in on pitchers who are signed long-term on bad teams. Who might that be? Some names that come to mind…

  • Kansas City’s Danny Duffy, who’s signed for two more years at $15 million. He was once good and could be a nice rebound option.
  • Baltimore’s Dylan Bundy is the same story as Duffy. He used to be good and could be a nice rebound option. He’s a bit different, though, as he’s arb-eligible and isn’t signed to a cost-controlled deal. I’m not sure if that’s the type of player they’re looking for.
  • Arizona’s Mike Leake, who gets paid $15 million in 2020 and has an $18 million mutual option in 2021. Reliable and mediocre. There’s your Kyle Gibson lite acquisition.
  • Cincinnati’s Sonny Gray, who has three more years at $10,166,666 with a $12 million team option after that. This would be a hell of a pump and dump by the Reds. After being ass in New York, Gray has been great for the Reds.
  • San Fransisco’s Johnny Cueto. This would involve the Giants eating a lot of salary. Cueto has two years left at $21,833,334 with another option year and a buyout after that. If San Fran ate half of his salary, you could take a gamble on Cueto bouncing back after Tommy John.

Orrrrrr… just sign somebody? I mean, it sounds simple enough, right? Don’t bother wasting your prospects when you can just get a guy for nothing but cash in free agency. But, as Gregor Chisholm discussed earlier this week, playing the free agency game with pitchers is wildly risky. 

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A positive thinker will believe Atkins finds himself in an enviable position. He has money to spend, a strong minor-league system to work from and an exciting young core of position players. A more negative view would suggest Atkins’ back is up against the wall because he is searching for the exact same thing so many other teams are. The fact he needs two, maybe even three pitchers makes it that much more daunting.

Chisholm mentions the risk behind signing a guy like Wheeler who has an injury history. I mean, take a look at some of those deals I mentioned above. Cueto especially. The Giants inked him to a massive deal and hasn’t paid off for them at all. Pitchers are insanely volatile, and for every gem of a signing like Max Scherzer you have, there are plenty of Cuetos who went the other way.

I mean, I’m not advocating for the Jays to sit around and do nothing, but I’m also not angry that they’ve been patient. Maybe the best option this winter will be signing a couple of position players and trading for pitchers. Maybe it’ll be signing a handful of lower-key guys. Maybe somebody really good like Ryu will fall between the cracks. Who knows! But just throwing money around a few weeks into free agency probably isn’t the play.