News and Notes time baby, this article will mainly on the fifth starting spot in the rotation, as there has been an interesting development in the case of Hyun-Jin Ryu, as well as rumours.
It’s almost the new year, so most big-name options are off the market. However, there are still some interesting names that the Jays could or already have an interest in. Let’s start with the most recent rumour.
The Jays are (still) interested in Johnny Cueto:
This rumour comes from MLB Scoops (@MLBScoops), and it once again features the Jays linked to the 36-year-old righty. MLBScoops was famously correct about the Jays signing Chris Bassitt, so where there’s smoke, there’s fire.
With the Chicago White Sox, the soon-to-be 37-year-old posted a 3.35 ERA and 3.79 FIP in 158.1 innings pitched. While his K% of 15.7% was on the low side, he had a pretty impressive 5.1 BB%, while also generating soft contact, something which the new and improved defense will love.
My assumption is that Cueto would receive a one-year deal, and if he could eat anywhere close to the number of innings he did last season, the Jays would have a rotation full of inning munchers.
Hyun-Jin Ryu could be back by next summer:
So this one came as a little bit of a shocker, but according to Jeeho Yoo of Yonhap News, Hyun-Jin Ryu is targeting a July return.
The 35-year-old lefty underwent Tommy John back in June 2022. Now you may be thinking “well, it usually takes around a year and a half to return to pitching, why is Ryu different?”
The answer to that is that he likely got a different variation of the surgery, where they add a brace to it, which can shorten the rehab time to just a year. Former Blue Jays prospect Nick Frasso had this version of the operation done, and damn did he ever look good.
Ryu was a Cy Young nominee in 2020, posting a 2.69 ERA and 3.01 FIP in 67 innings pitched (plague season). Since the sticky tack ban on June 21st, it was somewhat of a struggle for the loveable lefty, as he’s posted a 5.50 ERA and 4.21 FIP in 113 innings pitched.
However, this could very well be a case of correlation instead of causation, as Ryu has suffered numerous injuries since that period.
Obviously, we have no idea what the rotation and bullpen will look like by the time Ryu is ready to return. Perhaps he could fill in the rotation somewhere, or potentially be an elite long reliever. At this point, I just hope Ryu pitches for the Jays again, as his signing did so much for the organization.
Corey Kluber signs with the Red Sox:
The two-time Cy Young winner signed a one-year, $10 million contract with the Red Sox on Wednesday afternoon.
The 36-year-old posted a 4.34 ERA and 3.57 FIP in 164 innings pitched, which saw him own a 20.2 K% and a 3 BB%.
Although the Jays were never linked to Kluber, he could have been an option for the fifth spot in the rotation. Another option that remains available is Zach Greinke.
So who ends up as the fifth starter:
As it stands, one of Yusei Kikuchi or Mitch White is likely to fill that hole. I think both of those players have a lot to offer next season.
Mitch White had some awful defense behind him but still managed to post a 3.76 FIP with the Jays, despite not striking out many batters. He had an average walk rate and excelled at generating soft contact. I think it’d be a good bet to see his ERA drop below 4.50 at the very least, potentially even a sub-4.00 ERA, as a much-improved defense will help him out. I could see him pitching as the long-man though.
As for Kikuchi, the lefty averaged 94.9 mph on his fastball. It’s a little bit of a stretch to believe he can somehow reach his potential, but he did have a 39.8 K% and 28.9 K-BB% out of the pen last season. My hope is that he can somehow become the swing and miss lefty reliever that the team needs.
That’s just who is currently employed by the team. By next week it could be a different story, as they could potentially sign a guy like Cueto, or maybe even more some prospects for a starter. They have a lot of good options, and there is still plenty of time for the team to improve.
As always, you can follow me on Twitter and Instagram @Brennan_L_D.