Of course, the title of this post is referring to free agent pitchers. News is coming out tonight (from a large number of trusted media sources) that Ubaldo Jimenez is close to a four-year, $48 million deal with the Baltimore Orioles.
My reaction is “meh.” Personally, I’ve come to realization that I really don’t want the Blue Jays to sign another pitcher. In my opinion, tying up that kind of money in a pitcher who has had as many bad years in his career as he has had good is a big risk. That’s the thing about “established” major league arms. Unless the guy is a premiere pitcher, there are going to be warts.
I’ve written about this before but something that I heard on the radio tonight really got me a little bit annoyed with the way that people are talking about free agent pitchers. The rhetoric around the city is almost that the Blue Jays are doomed if they don’t go out and get another pitcher.
This, of course, is completely untrue. They’re not doomed and there’s just as much risk bringing in a middle-of-the-rotation free agent as there is going with one of the young(ish) pitchers within the organization who are gunning for the #4 and #5 spots. Which leads me to the thing that was said tonight on the radio that really left me incredulous.
I heard something to the effect of “I don’t want to give the [#5 starting] spot to someone who doesn’t have any major league experience.” Why is this one of the stupidest things I’ve ever heard? Because every major league starting pitcher needs to have the chance to actually start in the majors before he can be a major league starting pitcher!
Roy Halladay had to be given a chance. Twice, in fact. Once when he was coming up the first time and the second time after he had completely imploded in the major leagues and was rebuilt in the minors. Someone had to show the trust in him, not once but twice, to give him the chance to start in the majors. Yes, some pitchers without major league experience are going to suck and are not going to stick but others are. And you don’t find the gems if you’re not willing
to dig through the crap to let them shine.
In the piece I wrote just two and a half weeks ago, I wrote that of the playoff teams in the 2013 season, about two-thirds of the starting pitchers were home grown. These teams trust their drafting and development system to produce major league quality players and, while the Blue Jays have depleted their stocks of top-ranked prospects, there are still some hanging around who need to be given the chance to show what they’ve got.
People have said that the Blue Jays don’t develop their own talent but they’ve traded away so much of it that we forget that they haven’t done a bad job. Over the last two seasons, injuries have decimated the starting rotation and the guys that I consider “home grown” or “early career acquisitions” have gone down frequently. Morrow, Drabek, Hutchison have all suffered injuries that prevented them from contributing to their potential. While the Blue Jays have traded away some other talents like Syndergaard and Nicolino, most forget Henderson Alvarez, signed and developed by the Blue Jays, who had a very good season in Miami last year.
2014 is the year in which the Blue Jays are able to look to those home grown starters again. Drabek showed more command in his rehab last year than ever has in his career. Hutchison looked excellent in the Arizona Fall League. Sean Nolin was great in the minors and is more ready to contribute now than he was in one-game shelling last year. All three of these guys can be solid contributors at the back end of the rotation and Drabek and Hutchison have the potential to be more. Then there’s Marcus Stroman. I think he can be a special player and more and more people are becoming convinced that, despite his short stature, he has the stuff and the competitive fire to be an excellent major league pitcher.
I would argue that all four of the pitchers that I’ve discussed (and I haven’t even raised J.A. Happ or Esmil Rogers) have the potential to contribute more to the Blue Jays over the next four years that Ubaldo Jimenez or Ervin Santana. At least one of them does, but you need to take off the training wheels and see who can get the job done. You don’t find out what these young players can do until you actually let them try. Should I remind you how well things worked out last year when the Blue Jays brought in three “proven” major leaguers. Last year was different because of the injuries and the fact that Stroman and Nolin were not ready to contribute. 2014 is different and it’s time to show some trust in some young pitchers.
Don’t forget about The 2014 Toronto Blue Jays Minor League Handbook, available March 31 as an ebook at Smashwords.com, Amazon, Apple iBooks, Kobo and other fine retailers for $7.99. Come back in early March for pre-order information.