By mid-August, the Jays are going to have several pitchers coming back from injury that they need to do something with. Three pitchers, Sergio Santos, Drew Hutchison and J.A. Happ, who are on the 60-day DL have started rehab assignments and Kyle Drabek has already finished his official rehab and been assigned to A+ Dunedin (using an option year). Hutchison also has options left and will probably be assigned to the minor when his rehab stint runs out in mid-August, but someone will have to be removed from the 40-man roster.
Happ will be back with the big club for sure when he’s done his rehab. If you recall, Happ was hit in the head with a line drive on May 7th, but the major injury he sustained was not the head injury. His knee crumpled badly when he fell and he has been rehabbing the leg injury more so than the concussion.
While many people were saying that he was the team’s best (or most consistent starter in April), his numbers are really no better than that of what you would expect from a fifth starter. Before the injury, Happ had a 4.91 ERA in 7 starts with the Jays with a 1.545 WHIP. In his 33 innings, he had walked 19 and struck out 26.
Who gets moved when Happ, Hutchison and Santos are eligible (and able) to return from their DL stints and rehab assignments?
One candidate to be moved from the 15-day DL to the 60-day DL is Brandon Morrow. Morrow was placed on the DL on June 1, which means that if he goes onto the 60-day DL, he will have to stay there until July 31 and it really doesn’t look like he’ll be back in 2 weeks, so that won’t be a problem.
That will create one spot on the 40-man roster for either Happ or Hutchison, but who would have to go to create that other one? My guess is that it will be Michael Schwimer, who is currently on the DL in Triple-A Buffalo. I saw Schwimer pitch in a game earlier this season in Buffalo and was severely underwhelmed. He’s 6’8″ and didn’t even break 90 mph. He’s almost exactly the type of arm the Blue Jays have tended not to favour in recent years but the fact is that over his minor league career, he has struck a lot of batters. Since Fangraphs has his average fastball velocity from his major league stints with the Phillies in 2011 and 2012 sitting at 92.2 mph and Brooks Baseball has his 4-seam fastball somewhat faster at 92.91 mph with a sinker at 92.24 mph.
My guess is that Schwimer’s decrease in velocity was related to his injury and as such, we shouldn’t write him off. The fact is that something’s got to give in the 40-man roster. However, I’m not sure if an injured player can be removed from the 40-man roster, so we’ll have wait and see.
Another candidate in Buffalo is Mickey Storey. Storey has been very effective this season for the Bisons, throwing 43 innings and putting up a 2.93 ERA with a WHIP under 1.00. He’s given up only 27 hits and 11 walks and has struck out 56 batters. In only 3 2/3 innings with the Jays, he gave up 3 runs on six hits and a walk but struck out five batters.
Storey is a guy who legitimately averages under 90 mph on his fastball (according to Fangraphs. Brooks Baseball has his 4-seamer averaging 90.25), but has always been able to make batters swing and miss, getting a 12.2% swing-and-miss rate last season with the Astros (over a bigger sample size of 30 1/3 innings).
Finally, Thad Weber is the third candidate for an eventual DFA. Despite pitching only 17 major league innings in the past two seasons (with Toronto, Detroit and San Diego), Weber has a nice arsenal of fastball, change, curve and occasionally a cutter. According to Brooks Baseball, Weber has been a two-pitch pitcher, mostly relying on the four-seamer and the curve, but the truth is that most of his work in the majors has been in relief. He’s been starting in Buffalo and there’s no reason to believe that he relies on just two pitches nearly that much. In Triple-A, he has been outstanding, putting up a 2.37 ERA and 1.01 WHIP in 49 1/3 innings, walking only 8 batters and striking out 40.
That’s all well and good for the 40-man, as all three of the pitchers mentioned are in Buffalo, but who will go from the 25-man roster when Happ comes back in under a month?
The way things are going right now, it looks like Neil Wagner might be the odd man out. With options to spare, he won’t need to be exposed to waivers to be send to Buffalo. Wagner has been excellent in his first extended major league shot but the numbers game works against him. He’s posted a 2.95 ERA in 18 1/3 innings in Toronto with 6 walks and 15 strikeouts. The Jays love his high-90s heat (averaging 95.9 according to Fangraphs and 96.46 according to Brooks Baseball) but can hang on to him in the system and have him as the next guy up to the majors in case of injury or ineffectiveness.
Who do you think is the odd man (or men) out when the injured Jays return?
* Note: This is, of course, all completely speculative. I fully expect the Jays to do none of what I’m talking about and just DFA Todd Redmond when he has a bad start.