1. Hyun-Jin Ryu and Tanner Roark leading a bolstered rotation
The Blue Jays were the subject of criticism as the off-season went on since they clearly needed starting pitching, but it seemed, at least at the beginning of free agency, that they were only considering smaller pieces and depth arms.
All of a sudden, in the middle of the night on December 22, news broke that Hyun-Jin Ryu was coming north on a 4 year, $80 million deal. This stands as the third-largest contract in franchise history. It’s a huge get in terms of fan interest (Ryu is a beloved player among the Korean fan base) as well as on the field performance.
Last year, Ryu posted a 2.32 ERA, along with a 5.3 WAR with the Dodgers and finished second in National League Cy Young voting. While he’s not getting any younger, the soon to be 33-year-old gives fans no reason to worry based on his numbers.
Lost in the Ryu hype is Tanner Roark, who signed a bit earlier in free agency for 2 years, $24 million. Last year, he put up a 4.35 ERA and 2.0 WAR with Cincinnati and Oakland. While those numbers aren’t exactly elite, he’s pitched at least 160 innings in his last 4 seasons, meaning he’s durable and trustworthy over the course of a long season.
With the Blue Jays still in the midst of their rebuild, pitchers like Roark are very important to young teams since he can keep the team in most games he’s in. His presence also lets the younger pitching prospects develop in low-pressure situations, as opposed to being thrown into a rotation spot that they aren’t ready for.
With that being said, Toronto’s starting rotation will at least be interesting, something we haven’t been able to say in a couple of years. With star prospect Nate Pearson joining the team sometime in 2020 barring health and veterans Chase Anderson and Matt Shoemaker sliding into the 3 and 4 spots, starting pitching shouldn’t be a huge problem this season. Plus, Ryan Borucki and Trent Thornton are viable young options as well.