After four solid seasons with the Baltimore Orioles, Taiwanese starting pitcher Wei-Yin Chen gets to test free agency for the first time. The 30-year-old left-hander is coming off his best season in the league, and is hitting free agency at the perfect time. After earning $16 million in his first four seasons with the Orioles, Chen could very well equal that figure in annual value when he signs his next contract. Over four years, Chen has so far compiled a 46-32 record with a 3.72 ERA while pitching in one of the toughest divisions in baseball for a starting pitcher. Overall, the Orioles got an impressive return on their initial investment, but now, Chen will likely be pitching for a new team in 2016.
Who should that team be?
One team in Chen’s division makes sense: the Toronto Blue Jays. After going all in for 2015, the Toronto rotation is going to look much different in 2016. David Price is unlikely to re-sign with the Blue Jays, and Mark Buehrle will either retire or pitch for his hometown St. Louis Cardinals. That leaves two gaping holes in a rotation that will be headed by Marcus Stroman and Marco Estrada. The unpredictable R.A. Dickey will follow. Aaron Sanchez should get another shot to return to the starting rotation. That should leave the front office looking for an external option to fill the final opening.
Chen would be an excellent choice to fill out the rotation for Toronto. He would become the only lefty in the rotation, and would form a solid two-three with Estrada behind Stroman. If the Blue Jays wish, Estrada and Chen — two very similar pitchers from opposite sides of the rubber — could be separated by the knuckleballer.
Chen is prone to the home run ball at times, but he does have a respectable track record against the rest of the division, and managed to post a sub-4.00 ERA pitching at Camden Yards. The Rogers Centre can trend to the hitter-friendly side, but Estrada, another flyball pitcher like Chen, had the best year of his career in his first year in Toronto. Regardless of the home runs, a pitcher with the Blue Jays has a bit more leeway than with other teams. Toronto needs a pitcher who can turn in a quality start more often than not. Six innings and three runs will be enough for Toronto to win most nights, and Chen’s track record shows he can be counted on to battle, throw strikes, and keep the game close. He’s not an ace, but the Blue Jays don’t need one (though it was nice having Price around for a few months).
Chen is a good fit for the Blue Jays’ needs, and the city of Toronto, with a very large Asian population, should be attractive to Chen. A chance to pitch with the Toronto bats backing him should also be attractive to Chen, who won only 11 games this year despite a 3.34 ERA. The mid-tier pitching market will begin to come into focus after the aces sign. When the dust settles, seeing Wei-Yin Chen wearing a Toronto Blue Jays uniform would not come as a big surprise.