1. Who will make up the rotation?
First and foremost the Jays, as many teams do, need some clarity in their rotation. The miraculous recovery of Marcus Stroman and his success after returning has made him an important cornerstone in the rotation. R.A. Dickey will also likely play an important inning-eating role in the rotation after having his $12 million 2016 option picked up by the club. Furthermore, the Jays successfully re-signed Estrada to a two-year deal.
Estrada had a breakout season in 2015, pitched spectacularly in two possible elimination games during the playoffs for the Jays, and will have to shoulder a heavy workload next season. So maybe you’re thinking “hey, a rotation that includes Stroman, Estrada, and Dickey sounds pretty good” and yes it certainly does, but in order for the 2016 season to be successful the final two pieces of the rotation will be absolutely huge.
Internally the Jays do have some options and this is where the confusion and mystery currently lies. Whether Mark Buehrle returns is yet to be seen and even if he does his ability to pitch effectively could be a problem. Drew Hutchison is still with the franchise and pitched regularly in the rotation for much of the first half of the season before the arrival of David Price. His record is somewhat misleading at 13-5 (28 starts) due to the excessive run support he received. Hutchison put together an ugly 5.57 ERA and an even more pitiful 9.83 road ERA over 13 starts. As disheartening as his ERA is Hutchison likely has one of the final two spots in the rotation unless trades or signings bring in some new starting pitching.
Obviously there is always the possibility that the Jays are able to bring back Price but that remains a longshot and by no means should be expected. In order to fill the final spot in the rotation it is most likely that the Jays again attempt to stretch out the young Aaron Sanchez. The Jays attempted to stretch out Sanchez and transition him from the bullpen to the rotation early in 2015 with mixed results and a lack of consistency. Sanchez inevitably wound up back in the bullpen and was Manager John Gibbons go-to guy down the stretch in the eighth inning. Sanchez has the velocity and the talent to thrive in the rotation but has never pitched more than 92 innings in a season before. Barring an acquisition via trade or a potential free agent signing the most likely rotation currently is as follows:
Obviously everything changes if Price returns to Toronto, but for now there are big questions about the back end of the rotation. Where reinforcements lie if injuries occur really remains to be seen at this point. Whether a new starter is brought in is up in the air, and the Blue Jays can only hope that Hutchison is able to dramatically decrease his ERA in 2016 or at least have to fight to earn a spot within the rotation.