The Toronto Blue Jays starting rotation was dealt a major blow yesterday, as it was announced that Hyun Jin Ryu would be sidelined for the rest of the season. The southpaw has dealt with forearm/elbow issues all year long and it looks like he may have to undergo Tommy John surgery.
More will be known once he undergoes the procedure and whether it is a partial or full tear of the UCL, which could be the difference between whether fans ever see Ryu pitch in a Jays uniform again. He is free agent eligible after next season.
Ryu’s absence for the rest of the season does leave the Jays down a starter, yet the club still boasts one of the top rotations in the American League. Alek Manoah and Kevin Gausman are having terrific seasons, while Jose Berrios and Yusei Kikuchi fill out the rest of the rotation, with Berrios starting to turn things around after a dreadful start to the campaign. Blue Jays starters own a collective 3.38 ERA on the year, ranked fifth across the Major Leagues.
What options do the Blue Jays have when it comes to replacing Ryu for the remainder of the 2022 campaign?
Ross Stripling to the Blue Jays’ rescue
A swingman for most of his career, Ross Stripling has done absolutely everything the Blue Jays have asked of him since being acquired from the Los Angeles Dodgers back at the 2020 trade deadline. After making 19 starts last year (24 outings total), Stripling now finds himself as the prime candidate to overtake Ryu’s spot in the rotation. The right-hander has found himself getting reps already this season as a starter, making seven starts through 15 appearances so far this campaign.
The Pennsylvania product sports a 3.14 ERA with a 7.3 K/9 through 43.0 innings and has certainly earned a shot at the rotation to finish out the year, should the Jays choose to go that route. Whether he sticks there for the entire season will be determined, but for now, this seems like the safest bet unless Stripling starts to unravel.
Internal options down in Triple-A
Looking at the Blue Jays’ pitching depth down in the Minor Leagues, there are a few names that stick out right away.
Casey Lawerence is having a terrific year with the Bisons, owning a 1.77 ERA through 61.0 innings and 10 starts. He had a brief cameo up with the Jays earlier this season and considering he is stretched out and pitching well down in Buffalo, he is high up on the leaderboards when it comes to an internal replacement.
The Blue Jays also have Thomas Hatch and Nick Allgeyer at their disposal, but both players have had their fair share of struggles this season. Both pitchers have 5.00+ ERA’s and opponents own batting averages over the .250 mark. Hatch would have the upper hand considering he is on the 40-man roster but both might not be ready to step into the Jays’ rotation just yet.
Nate Pearson beginning the year on the IL hurts here, especially since this would be a prime opportunity for him to slot in and take over in the rotation. Considering he is most likely slated to finish out the year in the bullpen, Jays fans may see him in the near future but not in the rotation.
One name to keep an eye on is Max Castillo, as the recently promoted right-hander has been dominating in Triple-A, allowing only two earned runs and nine hits through 23.1 innings of work.
Time for external reinforcements
With Ryu done for the season and potentially all of next year if he undergoes Tommy John surgery, the Blue Jays find themselves in a position where they could acquire a starting pitcher with more than one year left on their contract. This would obviously cost some extra prospect capital, but adding the right pitcher for more than one season could be the difference-maker come September when the AL East is in a dogfight for playoff spots.
A’s right-hander Frankie Montas immediately stands out amongst the crowd. He has one more year of arbitration following this season and is posting strong numbers in 2022, a 3.40 ERA with 80 strikeouts through 76.2 innings. He will cost the most in prospect capital, but Oakland will 100% have him available this trade deadline (or at least they should), so a deal is there if the price is right.
Another name that sticks out is Luis Castillo on the Cincinnati Reds, another pitcher with an additional year of arbitration control following this campaign. He currently owns a 3.23 ERA through seven starts, after starting the year on the IL, and the Reds could look to sell this trade deadline if they continue to sit at the bottom of the NL Central.
Following those two, the upcoming free agent one-year rental players who could be available at the deadline are on the weaker side. While they could gamble on a pitcher like Zach Davies, the Jays may be better off to hold onto their prospects or utilize them elsewhere, especially if Stripling is still pitching well come the end of July.