Scott Stinson: Toronto Blue Jays enter off-season needing to fix a familiar problem

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This is something that the Toronto front office vowed it would address last off-season, and Atkins made his first truly aggressive, chips-on-the-table move in four years by acquiring Hyun-Jin Ryu for US$80-million. Depending in your faith in the off-season rumour mill, the Jays also tried to land other high-end starters like Zack Wheeler and Kyle Gibson before settling on Tanner Roark. Ryu was excellent, minus the playoff shellacking, and Roark … was not. He made 11 starts and posted a 6.80 ERA, which was at least better than the 7.22 ERA put up by Chase Anderson, the other veteran that Jays management brought in to try to give some stability to the starting rotation. Matt Shoemaker was strong again when healthy, which unfortunately does not seem to be often, while the various young arms that Atkins and Shapiro were hoping could take starts this season did not do much of that. Nate Pearson, the kid who could be the fireballing ace to head a playoff rotation, had his debut cut short by injury.

Infielder Bo Bichette was one of the bright spots in the Toronto Blue Jays lineup this season. Photo by Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images

And so, whatever the Jays do next year will come back again to that rotation. Pearson has to join Ryu at the top of it if the Blue Jays are going to be any kind of a contender in a normal season. Jays fans have had some dark times over four decades, but a third straight season in which manager Charlie Montoyo is randomly casting about for starting pitchers would be a new one. One of the other Jays’ prospects, Simeon Woods Richardson or Alek Manoah, could even make a Pearson-sized leap to join the big team next year.

But, more likely, it will be up to the front office to again solve the problem that they tried to solve last winter. If the Blue Jays are going to keep moving, from competing to winning to winning a lot, it’s going to be the arms that they don’t yet have at the major-league level that take them there. If there was one good takeaway from that two-game drubbing from Tampa, it’s that the Rays showed them the way.

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