Much the same argument can be made about the pitching staff as was made about the everyday players: it’s more expensive, and there are questions marks regarding roles. The following tables show who is presently on the Jays’ staff. There is good balance (9 RHP; 7 LHP), depth, and more than a little experience:
The staff looks solid as it stands, but the Jays spoke of using JA Happ as a long man when they acquired him from Houston in July. There are two questions if that’s what they plan to do. First, wasn’t he effective as a starter after some initial confusion? Second, who replaces him in the rotation? A third revolved around other parts of the ‘pen: what about Darren Oliver and the young guys (Loup, Crawford, Carreno)?
The answer to the first question is ‘yes.’ Carlos Villanueva’s been valuable as both a starter and reliever since he was acquired from MIL. Given the Jays’ injuries, perhaps ‘invaluable’ is a better word to use. However, comments were made about his durability (see link here), which added to an already-turbulent season. CV’s feelings were hurt and, when he became a free agent, it was clear that he believed he proved himself as a starter. If the Jays don’t re-sign him, and their position isn’t entirely clear (Shi Davidi link here), then they need to replace him either with another long man in the ‘pen or with another starter. Ostensibly, JA Happ is that man.
That leads us to the second question: if Happ moves to the ‘pen, then who replaces Happ in the rotation? The Jays are at about the $110MM level with respect to 2013 payroll commitments and have mentioned that it could rise to $120MM. That leaves about $10MM for a free agent signing, but trades offer a little more flexibility with salary going in both directions. Simply for the sake of discussion, I wonder what kind of return a package of Lincoln, Happ, and John Buck or JP Arencibia would bring for the Jays?
The third question focuses on depth and experience. Oliver began pitching shortly before electricity was invented, and he may be the most effective LOOGY in MLB. His experience is invaluable, his contract option has been picked up, but he’s hinted at retiring. His retirement leaves a hole in the ‘pen. Aaron Loup was very effective, but is young enough that we should be wary of his success. Should 2012 be a portent, then he might step into the LOOGY role should Oliver retire. Crawford and Carreno have enjoyed mixed results in the big leagues. One name not mentioned yet is Brandon Lyon, who is presently a free agent. Re-signing Lyon could be an important part of a stable ‘pen, since it’s difficult to gauge how effective Esmil Rogers might be.
The Jays certainly have some questions regarding their staff, but there are fewer of them and the questions are less significant that they were just a short time ago.