Saturday Pondering: Is There A Starter In The Bullpen?

"Could I start?" - Tom Szczerbowski-US PRESSWIRE

It's pretty clear that the odds of the Blue Jays landing a free agent pitcher are slowly approaching zero and the rotation of the team is a huge question mark going into Spring Training. This means that the solution to that question mark will likely be answered internally, but maybe the front office could think outside of the box to maximize the talent on their team. Last season Esmil Rogers was forced to become a starter and at times appeared to be a viable solution, while at other times he looked dreadful (one of the two games I saw live last year was an example of the aforementioned dreadfulness). With Rogers in mind, I was messing around on FanGraphs looking at Blue Jays relievers who might be able to translate their stuff into a starting role.

The pitchers who have the best chance at becoming successful starters are usually the ones who feature at least three pitches, making it harder for hitters to get a good idea of the pitcher's stuff after facing them three times in a game. The possible options for the Blue Jays team are likely Steve Delabar, Casey Janssen, Dustin McGowan and maybe former starter Brett Cecil.

Steve Delabar was a starter when he first entered pro ball with the San Diego Padres, but was put into the bullpen fairly early on in his career. With four pitches thrown over 10% of the time last year, he has the stuff to keep hitters on their toes three times through the lineup. In 2013, he was pretty valuable in the high-leverage role, but if he could bring his nasty splitter to the rotation his value would likely be even higher for the Blue Jays.

The obvious answer to the suggestion of putting the Blue Jays star closer in the starting rotation is NO NO NO. It's definitely a risky proposition, but Casey Janssen used to start many years ago and has the stuff to succeed in the rotation once again. The risk of sticking the team's closer in the rotation would be massive, but you never know if you could catch lightning in a bottle and solve the team's starter problem internally. A possible problem would be Janssen's velocity, which is already on the low side, being exposed to more innings possibly reducing the effectiveness of his pitch mix.

Dustin McGowan and Brett Cecil are both former starters for the Blue Jays who never really were able to stake their claim to a rotation spot, either due to injuries or poor performance. It's been rumoured that McGowan will be given a chance to grab a back-end rotation spot this spring so it will be interesting to see how that story unfolds. Cecil on the other hand had a breakout season in the bullpen last year and should probably not be tampered with. He never put it together as a starter for the Blue Jays and it might not be worth the risk of seeing if his newfound stuff will work out better in the rotation this time around.

With no news happening these days, it seems we're going to be stuck talking about topics like these until the start of spring training, but it's an interesting scenario to think about. Do any of you folks think a member of the Blue Jays bullpen could successfully transition to a starter role to fill one of the two holes in the rotation? Maybe it's a situation of not messing with a good thing, but the team had an outstanding bullpen last year and that didn't get the team very far did it?

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