Who Will Be The Fourth And Fifth Starters If No One Else Is Signed?

Time to start looking over your shoulder. - John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Spo

There was a good post this morning by Nick Ashbourne outlining the differences between Ubaldo Jimenez and Ervin Santana, both rumoured to be attracting interest by the Blue Jays. I'm going to take a more cynical take on the situation and assume Alex Anthopoulos gets shut out on the pitching front for the rest of the offseason and he takes his current options into Spring Training. While R.A. Dickey, Brandon Morrow, and Mark Buehrle are pretty stuck in at the front of the pack, the competition for the caboose of the starting rotation is fierce. Esmil Rogers and J.A. Happ didn't do anything last year to play their way out of a job, but three formerly injured young pitchers in Kyle Drabek, Dustin McGowan and Drew Hutchison are going to want a shot at the spots as well. Furthermore, minor leaguers Marcus Stroman and Sean Nolin are knocking at the door and may grab a spot with the team. Let's not forget about lesser-hyped pitchers in Todd Redmond and Ricky Romero as well.

It seems that 2013 rotation members Happ and Rogers have the inside track for the last two jobs and will go into Spring Training with a leg up on their competition. Happ pitched to a 4.56 ERA and 4.31 FIP and is projected to stay in a similar range this upcoming season. Rogers ended a surprising 2013 with a 4.77 ERA and a 4.73 FIP with projections for 2014 actually suggesting an improvement likely in part due to his high 15.8% HR/FB rate this past season. I don't think many Blue Jays fans would be angry if these starters returned to the rotation in 2014, assuming Anthopoulos fails to make another signing of course.

There isn't too much to say about Drabek, McGowan or Hutchison that hasn't been said already, with all three players fully healed from their respective surgeries and ready to make an impact. If Drabek can find the strike zone he has as good a chance as any of the Blue Jays at grabbing a spot in the rotation and while Hutchison seems to have been forgotten by many fans, he is only 23-years-old and may be a surprise this March. It would be a great story if McGowan returned to the rotation, but it's tough to predict how his arm will hold up under all of the innings.

Prospects Marcus Stroman and Sean Nolin are dark horse picks to grab a spot or two in the rear end of the rotation this spring, with Stroman quickly becoming one of the top prospects in the whole division. The Blue Jays are doing everything they can to ensure the former Blue Devil ends up in the rotation eventually and many scouts think he is ready to make the jump up to the big leagues this year. Sean Nolin is much closer to his ceiling already and besides his atrocious major league debut, the lefty had a fairly good 2013.

Less 'sexy' options include Todd Redmond and Ricky Romero, who both have shown their capable of pitching in a big league rotation. Redmond made 14 starts with Toronto this past year and had a 4.40 FIP, seemingly coming out of nowhere to be a fine back end option. Although he's not a well-talked about option, there's a possibility he could grab a fifth spot when all is said and done. Laslty, Ricky Romero may rise from the dead and return to the Blue Jays starting rotation, which everyone is hoping for, but no one is expecting.

Personally, if Alex Anthopoulos adds no more pitchers to the squad I won't be as worried as other fans. There's tremendous depth at the back end of the rotation and it would be exciting to see all these pitchers vie for a spot in Spring Training. My prediction would be that J.A. Happ and Marcus Stroman break camp with the team and Esmil Rogers finds himself back in the bullpen. The Buffalo Bisons starting five won't look too shabby in their own right and should provide a number of replacements if anything goes wrong with the big squad. I'm sure there is a ton of opinions about this topic so let us know who you think will take the final two spots of the starting rotation this season and also how upset you will you be if Alex Anthopoulos makes no further starting rotation additions.

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