Free-agent starters the Blue Jays should consider

Alex Cobb is among the free agent starters who could interest the Blue Jays. (AP)

As it stands today, the Toronto Blue Jays have four starting pitchers they can pencil in to begin 2018 with the club: Marcus Stroman, Aaron Sanchez, J.A. Happ and Marco Estrada. That leaves one spot left to be earned with Joe Biagini as the top candidate.

While Biagini certainly flashed some interesting potential as a starter this year, it’s possible the Blue Jays dip into the free-agent waters to solidify the group. This is a club looking to win in 2018 and they might prefer a more proven starter as opposed to something of an experiment in Biagini.

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As a result, they could turn to free agency to fill their final gap. Here are a couple guys they might cast their eye at:

The Former Rival: Alex Cobb

Age: 30
Throws: Right
Arsenal: Four-seam Fastball, Curveball, Changeup
Fastball Velocity: 91.7 mph
2017 stats: 6.42 K/9, 2.21 BB/9, 1.10 HR/9, 3.66 ERA and 4.16 FIP in 179.1 IP

How it works: The Blue Jays are awfully familiar with Cobb, who has flummoxed them on a number of occasions and held them to a meagre .208/.276/.335 line in eight meetings. The right-hander doesn’t miss many bats, but both his curveball and changeup are tough pitches and he tends to keep the ball on the ground and runs off the board.

Cobb’s biggest issue is his durability as he’s never made 30 starts and barely pitched in the majors between 2015 and 2016 due to a partial UCL tear and the resulting Tommy John surgery. Some of that has been bad luck as he’s been concussed by a line drive and suffered a blood clot in the past, but the reality is he’s no one’s idea of a workhorse. Even so, he’s a pretty good mid-rotation starter and if he’d pitched 200 innings each of the last five years he’d probably cost more than the Blue Jays want to spend on the position.

The Escape from Coors Field: Tyler Chatwood

Tyler Chatwood’s numbers have been seriously affected by playing at Coors Field.

Age: 27
Throws: Left
Arsenal: Four-seam Fastball, Two-Seam Fastball, Slider, Curveball, Changeup
Fastball Velocity: 94.7 mph
2017 stats: 7.31 K/9, 4.69 BB/9, 1.22 HR/9, 4.69 ERA and 4.94 FIP in 147.2 IP

How it works: Statistically speaking, Chatwood doesn’t look that impressive on the surface. He doesn’t pile up the strikeouts, he doesn’t keep the ball in the park, and he walks a few too many batters. However, all of that needs to be taken with a grain of salt because he has spent his career in the pitchers’ slaughterhouse that is Coors Field.

This year he posted a 6.01 ERA in Denver. Away from the dreaded altitude, it was 3.49. In 2016 it was even more extreme as he posted a 6.12 ERA at home and 1.69 mark on the road. Chatwood is young for a free agent, he throws hard and he generates groundballs at an elite rate. Apart from his sometimes-wonky control, the profile isn’t entirely dissimilar to Marcus Stroman.

Chatwood has the ability to demand a long-term deal, but he could be worth it as someone who the Blue Jays could plug and play through the end of their current competitive window and the beginning of the next.

The Familiar Face: Brett Anderson

The Blue Jays got some solid starts out of Brett Anderson down the stretch. (Michael Dwyer/AP)

Age: 29
Throws: Left
Arsenal: Four-seam Fastball, Two-Seam Fastball, Slider, Curveball, Changeup
Fastball Velocity: 90.5 mph
2017 stats: 6.18 K/9, 3.42 BB/9, 0.81 HR/9, 6.32 ERA and 4.10 FIP in 55.1 IP

How it works: The Blue Jays got a pretty good look at Anderson down the stretch last season and by and large they liked what they saw – outside of one disastrous start. In the midst of a home-run spike it doesn’t hurt to have another groundball pitcher, and the southpaw would be an affordable option who’d fit nicely as a No. 5 with a little bit of pedigree and upside.

Anderson’s lengthy injury history has reached the point where he can’t be trusted to complete a season. In fact, he’s pitched 100 MLB innings or more just once in the last seven years. That means signing Anderson would be something of a vote of confidence for Biagini or an up-and-comer like Ryan Borucki to fill the gap when the veteran inevitably misses some time.

It’s not hard to imagine the Blue Jays going this route, but it would require more contingency planning than the average free-agent pickup.

The Returning Exile: Miles Mikolas

Miles Mikolas is looking to revive his MLB career, and it looks like he’s got the stuff to do it. (Tony Gutierrez/AP)

Age: 29
Throws: Right
Arsenal: Four-seam Fastball, Two-Seam Fastball, Slider, Curveball, Changeup
Fastball Velocity: 92.7 mph (During last big-league stint in 2014)
2017 stats: 9.0 K/9, 1.1 BB/9, 0.5 HR/9, 2.25 ERA in 188 IP (Japan)

How it works: Mikolas is far from a household name on this side of the Pacific Ocean, but he’s been absolutely stellar in Japan. Over the last three years he’s pitched to a 2.18 ERA with the Yomiuri Giants and is looking for an MLB return after his career stalled in 2014.

The right-hander has a strong arm with a nasty slow curveball and a hard slider. He’s got the velocity, big frame, and varied offspeed arsenal to succeed as a starter at the highest level, but he’s certainly something of a risk because of his relatively poor MLB track record. Players like Eric Thames and Tony Barnette have recently shown that a career can be revived overseas and maybe Mikolas is the next to do the same.

He wouldn’t be extraordinary costly, he’s relatively young and the upside is there. He also comes with one of the best nicknames around: The Lizard King.

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