Blue Jays could go young in rotation with Drew Hutchinson, Marcus Stroman

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With J.A. Happ struggling and reportedly dealing with back issues, the number of openings in the Toronto rotation has increased from one to two. According to MLB.com’s Gregor Chisholm, Drew Hutchinson is now looking like a good bet for one of those spots, with Happ, 2012 first-round pick Marcus Stroman, Todd Redmond and Esmil Rogers in the mix for the other.

Stroman’s inclusion would be quite the surprise, even after his excellent performance last season in Double-A (9-5, 3.30 ERA, 129/27 K/BB in 111 2/3 innings) quieted those who doubted he’d make it as a starter. However, GM Alex Anthopoulos said service time won’t be an issue delaying his arrival and that he’s prepared to pick the best five.

Hutchinson likewise figured to open the season in the minors after returning from Tommy John surgery late last year, but he’s turned some heads with his performance this spring.

“He’s off to a great start, he’s definitely opened some eyes, he’s a strong candidate to make the rotation but he’s got to make it. But I love what I see,” Anthopoulos said.

Given the Jays’ struggles the last couple of years, Anthopoulos probably can’t afford to be particularly concerned with delaying arbitration and free agency eligibility with his prospects. If Stroman looks like one of the five best starters, it’s worth carrying him. After all, Anthopoulos isn’t likely to be around for the bill coming due unless the team starts to turn it around.

Diamondbacks, T.J. McFarland avoid arbitration

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Bob Nightengale of USA TODAY Sports reports that the Diamondbacks and reliever T.J. McFarland have avoided arbitration, agreeing on a $1.45 million salary for the 2019 season. McFarland, in his third of four years of arbitration eligibility, filed for $1.675 million while the Diamondbacks countered at $1.275 million. McFarland ended up settling for just under the midpoint of those two figures.

McFarland, 29, was terrific out of the bullpen for the D-Backs last season, finishing with a 2.00 ERA and a 42/22 K/BB ratio in 72 innings. While the lefty may not miss a lot of bats, he does induce quite a few grounders. His 67.9 percent ground ball rate last season was the third highest among relievers with at least 50 innings, trailing only Brad Ziegler (71.1%) and Scott Alexander (70.6%).

McFarland was dominant against left-handed hitters, limiting them to a .388 OPS last season, but the D-Backs deployed him nearly twice as often against right-handed hitters, who posted an aggregate .764 OPS against him. It will be interesting to see if the club decides to use him more as a platoon reliever in 2019.