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Taking stock of Blue Jays' 2020 rotation options

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TORONTO — How Toronto Blue Jays GM Ross Atkins goes about piecing together the 2020 rotation will be the biggest storyline between now and next March 26 when the Boston Red Sox show up on opening day.

With the position player pieces starting to fall into place this season, starting pitching will be the difference between a legitimate competitive window opening and years of sitting in the middle of the pack, where most of baseball resides.

It’s not a unique problem.

Pitching wins games, pitching gets paid, and good pitching is really, really hard to find.

Atkins has talked up the depth he’s been able to acquire over the last year or so, and some of those arms have been given a chance lately.

There’s also another wave coming over the next calendar year, one that includes a pair of recent first-round picks — 2016 first-rounder T.J. Zeuch and the 28th overall pick in the 2017 draft, Nate Pearson — who are currently putting the finishing touches on their development in Triple-A.

Things will change this winter via free agency and/or the trade market, but let’s take a look at the long list of names that will arrive in Dunedin next February looking to stake claim to a 2020 rotation spot.

RHP Trent Thornton

2020 age: 26

Key stat: 30.7 per cent ground-ball rate

Now that Marcus Stroman is in Queens, Thornton has been the Jays’ most valuable starter this season, posting 1.3 fWAR through 25 starts.

It’s been an up and down season for the right-hander who was acquired last winter from the Houston Astros in exchange for utility infielder Aledmys Diaz.

On occasion, Thornton walks too many. Sometimes, he’s homer prone, and the aforementioned ground-ball rate is scary in the American League East.

When the Blue Jays do contend, most see Thornton and his funky delivery and his high spin rate breaking ball in a setup role, but he’ll get another chance in 2020 to prove he can stick in the rotation.

RHP Matt Shoemaker

2020 age: 33

Key stat: 137.1 innings thrown since 2016

Arm issues have plagued him throughout his career, but this time it was a freak torn ACL on a rundown ending Shoemaker’s season.

Signed for $3.5 million last winter after being non-tendered by the pitching-needy Los Angeles Angels, Shoemaker is still arbitration eligible and under control for the 2020 season, giving the Blue Jays some options as far as contract structure with the veteran righty.

Even though he made just five........