MLB reports have linked almost every Blue Jays player with a trade out of town…except one. But are the Blue Jays protecting the wrong pitcher?
Depending on which outlook you tend to take on life, the Toronto Blue Jays have two very different roads ahead to the trade deadline. If you’re an optimist, like our own Jeff Quattrociocchi, you think the Blue Jays should put the past behind them and find players to plug holes and help make a run at an aggressively mediocre American League Wild Card picture, a place where Bartolo Colon is making an impact…somehow.
However, if you are looking at the tall can as mostly empty, you’re probably fighting the urge to throw it down in disgust at the 2017 Blue Jays. I can hear the cries of “Tear it down! Houston rebuild! Cubs rebuild! Maple Leafs rebuild! Trust the Process!” All those wonderful catchphrases of tanking teams intent on being terrible now for possible glory later. Those people spare no one on the roster and want everyone traded for prospects while the team figures out who of their young guns can play.
When I say no one has been spared by these rumors, I mean no one. MLB reporters have noticed. Want to keep your icon? Nope, Jose Bautista is on the block. Cy Young candidate from last year? Nope, send Marco Estrada packing. Have a bullpen arm? Those sell well. Joe Smith, you’re the no-name special offer. However, none of these names would net the return for a proper rebuild.
So you dig deeper into the wells of talent and then the names start getting big. J.A. Happ, with a year left on his deal? Milwaukee wants him, get a keg’s worth of prospects. Josh Donaldson, the former MVP with one year of control left? St. Louis is sniffing around, add some Cardinals prospects to your flock!
Not even the young pitching, the most valuable currency in all of baseball is immune. A Peter Gammons report this week said that the Cubs were chasing Marcus Stroman, and the Blue Jays wanted one major-league ready youngster, along with multiple prospects (this writer assumed Ian Happ was the target). Not even All-Star status offers protection. Earlier this month, I had a Twitter discussion with RJ Stacey from Tip of the Tower about Roberto Osuna‘s untouchable status. Stacey was clear not even the 22-year-old closer was safe and the keyword was closer.
why hold onto a 21 year old closer in a rebuild? I'm cool with him staying if he's moved to SP. He's an elite arm.
— RJ Stacey (@rjstacey13) July 5, 2017
hence why they would pay a ton for Osuna right now. Osuna as a closer on a crappy team for the next 5 years isn't ideal to me
— RJ Stacey (@rjstacey13) July 5, 2017
Stacey agreed that Osuna should not be moved unless the team is completely blown up, and he picked up a big backer in ESPN’s Buster Olney, who named Osuna, Stroman and Estrada as the Blue Jays trade chips.
In fact, it seems like the only player deemed untouchable (at least for talent’s sake and not for a $22M contract sake…Tulo…) by the baseball hive mind is Aaron Sanchez.
On this week’s JftC Radio podcast, I subbed in to the best of my abilities for Keegan Matheson. While some of my ideas to improve the Blue Jays were met with scoffs (trading for R.A. Dickey? Sending Devon Travis to Miami? These were deemed blasphemous by Shaun “Jaykespeare” Doyle), I offered this tidbit:
Andrews: Honestly, if I had to place bets, I’d say Aaron Sanchez is more likely to be moved than Stroman.
Andrews: Yeah, and I base this on the Oakland model of “Can I keep this guy?” I think the Blue Jays are more likely to keep Stroman as opposed to Sanchez.
So I want to take a moment to elaborate and lay out both why Sanchez should go instead of Stroman, and what Sanchez would extract in a trade:
Reason 1: Can I keep this guy?
One of the main reasons I said trade Sanchez is because he’s more likely to leave via free agency than Stroman. Stroman has built up a lot of good will with both the franchise and the city of Toronto. The club gave him a hefty raise over the league minimum this season. Things are good.
Sanchez is making about $3M less than Stroman this year because he rejected a raise in spring training. This was on the advice of his agent, one Scott Dean Boras. So he already has less incentive to reward the Blue Jays with his loyalty. He is more likely to make like other Boras clients and leave for a “bigger market” and a bigger paycheck. Sanchez will hit the market at the same time as Stroman, except he will be a year younger (28). Boras got then 30-year-old Max Scherzer $210M from Washington in free agency. Sanchez will be expecting around that, and given the salty relationship, the Blue Jays probably wont pay it. So he will walk.
Reason 2: Can I keep this guy healthy?
Marcus Stroman missed almost a year of baseball because of a routine play that tore apart his knee. It’s almost because Stroman heals like a starfish, regenerating ligaments through sheer will. He also has an arm-friendly pitch repetoire: his fastball is fast, but not fast enough it feels like his arm will blow out (92-93 mph), and he has a lot of movement on his four other pitches. Stroman should be able to pitch well into his 30s with ease.
Sanchez hasn’t had the torn ACL of Stroman or the Tommy John surgery of Osuna, but it’s little issues that keep cropping up. He throws a 95 mph heater that his hand has trouble keeping up with. He’s been on the DL four times, including three this year, with blister issues on his pitching hand. He was also a wild pitcher before, struggling with walks up until last year. If he can’t keep control of the fastball and has to dial it back to Stroman’s speed, is Sanchez still as effective a pitcher? Looking at pitchers like Justin Verlander, that’s a question the Blue Jays have to consider if they do trade one of these players.
Reason 3: What can I get for this guy?
This reason depends on what other teams answer the previous question with. While the Blue Jays may have one opinion, the Cubs or Astros or other teams may have a different belief. The ceiling on a Sanchez trade could be even higher than a Stroman trade, because he is a year younger, and that fastball is a little speedier. Teams value different things. If the Blue Jays are trading away everything but the dishwasher, and the Cubs are not willing to give Ian Happ as part of a package for Stroman, offering Sanchez might get it done.
So what could Sanchez net in a trade?
The Cubs paid four prospects, including 1 and 2 in their BA rankings, for Jose Quintana. The Red Sox paid four prospects, including 1, 2 and 8 in their BA rankings, for Chris Sale. Aaron Sanchez is three years younger than either of them. He matches Sale’s career ERA, and is a half-run below Quintana. Even if the Blue Jays wait until the off-season, or even after the 2018 season, Sanchez is still going to be younger then both those arms with two years of control.
So if that’s just the base level, then there are packages that would look enticing. The Nationals could offer outfielder Victor Robles (#8 in all MLB), righty Erick Fedde and a couple other prospects. If Blue Jays fans could stomach talking to the Yankees, a package around Clint Frazier and possibly lefty pitcher Justus Sheffield might be more palatable to the Blue Jays front office, especially with Frazier showing he could be plugged into the outfield right away. Milwaukee can offer a bundle of Lewis Brinson, lefty Josh Hader and a couple others. Once the Blue Jays decide they are in the deep, dark rebuilding process, they can speed the process very quickly by trading Sanchez away over Stroman, who might not be able to land that 1-2 punch that a trade like this would require.
So should Sanchez be traded this year?
I know, 1325 words to get to “no”. But I believe fellow JftC writer Roy-Z had the right idea in his recent trade deadline piece. That’s how the Blue Jays are going to proceed this year and it’s the right call. They have acquired all these contracts and older statesmen of the game and they have to ride it out with them. That means trying to help them succeed as the dying gusts pass from the now-closed window. If there is something to be caught, it may take one trade to find it. It may take two. But it’s not going to be found in tearing down everything to the studs. Not this year. Maybe next year.
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Andrews has been immersed in sports from a young age, since they could read Jr. Jays comics that filtered into the backwoods of Northern Nova Scotia. The Canadian has been blogging about sports since high school, writing on FOX Sports.com’s blogs as well on the Tailpipe Sports blog. The 20-something has been with Jays From the Couch since its humble beginnings, and continues to contribute while forging a career in the sports journalism industry. Andrews brings a discerning eye, a smoking keyboard, and a brain that made Jeopardy! briefly rethink letting Canadians onto their program.