With Aaron Sanchez struggling, the Toronto Blue Jays should move him to the bullpen in order to maximize his value
Aaron Sanchez’ Blue Jays tenure has not lived up to the hype. In 2016 when he went 15-2 with an AL leading 3.00 era, it was believed that he would lead the Jays rotation in to the future.
2017 and 2018 were injury plagued seasons. It was hoped that if he could stay healthy in 2019, he might regain some of his winning form.
Unfortunately his results have been anything but. He currently sits at 3-11 with a 6.31 era. What are the Jays to do?
My esteemed colleague, Jays From the Couch’s founder Shaun Doyle, wrote that the Jays essentially have no choice but to keep Sanchez in the rotation. I agree to disagree with him on this point. Here are my reasons why.
The Jays weren’t expected to be contenders in 2019 and sure enough they haven’t been. While they could be better in 2020, that will probably also be a development year for Toronto with what projects to be a very young team. The hope is that they will be good enough to contend in 2021 and beyond.
Sanchez is eligible for free agency after the 2020 season. His agent is Scott Boras who is known for getting top dollar for his clients in free agency. It’s a reasonable assumption that any player who chooses Boras as his agent has money as his top priority. The Jays, on the other hand, aren’t known for paying top dollar to free agents.
If Sanchez has managed to return to being a good MLB pitcher by the end of 2020, he will likely get a bigger contract than the Jays would be willing to offer. If he still looks like the pitcher he has been in 2019, it isn’t likely he could help a team with hopes of contending.
Either way it’s pretty safe to assume that Sanchez won’t be a Blue Jay past 2020.
The way for Sanchez to help the Jays return to playoff contention is to maximize his trade value. The question is, what is the best way to do that?
It’s true that “all things being equal”, starting pitchers are more valuable than relief pitchers. Starters get bigger contracts (on average) and teams give up more in trades to get a starter than they do most relievers.
As mentioned above, Sanchez has struggled in the rotation this season. However his results haven’t been all bad. His era in the 1st inning is 2.50, in fact first time through the order it is 2.29.
If the Jays use Sanchez out of the bullpen and he has success in this role, they may get more for him in a trade than they would in his current role in the rotation. Surely a good relief pitcher has more value than a poor starting pitcher.
Some people say they should leave him in the rotation and let him work out his struggles. They have tried that. In 18 starts in 2019, instead of showing signs of improvement, things keep getting worse.
It has been suggested that they could option Sanchez to the minors and even do the “Roy Halladay” treatment. In the spring of 2001, Halladay was a pitcher with a world of potential and sub-par results. The organization sent him to the low minor leagues to reinvent himself. It took half a season for Doc to work his way back to MLB and the rest was history.
That was a very different situation in a number of ways. Halladay was 23. Sanchez turned 27 today. There is no guarantee Sanchez would have the same kind of success and even if he did, it would probably be too late for the Jays to get any trade value in return for him.
Thomas Pannone has been starting at AAA with decent results. He could take Sanchez’ spot in the rotation. Ryan Borucki has been working his way back from injury. If Marcus Stroman is traded, Borucki could be ready to rejoin the rotation to take his place.
A rotation of Thornton, Reid-Foley, Borucki, Pannone and Clayton Richard might not be one that wins a championship for the Jays in the future but those first four hurlers are under team control through 2024. This season is supposed to be about finding out who can help the Jays contend in the future and what holes need to be filled. This would allow them to have a long look at this young group.
If moving Sanchez to the bullpen doesn’t result in significant trade offers by the 2019 trade deadline, there is another step they could take. Assuming closer Ken Giles is traded, Sanchez could move in to the closer role. If he succeeds there, he could be traded any time from this off season up until next year’s deadline.
Anyone the Jays might have in mind as a future closer (such as Jordan Romano) could start off as a set up man.
For the future of the Blue Jays and possibly Sanchez’ own future, moving to the bullpen looks to be the best option.
*Featured Image Courtesy Of DaveMe Images. Prints Available For Purchase.
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