Aaron Sanchez is currently working out for teams, looking for a MLB gig in 2021. Might the Blue Jays be a good (or better!) fit?
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In July, 2019 – right at the trade deadline – the Blue Jays traded Aaron Sanchez, Joe Biagini and Cal Stevenson to the Houston Astros for Derek Fisher. Yes, that Derek Fisher. There was considerable angst among Jays fans at the time (which got only worse after Sanchez and Biagini contributed to a no-hitter in their first starts as Astros). But Sanchez underwent surgery to repair a torn capsule in his throwing shoulder that September, and was non-tendered in December. (For the curious, Biagini was released in September 2020 and Stevenson was traded to the Rays in the Pruitt deal in January 2020).
Sanchez is now working out – in front of “about 20 teams” – looking for a pitching gig in 2021. He is expected to only get a minor league deal.
Might that deal be with the Blue Jays?
It would be easy to look at Aaron’s 5.29 ERA from 2017-19 (after his breakout year in 2016) and say that the Jays have plenty of other #8-10 starters. But dig a little deeper, and things get interesting. In his career, as a starter, Sanchez had a 4.24 ERA and 4.55 xFIP. Not bad, but not exciting. But as a reliever (admittedly, in only 59 innings) he had a 1.67 ERA and 3.15 xFIP. Opponents batted a holy-cow-Batman .151/.221/.191 against him out of the pen. And Aaron’s fastball has averaged 93 mph and change over his career … but as a reliever, he was regularly touching 98 and averaging over 97. Do I have your attention yet?
So why didn’t Toronto convert him to a bullpen role when he started to struggle (and have injury issues) as a starter?
Apparently they tried. But Sanchez (and his agent, some fellow named Boras) were <ahem> “not receptive“. They recognized (quite correctly) that Sanchez’s value would be higher as an elite starter rather than an elite reliever, and they believed that Aaron’s career 5.99 ERA the third time through the order was a small sample size aberration.
But this might well have changed, in light of Sanchez’s recent injury and decline in performance. While an elite starter is worth more than a elite reliever, any MLB reliever is worth considerably more than a AAA starter. And if other teams are only offering a minor league deal, Sanchez might well accept a guaranteed major league deal at minimal money. Possibly one with a couple of team options.
The bottom line
The Blue Jays know Sanchez better than anyone, and they believed for years that he had the makings of a strong-to-elite mlb reliever. His career performance out of the bullpen (insert SSS caveat here) supports that conclusion. And with the probable departures of Giles, Bass, Ray, Walker and Shoemaker there will be openings in the Jays bullpen. Sanchez would be a gamble, granted, but a low-cost gamble with high potential upside.
*Featured Image Courtesy Of DaveMe Images. Prints Available For Purchase.
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A Jays fan since pre-Series, Jim’s biggest baseball regret is that he did not play hooky with his buddies on 7 Apr 77. But hearing “Fanfare For The Common Man” played from a rooftop on 24 Oct 92 helped him atone.