The move has to happen – it is unavoidable. Blue Jays’ starting pitcher Aaron Sanchez has been nothing short of fantastic since the start of the season. He has a sharp 2.87 ERA to go along with an impressive 10-1 record. He is leading the team in strikeouts with a total of 108 through 125.1 innings pitched. These numbers are stellar, especially for someone who only started 11 games last season. But the move is inevitable; Sanchez will end up in the bullpen.
John Gibbons is confident that Sanchez will not be a starter for the entire season, as he wants to protect his arm. In a recent interview, Gibbons said, “We’re still in discussion right now what the actual number is before we bump him to the ‘pen, but it’s gonna happen”. Sanchez had never pitched more than 100 innings in a season in the majors, so management is being careful about the workload of his young arm to prevent future injury.
Looking back a few years to the 2012 season, Nationals ace, Stephen Strasburg, was in a very similar position to Sanchez. He had a low innings total in the 2011 season due to Tommy John rehab and the Nats’ management decided they would limit his innings pitched in 2012. They set a range of 160-180 innings, and his season ended on September 8th. It is still debated to this day whether they should have made that call or not, as the Nats ended up losing the 2012 NLDS to the Cardinals in 5 games.
If a current Blue Jay takes Sanchez’s spot in the rotation, the front runner is Drew Hutchison. Hutchison is a very logical choice to the Blue Jays as he was a part of the Jays’ rotation until August last year, has already started two games for the Jays this season, and is pitching well in the minors. Through 90.0 innings with AAA Buffalo, Hutchison has posted a 3.30 ERA with 100 strikeouts and a 6-4 record. Last year for the Jays, Hutchison went 13-5 with a 5.57 ERA.
Another candidate for the position is reliever Jesse Chavez. Chavez has been a reliable pitcher this year, appearing in 35 games, striking out 37 with a 3.25 ERA. Chavez made a career-high 32 starts for the Oakland Athletics last season, and competed for the fifth spot in the rotation this year.
An intriguing possibility is that the Jays make a trade for a starting pitcher. In a recent interview, general manager, Ross Atkins, said “pitching will be the area we look to improve.” The thought of adding a quality pitcher through trade is something that excites Jays’ fans and brings memories of last year’s deadline addition of pitching ace David Price.
The Blue Jays are currently scouting starters C.C. Sabathia and Andrew Cashner, as reported by Jon Heyman. With the trade deadline quickly approaching, it would make sense for the Blue Jays to trade for a starter to fill Sanchez’s spot in the rotation. Sabathia and Cashner are both having mediocre seasons. Sabathia had a good start to his season, but he has posted a 7.46 ERA in his last six starts. On the other hand, Cashner has been average throughout the year, posting a 4-7 record with a 4.79 ERA. Both pitchers are set to become free agents this offseason.
The Blue Jays have also reportedly scouted Oakland Athletics starter, Rich Hill. Hill is a 36 year old southpaw who has put together a great season so far, compiling a 9-3 record along with a 2.25 ERA, which is much better than his career 4.23 ERA. Hill, however, has been dealing with a blister since before the All-Star Break and left his last start against the Blue Jays after just five pitches because of it. Hill is being watched by many teams, including the Red Sox, Royals, and Orioles, and he will likely be dealt before the deadline by the struggling Athletics.
Amid many questions, one thing is for sure; Sanchez would be a solid addition to the bullpen. The bullpen has sorted itself out from its rough start to the season, and the addition of Sanchez would only strengthen the current core of relievers.
The Sanchez move is a very controversial one, with adamant arguments for both sides of the coin. Let us know your thoughts on why – or why not – Sanchez should be moved to the bullpen.