Big League Chew: Aaron Sanchez…Closer?


In a season that has seen the Toronto Blue Jays finally playing meaningful baseball in August, there are no shortages of stories, opinions, and controversy. At Jays Journal we feel it is our responsibility to inform our fans, so we decided to put together an opinion based series. This series will select baseball/Blue Jays hot button topics or stories that we feel deserve some more attention.
Today, Shaun Doyle (@JaysFromCouch) and I (@MuellerRyan11)  thought we’d take a look at really interesting article written by Chris Okrainetz from Tip of the Tower (@AddoSports)  ‘Why Aaron Sanchez is the Toronto Blue Jays’ Next Closer“. Here’s what we think:

RM: I have always been a huge, and I mean HUGE, Casey Janssen fan. Many a times I was called a troll for suggesting that Janssen be the closer. Heck I suggested in 2007, when B.J. Ryan went down….never to return. Of course injures got in the way that year and Casey was out until 2009. In 2012, Casey got his opportunity to close when Sergio Santos went down and Casey proved that I am smarter than I look. Casey has been lights out ever since; however, he has come into the past few spring trainings with a gigantic question mark beside his name in terms of health. Janssen was lights out before the All-Star break and ever since he has been very un-Janssen-esque. I don’t like to suggest it but I think he is pouting. I think Casey will leave via free-agency at the end of this season and Chris Okrainetz is right on in his analysis of Aaron Sanchez.

SD: OK, let me just get this out of the way: Aaron Sanchez DEFINITELY has the “stuff” to be a closer. The movement on his fastball is ridiculous. Now, let me get to the point. NO WAY in Toronto should he be the closer. We’ve been hearing forever that he is the starter of the future. He and Marcus Stroman will lead us to glory. Isn’t that right, AA? For years now, Aaron Sanchez has been untouchable in any trade talks. Not Noah Syndergaard, not Adieny Hechavarria, not Travis d’Arnaud, but Sanchez. Why in the world would Anthopoulos protect him so feverishly if he is going to be a closer. You would think that starting pitching is the prime target of any GM. If you have a home grown talent, why would you change paths and give up a rotation spot in favour of filling a back end role? Why create one hole to fill another.

Also, Okrainetz mentions Sanchez’ quick ascent through the system. I think you had it right on the nose when you talked about the Jays trying to showcase what they’ve got. (Philosophy Change?)

The Blue Jays should work hard to re-sign Janssen. Whether he wants to may depend on what else the club does. Maybe if they show him they are serious about winning (even though they’ve had several chances to show him that) he’ll agree to stay on. But, even if he doesn’t, is it the end of the world? Is the closer role really that difficult to fill? The Blue Jays haven’t had much luck, I admit, but I have never agreed with mega contracts for closers. It can be done in other ways. There may be internal options. How about Brett Cecil? Lefty closer. Aaron Loup can fill that role. If the Blue Jays are going to go after a big free agent (*cough* Jon Lester *cough*……I know, I’m dreaming) then they will not want to meet Janssen’s, or anyone else’s, high price tag. They’ll look to cut corners, much like they’ve been doing all along.

RM: You raise some good points, but I can’t believe how you don’t remember the revolving door that was the Jays closer role after Sergio Santos went down. Not every pitcher can do it. There are long guys, lefty specialist, setup men, and closers. The odds of Sanchez not finding success as a start are just as good as Sanchez being a crap closer. sure Sanchez holds greater value as a starter over a closer, but Okrainetz points out that minor league teams were able to adjust to him after seeing him a few times. That tells me that major league scouts will have a book on him within the first month of 2015….there is no doubt in my mind that Sanchez will be the Jays 4th/5th starter next year….no doubt, but with all our current starters under contract for next year (J.A. Happ‘s option will be picked up) why not have Sanchez fill a role that will impact more game, with more frequency. What good is a quality start if you continue to run Sergio Santos, Brett Cecil, Aaron Loup, or even Dustin McGowan out to blow yet another save. Let us not forget that Daniel Norris and Kendall Graveman will be waiting in Buffalo for a chance to prove that they are worthy of a spot on this team next spring….this is the depth that should allow Alex to let Janssen walk.

SD: You might be right on all fronts. But, you’re missing the biggest thing. Cost. It costs more to bring in a starter than a reliever. Sanchez is cheap. That is the Jays’ favorite word. That, and healthy. Or, is it options remaining? I forget. Anyway, he’ll have a bumpy road either way, but he’s a starter. I have a bit more faith in the relievers you mentioned than you do. But, what about this? Morrow may be back next year. His option is $10M (with $1M buyout). Considering the cost of pitching, the Jays may actually pick him up. What if the Mariners had it right? What if he is the closer we’re looking for? I’d like to see them try him there before Sanchez. We KNOW what we’re getting with Morrow. I know, I just mentioned the word “cheap” and $10M for a closer is not it. But, in the closer’s role, maybe Morrow can stay healthy(er). Fewer innings to utilize this “stuff” we keep hearing about may prove to be in the club’s best interest. I think Sanchez will be a stud either way. I’d just hate to see them give up on a good starter to fill a temporary need right now. If the starting doesn’t work out, then maybe consider the move. But, we should not be planning the career of a young star based on the need of one of the most over-hyped positions in baseball.

Final Word

RM: Cost….how could I be so stupid….of course money has to come into play at some point. Although I think you shot yourself argument in the foot when you mention Brandon Morrow‘s name and cost in the same sentence. I do agree with you that we should at least allow Sanchez the opportunity to succeed or fail before relegating him to the closer role. With that said I would much rather try recently re-called starter-turned-reliever Kyle Drabek as a closer before Sanchez. I don’t see Janssen coming back, nor do I see J.A. Happ or Brandon Morrow coming back in 2015. That means the Jays will be depending on Aaron Sanchez to fill the Starters role of Closer role…most likely the Starters role. With the departure of the aforementioned pitcher the Jays should be able to afford some sort of replacement closer/starter in the off-season.

SD: I’d be reluctant to give Drabek the closer’s role. I wouldn’t mind trying him in the MLB bullpen first though. I’d be surprised if Janssen comes back. But, I think the Jays are HAPPy with the job J.A. has done and will bring him back. I know Morrow will be expensive, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they did bring him back. I also wouldn’t be shocked if they didn’t. Either way, if the Blue Jays are going to get their value out of Sanchez, he has to at least start in the rotation. Maybe later I’ll entertain the notion of him as closer. Maybe.