Blue Jays move Aaron Sanchez to bullpen, is trade brewing?

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The Toronto Blue Jays have announced that Aaron Sanchez will be used in a bullpen role when he returns from the disabled list. According to Arden Zwelling of Sportsnet, the right-hander will pitch out of the ‘pen for AAA Buffalo early this week before he is recalled to the Major League club. 

At first glance, this move is a bit confusing when viewed in a  standalone context. Both Alex Anthopoulos and John Gibbons have suggested that Sanchez would return as a starter once his rehab is complete, noting that his bullpen potential would be valuable if the club were to add an established starter to their rotation.

Sanchez had his ups and downs early in 2015 as a starter, but was finally turning a corner before his injury with three consecutive quality starts. His most recent start was one of the finest that a Blue Jays starter has produced this season, going 8.0 innings strong while allowing just one earned run on six hits. He attacked the zone confidently with the natural sinking action on his fastball, forcing opposing hitters to beat his pitches into the ground.

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His 2014 season obviously showcased how electric he can be in a relief role, and admittedly, that needs to be given room in this conversation. Sanchez threw 33.0 relief innings while posting an incredible 1.09 ERA and 0.697 WHIP, numbers that would look just fine in the Jays’ current bullpen. With Sanchez and Osuna now at the back end, perhaps the other five names slide into more defined and comfortable roles, rising all ships with the tide.

Given his growth prior to the injury, however, I still struggle to see why the Jays would not choose to maximize their potential output from Sanchez by placing him in the rotation. Felix Doubront was roughed up in his last outing and has a history of mediocrity, while Sanchez, despite his many doubters who are growing ever-vocal, has the talent to steal a ball game.

Doubront cannot be the satisfactory fifth option in this rotation, especially with the unpredictable nature of Drew Hutchison through the first half. Perhaps Toronto is itching to return Daniel Norris to the rotation should Doubront falter, but Norris still has some things to iron out himself. The obvious suspicion, then, is that a trade could be in the works.

Many fans remain unconvinced that the Blue Jays should be in “buy” mode, but where is the guarantee that they’ll be closer to contention next year or the year following? The past two decades have been filled with “next year”, and perhaps Anthopoulos is working to get ahead of the difficult upcoming road trip and jump the market.

If and when the rumors start to fly, we’ll have you covered here at Jays Journal. Until then, prepare for your new back-end bullpen of Bo Schultz, Aaron Sanchez and Roberto Osuna. It looks promising, but questions remain elsewhere. Questions that Alex Anthopoulos is hopefully making phone calls about at this moment.

Next: Blue Jays trade targets: Brad Ziegler

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