Blue Jays president Mark Shapiro, at first glance, is a more organized and business-minded individual than Alex Anthopoulos. As the Blue Jays set to open the free agent period with multiple needs in their starting rotation, the front office could, and perhaps should, attack all pitching decisions in a way that allows them to maximize their potential net assets.
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The possibility of moving Roberto Osuna or Aaron Sanchez to the starting rotation is very real, and the organization continues to see both as starters long-term. The luxury of multiple quality starters ahead of them is all that will keep either in a bullpen role, but as it stands, at least one could be making the jump. We’ve debated the merits of this move strictly in terms of their performance and projectability, but when we frame this as a business conversation, perhaps it looks more likely.
Given their two-way presence, I feel it’s easier to view this offseason not in terms of rotation and bullpen, but in terms of a 12-pitcher staff that has four to seven holes. With Drew Hutchison in the picture, as well, Toronto could fill at least three rotation spots with young arms. More importantly: cheap arms.
With Marcus Stroman firmly entrenched, if he and R.A. Dickey were to be joined by two of Sanchez, Hutchison or Osuna, that would give the Blue Jays three starters with a combined salary of under $4 million (Hutch is projected to earn $2.6 million in arbitration). With $12 million owed to Dickey, another pitcher in the $10-15 million range like Marco Estrada could leave Toronto with a starting rotation priced around $30 million.
Assuming that some of the young arms mentioned here can perform up to their potential, that’s a significant bargain and will allow the Blue Jays to spend with greater freedom in the back end of the bullpen. In summary, this series of choices would shift their area of need from the starting rotation to the bullpen, which is a less costly need to fill.
The alternative, which is leaving Sanchez and Osuna in the bullpen while adding arms via free agency, forces the Blue Jays to shop in a more expensive market. To a mind like Shapiro’s this may not be seen as the maximum potential value, and would not bring Toronto the greatest net return of on-field performance for their dollar. If Toronto trusts youth in the rotation, it’s simply more cost-effective to seek a B-level reliever than a B-level starter.
This idea could crack open a much larger conversation, of course, regarding how Shapiro views players like Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion in the longterm picture. Another time and another day, though. Asset allocation could be led more by the brain than the heart under Shapiro, and it’s something to keep a close eye on as the 12-man pitching group is patched together.