Blue Jays: Roberto Osuna to rotation more logical in 2017?


With the Toronto Blue Jays rotation on the brink of movement given the ongoing Marco Estrada negotiations, Roberto Osuna‘s name remains hot as a cost-effective and talented starting option. Both he and Aaron Sanchez would be first in line for an internal promotion given the lack of MLB-ready pitching behind them, but in Osuna’s case, his transition into an expanded role could be more logical in 2017 given the current roster structure.

The coming weeks will give us a greater sense of the Blue Jays direction under Mark Shapiro and Tony LaCava, but as it stands now, 2016 will be another competitive roster with strong playoff odds. While Osuna undoubtedly has the arm talent and arsenal depth to succeed as a starter longterm, Toronto’s first point of consideration should be his innings totals.

Coming off a season in which Osuna pitched 69.2 innings, I’m hesitant to place full confidence in his potential to throw well into the high-100s. If that’s the case, it would necessitate the Blue Jays insuring themselves with an additional arm, one which could see a heavy dose of late-season starts if Osuna were to fatigue. This would push their pitching needs from “a lot” to “a lot plus one”.

The conversation around inning limits and arm treatment is constantly evolving, but my hope would be that the Jays front office handles his transition more naturally than the National’s handled Stephen Strasburg‘s controversial limit in 2012. With fluctuating pitch counts, unique arm mechanics and the varying strain of pitch types, no two innings are the same. So while we won’t go down that rabbit hole, as fascinating a discussion as it is, it’s reasonable to assume that Osuna would not be free to stomp the gas as a starter. Keep in mind that he returned from Tommy John surgery in July of 2014.

Looking to 2017 instead, depending on the coming transactions, that could be more of a pivot season in Toronto. Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion would both be wise to test their free agent value at this point in their careers, and past the players under pre-arb and arbitration control, only Russell Martin and Troy Tulowitzki hold 2017 contract numbers.

Next: 5 realistic free agent starters for the 2016 season

If that comes to act as a period of transition for the Jays, the stars could align for Osuna to break in with a moderate inning total before taking the reigns off in 2018 and beyond. This all comes down to the net talent of the 12-man pitching staff, of course, but if the Blue Jays are able to formulate a depth chart with Osuna at closer that has as much net talent as a chart featuring him in the rotation, I feel that tie should leave him in the bullpen.

This is to say nothing of Osuna’s talent or production, but only of his optimal fit and which strategy will allow the smoothest eventual transition. If his starting debut must wait until 2017, he’ll still be just 22 years old. There’s nothing but time to work with here.