With the trade of Jesse Chavez to the Toronto Blue Jays, there still remain many questions about how this will impact the starting rotation and the bullpen.
When news broke of the Toronto Blue Jays sending Liam Hendriks to the Oakland Athletics for Jesse Chavez, the initial reaction among fans was confusion. We’d been waiting for so long to hear some news about how the pitching situation in Toronto would be addressed. We’d maybe checked our pie in the sky expectations and were ready to settle on a “B level” type starter rather than a big fish like Zack Greinke of David Price. But, this? This was like waiting for a steak and a boiled hot dog comes out.
Toronto Blue Jays
Or, so it would seem. Firstly, removing Liam Hendriks from the bullpen creates a hole that had been filled rather nicely. Hendriks was the long man/starter that came into his own in the Blue Jays ‘pen. In 2015, he put up a 5-0 record with a 2.92 ERA in 64.2 innings, collecting 71 whiffs. Now, the ‘pen will need to fill that hole.
As well, this would appear to put an end to the idea of Roberto Osuna and Aaron Sanchez to the rotation. Unless the club has plans on bringing in a number of arms, Brett Cecil would be asked to captain a rather thin group of relievers. Now, the winter is long and there is lots of time, but an already thin bullpen has just become translucent. Our Keegan Matheson highlighted some free agent relief options earlier when he looked at both left handed and right handed options. There is value to be found out there on the market, but the club will have to spend to get it.
The other notion would be to trade for relief help. Mark Melancon and Aroldis Chapman would be great options, but would cost more from the big league roster, or all of the top level minor league talent the Blue Jays have left. Obviously, trades could work, but it is difficult imagining it happening at this point. Regardless, they have to do SOMETHING. This bullpen is nowhere near ready. In fact, it is less ready than it was 24 hours ago.
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The other aspect of this is the impact this trade has on the starting rotation. So far, the Blue Jays will run with Marcus Stroman, Marco Estrada, R.A. Dickey At this point, Chavez looks to be a rotation candidate. He’ll look to compete for a spot with the likes of Drew Hutchison and maybe Sanchez/Osuna. Again, with lots of time to add talent to that group, things could change. But, if the club had to start the season today, Chavez would have a spot.
His Steamer projections aren’t exactly horrible: 10-9, 159 innings, 7.83 K/9, 2.71 BB/9, 3.90 ERA, 4.09 FIP, 2.0 WAR. He certainly appears to be a candidate for the 5th spot. But, much like fans wouldn’t be content with a guy like J.A. Happ, Chavez doesn’t really get us excited. Now, he could very well come in and have a great year a la Estrada. But, expecting that to happen might be a stretch.
This move is likely about adding depth to the starting pitching options. It, by no means, should be considered a finishing touch. There is still plenty of work to do. Right now, the trade signals a decision on Sanchez and Osuna, barring some major acquisition. In a time when pitching is going to cost a substantial amount on the free agent market, the Blue Jays are looking to stock up on depth. Chavez is projected to earn $4.7M in arbitration. Good luck finding a possible starter for that price on the open market.
On the one hand, this move is a head scratcher. Why give up 4 years of control of Hendriks for one year of Chavez? On the other hand, the Blue Jays have added affordable starting pitching to add to their depth. And, that is how we should be looking at this move. It’s depth. Obtaining said depth created a bigger hole in the bullpen and doesn’t completely address the rotation. The Blue Jays still have much work to do.