Could Blue Jays afford to add Gallardo and lose Dickey’s innings?

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With a newly reinforced bullpen and a deepening rotation, it may have come time the Toronto Blue Jays no longer need R.A Dickey’s inning eating talents.

Coming into this offseason, the majority of the Blue Jays question marks laid within their rotation and bullpen. The addition of pitchers like Drew Storen, J.A. Happ and Jesse Chavez, however, have brought some answers. Both directly and indirectly.

None of these are headline0grabbing players (with the possible exception Storen), and they may very well regress more than expected, but they may just be enough to give them the Blue Jays the needed innings out of their pitchers.

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The question is, has this helped enough to make keeping Dickey an expendable asset if the right situation presents itself?

With Dickey having pitched at least 200 innings in the last 5 seasons, he was seen as the only lock for such aspirations among a crowd of arms that have yet to cross that threshold. And while its not really conceivable to see many of the other Jays pitchers achieving this (Estrada might be the closest thing to, honorable mention to Marcus Stroman), they may have enough innings distributed around their other pitchers to offset a loss of Dickey.

Lets take a little deeper look inside the Blue Jays rotation in regard to this. Estrada has steadily ramped up his innings over the past three years (from 128 innings in 2013 to 181 last year). While Steamer projections have him regressing in that category a bit (174 innings), he’ll have every opportunity to reach and surpass last season’s workload.

Stroman, who missed virtually all of last season, is still a relative unkown in terms of “aces” to predict for 2016 (surprisingly, though, Steamer has him projected to crack 200 innings). But with the kind of guy he is, I wouldn’t put it past him to get those 200 (or more).

Happ has pitched a cumulative 330 innings over the past two seasons and should be a lock for at least 150 more in 2016 if healthy (Steamer projections have him at 155), and Jesse Chavez has pitched right around 150 innings the last two years as a swingman for the Oakland Athletics.

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The rest of the group remains difficult to project until roles are clarified in Spring Training, as Roberto Osuna, Aaron Sanchez and Drew Hutchinson all could be starters or relievers or a combination of both (watch out for Sanchez piggy-backing with another starter like Chavez or Happ).

But all in all, with the players discussed and the now-deeper Blue Jays bullpen, I think the question has been answered.

I don’t think the Blue Jays “need” Dickey anymore in the pure sense of being an innings eater. Lets go a bit further than that.

As the Blue Jays may not get much in the return of assets in a trade of Dickey, they will get massive salary relief ($12 million in the final year of his deal).

And with salary relief they could bring in another starter via free agency like Yovani Gallardo, whose connection to the Blue Jays has been rumoured on-and-off this past week.

So with the money in hand, and the reported interest in mind, a deal could make sense. Especially if the Blue Jays are able to land a modestly talented young pitcher and/or depth piece in a deal for Dickey, thus coming out with a net gain after signing an arm like Gallardo.

So lets say the Blue Jays do it, are they better off?

The first thing to get out of the way is that Gallardo is unlikely to be bringing you the aforementioned innings that Dickey does.

He hasn’t cracked 200 innings in any of his last three seasons, and was routinely coming out of games in the sixth inning last year.

What he does do better than Dickey though, is prevent runs.

I am going to use FIP instead of ERA for arguments sake here as Dickey is a knuckleballer and is often at the mercy of the skill of his defence behind him. Gallardo is also a heavy groundball pitcher (between 49% and 51% last three seasons), so FIP serves him best as well.

Dickey’s FIP over the past three season sits at 4.46, while Gallardo’s rests at 3.95 over 96 games started in that same time period.

Some might argue here that Dickey’s first half and second half splits have been huge, and that the second half Dickey may be the true Dickey, but the cumulative season impact needs to be considered. He may be a beast down the stretch, but a win in April is just as important as a win in a pennant race.

A win is a win! But back to the numbers.

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Before anyone claims Gallardo was just luckier than Dickey with balls in play, Dickey has routinely had a BABIP around the .260 mark while Gallardo has put up better numbers despite boasting a BABIP closer to .300.

And beyond the basic numbers, Gallardo may just be better off pitching in the hitters haven of the Rogers Centre than Dickey and his knuckler. Dickey does own a 1.2 HR/9 since arriving in Toronto three seasons ago compared to the 0.9 mark owned by Gallardo.

While both players rely heavily on their defence behind them, Gallardo being a groundballer relies on his infield much more than Dickey, who often relies on his outfielders and hoping the balls he allows to be hit stay close enough that the fielders talents actually affect the outcome.

So with a more compatible skill set for the Blue Jays, and consistently better numbers than Dickey, a classic question lies with the Blue Jays.

Do you want the less-reliable 200+ innings from Dickey, or do you go for the innings from Gallardo that may lack in quantity, but excel in quality?