Blue Jays: The trickle down effect of rotation decisions

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Aug 11, 2015; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Blue Jays manager John Gibbons (5) shakes hands with starting pitcher Drew Hutchison (36) as they celebrate a 4-2 win over Oakland Athletics at Rogers Centre. Mandatory Credit: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports /

Who will the Blue Jays choose as their 5th member of the rotation? For the moment the decision comes down to Aaron Sanchez, Drew Hutchison, or Jesse Chavez

By now, most Blue Jays fans know the contenders for the starting rotation in 2016. Marcus Stroman, R.A. Dickey, Marco Estrada, and J.A. Happ are virtual locks for the rotation, barring injury. What we don’t know is which one of Aaron Sanchez, Drew Hutchison, or Jesse Chavez will take the 5th spot in the rotation, or how that decision effects the bullpen.

There are many variables that could alter both spots on the team, and it likely won’t be decided until close to opening day.

Starting with Sanchez, he has been working out with Marcus Stroman all offseason with the goal of becoming a starter this year. Sanchez has reportedly added 25 pounds of muscle (which his young 23-year-old frame certainly can use), and likely still has the highest ceiling of the group. The former 1st round pick has shown near-elite upside in the back end of the bullpen, where he has spent the bulk of his time in the majors.

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However, in 11 starts in 2015 prior to injury, Sanchez was arguably the Jays’ best starter (admittedly struggling with control at the time), pitching to a 3.55 ERA in the role. While he has proven invaluable at the back of the bullpen, the addition of Drew Storen allows the Blue Jays to explore whether Sanchez provides the most value to the club as a member of the rotation.

In Jesse Chavez, the Blue Jays have a clearer idea of what they’re going to get from the 32-year-old veteran. This is Chavez’s second tenure with the Blue Jays, and since leaving he has been a relatively effective starter in Oakland, particularly in the first half of the season. In 2014, Chavez pitched to a 8-8 record with a 3.45 ERA over 21 starts. He eventually tired in the second half and was moved to the bullpen. 2015 brought much of the same for Chavez, but the numbers look much worse, coming in at 7-15 with a 4.18 ERA over 26 starts.

Drew Hutchison may be the biggest wild card of the group. Coming in to 2015, Hutchison was named the de facto opening day starter once Stroman went down with an injury. Selecting Hutchison for the job made sense at the time, as he had taken big steps forward in 2014 having made 32 starts and pitching 184 innings. His 4.48 ERA was nothing to write home about, but he showed great promise throughout the year and seemed to cement himself in the rotation going forward.

However, 2015 was a big step back for Hutch, but the talent is there and he’s still only 25 this season. His arm seems like the exact type that the Jays would have been trying to buy low on in previous seasons.

So how does this all shake down? Here are 3 scenarios that could play out before opening day…

Next: The dirt on Chavez or Hutchison winning that final job