Blue Jays Gavin Floyd: The not-so-sure thing

Mar 3, 2016; Bradenton, FL, USA; Toronto Blue Jays starting pitcher Gavin Floyd (39) throws a warm up pitch during the first inning against the Pittsburgh Pirates at McKechnie Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 3, 2016; Bradenton, FL, USA; Toronto Blue Jays starting pitcher Gavin Floyd (39) throws a warm up pitch during the first inning against the Pittsburgh Pirates at McKechnie Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports /

The Blue Jays veteran right-hander has suffered a serious elbow injury in each of his past three seasons, including Tommy John and two fractures

Gavin Floyd has pitched unexpectedly well this spring after signing a one-year, one million dollar deal with the Blue Jays. So much of Floyd’s case for the fifth and final rotation spot, however, lies in what Aaron Sanchez is not.

Earlier in the week, team president Mark Shapiro referenced the fact that Aaron Sanchez has yet to surpass 130 innings at the professional level, an argument which I found to be somewhat illogical. Floyd, on the other hand, was presented as more of a known commodity. An arm that has been there, done than, and can again.

From 2008 until 2012, this was true. Floyd was a valuable member of the Chicago White Sox rotation, averaging in the neighbourhood of 31 starts with 190 innings in those five seasons. Since then, however, serious injuries have struck on an annual basis.

2013 (Chicago White Sox)  –  Floyd made five largely unsuccessful starts to open the season before being placed on the disabled list one month in. It was soon discovered that he would need to undergo Tommy John surgery, ending his year. At 30-years-old, the recovery from a Tommy John can be especially difficult. He finished the year with 24.1 innings pitched and a 5.18 ERA.

2014 (Atlanta Braves)  –  His return was very impressive, though. After spending the first month of the season at the double-A and triple-A levels, Floyd would surface with the Braves and make nine starts with a 2.65 ERA. All was going well until late June, when Floyd suffered a fractured olecranon in his right elbow. The olecranon is the “point” of the elbow on the upper end of the ulna (the forearm bone that is not your radius). In total, Floyd pitched 78.1 innings in 2014.

More from Toronto Blue Jays News

2015 (Cleveland Indians)  –  Signing with Mark Shapiro and Ross Atkins in Cleveland, Floyd quickly ran into trouble again with that right elbow. After re-fracturing that same bone, Floyd spent the majority of the season on the 60-day DL before making seven relief appearances for the Indians at the tail end of the season. They were fine relief innings, of course, but again, Floyd managed just 20.1 innings in 2015.

What this means for 2016:

That 130-inning max for Aaron Sanchez, which quickly became a buzz-term in the debate, came in 2014. Yes, Floyd has pushed the 200-inning mark several times, but does that endurance lay dormant through his major injuries and reappear completely unscathed in 2016?

Speaking of 130 innings: Floyd’s cumulative workload from the last three seasons across all levels? 123.0 innings.

When discussing workloads and inning totals there are two challenges that pitchers face. First, of course, is (what some consider to be) the increased risk of injury with a jump in innings. Beyond that is the simpler issue of endurance. Even if healthy, the Blue Jays are wondering, will Aaron Sanchez still be hitting 98 MPH with sinking action in his 181st inning? In mid-October?

In both of these scenarios, however, doesn’t Sanchez come out on top?

Next: The options if Encarnacion needs a DL stint to open season

Even putting aside his brilliant performance on Wednesday, throwing 6.1 scoreless innings while forcing an encouraging 10 ground ball outs, Sanchez should have the edge here. Aside from the lat injury that pushed him from the rotation last season, he’s been a relatively healthy pitcher for the Blue Jays. With his added bulk over the offseason, I feel even more confident in his ability to stay that way.

Floyd, on the other hand, is three-for-three in serious injuries to his pitching elbow since 2013. Not exactly the 1.000% average the Blue Jays are looking for.

This is not to discount the work of Floyd this spring, however, by any means. In early February, many were startled to learn Floyd had been given guaranteed MLB money. Now, after 12.1 spring innings with a 2.19 ERA, he’s made management look rather intelligent and given the Blue Jays a good problem at the back of their rotation. The arguments in his corner, though, still don’t have a third leg to stand on.

Yes, Gavin Floyd has been there. Yes, he’s done that. But it’s been a while.