The Blue Jays manager has made it clear that this year’s decision could have a longterm impact on the role of Aaron Sanchez
There are two reasons for excitement as the Blue Jays sit just six days from first pitch in Tampa.
There’s baseball, of course. But there’s also the merciful end to the debate surrounding Aaron Sanchez and his role on the pitching staff.
On Sunday, manager John Gibbons addressed the situation again but added a heightened importance to the upcoming decision. According to Gibbons, putting Sanchez in the bullpen this season could pigeonhole him in that role longterm.
This is a debatable philosophy itself, of course, but it does loosely align with the stance taken by team president Mark Shapiro lately. I wrote earlier this month that the organization’s approach to Sanchez isn’t adding up logically. At all. Especially when it comes to the talking point of Sanchez never having pitched over 130 innings as a pro.
By that logic, how does any pitcher become a starter?
Following it further, how would a 70-or-80 inning season as a pure reliever impact Sanchez in the rotation’s eyes? It certainly would not make Sanchez a permanent reliever in the eyes of all organizations, but it could certainly map out his future in Toronto. For better or for worse. (Option Two is correct, here).
The entire situation is made even more bizarre by the wave of outside opinions, both from Major League scouts and media members from other markets. To some, Sanchez is in the conversation as the opening day starter on some teams.
Forget this fifth starter nonsense.
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Teams are watching. People are talking. If the Blue Jays relegate Sanchez to bullpen duty now, they’re also handicapping his longterm value on the open market.
He’s long been the “untouchable” arm dating back to the Anthopoulos days, but if the Blue Jays view him as a sixth or seventh-inning man this season while another team views him as a top-of-the-rotation starter (not to mention young and cheap), then this could represent a true high-point in Sanchez’s value.
Yes, I mean trade value, but let’s not dwell on dirty words.
I often compare these decisions with young pitchers to the handling of young franchise quarterbacks in the National Football League. Once enough development has taken place, it is sometimes wisest to throw the young player into the deep end as a starter and let them try to swim. If they survive, fantastic. If they don’t? Then at least you know exactly what you have your hands on.
It also presents a very odd fit within the Blue Jays organizational philosophy, laughing in the face of safe decisions, that fans have come to love over the past eight months. Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports said it best in his Friday column.
“The Jays, in case you haven’t noticed, play an aggressive, go-for-the-jugular style, embodied by Bautista and American League MVP Josh Donaldson. It would be only fitting if the team’s decision-making reflected their players’ approach.”
Beyond all of this lies the factor that few like to consider, largely because it’s an immeasurable value within such a heavily measured game. The human element.
Aaron Sanchez has worked his ass off these past five months to be a starting pitcher for the Toronto Blue Jays.
The 23-year-old added significant bulk to his tall frame to better endure the wear of a full season in the rotation, and while his arsenal still needs to round out significantly, he has made strides. Stepping into the bullpen and throwing 90% fastballs, of course, will further inhibit the development of those offspeed and breaking pitches.
If Sanchez had of entered camp and looked “normal”, then the Jays are more within reason to stick him back in the ‘pen. In fact, many would have taken a “normal” spring from Sanchez as he looks to move back into a starting role.
Sanchez hasn’t been normal, though. He’s lifted the fifth starter’s job off the ground by it’s collar, like a villain in a low-budget mafia movie with a burnt-out cigar chomped in his teeth, and shoved it against the wall.
At 98 MPH with late movement.
So start the man. If the Jays don’t, someone else would absolutely love to.