The Toronto Blue Jays are going to have a big decision to make when Aaron Sanchez returns to the rotation. The report is that Sanchez will make his return before the all-star break. When exactly that will be is uncertain, but it will create a decision as to what to do with Joe Biagini.
Joe Biagini will likely end up being a starter in next years rotation to fill the likely departure of Francisco Liriano and the potential departure of Marco Estrada. Biagini was sent to the Blue Jays rotation out of necessity due to all of the injuries sustained in the rotation. Biagini has given the Blue Jays everything that they could have hoped for. He’s thrown 30.1 innings as a starter and has posted a 3.26 ERA, 2.90 FIP, 20.6 K%, and 5.6 BB%.
There is a very strong case to keep him in the rotation for the rest of the season, especially considering the performance of Francisco Liriano to this point of the season. Liriano hasn’t been very good to this point of the season and the bullpen could use a lefty that can be relied upon to get big outs. However, with Liriano’s control problems, he would be very hit or miss in the bullpen. When he’s on, he’s nearly unhittable as we saw in his outing during the 2016 Wild Card game.
The other case to keep Joe Biagini in the rotation outside of how effective he’s been is the fact that since he will be a starter next year, you might as well keep him in the rotation for the rest of this year. If they were to move him back to the bullpen, he should be there to stay. Flip flopping between bullpen and rotation wouldn’t be beneficial to Biagini and his development.
When you look at the current state of the Blue Jays bullpen, while it has been very effective, there are some very concerning trends to this point, such as:
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- Joe Smith: 31 appearances through just over 2 months
- Ryan Tepera: 33.2 innings pitched
- Danny Barnes: 27.0 innings pitched
- Dominic Leone: 25.2 innings pitched
Behind Roberto Osuna, the 4 main arms that John Gibbons has used to secure a victory have included the 4 highlighted above. The issue with that is the current pace that these relievers are on. If you replicate the exact amount of innings and appearances over the next 4 months, it looks like this:
- Joe Smith: 93 appearances
- Ryan Tepera: 101.0 innings pitched
- Danny Barnes: 81.0 innings pitched
- Dominic Leone: 77.0 innings pitched
Those are some pretty crazy workloads that those 4 main relievers are maintaining to this point. The lack of a long man in the bullpen has led to Ryan Tepera, Danny Barnes, and Dominic Leone throwing multiple innings per outing at times. The ineffectiveness of Jason Grilli and J.P. Howell also hurts the bullpen as they’ve both hardly worked.
How can Joe Biagini solve this problem? It’s really quite simple. Now that Joe Biagini has built up a workload, when Biagini is brought into the game to work not just 1.0 inning at a time, but 2.0 or 3.0 innings per outing. Biagini could be the sole bridge from starter to Roberto Osuna in some appearances.
Of course, a big factor into these inflated numbers and crazy usage for the bullpen arms to this point is that the Blue Jays starting pitchers aren’t going deep in ballgames like they did last season. Now that J.A Happ and Francisco Liriano are back from the DL, once they build up their arm strengths again, they will need to go deeper. Marcus Stroman has gone deep most nights but Marco Estrada has had his first inning issues, which inflate his pitch count in the 1st and prevents him from going much deeper than 6.0.
In my mind, the answer is simple. When Aaron Sanchez is back, assuming the rotation is still fully healthy, Joe Biagini going back to the bullpen is a no brainer. He should be the guy that goes back to the bullpen to help ease the load on the main 4 arms.