Blue Jays: The Aaron Sanchez extension debate is probably over

ST PETERSBURG, FLORIDA - MAY 27: Aaron Sanchez #41 of the Toronto Blue Jays pitches during a game against the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field on May 27, 2019 in St Petersburg, Florida. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
ST PETERSBURG, FLORIDA - MAY 27: Aaron Sanchez #41 of the Toronto Blue Jays pitches during a game against the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field on May 27, 2019 in St Petersburg, Florida. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images) /
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It might sound like Groundhog Day and I’m sure that’s the way it felt for Aaron Sanchez when he left his Monday start early with fingernail problems.

When Aaron Sanchez had to leave his May 17th start early because of a blister that was developing on his pitching hand, Blue Jays fans everywhere dropped their heads in frustration and disappointment.

Not this again.

The 2016 American League ERA leader has basically had his last two seasons wiped out because of fingernail, blister, and tendon issues on his pitching hand, making just eight starts in 2017 and 20 in 2018 before having to be shut down each year. The hope was that 2019 would finally bring health and the realization of so much promise from the talented right-hander.

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When he managed to not only come back and make his May 22nd start, but also look strong in the effort (6.0 IP, 5 hits, 2 ER), there was reason for cautious optimism that he may have dodged a familiar bullet.

After he had to leave yesterday’s game after just three innings once again, it’s hard to buy the line that he won’t hit the injured list, which was what was told to Sportnet’s Shi Davidi on Monday afternoon. More likely, Sanchez will have to be shut down at least until his fingernail heals, as he was diagnosed with what they’re calling a fingernail avulsion. It’s not a pretty sight for those that are about to Google it.

Sanchez and the Blue Jays should know the drill by now, and by all accounts, they’ve tried just about everything to stop the recurring issue for the former first-round pick. The only thing that seems to work is rest and time, and unfortunately Sanchez may be running out of the latter.

There was a time not long ago that Sanchez was considered to be one of the premier pitchers in the American League, with a ceiling for growth that could lead him to Cy Young contention. When he’s healthy I still believe he has that kind of ability, but unfortunately we haven’t seen him healthy long enough to reach his full potential, or even close to it really.

The combination of high-end talent and the inability to stay on the field make for a very complicated case, especially as he gets closer to hitting free agency, which he’ll do after the 2020 season. The debate has been on for quite some whether the Blue Jays should look to extend Sanchez and his long-time rotation mate Marcus Stroman, as they’ll both become free agents in just over a season and a half.

I really believe that the jury is still out on what to do about Stroman’s future, but I don’t see how that could be the case for Sanchez. His health will determine whether or not he can be a trade candidate before this year’s July 31st deadline, but that same health has gotta have the Blue Jays front office leaning toward dealing him if they can get any kind of fair value in return. That said, it’s really hard to determine value for a talented wild card like the 26-year-old.

There should be plenty of room in the budget over the next few years with a young and inexpensive core emerging at the big league level, but I don’t think this is going to be about money. I mean, it always will to some degree with any Scott Boras client, but for the Blue Jays it will more likely come down to a question of if they can rely on him to stay healthy when this team is ready to be a contender.

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Don’t get me wrong, I’d like very little more in the world of baseball than to see him stay healthy and pitch to the best of his ability. It’s just that I’m starting to lose faith that his body will ever allow it to happen, and I don’t know how the front office could feel any different. Here’s hoping he makes me eat my words.

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