Blue Jays: The best plan for Aaron Sanchez going forward

TORONTO, ONTARIO - JULY 5: Aaron Sanchez #41 of the Toronto Blue Jays reacts against the Baltimore Orioles after getting out of the first inning during their MLB game at the Rogers Centre on July 5, 2019 in Toronto, Canada. (Photo by Mark Blinch/Getty Images)
TORONTO, ONTARIO - JULY 5: Aaron Sanchez #41 of the Toronto Blue Jays reacts against the Baltimore Orioles after getting out of the first inning during their MLB game at the Rogers Centre on July 5, 2019 in Toronto, Canada. (Photo by Mark Blinch/Getty Images) /

Aaron Sanchez’s season hasn’t gone according to plan, and the Blue Jays have a few different options for how to plan for the rest of his season.

It was an up and down first half of the season for the Blue Jays, and one that we can thankfully turn the page on and look ahead to a brighter future with this franchise.

One of the biggest problems for the struggling team has been with their starting rotation, which has been decimated by injuries. Matt Shoemaker started the campaign looking like a borderline ace before being lost for the year to knee surgery. Clayton Richard and Clay Buchholz have been mostly unavailable (although the latter was healthy and pitched fairly well before the break), and Ryan Borucki has yet to make a big league start, although he’s looked good in his rehab outings as well.

One of the pitchers who hasn’t hit the injured list is Aaron Sanchez, and with all due respect, that’s a bit of a surprise. I say that because Sanchez was only able to make 28 starts over the last two seasons dealing with fingernail, blister, and tendon issues with his pitching hand, and they’ve derailed a career that once looked destined for All-Star apperances and Cy Young award races.

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He has dealt with some of those familiar problems this season as well, but thankfully he hasn’t had to miss a start yet. That said, it’s possible he might have benefitted from taking some time off, as he entered the break with a 3-12 record, a 6.16 ERA, and a 1.750 WHIP in 19 starts and 92.0 innings pitched. It’s been anything but the comeback year that the 27-year-old and the club had hoped for, and it leaves the Blue Jays in an interesting position.

It’s been suggested by several writers lately that Sanchez might benefit from a move back to the bullpen where his big league career started. His skill set could work well in a late-inning bullpen role, and it might be easiest on his troublesome hand if he’s only pitching an inning or two at a time.

In a more extreme view, there have been others that have discussed the idea that the Blue Jays should send him back to Buffalo while they still can. Sanchez’s service time is very close to being at the point where he would be able to refuse such an assignment, so the Jays would have to make that call before July 15th if they intend on going in that direction. While I do think there can be great benefits for a player who goes back to the minor leagues to work on their craft (and their confidence), I don’t know that I think that’s the right move with Sanchez, even if it might be warranted.

With the trade deadline less than three weeks away, it’s possible that the Blue Jays could look to move the 2016 American League ERA champion, but I would think that his value would be at an all-time low, and I don’t know how much interest contending clubs would have, or what they could get in return.

Each of those directions has a legitimate argument, but I personally hope the Blue Jays ignore all of those ideas and simply stay the course for now.

Sanchez won’t be a free agent until after the 2020 season, so I can understand why some folks want to see him traded now before his trade value diminishes even more. However, I don’t know that he has much value at the moment anyway, so I really think you can ignore that idea given the current circumstances. I also don’t think the bullpen is going to be an option, unless the Blue Jays want to deal with an angry player, and however Scott Boras (his agent) would react. I really think you’d have to have their blessing to make it work, and that’s not going to happen.

For the Blue Jays to extract any value from Sanchez before he leaves town, their best bet might be to let him take the mound every fifth day and hope that he can get healthy and find the form that made him one of the AL’s most exciting young starters just a few seasons ago. Let’s face it, the Blue Jays still need healthy starters to get through the second half as well, especially if they do trade Marcus Stroman, as is widely expected.

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I’m rarely in favour of doing “nothing” when there’s a clear problem in front of me, but in this case I really feel like that’s the best bet for Sanchez. If he can stay healthy and put together a stronger second half, perhaps the Blue Jays can get a reasonable return for him over the winter, as he’ll still have a full season of control left. It might not be something to bank on, but given the other options for the Blue Jays right now, it feels like the most sensible way to go.