Toronto Blue Jays: Rough day to be a former Blue Jay

Among the list of non-tendered players across MLB baseball yesterday, there were a few former Blue Jays, including Kevin Pillar and Aaron Sanchez.

Monday brought one of the early significant deadlines for MLB front offices to consider, as teams had until 8pm EST last night to decide whether or not to tender a contract to their arbitration eligible players. The Blue Jays did just that with most of their eligible options, but ended up letting go of Derek Law, Luke Maile, and Jason Adam, creating some space on the 40-man roster.

The Blue Jays obviously weren’t the only team in that situation, and it was somewhat surprising to see the list of notable names who will now hit the open market. Among them were two former Blue Jays, Aaron Sanchez, and Kevin Pillar.

Starting with the latter, it came as a bit of a surprise to me that the San Francisco Giants didn’t bring Pillar back. That said, he made 5.8 million in 2019 and likely would have been due a small raise. Even though he became a bit of a fan favourite in San Francisco and hit a career-high of 21 home runs, the Giants ultimately decided to spend that money elsewhere. With a closer look at Pillar’s .259/.287/.432 slash line last season, it gets easier to understand.

In Sanchez’s case, it’s really a fall from grace for the 2016 American League ERA champion. As you likely remember, the California native battled a variety of blister, tendon, and fingernail issues on his pitching hand over the last couple of years, and it’s all but ruined his once great potential. The Blue Jays ended up trading him to Houston last year in a deal that showed just how far his value had dropped, but things haven’t gotten any better since, especially now that the Astros have non-tendered him.

To be fair, he recently had to have shoulder surgery and he’s not expected to be ready in time for spring training or the start of the season. Since he made 5.6 million last season and would get the same or more in 2020, the Astros felt that the money could be better invested elsewhere, and it’s hard to blame them.

It’ll be interesting to see what kind of market there will be in either player this winter, but don’t expect there to be much mutual interest in a reunion trip to Toronto. Sanchez seemed like he was happy to have a fresh start after his trade to Houston, and Pillar had some mixed feelings after being traded last year. Even though the Blue Jays could use a centre fielder and some help in their starting rotation, it’s probably safe to say that Pillar and maybe even Sanchez’s best days are already behind them.

I won’t be surprised if Sanchez gets a contract, but he may have to settle for a spot in the bullpen somewhere, which could be the best move for his career going forward anyway. As for Pillar, I’m curious to see if he can land another starting gig, especially now that he’s regressed a bit defensively, and never took the steps on offence that we all hoped he would.

Next: Discussing baseball and the Blue Jays with Anthony Kay

It’s crazy to see how much things can change in a year, or even less. For Pillar and Sanchez, and the three players non-tendered by the Blue Jays themselves, it was a good reminder baseball at this level is very much a business.

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