It is true that no group of people believe they can re-invent the wheel the way some major-league pitching coaches think they can re-invent the wheel, and I’m sure there are people in other uniforms who think they hold the key to unlocking the conundrum that is Aaron Sanchez.
But c’mon: the notion that as part of their trade-deadline gymnastics, the Toronto Blue Jays should simply wash their hands of the right-hander – who turned 27 all of 17 days ago – while he is in the middle of a historically bad season and accept in return any old half-warm body or, worse, somebody else’s detritus is simply foolish.
We’ve all been operating under the assumption that Marcus Stroman is just days away from needing to add another city skyline to his tattoo collection because the Blue Jays need arms that line up contractually with the prime earning years of Vladimir Guerrero, Jr., Bo Bichette and the like. In other words, they need as many cheap, young pitchers as possible at a time when age is measured in terms of service time compared to chronologically. And while Stroman and Sanchez have been twinned at the hips seemingly forever – their bromance eventually went the way of many mid-20s friendships – the simple truth is they represent two very different sets of circumstances for a franchise that needs to win the nuanced personnel battles as well as the big, clear-cut ones.
It was the exquisitely sourced Jeff Passan, of ESPN, who reported that “multiple teams” view Sanchez as a potential reliever and are prepared to make approaches to that effect. On Wednesday, Sanchez became the first pitcher to take the loss in 10 consecutive appearances since Dick Weik of the 1949 Washington Senators. Sanchez is 3-13 (6.26 ERA) in his penultimate season before free agency and dead-last among qualified starters in several categories. Wednesday’s start was the first this season in which he didn’t issue multiple walks. Not the type of year that will set him on his way to breaking the bank.
Sanchez won an ERA title in 2016 with a deadly sinking fastball, but a rash of injuries to fingers on his pitching hand have ruined his last two seasons. Nobody – Sanchez, agent Scott Boras, or Blue Jays management – is comfortable with how things transpired on the medical front but that’s past tense stuff. Sanchez simply can’t throw his sinker effectively, seems loathe to throw his curve, and his rising four-seamer scares no one. Moving him to the bullpen is something that Boras is strongly against because of how it would impact future earnings, and there are those with the Blue Jays who wonder whether it would make any difference anyhow given his lack of command. Know this: if he was in the ‘pen it would not be as a closer.
At some point, somebody close to Sanchez needs to suggest that the economic benefits of being a starter will only come into play if you’re any good. For the pitcher, there is something to be said for leaving the door open to finishing the year in the Blue Jays bullpen if necessary, trying to save something out of this season and then re-calibrating in the winter. It may, in fact, be true that Sanchez is a “change of scenery” candidate; that he and the Blue Jays have fallen out of love and both need to move on from each other. It happens.
Yet, that’s something the Blue Jays can’t worry about. They’re not a charity.
And, really, what’s the rush for the Blue Jays? It’s not as if Sanchez is standing in the way of another bright, young arm breaking into the majors. It’s not as if his presence is preventing the Blue Jays from a run to the post-season. True, his inability to go deep against a lineup contributes to a drain on bullpen resources, but let’s get real: that’s a price worth paying in order to maximize your return, and based on the odds and ends the Blue Jays have run out as starters this season, a gassed bullpen should be worked into the equation on an almost daily basis, no? I mean, the Blue Jays had Edwin Jackson start games for them, so…
The Blue Jays did OK last year when they traded a distressed asset – that’s not to undersell the egregious nature of the charges against Roberto Osuna, but work with me on this – but only because the Houston Astros had another distressed asset of their own in Ken Giles. Thank goodness for Giles. The rest of the return has been just this side of completely underwhelming. And as horrible as Osuna’s final days were in this city, he was a way better pitcher when he was moved than Sanchez is now.
The Blue Jays haven’t been as lucky when forced into these deals. Roy Halladay will go into the Hall of Fame this weekend and there’s an example of a sale of a different kind of distressed asset that didn’t work out for the Blue Jays – in this case, for Alex Anthopoulos. Halladay forced the Jays’ hand after the club let itself get painted into a corner, and it was only the immense goodwill Halladay built up with the local media and fan base, plus the idea that his career had been unalterably damaged by Anthopoulos’s predecessor J.P. Ricciardi, that prevented Anthopoulos from being pilloried for the transaction. The deal was chalked up as being one of those good things happening to good people. Doc left not just with our blessings; he left with our fervent best wishes he win a World Series. Change of scenery and all that.
I’ve had people tell me that the rubber has met the road with the Blue Jays and Sanchez. That it’s over. The same people tell me it’s time to stop thinking about what’s best for him and start thinking about what’s best for the team. What they have yet to convince me is that it’s not the same thing. Sanchez’s value won’t be lower in the off-season than it is now. Can’t be.
Nobody loses if the Blue Jays just ride this out, and in 2019 not losing almost seems like a win.