Blue Jays Talk FAQ: Should Jays sign Stroman, Sanchez to extensions?

Trent Thornton joins Arash Madani to reflect on his start against the Detroit Tigers.

In this regular feature, Blue Jays Talk host Scott MacArthur answers some frequently-asked Blue Jays questions.

Q: What will happen to Brandon Drury when Vladimir Guerrero Jr., joins the Blue Jays?

A: I enjoy these questions because they come with a very easy answer: I don’t know. But I’m the host of Blue Jays Talk and I should know, right? Fair argument, except that so much will happen between now and Guerrero’s arrival.

Let’s start with Drury himself: Charlie Montoyo has made it a point, more than once, to praise Drury’s defence at third base. The Blue Jays use exaggerated shifting against a number of left-handed hitters and Montoyo loves the fact Drury is able to play in the hole, around where the shortstop traditionally is placed, get to balls hit to his right and make the difficult throw across his body to first base.

I see Guerrero, long-term, at first base, but working off the assumption he plays third upon arrival, Drury could push Lourdes Gurriel Jr., for playing time at second base or he could also find at-bats from spot starts in either corner outfield spot. Drury is a useful player, particularly in this age of positional flexibility. He’s also only 26 and he’s controlled through the 2022 season, which means he’s affordable and the Blue Jays have time to make a decision. That controllability also makes Drury a potentially attractive trade chip.

Offensively, Drury tore the cover off the ball all spring. While we all know not to make too much of Grapefruit League performance, but tearing the cover off the ball is better than the alternative, especially considering Drury is coming off a broken hand and went through steps to improve his eyesight. It’s far too early to draw any conclusions, less than a week into the regular season, on where he is with the bat.

Ben Nicholson-Smith is Sportsnet’s baseball editor. Arden Zwelling is a senior writer. Together, they bring you the most in-depth Blue Jays podcast in the league, covering off all the latest news with opinion and analysis, as well as interviews with other insiders and team members.

Q: Where do you think Trent Thornton spends most of this season?

A: The priority, in my view, isn’t Thornton’s geographical location (although he may disagree, the big leagues and Toronto being preferable to triple-A Buffalo). Rather, it’s his role. Thornton needs to be a starter this season.

So, let’s assume health and all other things are equal. Marcus Stroman, Aaron Sanchez and Matt Shoemaker are your top three. Ryan Borucki is expected to make his season debut in the near future. Then there’s Clay Buchholz, who’s building to 75 pitches, on an every-fifth-day starter’s schedule, down in Florida. He’ll be at that number by the middle of this month and could join the Blue Jays not long after their two-game, four-day (figure that one out) trip to Boston.

So, if you’ve got Stroman-Sanchez-Shoemaker-Borucki-Buchholz, Thornton needs to go to Buffalo. I’m intrigued by this guy. He could be a nice middle of the rotation arm and as such he needs to remain stretched out. There’s more development to be had starting at triple-A than being a one-time-through-the-order middle reliever in Toronto.

Now, a big-league season never runs in a straight line. If Thornton is squeezed out of the rotation in a numbers game, he’s my first call up when the Blue Jays need a spot start or a longer-term injury replacement.

Q: Would you try to sign Marcus Stroman and Aaron Sanchez to contract extensions?

A: At the appropriate time, should that time arise, absolutely I would. I’ll preface this by saying that Aaron Sanchez is one of super-agent Scott Boras’ clients and Boras is known for wanting his guys to test free agency.

What is the appropriate time? If both are healthy and pitching well through the first two months of the season, I think you explore the possibilities once the front office gets through the draft and refocuses attention on the big-league team. So, sometime in June.

Guaranteed term and money should be difficult things to turn down for pitchers for at least these two reasons: health is never assured (almost three years ago Stephen Strasburg, who had Tommy John Surgery in 2010, jumped at the Nationals’ pre-free agency $175-million extension offer, which covers him through 2023, making him an outlier among Boras’ clients) and any player who doesn’t have a degree of hesitancy about the recent free agent markets isn’t paying attention. Just look at the number of extensions signed recently, including by one of the game’s most prominent pitchers, Boston’s Chris Sale, who inked a $145-million pact which takes him through to at least the end of 2024.

The alternative is to trade one or both of Stroman and Sanchez. In this scenario, it’s an obvious statement to say the Blue Jays need young, controllable pitching in return. Also, they can’t bungle either deal; the guys they’d be acquiring have to perform because, essentially, general manager Ross Atkins would be trying to recreate younger versions of Stroman and Sanchez.

These two decisions, in my opinion, are the two most intriguing of the season. A lot rides on them.

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