TORONTO — The addition of veteran pitcher Francisco Liriano assures that all-star Aaron Sanchez will be heading to the Blue Jays bullpen.
The Jays were already discussing moving the 24-year-old Sanchez out of his starting role. General manager Ross Atkins says that acquiring Liriano makes the move a guarantee.
"A big part of Aaron is we feel like with transitioning him to a relief role will be the best thing for us being in a Game 7 of the World Series," Atkins said on a conference call. "We’re still working through the timing but this (trade) allows us to do that."
"The best chance for us to win a World Series is if Aaraon Sanchez is part of the team, and we felt like the best odds of him being part of the team was at some point some transition to the bullpen. With that in mind, we now have the option to do that."
Toronto also got two prospects in the deal, catcher Reese McGuire and outfielder Harold Ramirez.
"The other opportunity of adding prospects just presented itself, not our sole focus," said Atkins.
Liriano has a 6-11 record this season in 21 starts with a 5.46 earned-run average and 116 strikeouts. The best season of Liriano’s 11-year career came in 2013 with the Pirates, while he was an all-star at 22 with Minnesota in 2006. Atkins believes that Liriano’s experience outweighs this season’s numbers.
"I think his experience and talent, what he’s accomplished his entire career, we feel like it gives us a chance to have someone that could be pitching in Game 2 or 3 or 4 in a World Series run," said Atkins.
"The fact he’s been there before in a playoff chase, pitched in a major playoff game, and still has very good stuff. We’re hopeful that if we get him back to just close to where he was then it’s better than our alternative."
Liriano had a 16-8 record with a 3.02 ERA and 162 strikeouts in 2013 with Blue Jays catcher Russell Martin as his primary backstop. Atkins says the relation was more of an added bonus than a primary factor in making the deal.
"No question, I think that Francisco will benefit from a veteran catcher, the experience of Russ and the familiarity, I think if we come up with a plan that we should expect some correction, but this is not on Russ Martin by any means. But we did see that as an added benefit."
Sanchez is still scheduled to start Friday against Kansas City while its unclear when Liriano will make his debut. Sanchez is 11-1 with an American League-leading 2.71 ERA in 21 starts this year.
In other deals on Monday, Toronto acquired right-handed pitcher Scott Feldman from the Houston Astros in exchange for pitching prospect Gaudalupe Chavez. The Blue Jays also got righty Mike Bolsinger from the Los Angeles Dodgers for reliever Jesse Chavez and cash considerations.
Feldman has appeared in 26 games for the Astros this season, including five starts, posting a 5-3 record with a 2.90 ERA. Since his move to the bullpen at the end of April, Feldman has recorded a 2.41 ERA over 37.1 innings. In his 12th Major League season, Feldman is 69-76 with a 4.35 in 307 games (183 starts) for Texas, Chicago Cubs, Baltimore and Houston.
Bolsinger, 28, has made six starts for the Dodgers, posting a 1-4 record with a 6.83 ERA. In 13 games (two starts) with Oklahoma (PCL) Bolsinger is 2-1 with a 3.41 ERA over 29 innings. He was 6-6 with a 3.62 ERA over 21 starts in 2015 and owns a career mark of 8-16 with a 4.61 ERA in 37 games (36 starts).
"We were in on every single starting pitcher that was rumoured available, and many that weren’t rumoured available. Acquisition cost is always a part of it. Our focus was how do we make our team better, increase our depth, increase our experience and net talent?
"We feel like we did that with the acquisition cost, also bringing young talent into our system that we didn’t plan on as a focus, but we were opportunistic when it presented itself."
The 18-year-old Gaudalupe Chavez is in his third professional season and second with the Gulf Coast Blue Jays. He is 4-1 with 1.69 ERA in six starts this season.
The 32-year-old Jesse Chavez is 1-2 with a 4.57 ERA in 39 relief outings for Toronto. Over nine seasons, Chavez sits with a 25-40 record with a 4.55 ERA in 292 games, including 49 starts.
Hutchison has one win in 12.2 innings pitched as both a starter and reliever for Toronto this season. He has a 4.97 ERA with 12 strikeouts.