The Jays Are Probably Putting Aaron Sanchez in the Bullpen, Aren’t They?

Aaron Sanchez has done absolutely everything right in his crusade to make the starting rotation. He gained 25 pounds of muscle this offseason, he’s pitched phenomenally during his Spring Training outings. His secondary pitches have shown improvement and he’s limited base on balls.

But all of that might not even be enough to ensure he makes the Opening Day starting rotation.

The Aaron Sanchez debate has raged on in recent weeks and very soon the Blue Jays will need to make a decision on whether he’s a starter or a reliever. Even though Sanchez been one of the most impressive starters in camp, many are suggesting he’ll be put in the bullpen.


Even though logic and reason dictate Aaron Sanchez should begin the 2016 season in the starting rotation, don’t be surprised if he breaks camp as a reliever. I can’t believe I’m saying that … but after a lot of back and forth, it feels like that’s the move the Blue Jays are going to make.

I’m not saying I necessarily agree with the decision to leave Aaron Sanchez as a reliever, I just understand why the front office and coaching staff would come to that conclusion.

Why on earth would the Blue Jays relegate one of their most promising young arms to the bullpen? Sanchez has arguably been the most impressive arm in Blue Jays Spring Training camp. What would incline the Jays to choose Gavin Floyd over Aaron Sanchez for the final spot in the starting rotation?

The answer is pretty simple. Whether the front office wants to admit it or not, 2016 is an all-in year for the Toronto Blue Jays.

With eight pending free agents at the end of the season, this Blue Jays roster is built to win right now. Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion could be gone, R.A. Dickey and Jesse Chavez might not be back, and the Jays could also lose crucial bullpen arms like Brett Cecil and Drew Storen to free agency.

I’m not saying the Blue Jays don’t have a chance to win beyond the 2016 season, but they’ve stacked the deck to ensure they win this year. Otherwise, why would’ve Mark Shapiro and Ross Atkins made trades to acquire guys like Jesse Chavez and Drew Storen who are pending free agents?

To ensure the team’s success now, perhaps the front office feels like the best plan in the short term is for Sanchez to pitch in relief and to have Gavin Floyd in the starting rotation.

As far as I’m concerned, both guys are both unknown commodities, but for very different reasons. With Gavin Floyd, you’re afraid his elbow might break apart at any given moment. And with Aaron Sanchez, he’s still hasn’t quite proven himself as either a starting pitcher or shutdown reliever.

In the short term, the Blue Jays may feel that loading up the bullpen with power arms may be the best route. After seeing what Sanchez is capable out of the bullpen the past two seasons, it’s very tempting to keep him as a weapon for late inning relief.


If the Blue Jays opt to have Sanchez go to the bullpen and Floyd into the rotation, some may view that as the Blue Jays declaring Floyd is the better starting pitcher. I really don’t think that will be the case … but if that’s the decision the Jays arrive to, Floyd will merely be best option “at the time”.

If it weren’t for the sudden emergence of Gavin Floyd, we wouldn’t even be having this discussion. And if it weren’t for the acquisition of Drew Storen and Jesse Chavez, Aaron Sanchez probably wouldn’t have been afforded the luxury to audition for a starting rotation spot at all.

The truth is, the Blue Jays owe absolutely nothing to Gavin Floyd. He’s signed to a one-year deal, so they aren’t concerned with his development or whether he can make 30 starts this season. At this point, Gavin Floyd is found money for the Jays … and they are doing their best to ride this thing as long as it goes.

Ideally, if the Blue Jays were to carry both guys, you’d want Aaron Sanchez in the starting rotation and Gavin Floyd out of the bullpen. But Floyd is such a wild card … it almost serves the Blue Jays better to throw him out there as a starter as long as they can can to extract as much value as possible out of Floyd.

At least the Blue Jays know they can interchange Aaron Sanchez back and forth from the bullpen to the starting rotation and vice versa. That process becomes a little more difficult if Sanchez begins the season in the bullpen, but it’s still feasible.

With Gavin Floyd, you’re not sure he can hold up to the rigors of pitching out of the bullpen on back-to-back days, let alone starting every five days. So if Floyd can still start, then he should start while he still can … until he fails miserably or gets injured and forces the Blue Jays to make a move.


There’s also a concern with Aaron Sanchez and an innings limit this year. If he begins the year in the rotation, the Blue Jays run the risk of running into a similar situation as the Mets did with Matt Harvey.

You’d hate for the Blue Jays to be in the midst of a pennant race in August and September and suddenly have to pull Aaron Sanchez out of the rotation because he’s close to his innings limit.

The extremely difficult part in all of this will be telling Aaron Sanchez that he might be a reliever. After all the work he’s put in this offseason and how impressive he’s looked in Spring Training, I’d hate to be the one to tell Sanchez: “Sorry, but you’re going to the bullpen.”

It’s going to be tough for the Blue Jays to rationalize that decision to Aaron Sanchez. From his standpoint, he’s done everything the club has asked him to in order to make himself a prime candidate for the rotation.

If Aaron Sanchez is ultimately declared a reliever to begin the season, that doesn’t necessarily mean he won’t get an opportunity start at all in 2016. But if this is a “win now” year for the Blue Jays, they need to do everything in their power to ensure victory.

And if that means starting Gavin Floyd over Aaron Sanchez, then so be it.

Image via AP Photo/Chris O’Meara

Ian Hunter

Ian has been writing about the Toronto Blue Jays since 2007. He enjoyed the tail-end of the Roy Halladay era and vividly remembers the Alex Rodriguez "mine" incident. He'll also retell the story of Game 5 of the 2015 ALDS to his kids for the next 20 years.

4 thoughts on “The Jays Are Probably Putting Aaron Sanchez in the Bullpen, Aren’t They?

  • March 24, 2016 at 10:15 am

    I think Shapiro & Co. made the trades for jesse chavez and storen because they’ll offer them arbitration and get draft picks when they sign elsewhere next year.

  • March 24, 2016 at 11:15 am

    They won’t offer arbitration. Over $16million for one year. They both would accept.

  • March 24, 2016 at 11:34 am

    I never hated Shapiro like most of the Toronto fan base .Probably because I never thought AA was the messiah because he sold the farm for a playoff run.

    However if Shapiro forces Sanchez to the pen it would be an absolute boneheaded move and would seem like another move where he favours a former Indian.

    Like Adam Lind said In 2014. We didn’t make the playoffs that year because management decided to protect Stroman and went with McGowan to start the year.

    You can’t win the division in April but you sure can lose it. Plus it’s not too healthy to move Sanchez back and forth from the pen.

  • March 24, 2016 at 3:33 pm

    It’s a debate because of all the variables. You know you need at least 8 reliable starters to get through a season. You also know Sanchez has an innings limit because he has pitched so few. So ideally you wait until all-star break to have Sanchez so you can start him through end of season. But that is tricky too. Not sure there is a right answer. I just know Dickey, Happ and Estrada are all likely worse pitchers than Sanchez.

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