So, with news breaking this afternoon that Aaron Sanchez will be returning from the DL in a relief role, it's an obvious motivation to speculate like mad. And being as it's me were talking about, I never say in 500 words what I can say in 3,000 so...
First off, Evan noted at BlueJaysPlus, there's really only three basic potential explanations, but I want to dig a bit into the nuances of this and maybe add a 4th by the time I'm done. Kinda.
His first possibility is that the Jays are sold on Felix Doubront. Pretty much no one thinks this is the case, but there's an alternate version of this possibility that I'll get back to. His second possibility is that the Blue Jays have lost confidence in Sanchez as a starter. Again, this is inconceivable so there's no point in lingering long over it right this second. Third, and the assumption that's on everyone's mind, is that there's a trade coming. But don't assume that means it's coming any minute even if it is.
Sanchez will throw again for Buffalo on Tuesday, and , they say, be called up "late in the week" (safe money would be on Friday for the opening of the Seattle series. Meanwhile, the Jays spurned the chance to slid the 5th starter slot back by using the off day tomorrow, so Wednesday at Oakland rather than Saturday at Seattle. In so doing Doubront's next turn would fall on next Monday - also an off day - and who knows if they would hold the pattern and refuse to skip him. That might depend on Wednesday. Thing is, that next Monday is the 27th, just four days before the deadline. So by staying with Dourbront for now they are really only committing to one more start, against a losing team in a pitcher friendly stadium and...one other thing I'll get back to.
Now, as you might recall, if the Blue Jays decide not to keep Doubront in the majors, they will almost certainly lose him since he has no options left and won't make it through waivers. So if they cut bait now, unless they want to cram him into the 'pen they lose an asset, and he's certainly no guarantee to work out well in the bullpen. On top of that, there's not a lot of flexibility in the rest of the rotation. Buehrle and Dickey are absolute locks (the latter, despite my mockery, has been better than fine for over six weeks now) and Marco Estrada removed whatever doubt anyone may have had about his role by outpitching Chris Archer today. That leaves only Drew Hutchison, who's an ace at home and trash on the road. They may tinker with his turns to get him more home starts (I doubt it) but there's no indication he'll be off to Buffalo or the 'pen anytime soon. So there's that one spot to mess with.
Now consider - let's say the Blue Jays do, in fact, swing a deal for a very-good-to-great SP, and you already put Doubront on waivers in order to let Sanchez start....one game. Maybe two. Then he's off to the 'pen anyway (because he addresses a real need there, as opposed to the net loss of demoting Hutch). That's not really how Alex Anthopoulos rolls. On the other hand, if Doubront starts and pitches well, he might help leverage a trade or be dealt in a smaller deal (don't scoff, look what we paid for Danny Valencia). If he blows up, well, just as easy to waive him 10 days later. If Sanchez got that start and is great, it's harder to ask him to move to the 'pen, if he's rocked, it hurts his confidence which now, based on the run up to his injury, has to be high. Finally, if not trade can be finalized, the gap is short enough they can always ditch Felix on August 1 and give the job back to Sanchez without much issue.
Looking ahead to Sanchez in the bullpen, Gibby said not to expect him in high leverage situations right away (and if you want to keep him available to go back to the rotation, what beter way than a few 2-3 inning outings over the next couple of weeks?) but you know that's the plan. Sanchez circa 2014 setting up Osuna has a distinct whiff of Ward/Henke from where I sit. Throw in Bo, Tepera (who deserves your respect!) and Hendricks in the 6th/7th and you can be selective with Cecil and Loup (who are both better than you think). Not to disrespect Delebar (and I have a hunch the will stockpile Tepera in Buffalo rather than demote Delebar - or go with 8 - when Sanchez is activated) who's no car crash by any means. People can look at whole season stats and moan all they want, that's already a solid 'pen (worrisome only in that there are 3-4 key guys doing it at the major league level for the first time) and a damned respectable one when you add Sanchez. Whatever might be said of that rotation spot, Sanchez will help the 'pen as much as any potential acquisition not named Chapman.
But here's the thing niggling my brain, and maybe it's just because I've been lusting after this guy as a trade target, but there's an interesting confluence of events here.As you know the Jays visit Oakland starting on Tuesday. Who's starting for the A's on Thursday but one Scott Kazmir. Trade candidate.
Very. Desirable. Trade Candidate.
In my feeble recollection, I'm not aware of very many high profile players dealt just in time to face the team that just traded them. But what if, when the Jays flew home from the coast, Kazmir was on the plane? Or at least, what if Alex was working on making that happen knowing the A's wouldn't close a deal before Friday? Because these are the A's who have used Jesse Chavez as a pretty important SP for a few years now...so what if Alex wants to let Oakland get a first hand look at what Doubront can do in anticipation of offering him in the deal as a non-rookie option to slot into Kazmir's spot? Don't get me wrong, Felix would have only a small marginal value in the deal but if he makes it easier at all that's a plus. Heck, apart from persuing Kazmir, if the Jays do have to try and squeeze value out of FD after a trade for whomever, Oakland is just the sort of team that might be interested so showcase him.
So I can definitely see an angle here, as much as it worries me Sanchez will be so good that the team will get fuzzy-headed and want to keep him in the 'pen long term. And speaking of the long term, consider this - if the Blue Jays do add a rental starter, potentially 4 out of 5 members of their rotation in October (shaddap) will be pending free agents. Then follows a winter of hand-wringing about the Blue Jays need to add veteran leadership or whatever, but I'm looking forward to the best 5 out of Stroman, Sanchez, Osuna, Norris, Hoffman, Hutchinson, and Boyd filling those slots. I'm not sure I want a lesser guy who brings only 10 years of experience tying up one of those spots. Unless maybe it was Kazmir. ;) Thought for the record, I'd absolutely put a QO on Buehrle and wouldn't be unhappy if he accepted it. Okay, got it. Rambling now. Anyway, in less than 2 weeks we'll know something.