At 23 years old Aaron Sanchez is having a great season, a special season and one of the best seasons of any pitcher in major league baseball. In his first season as a starter he has so far compiled an 11-2 record with a 2.85 ERA while being named to his first all-star game. He leads the AL in both win-loss percentage and ERA. As the Jays are in a position to make a return trip to the playoffs Sanchez is no doubt the best pitcher on the team. In a playoff game if you had to pick one guy off this roster to trust to get you the win, Sanchez is the guy you want on the mound.
For all of his accomplishments, controversy and debate have swirled about how to handle his role with the team. Management was talking about sending him back to his bullpen role, a decision meant to preserve his arm. Neither the fans nor Sanchez himself were happy with this possibility. He is the team’s best starter and placing him in a limited role, not letting him command the game hurts the Jays. On the surface it seems like a bad decision, but management has a right take this into consideration. Sanchez has never before pitched so many innings in a season. His arm is under strain never experienced before and the risk of doing major damage is way up. This begs the question, do you let Sanchez risk injury and keep pitching because this is a huge year for the Jays, or do you shut him down as a starter and attempt to insure his health for years to come?
The Jays are looking like they’ll be a playoff team. Sanchez could be the difference between a World Series or not, but at the same time he could also be a difference maker for years if his arm doesn’t get hurt. Personally, I’m not a fan of shutting pitchers down during a successful team season. If the Jays were cellar dwellers this year, I’d say sure, send him to the bullpen let his arm rest, it doesn’t matter if the team wins games. That is not the case though. The Jays look to be a playoff team, they were 2 wins away from going to the World Series last year.
In 1992 and 1993 the Blue Jays dominated the world of baseball. They won back-to-back World Series Championships, they were kings. Then after that second World Series, for over two decades they didn’t even make it the playoffs. Baseball is a tough sport. It’s incredibly difficult to make the playoffs and requires talent, a special group of players, good management and luck. It’s so difficult to truly compete in the MLB. When you have a real shot at a championship you have to take it because you never know how long it’ll be before you get another one. Jay’s fans certainly know that to be true.
I think management has found a great compromise to the situation. They have gone out and traded for a starting pitcher Francisco Liriano. With Liriano on the roster the pitching rotation will be a 6-man rotation instead of 5. Sanchez will remain a starter, but the will pitch once every 6 games instead of every 5. This will give him more rest in between each start and reduce the total innings he pitches this season. Sanchez will face less stress on his arm and retain his role as starter. This feels like a smart move to preserve the future of an ultra-talented young pitcher while not losing out on a genuine opportunity to contend this season.