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WWYDW: Is Joe Biagini a starter or reliever?

What would you do Wednesday is something we do each week at the other Nation Network sites that I figured I would bring to Blue Jays Nation.

I’ll ask a question and everybody suggest what they would do if they were in a position of control in order to diminish the reality that we have no agency in the happenings of this team we invest a tremendous amount of passion and energy into. 

This week’s question is about Joe Biagini. He’s one of the more (only???) polarizing topics this year at spring training. I think that the roster is largely set save for, like, which veteran reliever is going to crack the team and which middle infielder is going to fill in for the injured Troy Tulowitzki.

It isn’t outright said anywhere, but general wisdom suggests that the front office likes the idea of Joe Biagini as starter while John Gibbons wants him as a weapon out of the bullpen. Last year, Gibby said he envisions Biagini as a dominant reliever and Ross Atkins said he likes him in a hybrid scenario.

Ultimately, in 2017, Atkins’ vision for Biagini came into fruition. He started the year in the ‘pen, but then when the rotation imploded and Aaron Sanchez, J.A. Happ, and Francisco Liriano all got injured within like a two-week span, Biagini was thrusted into the rotation. He had a good start, then struggled, then got put back in the ‘pen. In August, he was sent to Triple-A Buffalo to stretch out as a starter and came back up to ride out September in the rotation.

Here are his numbers as a starter and as a reliever in his two seasons in the Major Leagues:

This year, Biagini rolled into spring in noticeably better shape and with a change in his delivery and an objective to work quicker and with better rhythm. His time in the rotation was a rollercoaster last year, but maybe there’s reason to believe he can be better this year.

So, what would you do? Put Biagini in the bullpen where, as we saw in 2016, he can be really good? Or stretch him out as a starter as both insurance for this year and beyond?

There’s certainly an argument for each side.

If you put Biagini in the ‘pen, you have a weapon who can toss two innings and make the path from the starter to Roberto Osuna much shorter. While Danny Barnes and Ryan Tepera were quite good last year, relievers are extremely volatile and there’s no guarantee they’ll be as effective this year.

If you start him in Triple-A Buffalo, you have insurance for Aaron Sanchez and his terrifying blister, Marcus Stroman and his shoulder issue, and Jaime Garcia who, for all we know, could be a pumpkin. Beyond that, the Jays only have Sanchez, Stroman, and Garcia as big league starters signed into next season, so the team does need more options for the 2019 rotation. While you would be taking away an asset from this year’s bullpen, you’d also be developing an asset for the rotation of the future.

  • McNamee’s Beer Can

    I think you answered your own question when you said relievers are volatile. If he can be a decent or good SP, he’ll always be that. If he’s bad, he can always go back to being a volatile reliever.

  • Regulator Johnson

    ABS – Always be starting. Only when you’re sure a guy can’t cut it in the rotation should you move him to the pen (Liriano). Team should have done the same with Osuna, but that’s water under the bridge. Let Biagini show what he can do; Rogers Center bullpen isn’t going anywhere soon.

  • The Humungus

    I think the org is going about it the right way.

    Use him as a starter on regular rest in Buffalo (provided everyone breaks camp healthy). If he succeeds, he’s the first guy up. If he struggles with turning over line-ups and gives up hard contact (and strikes out half a batter less per walk), then ship him to the pen.

    He’s going to be 28 in May, and he seems like a smart enough guy to know that if he’s had success in the pen, and he hasn’t as a starter, that moving to the pen will give him a longer/better career than being a Quad-A starter. I’m sure he knows this is his last shot.

  • Barry

    The Jays don’t have the starting depth to remove their sixth-best starter from the equation. He might not stay the sixth-best starter — Borucki, for example, could prove himself major-league ready — but as long as he is, or until some more reliable depth is added behind him, I think the Buffalo rotation is the best place for him. Bullpen depth, on the other hand, is pretty easy to add. And the Jays seem to add bullpen depth every time I go on the internet.

  • AD

    Definitely a reliever. Was not impressed at all from what I saw from him last season as a starter. His stuff plays much better as a reliver as is the case with some guys.

  • Stro's absurd slider

    Need to figure out if he can start. If he fails after getting a reasonable chance. Then he’s a reliever. But if he succeeds, great as they have a need next season. I’m also not sure if his stint in the minors last season sets his service time back enough to gain that extra year. A couple weeks in the minors would do that. Probably worth it.

  • mktoronto

    Definitely a starter. He’s been yanked around since he got here and hasn’t had a chance to really just be a starter. The game in Baltimore showed he has promise. Send him to Buffalo and let him work at it.