2019 has been bad for the Blue Jays on the whole, but at least there have been some pockets of optimism within their dark and dreary first half.
In the case of Aaron Sanchez, it’s been mostly bad. The fact that he’s been mostly healthy this year is a positive, but at age 26, Sanchez has taken a step back in his development. A month ago, it seemed like he was turning the corner on his season; instead, it veered 90 degrees into an oak tree by the side of the road.
While his rotation counterpart Marcus Stroman was just named to the American League All-Star team and remains one of the most coveted arms on the trade market, Sanchez has next to no trade value and he’s nearly three years removed from his breakout campaign in 2016.
If you thought Sanchez’ 2019 thus far has been bad, you’d be right. With his laundry list of injuries over the last few years, the fact that he’s made 17 starts this season is somewhat of an accomplishment. But how sad is it that the bar has been lowered that far where “at least he’s healthy” is viewed as a win for Sanchez?
Not only is he having a horrendous season on the mound, Sanchez just wrapped one of the worst months for a pitcher in Blue Jays franchise history. He even owns a few new records for futility in the month of June.
With 36 earned runs in the month of June, Sanchez tied Roy Halladay for the second most earned runs in a single month. Only Chris Carpenter and David Wells had more earned runs in one month (37). Sanchez’ 12.00 ERA in June stands as the third-worst single-month ERA in Blue Jays history.
With a 13.14 ERA in August of 1992, David Wells owns the title as “worst ERA in a month by a Blue Jay” (with at least five starts).
Drill down further and Sanchez owns the new franchise record for most earned runs in the month of June during a single season and the worst ERA at 12.00 (with a minimum of 20 innings pitched). According to Sportsnet Stats, Sanchez owns the worst all-time ERA in the month of June at 12.00.
Not to kick the guy while he’s down, but this is a tremendously bad stretch for Sanchez. He’s winless in his last 12 games and has given up at least one walk in his last 57 starts. You have to go back to July 19 of 2016 to find the last game when he didn’t issue a free pass.
Walks have been Sanchez’ undoing for virtually his entire career and this year especially, he’s lost his sense of the strike zone. His 52 walks are tied for the most in baseball this year and his 6.31 ERA is the highest among all qualified starters.
If a player of Sanchez’ calibre was in any other situation on any other team, he might’ve been demoted by now, but there are many factors at play preventing him from spending some time in the minors. One, the “we don’t have anybody else” rationale applies here; the Blue Jays have very few able bodies left to eat up innings. The Blue Jays’ pitching depth has been tested to the point where they’ve used 12 different starters this year.
The other reason is Sanchez is one-plus years away from free agency. If he was in his second or third year of team control, then the Blue Jays would have ample time to explore the possibility of converting him back into a reliever or letting him “figure things out” in triple-A.
Since Sanchez is a free agent at the end of next year, the Blue Jays don’t have the luxury of time to pull the parachute on the starter experiment. They’ve committed the last four seasons to keep him in the rotation and it would be short-sighted to abandon that project now.
Plus, the Blue Jays don’t have enough runway left to convert him back into a reliever and salvage any value he has as a potential trade chip. He’s going to ride the rest of his team control as a starter – beyond that is anybody’s guess.
Where Stroman’s time with the Blue Jays seems much more finite, Sanchez’ status with this organization beyond 2020 is a mystery. It feels like it might be a fait accompli that he walks as a free agent at the end of next season. The injury concerns and the step back in his development have raised more questions for the Blue Jays than provided answers.
That’s probably the most frustrating thing about this whole scenario; the Blue Jays don’t know anything more about Sanchez today than they did on Opening Day. His future with the franchise is in question now more than ever and his development as a starter this year has shown very little progress.
To quote Charlie Montoyo, the Blue Jays “don’t have anybody else” and don’t have much choice but to let Sanchez continue to take the ball every five games. It’s a shame because he dazzled during his 2016 season, but that campaign is looking more like Sanchez’ exception and not the rule.