By: Jay Blue
Jays From Away
On Sunday, the Toronto Blue Jays placed right-handed starter Aaron Sanchez on the 10-day disabled list and recalled lefty Matt Dermody from the Buffalo Bisons. This move addressed a need in the bullpen for another lefty in the bullpen after the Blue Jays recalled righty Dominic Leone from Buffalo when lefty J.P. Howell went on the DL.
The recall of Dermody, however, does not address the need for another starter when Sanchez’s turn in the rotation comes around again. Let’s explore some of the Blue Jays’ options for filling Sanchez’s spot in the rotation.
Option #1: Never Gonna Happen
This option is probably the least likely to occur and has the Blue Jays using the bullpen to fill the role, ultimately stretching Joe Biagini out to a starter’s role by giving him more and more innings in each subsequent start. Biagini starts with two to three innings and Dominic Leone takes two to three innings in relief. They’re followed by the other bullpen arms and, if Sanchez is out for three or more weeks, we could eventually see Biagini and Leone covering seven to eight innings between the two of them, depending on pitch counts.
Option #2: The Options Option
The Blue Jays bring Casey Lawrence back to fill the role. This option is also known as the “Path of Least Resistance,” meaning that the Jays won’t have to make room on the 40-man roster and Lawrence can come and go as the club needs. Lawrence made two appearances with the Blue Jays already this year and hasn’t given up a run in three innings with Buffalo.
Option #3: The Journeyman
Like last year’s excellence shown by Wade LeBlanc, Jarett Grube has started off his season extremely well in Buffalo, allowing three runs in 11 innings with the Bisons, striking out 10 and walking only one. Grube is the prototypical journeyman, however, not making his big league debut until 2014 and the now-35-year-old Grube is trying to get back to get more than 2/3 of an inning under his belt in the bigs. Grube is not on the 40-man roster and someone would have to be removed for him to come up.
Option #4: Recapture the Magic
Mat Latos was a three-time 14-game winner in the major leagues, pitching out of friendlier pitchers’ parks (and divisions) with San Diego and Cincinnati in the NL West and NL Central. He had five consecutive years withan ERA under 3.50 and logged over 184 2/3 innings in four of those five years. Since 2015, however, he’s struggled to pitch well and stay on the field and is looking to get back to the major leagues again.
Like Grube, Latos is not on the 40-man roster and someone would have to get designated for assignment to make room.
The other complication is that Latos is the biggest name of the bunch and is likely to opt out of his contract by June if he doesn’t get the first shot at a major league spot. Latos has experience but, if he isn’t good at the big league level, there’s a chance that the Jays lose him (when trying to get him off the roster after his Blue Jays audition) as well as lose whomever they designate to make room for him. For upside, we have to look back to 2014 when he was excellent in half a season with Cincinnati – in a league without the DH and in a division where parks are much better for pitchers.
Option #5: Lefty with Upside
At 27, T.J. House is the youngest of the potential suitors for Sanchez’s rotation spot. The lefty has big league experience, throwing 102 innings with the Indians, posting a 3.35 ERA and 1.32 WHIP in 2014. While he struggled in 2015, he was dealing with injuries and has only 2 2/3 innings of big league time in 2016 since then. With the Buffalo Bisons, House has been excellent, giving up one run in 11 2/3 innings while striking out 12 and walking five.
Like Latos and Grube, House is not on the 40-man roster so someone will have to be removed to make room but since T.J. House threw yesterday (Saturday), if someone is to slot right in to Sanchez’s spot in the rotation on Wednesday, House would not have to adjust his routine at all.
Option #6: The Bolsinger
Mike Bolsinger was designated for assignment at the end of spring training and was assigned to the Buffalo Bisons. Bolsinger has big league experience with 109 1/3 innings with the Dodgers in 2015 as well as partial seasons with the Diamondbacks in 2014 and the Dodgers in 2016. Bolsinger’s most recent major league track record isn’t good, with a 6.83 ERA and 1.52 WHIP in 27 2/3 innings in six starts with the Dodgers last year but he was solid in 2015 with a 3.62 ERA and 1.36 WHIP. He’s only thrown 1 2/3 innings with the Bisons thus far and has allowed two hits and a walk with three strikeouts.
Bolsinger would also have to be placed back on the 40-man roster to get back on the Blue Jays.
I think Mat Latos would be the dark horse to get the first shot at the rotation. The fact that he chose to stay with the Blue Jays’ organization after he didn’t make the big league club in spring training may cause the front office to feel like that must be rewarded or else the club would lose him to free agency. I also think that the potential upside of Latos finding the form that saw him finish in the top 10 of Cy Young Award voting in 2010 helps to justify this choice.
Casey Lawrence would be 1A to get the call. Being on the 40-man roster could be the ace up his sleeve that gets him back to Toronto.
As an armchair GM, I go with T.J. House. He’s shown that he’s beyond the injury that kept him out of a lot of spring training. I think there’s still upside in the 27 year old lefty and he’s off to a great start with Buffalo.