In a surprise move, the Blue Jays have optioned one of the American League’s best starters, right-hander Aaron Sanchez, to Single-A Dunedin, reports Shi Davidi of Sportsnet (Twitter link). To take Sanchez’s roster spot, the club recalled left-handed reliever Aaron Loup from Triple-A Buffalo.
Manager John Gibbons said Friday that the Jays were considering skipping a Sanchez start to limit his workload, notes Davidi (Twitter link), so the fact that he’s headed to the minors isn’t a total shock. As long as he’s down for fewer than 20 days, Sanchez will still accrue a full year of service time, tweets Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet. That will indeed be the case, as Sanchez expects to rejoin the Jays for an Aug. 31 start against the Orioles, per Davidi (Twitter link).
The hard-throwing Sanchez was previously scheduled to make his 25th start of the year next Saturday against the Twins. In his 24th outing, Sanchez yielded five runs (four earned) on four hits and a walk in four innings of a 6-5 win over the Indians on Saturday. Despite that less-than-stellar showing, Sanchez has fared brilliantly this season. In his first full year as a starter, Sanchez has emerged as a high-end option while logging a 2.99 ERA, 7.60 K/9, 2.65 BB/9 and 57.1 percent ground-ball rate in 156 1/3 frames. There has been much discussion along the way about an innings limit for Sanchez, who tossed just over 100 last season in the majors and minors. His previous high since joining the Blue Jays organization as a first-round pick in the 2010 draft came in 2014, when he amassed a combined 133 1/3 innings at three levels. When the Jays switched to a six-man rotation earlier this month to help preserve Sanchez, president of baseball operations Mark Shapiro told the media “no scenario” exists in which the 24-year-old will throw 220-plus innings this season.
At 70-53 and in first place in the American League East, the Blue Jays look as though they’ll play into October, which further complicates the Sanchez situation. If Toronto does clinch a playoff berth, the expectation is that Sanchez will factor heavily into the team’s plans as it attempts to win a World Series. For now, though, Sanchez will go down a few levels to help ensure his place in a potential playoff run. His departure will leave the Jays with a capable rotation featuring AL Cy Young hopeful JA Happ, Marco Estrada, Marcus Stroman, RA Dickey and Francisco Liriano.