Aaron Sanchez won’t pitch again this season, as Astros GM Jeff Luhnow told reporters (including Mark Berman of KRIV Fox 26) that the right-hander is set to undergo shoulder surgery next week. The nature of the procedure or Sanchez’s recovery timeline isn’t yet known, as Luhnow said more details will be forthcoming after the surgery takes place.
Sanchez was already on the injured list (dating back to August 21) due to a sore right pectoral muscle, and though the severity of his shoulder problem isn’t yet established, it represents yet another troubling injury absence for the 27-year-old. Sanchez was plagued with a variety of blister, nail, and finger problems in 2017-18, and also missed over two months due to finger surgery in 2018.
These injuries derailed what was looking like a career on the rise, as Sanchez posted a league-best 3.00 ERA in 2016 for a Blue Jays team that reached the American League Championship Series. Since the end of that season, however, Sanchez has a 5.29 ERA, 7.4 K/9, and 1.54 K/BB rate over 272 1/3 innings for Toronto and Houston, as he has been unable to regain his past form even when healthy.
The Jays dealt Sanchez to the Astros as part of a four-player deal at the trade deadline, and the prevailing thought was that Sanchez could blossom with a change of scenery, particularly given how the Astros had proven to be adept at reviving pitchers’ careers or taking them to another level in recent years. This seemed like the case almost immediately, as Sanchez’s first start as an Astro saw him toss six hitless innings as part of a combined no-hitter.
After following that start up with another strong outing, however, Sanchez struggled over his next two starts, and his first season for Houston will finish with a 4.82 ERA, 7.7 K/9, and 1.78 K/BB rate over 18 2/3 innings. While it’s a small sample size, Sanchez’s home run problems (already an issue in Toronto) worsened, as he surrendered five homers over those 18 2/3 frames.
Sanchez as seen as a potential relief weapon out of the Astros’ pen in October (he excelled in a similar role during the 2015 Blue Jays’ postseason run). Since Sanchez is no longer an option, it adds another question mark to an increasingly troubled Astros relief corps as the club approaches the playoffs. Ryan Pressly, Collin McHugh, and Brad Peacock are all on the IL, while closer Roberto Osuna has been rather homer-prone himself. It remains to be seen how healthy and effective the relievers will be to back up the all-world starting quartet of Justin Verlander, Gerrit Cole, Zack Greinke, and Wade Miley.
Looking long-term, if the surgery require a long recovery period, Sanchez could even be in danger of being non-tendered by Houston in the offseason. He will be arbitration-eligible for a third and final time this winter, though he won’t carry a big price tag, after Sanchez made just under $1.271MM in 2019. With only a modest raise forthcoming, the Astros could decide to tender Sanchez a contract just to see what they can get from him next year, or perhaps work out a two-year extension to keep him into the fold for 2021 should Sanchez miss a large portion of the 2020 season.