Not surprisingly, the Blue Jays have been linked to several starting pitchers as the non-waiver trade deadline draws closer (less than a week and counting). With Drew Storen DFA’d, they might also be in the market for a reliever, though less has been heard on that front. The reason for that is likely because the expectation Aaron Sanchez is heading to the bullpen, something the organization has been telegraphing for some time.
Taking Sanchez out of the rotation leaves a pretty big hole to fill. How do you replace the dependability the 21-year-old has provided? What should the Jays be looking for if they plan to bring in a rental starter to take his place? Let’s take this notion off the table right now — Chris Sale nor Aroldis Chapman are coming here. But let’s take a moment to look at the possibilities that have been rumoured to this point:
Jeremy Hellickson (7-7, 3.84) – has gone at least six innings in his last 8 straight starts, including an 8-inning outing in a win over Miami in his last start. His 1.16 WHIP is his best in five seasons. He has experience pitching in the AL East and is certainly on a roll
Andrew Cashner (4-7, 4.79) – has only one outing longer than six innings all season, and has not regained the form shown in 2013 and 2014. However, he’s only given up 1 ER in 3 of his last 4 starts, and has dropped his ERA nearly a full run in July.
Tyson Ross (0-1, 11.81) – currently on the DL in an injury plagued season. Had a solid 3.26 ERA with a 10-12 record for San Diego last year.
Rich Hill (9-3 2.25) – no question he’s had one of the best seasons of those starters rumoured to be on the block, but the blister injury that forced him from last weekend’s start vs. the Jays has kept him out of the rotation since. Before that, he’d gone six innings in his six previous starts. If it lowers the price you have to pay, it might be worth the risk to deal for temporarily damaged goods.
Sonny Gray (4-9, 5.49) – after back-to-back 14 win seasons, Gray had a very rough start to this season. However, he has gone six innings in 6 of his last 7 outings, suggesting a return to his dominating form may be possible. But again, the price to pay is likely too high for the Jays to match.
CC Sabathia (5-8, 4.04) – he would certainly inspire aspirations to David Price’s 2015 run…he obviously has the playoff experience and pedigree, but the Yankees would have to agree to eat most of the salary due him this season…and how would Sabathia react if he’s not one of your top 3 starters going into the playoffs? And what would you have to give up to a division rival in order to get him?
From a pure consistency standpoint, the best choice is Hellickson, who has also been linked to the Orioles and Marlins, which may push the price out of the Blue Jays range. If I had a second choice it would be Sabathia, as he looked good against the Orioles in his start last Thursday, and was simply left in the game one batter too long by Joe Girardi. However, I think there are too many factors that would prohibit that deal. Hill’s injury could help drive down the price you have to pay for him, which could help the prospect-strapped Blue Jays make it happen. Adding Cashner or Ross would be a gamble with significant risk that you won’t get the value you hoped for. Regardless, it will be fascinating to see how the dominoes fall this week.