It was a whirlwind week for the Blue Jays pitching staff.
In a span of seven days Toronto rid themselves of three of their worst relievers (Drew Storen, Jesse Chavez, Franklin Morales), brought in four new pitchers (Joaquin Benoit, Scott Feldman, Mike Bolsinger, Francisco Liriano), and confirmed the controversial decision to move staff ace and potential Cy Young candidate Aaron Sanchez to the bullpen (more on that later).
Now take a breath.
At risk of sounding like the ultimate homer, I like the trades. Drew Storen was terrible this year, and he didn’t look like he was going to snap out of his funk.
As obvious from the above table, there was nothing positive happening for Storen. Nothing was trending in the right direction. In fact, it can be argued that he was actually getting worse as the season progressed.
Jesse Chavez, while not as big of a train wreck as Storen, was also a huge disappointment. He had a decent April (1.93 ERA), but was a disaster the rest of the way, allowing 19 ER in 32 IP (5.34 ERA). There are 27 pitchers in the AL that have inherited at least 20 runners. Of those 27, Chavez has the second worst rate of allowing those runners to score (48.4%). He also surrendered nine home runs, the third most of any relief pitcher in the AL.
Yes Benoit has had a tough year thus far (5.18 ERA with 5.5 walks per 9 in Seattle), but he brings experience (four years of playoff exposure) and a decent track record to suggest he might be able to turn things around. His 0.00 ERA in four innings as a Jay is a good start (though the four walks do not bode well). Feldman was pitching well in Houston and offers Toronto help as a reliever or spot starter. Bolsinger adds emergency depth.
The real gamble for the Jays is the return to form of Francisco Liriano. After three great seasons in Pittsburgh he has come crashing down hard in 2016 with a 5.46 ERA and a league leading 69 walks. However, as has been written elsewhere, his velocity and pitch selection have not dropped, meaning his stuff is still there. He just needs to pitch better. Maybe reuniting him with Russell Martin gives him the spark he needs. Maybe it doesn’t. But let’s be honest – Hutchison was never going to succeed in Toronto so why not take a shot at a guy who has the potential to bolster the staff and deliver in the playoffs? And to bring back two quality prospects to boot? Not a bad deal by any means.
Perhaps most impressive is the fact that Shapiro and Atkins added salary as a result of these trades. More encouraging was Shapiro saying yesterday that the team can still afford to be very aggressive during the August waiver trade window.
For a guy with a reputation of selling and penny-pinching at every opportunity, that is music to Jays fans ears.