In a recent interview with Brian Sabean we learn that the team is going to push Sanchez into the bullpen. What does this mean for the future of Jonathan Sanchez? Back in February the word was that Sanchez was going to be given a role and he would stick with it. No moving back between starting and relieving like he did in 2006. So, it goes to reason that if he’s moved into the pen this year that’s where he will stay for this year and the foreseeable future.
You can see why the Giants would want Sanchez in the bullpen. He did well in a short time relieving in 2006. The current bullpen looks disastrous and any stability would be welcome. But, I’m not so sure that I can dig on this move just yet. The bullpen has looked awful this spring but, silver lining, spring training stats are essentially useless. Should the Giants be panicking and moving Sanchez into the pen?
Here’s why I would like to see Sanchez start the year in Fresno and continue to work on starting, developing arm strength, and working on his breaking stuff.
1. Trust me, I’m loving the Russ Ortiz Comeback Feel Good Story of the Year ™, but at some point you’ve got to be semi-realistic or at least exercise caution and not blind optimism. I admit, I haven’t seen Ortiz throw yet this spring but would it surprise anyone if he blew up in the majors by mid-May? If and when Ortiz does explode, and loses his 5th rotation spot, who will fill that spot? Sending Sanchez to AAA and letting him to continue to work on starting would enable him to jump right into the 5-spot. No worries. As it is, someone like Hennessey, Misch, or even Lincecum would have to fill that spot. Which leads me to my next point.
2. Even if Lincecum does fill that 5th spot, the starting rotation is still in the process of changing. Morris has one more year after this and Sanchez sure would look nice in his spot. Lowry is still looking very inconsistent (all together, chant spring training stats mean nothing) and Lowry could lose his rotation spot if his spring struggles carry over into the season. Letting Sanchez to continue to start in AAA gives the Giants great insurance, while maximizing Sanchez’s value.
3. Sanchez has more value as a starter than a reliever. This is the same reason that many questioned the Red Sox moving Papelbon back to the closers role. A solid starter will add more win shares to a team than a solid reliever who only pitches 70 to 80 innings a year. Sanchez would provide the most value as a starter to the Giants. Lefties that throw in the low 90s are rare and he could be a real asset in the rotation.
It doesn’t make sense to me, to waste the potential of Sanchez’s arm in the bullpen. He should be given a honest effort to continue to develop as a starter. If he fails as a starter, then why not move him into the bullpen? It makes sense to me. The bullpen is usually the place where guys go who can’t handle starting pitching (either by never developing the needed 3rd pitch, lacking the needed endurance, or just unable to perform as a starter)
I do think the Giants are making a very strong statement with this move in favor of Lincecum. For better or worse, he would be the favorite now to move into the rotation if injury or ineffectiveness strike. This could all be a moot point after Sanchez nets 40+ saves in the ‘pen and making me look like a idiot. That’s never happened before. Never.*
* I thought the AJ trade was going to be ok. Nnngh!