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Forget 5 or 6, Blue Jays should use 7 starters

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A reliever in 2015, Aaron Sanchez would best serve the Blue Jays as a member of a seven-man starting rotation in 2016.
A reliever in 2015, Aaron Sanchez would best serve the Blue Jays as a member of a seven-man starting rotation in 2016.
Ray Carlin-USA TODAY Sports

There is a significant problem with the Blue Jays' 2016 starting rotation. And that problem is innings.

2014 IP

2015 IP

Marcus Stroman

166.1

54

Marco Estrada

150.2

200.1

R.A. Dickey

215.2

220.2

J.A. Happ

158

172

Aaron Sanchez

133.1

109.1

Gavin Floyd

77.4

20.1

Drew Hutchison

184.2

154.1

*Numbers include playoffs and minor leagues

Toronto has two guys (Dickey and Estrada) that have proven capable of hitting the 200-inning mark in a season. They have another guy (Happ) who could conceivably be pushed to hit that mark, assuming full health.

Then you have a couple of younger arms -- Sanchez and Hutchison -- how has surpassed 100 innings in each of the past two years but remain question marks due to a lack of sustained success.

And finally, you have Stroman and Floyd who didn't even hit 75 innings combined in 2015 due to injuries.

First and foremost, the key is to keep all these guys healthy. Secondly, you want to give the pitchers the best opportunity to be successful. Thirdly, you want them to have bullets left at the end of the year for the playoffs.

With all that in mind, I suggest that the Blue Jays run with a seven-man rotation (and six-man bullpen) for at least the first six weeks of the season.

Set up the rotation this way:
Marco Estrada (Opening day in Tampa Bay)
R.A. Dickey
J.A. Happ
Aaron Sanchez and Gavin Floyd
OFF DAY
Marcus Stroman and Drew Hutchison (Opening day in Toronto)

The goal of the piggyback starters could be to get four to five innings from the starter that day with the secondary guy aiming for three to four innings. The next time up in the rotation they can switch up who starts the game. With only four off-days in the first 40 days of the season the entire pitching staff's endurance will be tested.

In the pen, you have a couple of late-game, one-inning guys in Drew Storen and Roberto Osuna. You also have a versatile guy in Brett Cecil and another lefty for more pure matchups in Randy Choate or Pat Venditte. That still leaves Jesse Chavez and Joe Biagini to soak up innings where needed.

Once the middle of May hits, the starting rotation can be reassessed based on successes/failures, injuries and other factors.

It's a little unorthodox but it's also really a no-lose situation for the Jays.