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MLB: Toronto Blue Jays at New York Yankees Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

Aaron Sanchez has been a part of my life on the site for a long time. I have a Sanchez jersey, which will sit beside the Halladay, Sanchez, Lawrie, Bautista and Encarnacion jerseys.

Aaron was one of our 4 first round picks in the 2010 draft (back in the days that Alex worked the rules to get as many picks as possible. The league changed some of the rules that Alex used to get us so many picks). That year, in the first round, we picked:

  • Deck McGuire (11th)
  • Aaron (34th)
  • Noah Syndergaard (38th)
  • Asher Wojciechowski (who the Jays beat tonight, 41st)

If you ignore that first one, it looks like a pretty good group.

Aaron’s first couple of seasons, in our minor league system, weren’t great. He had some troubles finding the strikezone (I’m sure that doesn’t surprise you). He was around the 10th spot on our prospect lists, for a couple of years, but in 2012 he put things together and jumped to the top of our list. I wrote:

1. Aaron Sanchez: Aaron was a first round pick in the 2010 draft, we picked Deck McGuire with our first first round pick, and then picked other first round picks Noah Syndergaard and Asher Wojciechowski after him. Sanchez had a really good 2012 season, going 8-5, with a 2.49 ERA, with 51 walks and 97 strikeouts in 90 innings at Lansing. A few too many walks, which is why Woodman had Osuna in the number one spot and Sanchez at number two. He might be right, Sanchez does have a bit of work to do on his control. He has a lot of movement on his pitches and sometimes they move out of the strike zone. He throws a sinking fastball in the mid-90’s, a good curve and a good changeup. He’s just 20, so he has time to learn to keep his pitches in the strike zone. We had him at number 10 last year.

And he was appearing in everyone’s top 100 prospect lists. Baseball America had him #65 in 2013, #32 in 2014 and #27 in 2015.

In 2014 he was called up to the majors in late July to work out of the bullpen. He had made 20 starts in the minors and the team wanted to manage his innings, so using him in the pen seemed a great idea. He was absolutely amazing, throwing a 97.6 mph fastball on average and the occasional terrific curve. He pitched in 24 games, with a 1.09 ERA. Batters hit .128/.202/.165. He had 3 saves and 7 holds. He pitched more than an inning in 12 of the 24 games.

Going into spring training of the 2015 season, the plan was to have Aaron pitch out of the bullpen again and, perhaps share the closer role. But, when Marcus Stroman torn his ACL, a spot opened in the rotation and Aaron took it. He made 11 starts, had a 5-4 record with a 3.55 ERA, when he went on the DL with a ‘lat strain’.

When he came back from the injury, the team decided to put him back into the bullpen, mostly because they wouldn’t have to send him to the minors to stretch him out to starter innings again. As a reliever he had a 2.39 ERA in 30 games. Gibby held him to an inning (or less) in each appearance.

Everything went right for Aaron in 2016. He led the AL in ERA at 3.00. He made 30 starts, pitched 192 innings. Finished 5th in Cy Young voting. As well, he gave us our one win against Cleveland in the ALCS. The future looked bright.

In 2016, there was a thought, when the team picked up Francisco Liriano at the deadline, that Aaron would be moved to the bullpen to limit his innings. After Aaron (and some of his teammates) objected, the team decided to keep him in the rotation, but to go to a 6-man rotation.

2017? Well, it was lost to blisters and remedies for blisters. He made just 8 starts.

2018? It was a mess too. Time spent trying to find new grips. Trying to find what pitches wouldn’t cause blisters. He seemed to be getting it together in June, 4 starts, 3.72 ERA, 19.1 innings, 21 strikeouts, 10 walks (which might not sound great, but it was big step in the right direction).

And then he left his June 21st start with a ‘contusion’ on a finger. Apparently he jammed his finger on a piece of luggage, earlier that day, and then tried to pitch through it. He wouldn’t make another start until August 25th and then it was back to trying to figure things out again.

This year, once again a search for consistency, release points, which pitches work, and all. He actually wasn’t too bad in April, too many walks, but allowed 2 or less earned runs in 5 of 6 starts.

May and June were terrible. In 12 starts he had an 8.52 ERA. He allowed 81 hits and 32 walks in 56 innings. A .338/.421/.529 batting line against wasn’t something we wanted to see.

His last four starts were.....better. Only 3 walks in 20.2 innings. Still batters hit .299/.344/.460 against him. It seemed like a step in the right direction. Aaron Zwelling has a post up suggesting that it might not have been. His velocity and movement were both down (maybe caused by trying to keep the ball in the strikezone), but it was nice to see him get through some starts without walking guys.

Aaron’s been hit very hard this year, his 39.2 hard hit percentage is a big step up from last year’s 33.4. When you walk 11.3% of batters and nearly half the guys you aren’t walking hit the ball hard, it isn’t a recipe for success. And it explains why teams weren’t knocking down the door to trade for him.

Baseball Reference has him at a -0.5 WAR, while FanGraphs has him at 0.9 on the positive side (his FIP is 5.03). I have a hard time believing he should have a positive WAR.

I always figured I was Aaron’s biggest fan. I always thought he’d find his way back to what he was in 2016, if he could be injury free for a year or two.

For me, he isn’t a hard guy to like. He seems to be the polar opposite of Marcus Stroman. I think that, while I love watching Marcus from a distance, I think I’d like Aaron if I knew him. He seems closer to me in personality. Quiet, seems to have a good sense of humor, seems to get along with everyone. There is a line in Zwelling’s story:

You certainly won’t find anyone rooting against Sanchez thriving in Houston. His now-former teammates, Blue Jays personnel and, admittedly, those who cover the team, would all be thrilled to see the guy from 2016 re-emerge. It would be a nice result for a nice guy.

There is a subtle suggestion in there that there are some who would be happy to see Marcus fail.

Aaron, even at his best, wasn’t entertaining in the way that Marcus is. I don’t think that’s good or bad, I think baseball is big enough to contain all sorts of personalities. And I’m big enough, as a fan, to enjoy watching players of different personalities.

The big question is will he ever be good again?

The Jays obviously don’t think it is likely. They were willing to ship him off (and throw Joe Biagini (speaking of different personalities) and Cal Stevenson into the deal) so they wouldn’t be forced to bet on it.

I will admit I hated the trade when it happened.

Now that I’ve had a couple of days to think about it, I understand it. Not that I like it, but I understand it.

Aaron will get a little bit more money next year and, well, they spend a lot of pitching coach time trying to figure how to fix him. Perhaps they feel that the time and effort (and money) could be better spent on other pitchers.

Throwing Biagini into the trade? Well, I’ve grown to like him, I still think he works way to hard to try be funny. I can see how his personality might grate on people that have to deal with him all the time. As a pitcher, we’ll he’s having a pretty good year, and he’s still a roughly average reliever. Stevenson I don’t like giving up, I’ve never thought he was much of a prospect (and I know we overvalue our prospects), but would have liked seeing him climb the ladder in our system.

I don’t think Fisher is much of a prospect either, but it might be worth giving him a couple of hundred at bats to find out. We seem to have a few outfielders in that ‘could be decent, won’t be a star’ range. Perhaps platooning him with Teoscar might work out.

I guess, what I didn’t like about the trade (besides that I’m a fan of Sanchez) is that it is one more link to the playoff years gone. I liked having him (and Marcus) on the mound in part because it reminded me of the good times. I know, logically, that neither was likely to be part of the next good team, but I like reminders of the playoff years. I think there is a value in keeping players around to remind fans of where we’ve been and remind them that we could go back.

I can understand that the team doesn’t think he’ll be good again. And they are likely right. Let’s face it, odds are long. And my nostalgia really shouldn’t get in the way of building the next good team, but it is hard to get past this feeling.

While I didn’t like the trade, I thought the reaction to it is was over the top. I love Aaron, but I knew and everyone knew, a trade involving him wasn’t going to bring us a lot. No trade involving him was going to move the needle in any direction.

Memories of Aaron?

  • That first season, pitching out of the pen, blowing people away with that fastball and making them look silly on his curve.
  • Bad commercials come to mind. I don’t think acting is his thing, but good on him for trying.
  • Watching him throw a perfect curve is my biggest memory. I wish I saw it more often.
  • His win against Cleveland in the playoffs, saving us from going out four games straight.
  • Most of the good memories are from his 2016 season. I guess the game that stands out is his 12 strikeout game against the Tigers.

Share your thoughts and memories.