MLB - The So What (7/6/17)

By Frank Brank @realfrankbrank
Each week, we evaluate the latest roster moves that will impact teams the greatest. This week, we'll cover some contenders and some potential moves that can affect the playoff race as the trade deadline approaches.

Aaron Sanchez Returns
Aaron Sanchez is set to return to the Blue Jays' rotation on Friday against the Astros after being set back with a blister for the last few months. Sanchez had a healthy rehab starts and should replace Joe Biagini in the rotation as he transitions back to the bullpen. The move serves two purposes. The Jays get an impressive starter back, and their bullpen improves drastically as well. Sanchez burst onto the scene as a reliever for the Jays before being pushed into a starter last season while supporting a 3.00 ERA, 3.55 FIP and compiling 3.9 wins above replacement according to fWAR.

What does it mean?
Sanchez should be able to make around 15 starts for the remainder of the season assuming he has no additional health issues. In nearly two months that Biagini held down a rotation spot, his peripherals were fine but came up with a 5.60 ERA. He wasn't much more than a replacement level player; however, he would be a plus reliever for the Blue Jays. Collectively, the move adds about two wins to the starting rotation in Sanchez's return and one half of a win to their pen. Two and a half wins for the Jays could sneak them into the playoffs. In this week's full season projections, the Jays finished with 81.4 wins on average. This move would boost them to around 84 wins and could sneak vault them back into the Wild Card race in the American League.

Ian Desmond Exits, Carlos Gonzalez Enters
Desmond and CarGo are mirror images of one another. Coincidentally, they hit on the opposite side of the plate, are worth about the same value to the Rockies, and have been entering and exiting the Rockies' lineup all year. Over the last few seasons, both of their hitting value has diminished. The best hitting season for either player since 2014 was 114 (14% above the average hitter) by Gonzalez two seasons ago. For the rest of the season, Desmond is projected to have a 90 wRC+, Gonzalez is rated at 95. Given an equal amount of plate appearances, the two would each provide about one half win of value to the Rockies above a replacement-level player.

What does it mean?
Since they will be swapping spots here, there is no tangible effects to the Rockies. Colorado has struggled as of late but is still expected to make the second NL Wild Card spot. Their win total of 88.8 would put them third in the NL West and eight wins clear of the closest NL Wild Card contender.

Charlie Morton Boosts Astros Rotation
We didn't anticipate writing about Charlie Morton's return this week considering where the Astros lead in the AL, but here we are. The Astros have a huge lead and will easily win the AL West, but we can't expect them to continue to compete and dominate teams at this level with their second-best starter being Mike Fiers. We would have said Charlie Morton isn't an upgrade at the beginning of this season but something interesting happened. Morton went from throwing 92 mph sinkers to 96 mph sinkers. Though his 4.06 ERA isn't winning any Cy Young's, it's an above average mark once we control for park factors. We also shouldn't expect Morton to give up home runs, or hits in general, at the rate he has through his first 57.2 innings this season. His 3.58 xFIP may be a better indication of where he's headed if he stays healthy for the remainder of the year.

What does it mean?
Charlie Morton could be the Astros second-best starter, behind McCullers, once he returns on Friday. Dallas Keuchel is still on the disabled list and they'll need some reinforcements even after Keuchel returns. Don't put it past Morton to make the playoff rotation in the third spot in that case if he continues to feature 96 mph sinkers. Overall, we should expect a healthy Morton to make around 15 starts for the rest of the season. At this rate, he'll be worth 1.4 wins for the Astros throughout the rest of the season. Even with Morton returning, we should expect the Astros to be buying at least one starting pitcher at the deadline. Morton may save them from trading too much away if he's able to continue his progress.