Free-agent-to-be Villanueva proving worth as starter

Free-agent-to-be Villanueva proving worth as starter

Free-agent-to-be Villanueva proving worth as starter
TORONTO -- The Blue Jays have a big decision to make this offseason with regards to impending free agent Carlos Villanueva.

Villanueva, who started the year as a long reliever, has performed admirably in the starting rotation over 13 starts. The right-hander is 8-5 with a 3.58 ERA and has held opponents to a .240 batting average.

With the exception of Brandon Morrow -- who missed over two months with an oblique strain -- Villanueva has been Toronto's best starter this season, which will likely drive up his price tag as a result.

"Obviously, part of the criteria, and that's not to take anything away from him, but that's the unknown with Carlos," general manager Alex Anthopoulos said. "He has never had 200 innings, he's never had 32 or 34 starts. I think we'd all say we love what we see with what he has done for us. He's a great teammate and all of those things, but we've only had bits and pieces of him starting."

Those bits and pieces included last season, when Villanueva made 13 starts but eventually had to go back to the bullpen following a stint on the disabled list with a right forearm strain.

He trained as a starter this offseason, though, and it looks like it has paid off. But manager John Farrell and Anthopoulos have consistently said they aren't sure how Villanueva will hold up over an entire season in the rotation, and Farrell has expressed a desire to see him go deeper into games.

Villanueva has only gone more than six innings and thrown more than 100 pitches four times this season.

Whether the Blue Jays are being overly protective with him or see signs of fatigue in the later innings remains to be seen, but they only have a few weeks left to come to a conclusion before he hits the market.

"We don't have enough information, but that's not to say we don't like him or don't want him back," Anthopoulos said.

"I don't want to doubt him. But I also have to be objective and realistic too. It's more how do you value a player. ... We've seen a lot of starters do well for two or three months and then the second half of the season the workload and all of that ends up having an impact. That's the unknown, and there's not enough time left in the season to have Carlos be a starter from Day 1 to see the body of work.

"But off the sample we have now, it has been great."