After two rough seasons in a row, Detroit Tigers pitcher Anibal Sanchez may find himself in an interesting spot heading into spring training of 2017.
Between 2013-14, Anibal Sanchez was a very underrated member of a star-studded Detroit Tigers pitching staff. That now seems like a very long time ago.
After a rough season last year, Sanchez had an even rockier year in 2016, going 7-13 with a 5.87 ERA over 35 games (26 starts). His was a bit better in the second half, posting a 4.84 ERA compared to a mark of 6.75 in the first half. However, his last two seasons have still been a far cry from a 2013 campaign that saw him finish fourth in the American League Cy Young voting.
Sanchez is signed through next season at a cost of $16.8 million, per Baseball-Reference. He has $16 million option for 2018 with a $5 million buyout.
Despite having two rocky seasons in a row, Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports reported in November that Sanchez has still been able to draw at least some trade interest this offseason. He also mentioned the likelihood of the Tigers having to eat some of his salary in order for teams to become interested.
Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports also reported the news of Sanchez’s name being mentioned on the trade block and noted that it would be a “start” to their reported salary cutting efforts.
The Tigers have been open about their willingness to listen to offers on their veteran players this winter, and Sanchez would fit into that category. However, if they are unable to move him, it will be interesting to see how the Tigers end up using him next year.
At it stands right now, Justin Verlander, Michael Fulmer and Jordan Zimmermann are likely to be the only three “locks” to make the Tigers starting rotation. There will likely be two spots up for grabs, but Sanchez will be competing against left-handers Daniel Norris and Matt Boyd.
Norris, who made 13 starts overall last season and posted a sparkling 2.73 ERA in the month of September, is believed by many to have All-Star potential. Boyd made 18 starts for the Tigers in 2016, and looked very capable of being a mid-to-back-end-of-the-rotation starter.
Veteran Mike Pelfrey, another veteran pitcher who is coming off of a poor season, remains in the mix as well. Though Sanchez could still pull off a surprise and win a spot in the rotation, it may take an awfully impressive spring training performance, barring an injury to one of the team’s other starters. It will also be interesting to see what the Tigers do if Sanchez doesn’t have a good spring training.
Although one option could be for the Tigers to simply cut their losses and release Sanchez, it may be better to keep him around as an extra bullpen arm and/or swingman, at least at first. Sanchez appeared in 14 games out of the Tigers bullpen in 2016, and though the 4.30 ERA he posted as a reliever wasn’t great, it was better than the 6.04 ERA he had as a starter.
Though it remains to be seen if setup man Mark Lowe can bounce back, the Tigers currently have a few solid bullpen arms in Shane Greene, Justin Wilson, Alex Wilson, Bruce Rondon and closer Francisco Rodriguez. Perhaps the soon-to-be 33-year-old Sanchez could still be a nice complement to an already intriguing group.