Tigers would love to re-sign Sanchez, but know he'll be a hot FA commodity
Anibal Sanchez talked repeatedly and often about how he’d hoped he would get a chance to land with a contender, and finally get a taste of the playoffs, and how excited he was to get it with the Detroit Tigers, who’d traded for him.
He called his first opportunity of the postseason, a start in Game 3 of the American League Division Series, a “chance of a lifetime.”
And then he got to start Game 2 of the AL Championship Series, as well as Game 3 of the World Series.
After a slow start with the Tigers, Sanchez was everything the Tigers hoped for when they traded for he and second baseman Omar Infante at the trade deadline.
“I don’t think we’d have been playing in the World Series without Sanchez and Infante on our team,” said the man who swung the trade, Tigers president and GM Dave Dombrowski, when looking back at the impact of the trade.
And it was everything Sanchez had wanted, too.
Obviously, it worked out well for both sides, player and team. Everyone got what they bargained for.
Now, Sanchez gets another opportunity of a lifetime: free agency.
On the heels of his stellar finish with the Tigers — a 2.15 ERA and a shutout in his final eight starts of the regular season, and a 1.77 postseason ERA — he’s in line for a big payday in his first foray into the free market.
It’s something he’s eagerly anticipated, too, even though he tried not to dwell upon the thought too much before the end of the season.
“You know what, I’m the person that thinks day‑by‑day. I don’t try to be ahead on anything. Right now I just focus on what I’m going to do tomorrow. The free agent I know is coming, but that’s my agent’s job,” Sanchez said during the playoffs. “That’s why I have an agent. Right now I focus on tomorrow. I don’t think too much what’s going to happen after that. The only thing I take care is I want to finish my postseason out.”
He can’t say that he never thought about it, though.
It was something he knew might impact whether or not he stayed in his adopted home town of Miami. As it turned out, he ended up being part of the Marlins’ midseason purge after they’d spent a ton of money in the offseason to assemble a contender.
“At this point I understand that’s part of the business, even this year. This year I know my free agents is coming. I was talking with my wife (Ana) and our situation. She was pregnant I prepare for it in Spring Training and say, hey, this can happen,” Sanchez said. “That’s part of the game, part of the business. And when you are going to be a free agent, some teams are going to make some move for you or they might sign you. So we have to get ready for trade (dead)line.”
Now, there’s another part of the business to attend to.
He and his agents from SFX Baseball — the same group that represents both Justin Verlander and Miguel Cabrera — will be fielding offers from around baseball for Sanchez’s services. He’s widely regarded as the second-best free agent starting pitcher available, behind Zack Greinke. Estimates for the cost of signing Sanchez range anywhere from an average of $12 million per year to somewhere in the vicinity of the $15.5 million per year that C.J. Wilson garnered last offseason.
What it won’t cost the signing team is a draft pick, though.
Under the new free agent compensation system, a team that signs Sanchez won’t have to surrender a selection in next year’s draft. Compensation does not apply to a free agent that did not spend the entirety of the previous season with one team.
While the Tigers feel satisfied they’d gotten value for the trade, they’d certainly like to bring Sanchez back if at all possible.
“I know it’s not going to be an easy pursuit by any means. I’d love to have Anibal Sanchez back if we could,” Dombrowski said.
But the GM doesn’t think the Tigers will have any special “in” because they traded for him last season.
“Do I think it helps that we had Sanchez? My answer would be yes but I’m also practical enough to know that in other ways, no, because when you get to this point, probably offers being equal, it helps you. Offers that blow you away, it doesn’t really make much difference and really what ends up happening is you’ve been through this process before, it’s the player’s right, they can do what they want, you thank them for what they did and if they get an offer that you think, hey, how can you turn it down? You wish them well,” Dombrowski said. “I’m not sure where it’s going to lead with him but I do know that he’s a very sought-after guy and people have to make their decisions on what they’re going to do.”
Manager Jim Leyland — who had gotten what he wanted, a veteran pitcher at the deadline, even more than he desired fixing the revolving door at second base — agreed that there may not be much the Tigers can do if teams start throwing money at Sanchez.
“He’s out on the open market, so God only knows how that will play out. It all sounds good, he likes it here, he wants to come back,” the manager said. “Usually those pictures of dead presidents have something to do with that.”
Getting out-bid for Sanchez wouldn’t necessarily cause the Tigers to turn to other free-agent options, though.
“You’re open-minded to it but it would have to be a substantial (upgrade) — we just don’t need a person. It would have to be somebody who we thought of as a substantial improvement for us. We look at Sanchez would make us appreciably better, but we’re very comfortable with (Rick) Porcello and (Drew) Smyly. It’s like last year we looked at some different alternatives and went through where we could address ourselves and make us significantly better at a spot,” Dombrowski said. “But if we went in with those three guys and Porcello and Smyly, and they were healthy, I would feel very comfortable with our starting rotation.”
If the Tigers do miss out on Sanchez, they’ll just have to revert to essentially the same rotation they started last year with: Verlander, Max Scherzer, Doug Fister, Porcello and Smyly.
Should Sanchez return, either Porcello or Smyly would be expendable, at least for the big-league club. Both ended up in the bullpen in the playoffs, but the Tigers don’t see either as relievers for the long term.
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