After it looked like he was heading to the Cubs last night, Anibal Sanchez gave the Tigers one last shot and they took it. Today, they signed him to a 5 year, $80 million contract.
The Tigers, very much in a win now mode, opened up the bank vault and got their man. The Tigers also have six starting pitchers now. After a strong performance down the stretch and in the playoffs, the Tigers made Sanchez a key target and they decided to pay.
In three full seasons of starts, Sanchez has been worth 3.8 WAR or higher. That’s worth $17 million a year on the free agent market, so this contract looks dead on. We should also factor in inflation, so the contract is probably worth it assuming he can maintain a similar level of performance. He won’t turn 29 until February, so while he isn’t especially young, he isn’t old either.
Sanchez has made a full season of starts in each of the last three years as well, so while some people think he’s an injury risk, I wouldn’t say he is any more so than any other pitcher. All in all, this is a fair deal for Sanchez. The question is if this is a good deal for the Tigers, specifically.
The Tigers had five starters going into the offseason; Verlander, Fister, Scherzer, Porcello, and Smyly. The first three are locks if they’re healthy. Porcello is only 23 and has four solid MLB seasons behind him and Smyly showed great, but slightly fragile potential in 2012. Sanchez is an upgrade over both of the backend guys, but he is more expensive.
The Tigers didn’t need to upgrade a rotation that was essentially baseball’s best in 2012, but they did. If Illitch doesn’t mind forking over more cash, why not go for Sanchez? They can trade Porcello or Smyly, they can send Smyly down, or move one to the bullpen.
Sanchez should no doubt be worth the deal in 2013, so the risk comes later. He isn’t taking cash away from anyone else, because the Tigers don’t have anywhere else to spend. The only needs are in the bullpen and bench, which aren’t places where you can spend a lot of dough.
I wouldn’t recommend this deal to a financially strapped team in the middle of rebuilding. I wouldn’t really recommend it for the Tigers. This was a deal for the Angels or Rangers or Red Sox to make. The Tigers need Sanchez less than other teams do, but they’re still better with him than without him.
If Illitch is really committed to winning at title at all costs, this is a good move because he’s the best pitcher left and those marginal wins are worth a lot to the Tigers right now. As long as this doesn’t hamstring them down the line in extension discussions with Verlander, Cabrera, Jackson, Fister, and Scherzer, this is a good deal. If the Tigers have decided they can afford all of these guys, I like it.
But they shouldn’t trade Porcello or Smyly. You need one and the other is great insurance. Unless they can add something really valuable for one of these guys they should hold on to both.
Sanchez will make the Tigers better in 2013. He will cost them $16 million to do so while the Porcello/Smyly tandem will cost closer to $5 million. They’re paying for the privilege to be a little better. That’s okay, it’s not my money. But it is my favorite team. If they win a title because of this move, I’m all for it.