Sunday, December 16, 2012
(Not So Instant) Trade Analysis: Anibal Sanchez to the Detroit Tigers
Detroit Tigers get: SP Anibal Sanchez
Anibal Sanchez gets: 5 years, $80 million
Considering he's returning to a team that's won the AL Central two years in a row, Anibal Sanchez just re-signed with a team in flux.
The offense is the least of Detroit's questions. With a 26 year old Austin Jackson manning center field, a terrifying middle order consisting of reigning MVP Miguel Cabrera, Prince Fielder and a returning Victor Martinez and bit players Torii Hunter, Jhonny Peralta and Alex Avila, the Tigers should remain one of the league's better offenses. The Tigers' murderous looking line-up was actually a bit overrated last year, ranking 6th in the AL in runs, as they weren't particularly gifted amongst hitting home runs outside of their two sluggers, taking walks or reeling back from strikeouts. Detroit has a steady group of contributors that should only improve by upgrading their DH from the erratic Delmon Young to Victor Martinez, who's patience at the plate and power should only improve after being relieved from daily catching duties.
However, the pitching staff isn't nearly as steady. Re-signing Sanchez was a key component to their offseason, especially when looking at what their staff could have been. Justin Verlander remains one of, if not the very best pitchers in the league. No matter how erratic the rest of the staff, the Tigers always know that every five days a dominator will take the mound and keep throwing 100 mph bullets for 110 pitches. Doug Fister has been surprisingly dominant since he came to D-Town a year and a half ago, continuing his run with a 3.45 ERA, 137 strikeouts in 161 innings against only 37 walks. Between those two, they gave up 4 or more runs in only 12 of their combined 58 starts. Amazing stat.
On the other side of the bumper, Max Scherzer and Rick Porcello were the portraits of inconsistency. Scherzer remained a strikeout machine, but gave up nearly a hit per inning, including 23 homers (down from his career average of 24). Porcello wasn't nearly as effective, giving up a staggering 11.5 hits per nine innings. He's still just 23 years old, but the shine is wearing off this former first round pick. Scherzer's performances are especially vexing considering his monster fastball and propensity to dominate. Is he the April pitcher who finished the month with 1-3 with a 7.77 ERA, giving up a unreal 37 hits in 27 innings? Or is he the man who made three October starts and allowing only 4 earned runs in 17 innings?
In addition, Detroit's bullpen is a mess, and even a signing of an established closer like Rafael Soriano (which has been rumored for weeks now) won't solve every problem. In the regular season, they gave up the seventh most hits in the American League, as well as the sixth most runs and second most losses. Outside of Joaquin Benoit, no one, not even the year end's closer Phil Coke, is reliable. Adding a steady starter capable of going seven innings a night if a prerequisite for any starter that Detroit added, which is luckily what Sanchez provides
Looking at the back end of the rotation and the bullpen, there's really no question why the Tigers paid such a massive bounty for Sanchez, going past their previous offer by $10 million. Many writers have favorably compared the 29 year old Venezuelan with the number one free agent on the market, Zack Greinke, stating that Sanchez's durability, accuracy and wins over replacement match up well with the new Dodger pitcher's. Anibal's brief 74 inning stay with the Tigers was impressive enough to prove he could move from the NL to the AL, throwing 8 quality starts in 12 tries and faring even better in his first postseason (4 earned runs, 14 hits, 18 strikeouts in 20 innings). Sanchez might have peaked during his 2011 season (3.67 ERA, 9.3 K per nine, 1.28 WHIP in 196 innings), and going forward isn't going to start giving up anything less than his standard hit+ per inning.
However, for the time being, Detroit needed him to shore up the rotation behind Verlander and Fister. Scherzer, Porcello and second year man Drew Smyly represent young players with supposed upside, but definitely have their flaws and are still incredibly erratic.This team needed Sanchez's steadiness, even though he probably isn't a candidate to win a Cy Young award and cost just $5 million less than Jered Weaver did for the Angels last winter.