According to Jon Heyman and Rob Biertempfel, the Pirates are close to a minor league deal with pitcher Jonathan Sanchez. The 30-year-old lefty is coming off a miserable year (1-9, 8.07 ERA), although he had a fair amount of success with the Giants from 2006-2011. He’s been inconsistent but has shown flashes of brilliance, including a no-hitter in 2009 and a great season in 2010.
To me, Sanchez is basically a poor man’s Francisco Liriano. They have extremely similar profiles, but Liriano probably has the higher upside and the higher floor. The trouble with Sanchez–just like with Liriano–is control. He has a 5.0 BB/9 rate for his career, which is dreadful (Liriano posted 5 BB/9 in his worst years, but his career rate is 3.8). Sanchez also gets tons of strikeouts like Liriano–they have identical 9.1 K/9 career rates, although Sanchez dropped down to 6.3 in his miserable 2012.
The fact that this will be a minor league deal makes Sanchez a worthwhile pickup–there’s nothing wrong with grabbing a potentially useful player for a very small cost with almost no risk involved. If the Bucs were set with their rotation and wanted to add Sanchez as depth and/or take a flier on his potential, that’d be wonderful. Because of the Liriano situation (which continues to be a total mystery), however, they aren’t set with the rotation. Is Sanchez going to replace Liriano? Value-wise, it’s a good pickup…but I don’t think anybody really envisions (or wants to envision) Sanchez in the Opening Day rotation coming off such a horrid season. I obviously don’t know if this means anything about the Liriano situation, but it certainly seems to indicate that he’s either not going to be a Pirate or that he’ll be on the shelf for longer than we hoped.
It seems safe to at least assume that Liriano will miss the start of the year, and if that’s the case I don’t see why Sanchez couldn’t compete for the final spot in the rotation (going up against Jeff Locke and Kyle McPherson). While Sanchez’s 2012 was horrible, adding his potential to the mix can’t really be a bad thing going in to the battle for that final spot.
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