Let’s get something straight— Anibal Sanchez is not quite an ace. He is a great middle-of-the-rotation arm until he proves otherwise, but with that said, he is still worth ace-esque money. And ace-esque money is what suitors will seemingly be willing to pay him this off-season. Those handful of suitors are a smart bunch.
The longtime Miami Marlins player and stellar in-season addition to the Detroit Tigers in 2012, has his demands out there, and they are lofty. According to Jon Morosi of Fox Sports, Sanchez is looking for roughly a six-year contract worth $90 million. That ratio would equate to exactly $15 million per year.
Is Sanchez worth an annual salary of $15 million, though? Well, that’s a tough decision. There is a side of Sanchez that’s clearly well deserving of a wealthy salary, but there’s also a side that is, well, not worthy, to say the least.
The negative sided Sanchez is one who lets walks affect him. And walks lead to runs, in bunches, usually. That Sanchez made many appearances during his first four or so years in the major leagues. Specifically, his walk per nine innings rate ballooned to nearly 4.00 from 2006-to-2010. Making adjustments to his approach, Sanchez has totaled a much-improved 2.60 rate since 2011 to the present.
Those walk-heavy outings have been trimmed substantially over the past few years though. In 2009, his walk percentage was 12 percent, in 2010 it was 8.3 percent, in 2011 it was 7.7 percent, and finally in 2012 it was a career-best 5.9 percent. So those year by year improvements are very encouraging.
Although, that is not to say that the common bump in the road is entirely vanquished. Granted, all pitchers endure that bad-start here and there, but Sanchez seems to compile a few more than the typical $15 million pitcher even with the progression he has made. This specific trait isn’t worthy of a big contract.
The good side of Sanchez, on the other hand, is certainly worthy of $15 million per season. This side of Sanchez piles up strikeouts like they’re second natured, and more importantly, the walk outputs are dramatically lower. Sanchez has fit that description more and more over the past couple years, but will a pair of seasons be enough to outweigh his past full of inconsistency?
A lengthy list of suitors which most notably includes the Los Angeles Dodgers, Boston Red Sox and the Toronto Blue Jays, certainly think so. If anything, the contract he eventually signs could surpass $15 million a year because a heated bidding war between top-market organizations is a foreseeable happening. Even small-market teams such as the Minnesota Twins, for example, could simply just join the war to balloon the cost that the winning team will end up having to fork up.
While I’m making Sanchez sound like a bust before he has even signed a deal, there are also plenty of reasons to believe that he could develop into an ace. Remember, he is only 28-years-old, and could very well be on the brink of entering his prime. The prime version of Sanchez could mirror Zack Greinke, or possibly even Felix Hernandez if he logs a few more innings a season.
Since 2010, Sanchez has ranked in the middle of the pack based on basic stats, as his earned run average checks in the mid 3.00s. But if you dig a littler deeper, Sanchez has been better than just a middle of the pack pitcher over the past three seasons. His FIP (Fielding Independent Percentage) of 3.40 ranks 18th in baseball since 2010.
FIP is a stat that basically calculates what a pitcher’s ERA should be without bad luck and errors. His 3.40 mark fixtures him into a broad group consisting of Chris Carpenter, Gio Gonzalez,Tim Lincecum, and Mat Latos. Those are some highly respected and accomplished names.
Additionally, his stellar postseason performances (3 Starts, 1.77 ERA increased his value greatly. Not only did he produce on the big stage, but he did it against formidable offenses in the New York Yankees, Oakland A’s and San Francisco Giants. All three of those teams know how to score, whether it’s through the long ball or small ball. Sanchez, though, kept their respective scoring outputs to a minimum.
Basically, Sanchez is worth the hype of a massive contract, as the right-hander is essentially a rich man’s version of Hiroki Kuroda, except Sanchez will sign for more years. Talent-wise, he vaunts the potential to become even better than he currently is, and could make for a really nice number two starter in any team’s rotation. While many fans may disagree, Sanchez is worth all $90 million.
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