When the Detroit Tigers acquired Anibal Sanchez at the trade deadline, fans and pundits perceived him as a rental. General manager Dave Dombrowski could keep him around beyond this year, though, according to a Monday report from Tom Gage of the Detroit News.
“Yeah, he’s a player we’d like to keep,” Dombrowski told reporters at a press conference.
With Drew Smyly coming off a solid rookie year and Justin Verlander and three other starters team-controlled through at least 2014, re-signing Sanchez would mean a surplus of starters. For financial and logistical reasons, the Tigers would have to let someone go.
Sanchez would present an upgrade over either Rick Porcello or Smyly. Doug Fister and Max Scherzer made a combined $4,257,500 this year, and both are poised to seek significant raises in arbitration. Those increased contract hits make it seem probable that, if Sanchez does return, Detroit will opt to keep the cheaper Smyly over Porcello.
The decision comes to whether the Tigers prefer to let Sanchez walk for nothing or to trade Porcello and re-sign Sanchez for what should be a higher price.
Porcello made $3.1 million this year and will be arbitration-eligible for the first time in 2013. Meanwhile, Sanchez will be a free agent and looking for a raise from the $8 million he made in 2012.
The next question is whether the few million dollars in budget increase with Sanchez would be set off by the performance upgrade over Porcello and the potential prospects they would get in return. To me, it seems like a no-brainer.
Porcello won’t become a free agent until 2016. He’s won 48 games before his 24th birthday and has four full seasons under his belt. Those facts, along with that that pitching is always in demand, will make him a valuable commodity on the trade market this winter.
As a strikeout pitcher, Sanchez also fits better with the Tigers, who feature a questionable infield defense that hurts Porcello, a groundball pitcher. Neither does Porcello take advantage of spacious Comerica Park.
Having started only a dozen regular season games for Detroit, playoff performance is crucial for Sanchez if he hopes to get a long-term offer from the Tigers. He’ll make his playoff debut tonight as Detroit looks to finish off the strikeout-prone Oakland Athletics.
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