Baseball is a funny game. In the blink of an eye, things can change. It wasn’t long ago that the Tigers were probably thinking that closer Jose Valverde was a definite candidate to return to the club next season, while Anibal Sanchez was just a rental in a late July trade. Early on, Sanchez did nothing to make the Tigers want to keep him, as he struggled mightily out of the gate with his new club. Almost to the point of losing his spot in the rotation. Two months later, and some excellent pitching when it counts, that same Anibal Sanchez has made himself a ton of money. Jose Valverde, in contrast, no doubt lost himself quite a bit of money, never looking right after blowing game four in Oakland.
Quite a change for the two impending Tigers free agents.
Oct 27, 2012; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Tigers starting pitcher Anibal Sanchez (19) reacts after pitching the sixth inning against the San Francisco Giants in game three of the 2012 World Series at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski has already come out publicly and said the Tigers would love to have Anibal Sanchez back. That’s quite a big deal right there. Why? Well, the Tigers GM is notorious for keeping things close to the vest, and I can’t ever think of a time where he has committed himself publicly to an impending free agent like that. Normally, we get answers that talk about exploring options, and making sure it’s the right fit for both parties. Basically, we usually get GM speak straight out of the hand book.
If the Tigers want to re-sign Sanchez, and it seems evident they do, it is obviously going to cost them a decent amount. I don’t necessarily see a scenario where Sanchez gets five years on his contract, but four certainly isn’t out of the question, and it’s probably going to be in the neighborhood of 45 to 50M dollars. It is likely just going to depend on if the Tigers are willing to spend that much, and how much Sanchez himself enjoyed his stay in Detroit, and if he is comfortable with his teammates.
I no longer presume to think that owner Mike Ilitch has a ceiling on what he is willing to spend on his ball club. His signing of Prince Fielder shocked the baseball world, and with the Tigers losing a few salaries in Delmon Young and Jose Valverde, signing Sanchez is certainly within the realm of possibility.
But what about the raises due to guys like Max Scherzer and Rick Porcello in arbitration? Well, there is that, and natural raises for many of the Tigers is going to eat up a lot of the salary that is coming off the books, but again, it would be presumptuous of us to know how far Ilitch is willing to go.
Let me operate under the assumption the Tigers get aggressive and sign Anibal Sanchez to a four year deal. That very domino could change the landscape of the Tigers off-season, and I believe in a very positive way. Signing Sanchez I believe gives Tigers GM the flexibility and the freedom for him to do something that he does about as well as any GM in the game. Make trades.
Signing Sanchez makes other guys like Rick Porcello and Max Scherzer possibilities for trades. We all know that the Tigers have plenty of holes to fill on the roster. Really, only 2B, 3B, 1B, C, and CF seem to truly set. Andy Dirks of course has made a case for regular time, but can we really count on that? Or did counting on Brennan Boesch and Ryan Raburn not teach us a lesson? Using the arbitration and progressively larger salary receiving guys like Scherzer and Porcello could potentially bring as many as six young players back in deals to the Tigers. Some of which could be middle infielders, pre-arbitration pitchers to restock the pitching losses, and corner outfielders.
Signing Sanchez would give the Tigers the ability to stay young, stay talented, and add some much needed depth and pieces to their organization.
The Tigers certainly could sit back and keep all their young arbitration eligible pitchers and still be good. I don’t doubt that one bit. But it’s time for the Tigers to get a little bit more bold. Let Dombrowski reorganize this roster by moving valuable assets, in order to obtain other valuable assets in positions of need. After all, he is one of the best in the game at that.
First things first though. The Tigers have to sign Sanchez to have that kind of flexibility. If they don’t, the Tigers as of now would go into spring training with only five viable starters. What happens if one or two of them get hurt? It could derail the season before it ever gets going.
Not signing Sanchez means the Tigers likely play things closer to the vest, and I don’t think that’s going to make for a successful off-season.
Then again, I wouldn’t put it past Mr. Ilitch to go out and get Zack Greinke, because that is what would probably shock us the most.