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Detroit Tigers: What to do with Anibal Sanchez?

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Apr 28, 2016; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Tigers starting pitcher Anibal Sanchez (19) kisses the ball during the third inning against the Oakland Athletics at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 28, 2016; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Tigers starting pitcher Anibal Sanchez (19) kisses the ball during the third inning against the Oakland Athletics at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports /
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Detroit Tigers pitcher Anibal Sanchez has two AL records. They both vividly define the qualities of the Tigers in the respective seasons he achieved them.

In 2013, he had the lowest ERA in the American League. His 2.57 dominated in a year when all of the Detroit Tigers pitchers were better than average and the team made it to the ALCS.

In 2015, he led the league in home runs allowed. Those 29 home runs contributed to the fact that the Tigers finished last in the AL Central.

If Anibal Sanchez continues to pitch the way he does, it is easy to see that the team will fall, too. It is time for the Tigers to make a move with Sanchez and change the direction of the team.

Apr 23, 2016; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Tigers starting pitcher Anibal Sanchez (19) reacts as he walks Cleveland Indians shortstop Francisco Lindor (12) in the first inning at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 23, 2016; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Tigers starting pitcher Anibal Sanchez (19) reacts as he walks Cleveland Indians shortstop Francisco Lindor (12) in the first inning at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports /

Sanchez currently is riding a 3-6 win-loss record and a 6.04 ERA. He gave up the only loss in the series against the Tampa Bay Rays and against the Philadelphia Phillies. Both teams were easily beaten with other pitchers on the mound. In all but 2 of his 10 starts, he has given up home runs – the current total now sits at 11.

His losses cannot be blamed on lack of offense. He has had run support in all but one start. Sanchez’s losses are because of Sanchez’s pitching. He just doesn’t have it anymore. At this point in his career, Sanchez offers very little that opposing batters need to fear.

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Unfortunately, the Tigers own Sanchez a serious amount of money. This year, he will earn $16 million. He will earn the same salary in 2017 and 2018. With his lack of quality pitches, it is highly unlikely that any other MLB team would be willing to take on his epically overpriced contract. So, the Tigers are most likely stuck with him (unless Al Avila learned some magic trade-making mojo from Dave Dombrowski).

It is clear that Sanchez should no longer be in the starting rotation. The evidence goes all the way back to 2015 when he pitched in 25 games, but gave up home runs (many times, multiple home runs) in 16 of the starts. Most of the multiple-home-run games were against AL Central teams.

It is also clear that Sanchez cannot pitch in more than four innings. Once a team sees him a third time, the team gets more hits.

So, what should the Tigers do with Sanchez?

Apr 24, 2016; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Tigers starting pitcher Matt Boyd (48) against the Cleveland Indians at Comerica Park. The Indians won 6-3. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 24, 2016; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Tigers starting pitcher Matt Boyd (48) against the Cleveland Indians at Comerica Park. The Indians won 6-3. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports /

If they cannot trade him, then he should be moved to the bullpen. Yes, that makes him one extremely expensive bullpen pitcher, but he would better serve the team this way. As a bullpen pitcher, he will have limited time on the mound and will not be counted on to perform for five or more innings every five days.

This means that the Tigers would need to add a starter to the rotation. Right now, one pitcher comes to mind: Matt Boyd. The 25-year-old has only pitched in one game in Detroit in 2016. In his 4.2 innings, he did not allow any runs. With the Toledo Mud Hens, he has a 2.06 ERA in the 8 games that he has started. He looks more-than-ready to begin regular work in the big leagues and he would bring that left hand of his into the rotation.

Boyd performed well in Lakeland during Spring Training. In fact, he performed better than Sanchez has all season as a well-seasoned veteran. There is a very good chance that Boyd will take one of Jordan Zimmermann‘s starts in California. If he does well, there is no reason why he could not take Sanchez’s starts as soon as Zimm is ready to get back to pitching.

Next: JV Kept his Promise

Unfortunately for Anibal Sanchez, giving the baseball a subtle kiss isn’t going to be enough. It’s time make a major change to his role on the team.

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