Detroit Tigers: Anibal Sanchez’ Rebound Second Half a Positive for Present, Future

Detroit Tigers starting pitcher Anibal Sanchez has pitched much better in the second half. His performances could pay dividends this season, as well as in future seasons.

Detroit Tigers general manager Al Avila inherited some extremely promising young starters. So far, Michael Fulmer, Matt Boyd and Daniel Norris have lived up to the billing. Fulmer is a contender for both the Rookie of the Year and the Cy Young awards, while Boyd and Norris have shown flashes of brilliance.

With Jordan Zimmermann, resident ace Justin Verlander and the trio under team control for the next few years, Detroit’s rotation is set up for the future.

Missing from that list is the name of one Anibal Sanchez.

Sanchez, who endured a dreadful start to the campaign, has bounced back nicely in the second half.

Over his first 14 starts, the former Marlin put up an unsightly 7.36 ERA in 70 innings. His other numbers, which include a 6.17 FIP, a 5.30 xFIP and a 4.99 SIERA, weren’t exactly Cy-Young worthy either.

Things have changed as of late. Only Justin Verlander has a lower SIERA and a higher WAR among Detroit starting pitchers so far in the second half.

Down the stretch, Sanchez ability to put together quality starts will be key. Fulmer, Boyd and Norris will all have to be monitored for pitch and innings counts. Having a solid option in Sanchez will allow the Tigers to potentially push back or skip one of the three youngsters without suffering.

Additionally, once the playoffs come around, Sanchez can contribute as a swingman out of the bullpen.

Detroit Tigers

Apr 12, 2016; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Tigers starting pitcher Anibal Sanchez (19) pitches in the first inning against the Pittsburgh Pirates at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

The right-hander only pitched in 12.2 innings as a reliever earlier this year, but found success in a small sample size. Over those 12.2 innings, the veteran posted a 2.84 ERA, a 2.35 FIP, a 3.81 xFIP and a 3.79 SIERA. He also added eight strikeouts while only walking two batters.

Future Rotation

However, despite the improved numbers, The Tigers best option for future seasons is a rotation consisting of Verlander, Fulmer, Zimmermann, Boyd and Norris. Right now, that quintet has both the highest floor and ceiling where the group’s potential is concerned.

The young trio have done extremely well to adapt to the Majors early in their careers. If they can continue to trend upwards—as cliché as it might sound— the sky is the limit.

In addition to Verlander, Zimmermann and the young starters, the Tigers still have rotation options.

Mike Pelfrey is still under contract for the 2017 season. What’s more, the likes of Buck Farmer, Chad Bell, Myles Jaye and Donn Roach are all solid depth pieces would could fill in at the back end of the rotation. Top prospects like Beau Burrows and Kyle Funkhouser could both be ready for the Majors sooner rather than later. 

Payroll Implications

The Detroit Tigers have long possessed one of the higher payrolls in Major League Baseball. From Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez to Verlander and Zimmermann, there are a number of significant contracts that won’t be moved.

Based on that, the Tigers are somewhat limited in what they do in terms of adding payroll to improve team.

One contract that could potentially be moved is that of Sanchez.

Per Spotrac, the pitcher is slated to make $16 million next season. He has a $16 million club option for 2018. The team can also buy him out for $5 million.

With improved numbers down the stretch, another team may be willing to take a filer on the ex-Florida player in the hopes that he continues to pitch more like the starter who won the ERA crown in 2013.

That financial flexibility that would come with moving Sanchez would allow Detroit to better afford arbitration salary increases to the likes of Jose Iglesias, Justin Wilson, Nick Castellanos and Alex Wilson. The extra cash could also be used to bolster the team’s bench and bullpen.