15 worst Detroit Tigers free agent signings in franchise history

Detroit Tigers v Oakland Athletics
Detroit Tigers v Oakland Athletics / Jason O. Watson/GettyImages
7 of 15

9. Anibal Sanchez, 2013-18 

  • 5 years, $85 guaranteed
  • 1 good year, 3 awful

Let’s be serious. Some people are probably going to think Anibal Sanchez didn’t deserve to be on the list at all. Some people are probably going to think he could have been much higher up. 

Sanchez had some absolutely amazing seasons in Detroit, notably the first year of this contract, and some absolutely awful ones. The awful ones are the reason for his inclusion. 

Sanchez first came to the Tigers in 2012, along with Omar Infante, in one of GM Dave Dombrowski’s July trades that soon looked absolutely wonderful. While his regular season was somewhat pedestrian after the deal, going 4-6 with a 3.74 ERA, he shined in the postseason. Sanchez gave up four runs across 20+ innings and three starts.

Detroit rewarded him with a five-year, $80 million deal with an option for a sixth year the team could buy out for $5 million. It immediately looked like pure genius when he an American League-leading 2.57 ERA (162 ERA+) and finished fourth in Cy Young voting. That made him worth 6 WAR no matter the statistical source. A steal at $8.8 million that season. 

The rest of his time in Detroit didn’t go so well. Held to 22 starts in 2014 due to injuries, he pitched just 126 innings with a 3.43 ERA. That was still good for 2.3 WAR, though he was paid $15 million that year. In 2015, he made 25 starts for a 4.99 ERA. In 2016, 26 starts at a 5.87 ERA. In 2017, six starts (17 games) at a 6.41 ERA. During that span his WAR had been worth a combined -1.2 while he earned $48 million. The Tigers saw enough at that point and paid him another $5 million in 2018 to decline the option.

Naturally, he bounced back with the Braves the following year and won a World Series with the Nationals after that, as Detroit is not allowed to have anything good happen. 

So while the life of the contract may not look horrible, it’s hard to say he contributed anything positive to the team during the final three years of the somewhat pricey deal.