In a surprising turn of events, the Detroit Tigers announced on Monday afternoon that pitcher Anibal Sanchez has accepted an optional assignment sending him to Triple-A Toledo. Sanchez has pitched in parts of six seasons with Detroit since being acquired in a trade from the Miami Marlins.
Sanchez was a great pitcher during the first half of his tenure in Detroit, and he looked to be well worth the trade and his subsequent contract extension. In 2013 he led the American League with a 2.57 ERA, and he followed that up with a 3.43 ERA in 2014.
In 2013 and 2014 Sanchez was extremely effective at limiting home runs; with just 0.38 home runs allowed per nine innings, no qualified starter was better. However, since then he has been on the complete other end of the spectrum, allowing 1.85 home runs per nine innings, which ranks at the very bottom among all qualified pitchers.
Sanchez’s tenure, contract, and experience makes this decision quite shocking, but it’s also completely justified. Some thought that a full-time move to the bullpen would cure Sanchez, but a 9.00 ERA and 7.80 FIP so far this season say otherwise. Once one of the top pitchers in the game, he has struggled to even get through an inning at a time.
The decision was Sanchez's, Ausmus said: He wants to be a starting pitcher.— anthony fenech (@anthonyfenech) May 22, 2017
Since Sanchez has earned the respect of his teammates and the front office, any major move like this was likely to have been run by him first, as noted by Jason Beck. Hopefully he can use this assignment to rediscover himself and make his way back into the rotation. He was doing nothing to help the Tigers at the major-league level over the first month of the season, so this move was a necessity.