Well, this is a head-scratcher: Anibal Sanchez will return to the major leagues and start for the Detroit Tigers on Monday against the Seattle Mariners. Sanchez, who has been with the Triple-A Toledo Mud Hens since May 22, will return as part of a short-term six-man rotation. The team has yet to confirm the news, but a roster move will likely be announced after Sunday’s game against the Tampa Bay Rays.
From a statistical perspective, the news is certainly puzzling. Sanchez has allowed 21 runs in 21 major league innings this season, a nice round 9.00 ERA. He has given up nine home runs already, the third-highest total on the team despite throwing one-third of the innings that “leaders” Jordan Zimmermann and Justin Verlander have. Sanchez has not started a game yet for the Tigers this season after losing out on a starting rotation spot to lefthander Matt Boyd in spring training.
Since arriving in Toledo, Sanchez hasn’t been much better. He has allowed a 4.60 ERA in four starts with the Mud Hens, with 17 hits (and three home runs) coughed up in 15 2⁄3 innings. Sanchez has struck out 20 hitters during that stretch, but had maintained a high strikeout rate in the majors despite his struggles.
Naturally, this move will draw plenty of ire from Tigers fans everywhere. Sanchez has been dead weight on Detroit’s roster and payroll since 2015, producing an incredible -1.9 rWAR in 331 1⁄3 innings. That he and Mike Pelfrey were given 48 starts between them in 2016 is one of the biggest reasons why the Tigers missed the postseason, and Sanchez has only been worse in 2017.
However, money talks.
A reminder on Anibal Sanchez: When he accepted move to Toledo, there were conditions attached. Wasn't going to be a Hen forever.— Jason Beck (@beckjason) June 18, 2017
Sanchez’s return seems almost entirely based on whatever conditions he and the team worked out when he was originally optioned last month. Monday will mark nearly a full month since he agreed to go down to Toledo, and giving him a start is the easiest way to guarantee whatever innings he and the team discussed when this decision was made.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not condoning this move in the slightest. Sanchez has burned the Tigers one too many times to be trusted with major league innings of any kind at this point, and will probably get plastered by a Mariners offense that ranks seventh in baseball with a 102 wRC+. We’ll all be hoping for the best, obviously. But we might want to prepare for the worst.