When the Detroit Tigers put together their roster to start the 2017 baseball season, Anibal Sanchez was the odd man out as far as the starting pitching rotation was concerned. Despite a strong finish to the exhibition season, Sanchez lost out to Matt Boyd, who had the best spring of all Tigers’ starters, and the former ERA champion was sent to the bullpen.
Before too long, Boyd and Sanchez had both pitched their ways to the minor leagues. Boyd was out of the rotation and Sanchez went to Toledo for a month to see if he could get his mojo back and return as a starting pitcher. Sanchez didn’t earn anything in the minors, but he was given a call back to the major leagues and he has returned with a vengeance. Here is his trade profile:
Contract status: Sanchez is in the last year of a five-year, $80 million contract. Detroit has a team option for 2018 with a salary of $16.8 million and a $5 million buyout.
Trade limitations: There are no trade limitations at present, but Sanchez will have full no-trade protection due to his five and ten rights vesting later in the season. That would have been on July 23rd, five years after the Tigers acquired him, but a month in Toledo pushes that date back.
Why he could be traded: In four starts since being recalled from Toledo, Sanchez has a 3.09 ERA, and a WHIP of 0.85 with 22 strikeouts and just four walks in 23 innings. He has held opponents to a batting average of .195, and has been as effective as any starting pitcher on the team. There is time for him to make another couple of starts before the trade deadline, and before his veto power kicks in.
Despite the great resurgence, the Tigers would probably decline the contract option on Sanchez for the 2018 season, so they have little incentive to keep him around through the remainder of 2017. His salary for the remainder of this season would come to $5.6 million. Add the buyout, and that comes to $10.6 million for two months. For the Tigers, that’s a sunk cost. They owe the money, plus tax.
If you’re a Tigers fan, you wouldn’t mind the club paying a chunk of salary if the team can get a decent young player in a trade. If you’re the team accountant, you’d be happy to just unload as much of that salary as you can. The team could save the salary, save the luxury tax on the salary, and maybe even get a nice tax rebate on the $5 million buyout, which is already factored into his salary for tax purposes.
Why he may not be traded: Four solid starts do not make an ace pitcher. While encouraging, Sanchez has struggled mightily for the past three seasons, since going on the disabled list in August of 2014 with an injury to his pectoral muscle. He has not been the same since. The American League’s ERA champion in 2013 went from first to worst in home run ratio virtually over night. Getting another club to take on the full salary, including the buyout, will be difficult enough. Getting that and a player in return seems unlikely. Any trade will likely have a cash component as part of the deal.
Trade value: Money aside, if Sanchez continues to put up the kind of numbers that he has over the past month, he will have some trade value. That kind of pitching would be valuable to any team. Sanchez also has a stellar record in the post season. How much a team is willing to gamble on a pitcher with a recent record of inconsistency is the question.