On Anibal Sanchez and the future of the Tigers rotation

When the Tigers acquired Anibal Sanchez last July, every indication — including the opinion of at least one Tigers official — was that it was a two-month rental for Detroit to bolster its rotation for the playoff race and the postseason to follow. If anybody in the trade had a longer-term fit, it was Omar Infante, under contract through next season to fill the black hole at second base.

Somewhere along the line, the thinking appears to have changed.

“Yeah, he’s a player we’d like to keep,” team president/general manager Dave Dombrowski told the Detroit News on Monday.

If they do, it’s going to be a pretty dramatic shift in a Tigers rotation built on a combination of homegrown talent (Justin Verlander, Rick Porcello, Drew Smyly) and trades for young pitchers still growing (Max Scherzer, Doug Fister).

Sanchez will not be cheap. While his last month of pitching has made him an appealing arm for the Tigers to keep, it has also made a serious boost for his market in free agency, proving he can be effective in both leagues. He has the chance to be the most valuable starter on the market other than Zack Greinke, and he could prove more appealing than Greinke for some teams.

The Tigers have NEVER made a major push for a top free-agent starter on the market since Dombrowski took over a decade ago. When everyone pegged them for Jarrod Washburn after the 2005 season, they aimed for Kenny Rogers on a much more palatable deal and hit the jackpot. Even on the trade market, Sanchez is just about the biggest name they’ve landed, bigger in my opinion than Jarrod Washburn a few years ago.

The thought process has always been that the market for starting pitchers gets inflated by supply (too many teams need starters) and demand (never enough good arms out there for every needy team to sign).

Why change now? Sure, Sanchez is young, set to turn 29 during Spring Training next year. But if a rental player becomes enamored with the renting team, there may be hope to get a reasonable deal done (at least by market standards). Every indication so far has been that the Tigers and Detroit have made an impression on Sanchez.

The other factor is the owner. In a market where even the Yankees are talking about cutting payroll, Detroit and Mike Ilitch make as much sense as any for a team to drive up a player’s market.

If the Tigers are serious about signing Sanchez, however, somebody has to go. It’s not just a numbers problem, but a payroll problem.

Verlander has two years left on his contract (usually the time for teams to talk contract with starters) and is in position to ask for a game-changing contract extension. Even if he doesn’t, he’s set to make $20 million next year Scherzer and Porcello are both second-year arbitration eligibles, and Fister becomes eligible for the first time this winter.

Add it up, and those four core starters have the potential to make well over $30 million. A Sanchez extension could push the five-man rotation payroll up towards $50 million. With Drew Smyly having shown he can start and grow in the big leagues, it makes no sense.

The assumption has always been that Smyly would fill the Sanchez opening next year. If Sanchez stays, it’s hard not to see Smyly filling someone else’s shoes. Maybe it’s Porcello, who lowered his ERA and raised his strikeout rate from last year but paid mightily for ground-ball hits and unearned runs and might be a better fit with another defense. Maybe it’s Scherer, whose value might never be higher (even with the shoulder issue) if the Tigers determine they have no chance of re-signing him in two years.

Those are all offseason questions, and both Dombrowski and Sanchez made it clear they’re keeping it on the back burner until the postseason ends. But it’s an interesting thought that could change the Tigers offseason.

28 Comments

interesting points Beck, I would like to see Sanchez stay in Detroit but wouldn’t want to see Scherzer or Smyly go. Porcello on the other hand has been our worst pitcher this year but faced some bad luck. It will be interesting to see it play out. JV’s extension assuming they resign him will be a game changer. Go Tigers, lets close this out tonight!

Tough to let Porcello go, but the way the defense is built he is the least best fit for the rotation given his skill set. Also, if he were traded he might bring large dividends.

exactly

Signing Sanchez to a workable contract (backloaded maybe?) would make the Turner/Brantly deal more palatable. There’s a lot of angles on this one, and will be interesting to follow when the season ends. I can understand Anibal, or any player, wanting to play in Detroit.

I could stand to deal Max or Porcello – if the return fits needs (read: impact bullpen piece or a SS with range and small ball skills). Max might be at a peak right now and Porcello just isn’t ment to be on a team with defense this bad – IMO.
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If you trade 1 of them, then re-sign Annibal.
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And then there is the elephant in the room…..do we give justin the sun, moon and the stars? What would his trade value be after next season?

Wow, I think you FAR too much ‘credit’ to Porcello, dude is AWFUL. WAY too many hits, and don’t you dare put the blame on just the defense, RP, needs to go. Bust.

*giving

ok come on steve – i was agreeing with you for a second there. If you think a guy with a 4.59 ERA in the AL can’t get a 4ERA in the NL? 23 yr old with 48(42) MLB wins(loses) already? Playoff experience too.
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Not to mention he is probably a better reliever.

Porcello’s ERA is increased almost a full run per 9 IP by the sub standard defense that he’s had behind him this season. He ranked 12th in the AL among qualified starting pitchers in FIP. He’s still just 23 and has savvy on the mound beyond his years. He’s not Verlander or Fister, but he’s a good starting pitcher and one that should not be let go easily.

I understand the disappointment in Porcello. I too, think he will go. But the book isn’t closed on this young man. He would not be the first pitcher to re-invent himself. He has the arm and he has the brains.

Not to mention a nice repertoire of pitches and experience to go with his youth. Granted, location and command require work, but that is very doable.

Porcello could bring a nice return in a trade as is. He could find a good home and the Tigers could also fill a hole. Win. Win. Tigers can’t use 6 starters. Somene has to go.

My two cents here. IMO, you put a lot of Porcello’s problems on the defense. Remember, both Cabrera and Peralta had high fielding percentages at thier respective positions. But that’s because they didn’t get to a lot of balls that a Beltran or an Escobar would get. also, the number of missed double play opportunities play into this. Rick is not yet 24 years old, and will have four full seasons behind him. Is this the best he will ever be, or is there a big upside?
I lean toward the second option. Trade him if you will, but he would blossom with a bona fide SS, and eventual third sacker once Miggy gets back to first.

Should be Beltre

Porcello isn’t awful. He was just brought up too soon and had no chance to refine his many pitching skills. I think he will accomplish this in time. By all rights, 2011 should have been his rookie season.
The offseason already had the potential to be very interesting, and it just became more so. Keep in mind, however, that what kind of team we build depends on who is the field manager. That’s the first item to be settled.

K.C. needs a young arm in their rotation and have a young shortstop that could be swapped if their deep in the minors at that position, Porcello for Alcides Escobar could be a nice fit for both teams, just a thought . . .

Yes, first issue should be the field manager. Do you think Illitch and Dombrowski can see where Leyland may have outlasted his usefulness? Or will they decide not to go through the hassle of finding a whole new crew? Maybe Brookens and Jones would stay. Do you think Kirk Gibson would be considered? I thought Francona was possible but he is off the market.

If Jim stays on, fine, but there would be little use in going in a different direction if that’s the case. May as well pick up Peralta’s option and hope that Victor comes back okay.

As for the pitching rotation, I have said before that it would seem ironic to trade Porcello for a better defensive shortstop when that seems to be what he needs to be more successful. I do think they need a LHP in the rotation just so other teams can’t stack their lineup with LHB every game. Is Sanchez the oldest? Is Porcello the youngest? Who in the organization could say for sure whether RP has reached his peak already? If he seems to run into trouble the second time though a lineup maybe he should be considered for the bullpen.

I’ve seen the irony of that myself. If they want to dangle Porcello, I hope they do some tough bargaining with whoever is interested. Don’t sell Rick short, and be prepared to walk away from the table unless it’s the right deal.

i think you try to afford 1 more year of JV, DF, MS, DS and keep Sanchez. If you deal a Porcello and Benoit & jose VV then get a bonafide SS and closer in return and we need an upgrade at Catcher. This assumes we have Dirks/Berry, AJax and Garcia roaming the OF. You know Avila is here as long as Dad is in the front office but I like the year GL has had in 2012. Another big IF is Victor at DH/1B, we can make expendable Delmon and Boesch as trade material. This assumes you have a Gibson/Brookens/Trammel team managing the 2013 Tigs.

Jay, who is going to take Benoit & Valverde in a trade? Delmon & Boesch? C’mon….no one is trading anything of value for any of these four people. Not that I don’t consider Benoit & Valverde good players, it’s just that as relievers making what they’re making, they are worth nothing in a trade market, much like Boesch & Young, who will net you nothing, either.

Rule #1 — if you don’t want your current players, what makes you think someone else will?

Valverde and Young are FA

Am I the only one not seeing anyone but Prince at 1st base for a long, long time?

No, Kathy. Prince is Who. As in Who’s on First?? He should be our first sacker for five more years barring a serious leg injury.The only thing we need for our infield is a Jenny Craig weight program. Miguel could stand to lose five or ten more pounds then maintain it for two more years.
Jhonny ?? He might need to lose twenty pounds. We all know for his own personal well being that Prince needs to reduce his weight a lot.

Sanchez is not that good… He’s won more than ten games twice in eight seasons, and he’s 4 and 6 since the trade and that makes him the second best pitcher in F.A. , you’re nuts!!! He sux

Let’s go for a walkshall we? If he had not broken his tooth, he would not be in hospital now.Which would you prefer? Did you hear about the new project?Don’t let chances pass by.We should save unnecessary expenses.He owned himself defeated.There are a lot of people in the swimming pool.A red tie will match that suit.You will soon get used to the work.

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