Friday morning, the Detroit Tigers confirmed the resigning of free agent starting pitcher Anibal Sanchez. The Tigers inked Sanchez to a five year, $80M deal, which amounts to a $16M average annual value (AAV) for the right-hander. While his re-signing with the Tigers was widely expected, what was surprising was the strong push made by the Chicago Cubs, as they reportedly made a five-year, $75M offer to Sanchez before Detroit countered on Friday morning.
The Tigers acquired Sanchez mid-season in a trade from the Florida Marlins. In 21 starts with Detroit, he posted a 4-6 win-loss record with a strong 3.76 ERA and 1.28 WHIP. His performance improved under the big lights of the 2012 playoffs as he held Oakland, New York and the Giants to a 1.77 ERA in 20 postseason innings. Despite past experiences with elbow and shoulder injuries, Sanchez has turned a corner in recent years, consistently starting 30+ games each year. His peripherals are not vastly different than number one free agent Greinke, and yet his $16M AAV salary represents a much more reasonable commitment than the six-year, $23.5M AAV Greinke secured from the Dodgers.
Sanchez provides the AL pennant winning Tigers a solid number two starting pitcher behind ace Justin Verlander. The collective Tigers’ pitching staff of Verlander, Sanchez, Doug Fister, Max Scherzer and Rick Porcello make for one of the deepest starting rotations in the AL, placing them amongst the favorites for an AL pennant repeat.
The Tigers will feature their power-armed starting five and a solid offensive core of Prince Fielder, Miguel Cabrera and Curtis Granderson, but have open questions at second base, left field and in their bullpen. While their premium talent players place them well above the AL Central field fray, general manager Dave Dombrowski will continue to look for outfield help and relief pitching reinforcements. The Tigers’ primary relievers (Octavio Dotel, Phil Coke, Joaquin Benoit and Al Alberquerue) pitched significant extra innings in the 2012 posteason; given the unpredictability of relief pitchers, they will surely need to beef up their relief crew for 2013.
With Sanchez’s re-signing, it is interesting to see changing face of the AL Central teams. With Detroit’s strong starting five, the Royal’s beefed-up rotation, and the White Sox history of strong pitching staffs, the division’s teams seem to be prioritizing pitching above other reinforcements. The AL Central crown may come down to the offense that can limit their strikeouts and leverage break-out seasons from some of their younger players.