The Royals need starting pitching going into 2013. David Glass has said that he’s going to address this area of weakness, and, whether you believe him or not, at least he recognizes that this is the biggest weakness with the Royals.
They’re going to have to find pitching from some source, be it from free agency or a trade. Rany Jazayerli provided a persuasive breakdown of the Royals rotation post-2012 and where it stands going into next season. The gist is that the Royals can’t expect to succeed in 2013 if Jeremy Guthrie is the big signing of the offseason. Some parts of the rotation could stick around but they’d have to be shifted downward to make room for more capable pitchers. An ace would be nice, but a #2* (ideally two) would be fine.
*By this distinction, I mean a pitcher who would be reasonably considered the second guy in a rotation on most MLB teams. Some teams like the Angels have some #1 types and multiple #2 types. Some teams have a lot of 4s and 5s…like the Royals.
Enter Anibal Sanchez.
Sanchez was an international signing by the Red Sox in 2001 shortly before his 17th birthday. He played in the Venezuelan League for two years, but ran into an elbow injury in 2003 and didn’t hit the United States minor league circuits until 2004 when he debuted in Low A Lowell (Massachusetts) but was a top five prospect in the Red Sox system. He was included with Hanley Ramirez in a trade to the (then) Florida Marlins that sent Josh Beckett to the Boston Red Sox.
He made his major league debut with the Marlins on June 25, 2006 in Yankee Stadium, going 5.2 shutout innings on his way to his first major league win. He threw a no-hitter that same season. From 2006 to 2009, he went up and down from the big leagues, missing most of 2007 with shoulder surgery to repair a tear in his labrum. He threw 109.2 innings in 2007 and 2008 combined. By 2009, though, his injury problems were mostly behind him. Over the last three seasons, he’s put up similar numbers including at least 31 starts and 195 innings in each, splitting 2012 with the Marlins and Detroit Tigers.
|2003||Did not play in major leagues (Injured)|
|162 Game Avg.||11||12||3.75||34||34||204||94||85||110||1.346||8.8||0.8||3.3||7.6||2.29|
|MIA (7 yrs)||44||45||3.75||133||132||794.1||363||331||110||1.352||8.7||0.8||3.5||7.7||2.22|
|DET (1 yr)||4||6||3.74||12||12||74.2||36||31||113||1.286||9.8||1.0||1.8||6.9||3.80|
|NL (7 yrs)||44||45||3.75||133||132||794.1||363||331||110||1.352||8.7||0.8||3.5||7.7||2.22|
|AL (1 yr)||4||6||3.74||12||12||74.2||36||31||113||1.286||9.8||1.0||1.8||6.9||3.80|
Sanchez’s fastball velocity has been consistent throughout his big league career, averaging just under 92 mph, but he’s been hitting the mid-upper 90s in recent seasons.
He threw the fastball less often in 2012 than in past years, but also had less success according to FanGraphs. His secondary pitches were all strong, though, and his changeup has always been his best pitch going back to his days as a prospect.
It’s one thing to identify who you want, it’s another to be able to sign them.
Sanchez made $8 million in 2012 in his last year of arbitration, split between Miami and Detroit. At only 29 years old next opening day, he’s one of the top options on the market and will look to be compensated appropriately (back in July before the Cole Hamels extension, Sanchez was considered the third best option headed for free agency).
Baseball-Reference lists A.J. Burnett as the pitcher most similar to Sanchez through age 28. In 2006, just shy of 29 years old, Burnett signed a five year $55 million contract with Toronto. The first year of that deal was only for $1 million in salary and $1.2 million in a signing bonus, but subsequent years paid him $13.2 million in 2007 and 2008. After that Burnett optioned out of the deal and signed with the Yankees for a bigger contract. I’d think $13 million a year is a good baseline for his salary. There are some red flags, as he’s had elbow surgery in 2003 and the 2007 shoulder surgery and hasn’t surpassed 200 innings in a season yet, but after inflation and with pitching at a premium every offseason, I think most teams will consider those concerns but there haven’t been reports of complications or recurrences, so it shouldn’t keep Sanchez from cashing in.
If the Royals sign Guthrie to be the third starter and go after Sanchez, it may be at the upper end of what they can afford. Guthrie may get anywhere from $8 to $10 million a season, and if Sanchez got $13 million (and the Royals signed him), they’d pay up $21-23 million on those two (and may then have to go after a trade for another pitcher where they may be able to add a prospect for some financial wiggle room from the trading team). Sanchez may be interested in a shorter deal of three or four years
In the last series of the year, the Royals broadcast team talked to David Glass on Fox Sports Kansas City and the Royals Radio Network and Glass mentioned two pitchers specifically when asked about the pitching market – Zack Greinke and Sanchez. Bob Dutton speculated that Sanchez is at the top of the Royals list.
As he should be.
Sanchez should be at the top of the Royals list (along with Greinke, though it’s unlikely they’ll be able to sign him). He’s a pitcher with improved control who still gets strikeouts. He doesn’t have strong fly ball tendencies, so his home runs allowed numbers should stay stable. Within Kauffman Stadium with a strong defense behind him, I think the Royals will be in a full court press to get Sanchez. He’s not an ace and he wouldn’t be the number one guy on most staffs, but he’s a very good pitcher who covers a lot of innings and gives a quality performance. He won’t be cheap, but he won’t be as pricey as Greinke or other top-flight starters of past seasons. The Royals will probably have to outbid the Chicago Cubs, Tigers and likely others.
If what Glass has said is true, they’re going to do it.