Posted December 14, 2012

Tigers overpay Sanchez in title quest

Anibal Sanchez, Detroit Tigers, Hot Stove
Anibal Sanchez has a contract that is nearly identical to the one teammate Justin Verlander is pitching under. (AP)

Anibal Sanchez has a contract that is nearly identical to the one teammate Justin Verlander is pitching under. (AP)

The American League’s most aggressive owners — Arte Moreno with the Angels and Mike Illitch with the Tigers — have each made huge, risky acquisitions in consecutive days. While Los Angeles’ courtship of outfielder Josh Hamilton came out of the blue, Detroit’s retention of righthanded starter Anibal Sanchez was expected, though still shocking for its scope.

The Tigers signed Sanchez for five years and $80 million on Friday morning, according to a report by USA Today, to keep the man who made three quality postseason starts as Detroit reached last year’s World Series. He only went 1-2, though through little fault of his own, as he yielded just four runs in 20 1/3 innings (1.77 ERA).

Sanchez, who was acquired at the deadline from the Marlins, was a combined 9-13 last season with a 3.86 ERA in 195 2/3 innings, the third straight season he has thrown between 195 and 200 innings. In the five seasons he’s made more than 10 starts, his ERA has always been below 4.00, but only his rookie season was below 3.50.

In other words, almost every year you can count on almost the same above-average performance from Sanchez. But his new deal pays him like an elite starter — at least as a No. 2, even though his production is more like a No. 3. Such is the cost of business in this market affected by inflation and diminished supply.

In fact, Sanchez’s contract figures are eerily similar to a group of more established, high-end starters who received comparable contracts in recent seasons. A.J. Burnett, John Lackey and C.J. Wilson all signed equivalent deals as free agents, and each was thought to be about a No. 2 starter at the time. Felix Hernandez, Justin Verlander and Jered Weaver also signed similar contracts, and while each is more of a No. 1, none was a free agent at the time of signing.

Certainly there’s an implied disclaimer of past performance not guaranteeing future results — look no further than Verlander, who had a poor 2008 and a very good 2009 before signing his extension, and of course by the second year of his contract developed into the game’s best starter.

Two-year performance preceding contracts

Pitcher

Age/Year

FA?

Contract

W-L

ERA

ERA+

Avg IP

K/BB

GB/FB

Weaver

29/2012

No

5/$85M

31-20

2.70

143

230

3.92

0.53

Burnett

32/2009

Yes

5/$82.5M

28-18

3.93

110

194

2.68

1.06

Lackey

31/2010

Yes

5/$82.5M

23-13

3.79

117

170

3.09

0.81

Sanchez

29/2013

Yes

5/$80M

17-22

3.77

106

196

3.29

0.85

Verlander

27/2010

No

5/$79.5M

30-26

4.08

110

220

2.88

0.62

Hernandez

24/2010

No

5/$78M

28-16

2.93

145

220

2.60

1.10

Wilson

31/2012

Yes

5/$77.5M

31-15

3.14

142

214

2.25

0.99

Note: Age and year refer to the first season of the contract.

As you can see, Sanchez’s ERA+, which is ERA adjusted for league and ballpark so that 100 is average, is the weakest of the lot, though he was two years younger than any of the pitchers who signed as free agents.

It’s probably an overpay — though that’s generally been true of every free-agent deal this winter — but Illitch is desperate for a ring and this move makes his rotation and his team better.

– By Joe Lemire

7 comments
cardinology
cardinology

I love the Hit and Run blog but there are a few clear problems with the methodology here.  Hernandez wasn't anywhere near free agency when he signed his extension so his contract value bears no relationship to the others on this list.  Weaver was closer to free agency but wasn't there yet AND it was the consensus that he took less money to stay in LAA.  Neither of those are fair comps.  I think Verlander had not reached free agency either, unless I'm mistaken.  If you only consider the guys on this short list who actually were free agents when they signed their contracts, I think Burnett, Wilson, and Lackey were all thought of as 2nd or 3rd pitchers when they signed. 

 

C'mon Lemire, you're better than that

bill227
bill227

His numbers are almost identical to Grienke's over his career.  Grienke had one season of greatness, but for the rest of his career, he has been the pitcher at around 3.8 ERA, WHIP around 1.2 and WAR around 2...same as Sanchez.  I'd say the Tigers got the much better value, when you compare it to the contract handed out to Grienke.

christopher7329
christopher7329

A far smarter historian than I said "You can't be neutral on a moving train". For sports reporters to nitpick on one salary or another as overpaying while ignoring the business model of baseball itself as broken is hypocrisy. Where is the journalism in allowing a monopoly to bid against themselves within a false market enabled by television money and a ponzi scheme of club's actual value? Either tell the truth about the games economics or don't but to chum the waters or cherry pick salaries as absurd amidst a game whose economics are clearly unsound makes you shills and enablers. Step away from the buffet and serve the game..

hillbillygreg
hillbillygreg

Justin verlander had an era of 4.08 ?

mr jaffe, what alternate universe do you live in ?

mefoster86
mefoster86

I'm not sure the Tigers overpaying is even newsworthy at this point...

JoeCabot
JoeCabot

 @hillbillygreg He lives in the real world where Justin Verlander was not always the pitcher he is today.  Look up his stats for 2008/09, the years being referenced in the article.