A talented, but erratic starter who’s coming off a career-worst season? Yes, please.
The Pittsburgh Pirates hope that their diamond-in-the-rough finding skills are still intact, as the team is reportedly near a deal with 30-year old Jonathan Sanchez.
Sanchez had long been a top pitching prospect for the San Francisco Giants, but truly burst onto the mainstream MLB consciousness with a no-hitter in 2009. He was even better in a 2.2 fWAR 2010, but a series of injuries in 2011 limited him to just 19 starts and messed up his mechanics – something that Sanchez wasn’t about to recover from.
A lopsided change-of-scenery trade that sent him to the Kansas City Royals for Melky Cabrera last season didn’t do anything for him either, as Sanchez’s previously inconsistent command turned consistently poor (7.38 BB/9), and he wound up being DFA’d by the team towards the end of the season and picked up by the Colorado Rockies – you can imagine how the results were there.
Sanchez went from a starter who threw almost 200 innings with a 3.07 ERA and 1.23 WHIP to a struggling pitcher who couldn’t keep his ERA below seven, let alone hang on to a job in the big leagues. Understandably, the reception to his arrival on the free agency market was mostly mute.
But that’s a story that the Pittsburgh Pirates have heard before, and they translated that into one of the best seasons of a 35-year old A.J. Burnett last year.
The Pirates have been seeking a starter all winter, and has been recently linked to Francisco Liriano as they move to bolster their starting rotation. Sanchez would come with more risks, but is arguably a better fit for the prudent Pirates, who are hoping that they are one or two perfect scenarios away from contending for a wild card spot.
A potential deal with Sanchez will likely come significantly cheaper, though the upside would be similar; if Sanchez has regained the velocity he had before the litany of injuries threw off his career (and if he can keep the ball in the strike zone at least some of the time), the strikeout stuff he’s always had could make him one of the dark horses in the comeback player of the year category by the end of 2013.