On Dec. 14, 2012, the Detroit Tigers agreed to a five-year, $80 million dollar deal with Anibal Sanchez to bring him back to the Motor City. It was an announcement that turned quite a few heads as the contract seemed a little lofty for an injury-prone pitcher.
Sanchez, a once highly-touted Boston Red Sox pitching prospect, was traded to the Miami Marlins prior to the 2006 season along with Hanley Ramirez in the same deal that sent Josh Beckett and Mike Lowell to Boston. Sanchez was outstanding in his rookie season of 2006 and finished the season with a 10-3 record and a microscopic ERA of 2.83. The then 22-year old also hurled a no-hitter against the Arizona Diamondbacks that season.
However, the next few seasons would tell a much different tale. Sanchez was riddled with injuries from 2007-2009 and did not get through another full season until 2010. In 2010, Sanchez had a solid, but not a Cy Young-caliber season in which he posted a 13-12 record with a 3.55 ERA. He followed up his 2010 season with another solid year in 2011 when he went 8-9 with a 3.67 ERA. He also set a career-high in strikeouts with 202.
In 2012, Sanchez was on his way to having another adequate season with the Marlins as he was 5-7 with a sub 4.00 ERA when he was traded to the Tigers along with Omar Infante on July 23, 2012. After joining the Tigers, Sanchez went 4-6 with a 3.74 ERA, but showed shades of brilliance on the night of Sep. 25, 2012 when he hurled a three-hit complete game shutout against the Kansas City Royals with 10 strikeouts.
Sanchez would go on to pitch exceptionally well in the 2012 postseason by going 1-2 with a 1.77 ERA in three starts, which was undoubtedly a big part of the reason why he received the type of contract that he did. There was a rumor that the Chicago Cubs were also very interested in Sanchez, but the Tigers were ultimately able to outbid the Cubs and wrestle him back to Detroit.
In 2013, Sanchez proved to be worth every penny of the $8.8 million he was given in the first year of his contract. On April 26 in an interleague game against the Atlanta Braves, Sanchez set a new franchise record by striking out 17 batters, and he took a no-hitter into the ninth inning of a game against the Minnesota Twins on May 24 that was ultimately broken up by Joe Mauer.
Sanchez ended the season with a 14-8 record and an AL-best 2.57 ERA. He finished fourth in the Cy Young voting. In the 2013 postseason, Sanchez was roughed up a bit in his one and only start against the Oakland Athletics in the ALDS as he gave up five earned runs in 4.1 innings. However, he made up for it with two solid starts against Red Sox in the ALCS in which he posted a 1-1 record with a 2.25 ERA, and looked like he had all season long.
At any rate, Sanchez was masterful in 2013, and one does have to wonder if last season was simply a fluke career year for Sanchez, or if it was the first page of a brand new chapter where he stays healthy and continues to dominate. Let’s hope for the latter.