In one of the more shocking developments this offseason, the Cubs appear to have a deal in place to sign starting pitcher Anibal Sanchez to a five-year deal worth $75 million. The contract is not yet final, though it seems extremely likely at this point. We’ll update this post once the full story is divulged. Sanchez has been linked to a number of potentially contending teams, so his signing with the Cubs was anything but anticipated; the Cubs have been working on building toward the future by trading expensive assets for prospects and filling in the holes with cheap veteran bounce-back candidates.
Sanchez spent his entire career with the Marlins before being dealt to the Tigers after Miami’s collapse last summer. His final line for 2012 includes a 3.86 ERA, 3.53 WHIP, 3.60 xFIP, 7.68 K/9 rate and 2.21 BB/9 rate. Sanchez continued his trend of issuing fewer free passes, but his strikeout rate saw a drop of its own. Sanchez had a couple of rough outings after arriving in the American League, but he had settled down before the season wound to a close. Nonetheless, the 28-year-old hurler was worth 3.8 WAR per FanGraphs, a total that matched what he managed the year before.
With the Cubs seemingly trying to conserve money and build from within, this contract is a bit surprising. That said, it’s not a bad thing. Sanchez is right in the middle of his prime, and there are plenty of signs pointing to his continued development. He’s a very good starting pitcher and should remain exactly that for the next five seasons. The Cubs even have a chance to capitalize on the best seasons of his career. This is the rare free agent signing this offseason where things could go less than perfect and the deal would still be fair. Plus, there’s that serious chance that Sanchez ups his game another level as he finds a way to combine his newly-honed control with the ability to miss bats he has frequently shown.
Sanchez’s acquisition may represent a veteran free agent signing, but it isn’t the kind of thing the Cubs have been trying to avoid. Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer have simply tried to unload all of the bad contracts they inherited; they never said anything about refusing to spend money when there was a good opportunity. Sanchez is still young and could be an important building block as the Cubs mount a comeback from the abyss.
It’s a little puzzling that Sanchez wasn’t able to milk a little more out of the free agent market, but part of that may have to do with how strange everything has been. After Zack Greinke landed with the Dodgers, it seems like you’d be hard-pressed to check a rumors site that doesn’t frequently mention R.A. Dickey as the apple of everyone’s trading eye. Maybe a couple of contenders simply lost sight of Sanchez, or maybe the market for him isn’t as strong as I would have guessed. Between this news and Josh Hamilton‘s surprise contract with the Angels, this has been a weird day.