So the Kansas City Royals made one of the most lopsided trades when the acquired Jonathan Sanchez for Melky Cabrera since the natives swapped Manhattan Island to the Dutch for about 25 bucks.
After a rebound season in KC, Cabrera is fully rejuvenated in the Bay Area, hitting .353/.391/.514 with 8 home runs for the Giants. Meanwhile, in 12 starts, Sanchez completely soiled the bed so badly that the Royals were recently forced to designate him for assignment
There was plenty of reason for the Royals to take a chance on the 29-year-old left-hander. According to his expected fielding independent figures, his 4.10 mark from 2008 to 2011 tied him with rotation-mate Matt Cain and put him ahead of such higher priced free agents as Edwin Jackson. So for the nominal sum of $5.6 million, the Royals received a veteran starter for Cabrera who, like Sanchez, was also in his final year of arbitration. On paper it made all the sense in the world.
Of course, Sanchez’s glaring weakness, command, reared its ugly head once he moved to the American League. Considering his walk rate of 12.2% was the highest among those with a minimum of 500 innings pitched from 2008 to 2011, this should not come as a complete surprise. While his control waned in 2011 with San Francisco, the wheels fell completely off in 2012. Last year, Sanchez threw fewer pitches in the strike zone (45%) but was able to get opponents to chase after stuff off the plate (27%) and miss on those pitches at a decent rate (59%). This year, however, he threw the same amount of pitches in the zone (45%) but was unable to entice any takers on the out of zone ones (21% - the lowest among qualified starters in 2012) and those who did, hit the ball a high amount (69%). Ergo, Sanchez’s swinging strike rate declined from the above average 10% to the below average 7% in 2012.
Frustrated with his tendency to hand out free passes carte blanche, the Royals made the decision to waive him. This gives teams the option to claim him then either work out a deal with Kansas City for a potential trade or assume the remainder of his $5.6 million prorated the rest of the year. Of course, if everyone passes – and because of the results of his last four starts (17 IP, 27 hits, 23 earned runs and a 11/16 K/BB ratio), it is entirely possible – anyone could pick him up for an audition at the league minimum. If that scenario plays out, should the Twins consider grabbing the left-hander?
The Twins have done great work turning around their own control-deficient lefty in Francisco Liriano. Like Sanchez, Liriano struggled against his mechanics which led to a high walk rate as well (10% from 2008 to 2011). This current season was one of Liriano’s worst but, in season, the team saw him re-establish his control and post a 67-to-25 strikeouts-to-walks ratio in 57.1 innings.
The stage is set for the organization to trade Liriano. Despite his stellar performance as of late, his impending free agency and high cost of retaining him (over $12 million for 2013), the heightened interest in him by other teams only stands to benefit the Twins and the front office is bound to pounce on that. Still, Liriano’s departure would leave Minnesota with yet another hole to fill within the rotation – now and in the future.
That’s where Sanchez would come in.
If he’s available for the minimum – similar to the way the Padres nabbed Jason Marquis after the Twins kicked him to the curb – the Twins may have the opportunity to tinker with Sanchez for a handful of starts and see if they can redirect him back to his form he showed with the Giants.
After all, from 2008 to 2011 Sanchez had one of the best swing-and-miss rates among left-handers (10.4%) leading to the second-best strikeout rate among southpaws (24%). And, at 29, he’s still in what should be the prime of his career. If his decline is not injury-related, he could be resurrected with the proper instruction.
Sanchez’s mechanics, as mentioned above, have been a bit chaotic at times. Occasionally he’ll wrap his leg during his wind-up and other times he’ll fail to pick up his target before throwing. These are certainly imperfections that teams would probably like to correct. However, Sanchez does not seem to be receptive to the suggestions. When pressed by the Royals’ media on the possible of adjusting his mechanics, Sanchez balked.
“I don’t want to change anything,” he told reporters at the end of June
, “If I try to change things, I’ll end up a real mess. I just have to trust that it will work out.”
That’s not the talk of someone entirely open to doing everything possible to turn things around. Then again, being released might be just that type of wake up call to make a pitcher amiable to making adjustments. If the Twins grab him, he may wind up being the stubborn type who is not willing to listen or try new methods, even if that means a one-way ticket out of baseball.
The Twins have 10 days to contemplate and examine whether or not Sanchez is repairable (perhaps less if they want to grab him on waivers and work out a trade). Based on his past track record, there is certainly a reason to spend the extra time on this decision. If he proves teachable and makes progress, consider bringing him back for one of the vacancies for 2013. If not, send him packing.