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  • Should the Twins pick up Jonathan Sanchez?

    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.
    This article was originally published in blog: Should the Twins pick up Jonathan Sanchez? started by Parker Hageman
    Comments 24 Comments
    1. Parker Hageman's Avatar
      Parker Hageman -
      You can view the page at http://twinsdaily.com/content.php?80...nathan-Sanchez
    1. raindog's Avatar
      raindog -
      It would be a nice gamble. Especially if we can bring him back next year for a cheap, incentive-laden deal.
    1. TKGuy's Avatar
      TKGuy -
      For the minimum, give it a try. Rather see him than Deduno throwing 100 pitches in 4 innings
    1. Gernzy's Avatar
      Gernzy -
      At this point I don't think it could hurt. If we get him cheap why not.
    1. SpiritofVodkaDave's Avatar
      SpiritofVodkaDave -
      There really is no reason not to pick him up if we only have to pay the minimum. I'd rather see him out on the mound starting games then Duensing, DeDundo etc.
    1. Brock Beauchamp's Avatar
      Brock Beauchamp -
      Quote Originally Posted by SpiritofVodkaDave View Post
      There really is no reason not to pick him up if we only have to pay the minimum. I'd rather see him out on the mound starting games then Duensing, DeDundo etc.
      Well, Duensing is finally heading back to the pen. With Hendriks in the wings, he's probably next in line.

      Given the Twins' season, I don't really see the point in picking up Sanchez, considering he's a FA after the season.

      On the other hand, I don't really care too much if they do pick him up, either.
    1. SpiritofVodkaDave's Avatar
      SpiritofVodkaDave -
      Quote Originally Posted by rocketpig View Post
      Well, Duensing is finally heading back to the pen. With Hendriks in the wings, he's probably next in line.

      Given the Twins' season, I don't really see the point in picking up Sanchez, considering he's a FA after the season.

      On the other hand, I don't really care too much if they do pick him up, either.
      Hendriks has bombed his first two time in the bigs, I'm not super concerned about that as I am sure he will be fine but I wouldn't mind the Twins giving him a bit more time in AAA to get his confidence high or fix whatever he is doing wrong in the big leagues.

      Also Liriano will be gone within 2 weeks, I don't think Sanchez is anything special but at this point there is no reason not to take a chance on him and trot him out there for a few games, best case scenario is he shows some flashes of improvement and the Twins can lock him up to a team friendly 1 year/3 mil deal next year, certainly better than paying that money to the next Ramon Ortiz/Jason Marquis hybrid.

      I'd be really curious to see if a change of scenery could do him some good, and again the risk is nothing.
    1. Jim Crikket's Avatar
      Jim Crikket -
      I'm not sure I see the upside to picking him up at this point. In the unlikely event the Twins are successful in correcting whatever his issues are and he pitches well, he and his agent will simply sell his services to the highest bidder in the offseason. What's the point in fixing a pitcher so another team can benefit from it next year? Do we really think he'd be so grateful to the Twins that he'd sign a team-friendly deal to stay? Doesn't seem likely. If they can get some kind of team-option for 2013, maybe it would be worth a shot. Otherwise, I don't see the point.
    1. Parker Hageman's Avatar
      Parker Hageman -
      In the unlikely event the Twins are successful in correcting whatever his issues are and he pitches well, he and his agent will simply sell his services to the highest bidder in the offseason.
      Not suggesting he would experience a Liriano-like turnaround in 5-6 starts at the end of the year, but the Twins get to audition and first-hand experience with a pitcher who is likely poised to make less than $5 million. It gives them time to do some thorough due diligence on him. That's huge for a team who will be doing some shopping this winter.

      Is it possible he and his agent choose another offer this winter? Sure but at least the Twins would know what they were buying versus a team on the open market who did not have the two-three months of being able to work with him.
    1. jjswol's Avatar
      jjswol -
      No question, the Twins should pick him up ASAP!
    1. Top Gun's Avatar
      Top Gun -
      He is much like Liriano for one fourth the price.
      Jonathan Sanchez threw a no-hitter in an 8-0 win over the Padres on Friday night.

      Not only was it the first complete game of Sanchez's career, but he set a new career high with 11 strikeouts. Sanchez actually had a perfect game going Chase Headley reached on an error by third baseman Juan Uribe with one out in the eighth inning. Sanchez threw 110 pitches in the outing and didn't walk a batter. It was the 17th no-hitter in team history and the first since John Montefusco in 1976.



      Sat, Jul 11, 2009
    1. Thrylos's Avatar
      Thrylos -
      Nah. And using certain pitching performance indicators, it was not a surprise that he has been an average/below average pitcher. Luck can take you so far...
    1. YourHouseIsMyHouse's Avatar
      YourHouseIsMyHouse -
      He's a free agent this season and we wouldn't re-sign him anyway. It's too late to build value and trade him too (which the Royals must have also realized).
    1. John Bonnes's Avatar
      John Bonnes -
      Quote Originally Posted by Parker Hageman View Post
      Not suggesting he would experience a Liriano-like turnaround in 5-6 starts at the end of the year, but the Twins get to audition and first-hand experience with a pitcher who is likely poised to make less than $5 million. It gives them time to do some thorough due diligence on him. That's huge for a team who will be doing some shopping this winter.

      Is it possible he and his agent choose another offer this winter? Sure but at least the Twins would know what they were buying versus a team on the open market who did not have the two-three months of being able to work with him.
      I think I agree with Jim - it depends on the art of the deal they work out. It couldn't be a standard deal. There is zero point in investing Aug and Sept innings in this guy just like there is zero point to investing Aug and Sept innings in Liriano - except that at leas Liriano is good.

      But here's the thing - that is going to be the stance of every team, I would think. So maybe we're not talking about any team really wanting to give him a standard deal.

      Sign him to a contract with a team option year at $6M or so. If he turns it around, great. If not, he is in the same place he was. At least with the Twins and their wide open rotation, he has the opportunity. If he doesn't want to go that way, forget it.
    1. Top Gun's Avatar
      Top Gun -
      Why would you give him a raise, he would be lucky to get 3 or 4M next season.
    1. Thrylos's Avatar
      Thrylos -
      Quote Originally Posted by John Bonnes View Post
      Sign him to a contract with a team option year at $6M or so. If he turns it around, great. If not, he is in the same place he was. At least with the Twins and their wide open rotation, he has the opportunity. If he doesn't want to go that way, forget it.
      That would be almost as bad a waste of money as the Capps, Marquis and Blackburn contracts...

      His raw numbers say that he a. allows too much contact b. walks too many and c. when he goes to a league where the P does not bat, his K rate drops. Not a good combination for someone whose FB sits at 90-91. Disaster ready to happen like Marquis...
    1. Ultima Ratio's Avatar
      Ultima Ratio -
      No.... to answer the question.
    1. Parker Hageman's Avatar
      Parker Hageman -
      His raw numbers say that he a. allows too much contact...c. when he goes to a league where the P does not bat, his K rate drops.
      (A) That's completely inaccurate. Since 2008, even with the bad 2012 season factored in, his contact rate has been one of the lowest in baseball. At a 76% contact rate, only six other starters with 500 innings have had less contact against them in that time.

      (C) He's had 37.2 innings against AL teams this year. Hard to make a sweeping judgement like that unless you are basing it on his 37 innings this year against AL teams. Almost all pitchers have a K-rate drop when they switch from NL to AL. Prior to this season, Sanchez had worked 90.2 innings against AL teams while posting an 84/46 K/BB ratio and allowed 37 earned runs (3.69 ERA).

      There is zero point in investing Aug and Sept innings in this guy just like there is zero point to investing Aug and Sept innings in Liriano
      Again, it's a first-hand look, that's the point. That's valuable for a team that is may be doing some heavy shopping this off-season. If he is available at no cost and the Twins can have a free 30-day trial period - great.
    1. powrwrap's Avatar
      powrwrap -
      Mixed feelings on this one.

      The Twins need pitching and taking a low risk look at Sanchez for a couple of months is a good move.

      Sanchez's historical lack of command and correspondingly high walk rate is troublesome. I can't think of any pitchers that have corrected their command problem at his age. Can anybody name a pitcher that significantly lowered their walk rate while in the upper 20's, lower 30's?

      So you are likely going to get a pitcher with ERA in the mid-high 4's that walks a lot of guys and not be able to change it. I wouldn't want that. But that's better than most of the guys the Twins are currently running out there....
    1. Mr. Ed's Avatar
      Mr. Ed -
      Quote Originally Posted by thrylos98 View Post
      That would be almost as bad a waste of money as the Capps, Marquis and Blackburn contracts...

      His raw numbers say that he a. allows too much contact b. walks too many and c. when he goes to a league where the P does not bat, his K rate drops. Not a good combination for someone whose FB sits at 90-91. Disaster ready to happen like Marquis...
      Let him pass through waivers, and if he's there, then sign him to a minor league deal, let Bobby Cuellar work with him. If he doesn't pan out, cut him loose.

      No way should the Twins sign this guy to any Major League deal. The numbers are Matt Maloney-like.
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