Anibal Sanchez: Why the Tigers Are Making a Huge Mistake Signing the Free Agent

Josh Berenter@JBerenterCorrespondent IDecember 14, 2012

DETROIT, MI - OCTOBER 27:  Anibal Sanchez #19 of the Detroit Tigers throws a pitch against the San Francisco Giants in the first inning during Game Three of the Major League Baseball World Series at Comerica Park on October 27, 2012 in Detroit, Michigan.  (Photo by Scott Rovak - Pool/Getty Images)
Pool/Getty Images

When the Detroit Tigers traded for Anibal Sanchez in July, he was making $8 million for the 2012 season.

On Friday, the Tigers outbid the Chicago Cubs for the rights to the 28-year-old starting pitcher, and signed Sanchez to a five-year, $80 million contract, paying him $16 million a year until 2017.

Why?

Sanchez went 4-6 with a 3.74 ERA with the Tigers last season, and finished the 2012 campaign with a 9-13 record and a 3.86 ERA with Detroit and the Miami Marlins.

He has a career record of 48-51 with a lifetime 3.75 ERA.

Sound like a resume worth $16 million a year until age 34?

Not to me.

Sanchez was widely regarded as the second-best free agent starting pitcher on the market this offseason, and when the highest valued free agent, Zack Greinke, agreed to a six-year, $147 million deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers, Sanchez saw dollar signs.

Professional athletes have raked in the cash as of late, and because of "market value" with Sanchez, the phenomenon has struck again—this time putting a large dent in the Tigers' pockets.

Sanchez will most likely be the Tigers' fourth starting pitcher behind Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer and Doug Fister.

To put Sanchez's contract in perspective, in 2013, Verlander will make $20 million, Scherzer and Fister will make about $6 million and about $3 million, respectively, in arbitration.

It doesn't seem right that two of the three pitchers that will be counted on more than Sanchez in the rotation will combine to make $7 million less than Sanchez next season.

Does it?

Sanchez became attractive on the market after stepping his game up in the 2012 postseason.

In his first postseason appearance, Sanchez posted a 1.77 ERA in three starts and 20 1/3 innings. He struck out 18 batters compared to allowing only six walks.

But as good as Sanchez was in his first playoff experience, he only went 1-2, with his lone win coming against the offensively-challenged New York Yankees in the American League Championship Series.

The only time Sanchez earned an ERA of less than three was his rookie year with the Marlins in 2006, when he went 10-3 with a 2.83 ERA.

Since then, Sanchez has only had one winning season, and hasn't gotten his ERA below 3.5.

Congratulations to him for capitalizing on an impressive performance in the playoffs, but general manager Dave Dombrowksi made a huge mistake diving deep into owner Mike llitch's pockets and grossly overpaying a mediocre No. 4 pitcher.

The Tigers could have used that money for several other needs, such as a proven closer, another veteran outfielder, or a quality middle infielder to replace Jhonny Peralta.

But Detroit gave in to the market value, and now the Tigers will have to live with the consequences for the next five years.