4 Reasons Chicago Cubs Were Wise to Avoid Anibal Sanchez
While the Detroit Tigers outbid the Chicago Cubs and signed right-hander Anibal Sanchez to a five-year, $80 million deal, it will prove to be a blessing that the Cubs did not end up acquiring the 28-year-old.
Cubs fans have to be excited that chairman Tom Ricketts and team president Theo Epstein were active in their pursuit of Sanchez and that they nearly signed the biggest pitcher left on the market. However, they may also feel sick to their stomachs because Sanchez and his agent might have used the Cubs as leverage to get Sanchez a better deal to return to the Tigers—this year's AL Champs.
It seems like this is a strategy the 101-loss Cubs may endure more from free agents and their agents to get them more money from a winning team.
Even though Cubs management felt Sanchez would have been a good fit for the team's future plans, there are several reasons why it will be beneficial they did not acquire him. Let's take a look at the reasons Sanchez didn't need to become a Cub.
Not Worth the Money
Paying $15 million or more a year for a guy who has a career record below .500? Not a wise investment.
Pitching for a Marlins team that often struggled to score runs, Sanchez did well in his time there. He went 10-3 with a 2.83 ERA as a rookie in 2006 and seemed destined for stardom but has never really achieved that. He's only won 10 or more games twice and sports a career 48-51 record with a 3.75 ERA.
Not shabby, but not worth the money he was commanding for his services. While he finished strong with Detroit and pitched great for them in the postseason—he was 1-2 with a 1.77 ERA in three starts—it wouldn't make sense to invest a ton of money in a guy who may also not get run support in Chicago.
Not Built to Win Now
Acquiring Sanchez would prove to Cubs fans and the baseball world that Epstein and Cubs GM Jed Hoyer are serious about winning. The problem is that even with Sanchez, the Cubs are still a ways off from winning.
With Sanchez, the Cubs would be forking over a lot of money to a guy that may not be able to lead the team in a positive direction. The bullpen has major issues, the starting lineup is far from stellar and the starting rotation is still not playoff-caliber.
Sanchez would form a nice trio atop the rotation with Matt Garza and Jeff Samardzija.
That may give the Cubs hope at winning 70 games in 2013, but it would also be too much to pay one guy when there are many pressing issues for this team.
It's possible Epstein and Hoyer could have kept Sanchez around for a few years and shipped him away for top prospects, but there are no guarantees Sanchez could be successful enough with Chicago to increase his trade value.
With Detroit, he seems to have a better chance of being a 15-game winner with a potent offense and team that could be the favorite in the American League again.
Didn't Want to Be Here
If the Tigers failed to up their ante on Sanchez and the Cubs acquired him, he would have signed with a team he simply didn't want to be with.
Sanchez made it clear he wanted to be with Detroit after signing with the team, via John Lowe of the Detroit Free Press.
"I just wanted to come here," Sanchez said as he wore his Tigers jersey. "It's not about if they're going to be in the race. It's where I want to be."
The Cubs are fortunate they didn't get a pitcher who clearly wanted to be with the Tigers. Sanchez may not have given his entire focus on doing his best for the Cubs if he knew deep down he should be pitching for Detroit.
I'm sure the righty would have accepted his fate if he landed in Chicago, but I'm not positive he would have been satisfied with it if that's not where his heart was.
Can Get Similar Production for Cheaper
While Anibal Sanchez may have had the highest ceiling of the remaining free-agent starting pitchers, that doesn't mean his production will be far superior to those still on the market.
Edwin Jackson is still on the market. The 29-year-old is 70-71 with a 4.40 ERA in his career and has proven to be a lock for around 200 innings and 150+ strikeouts per season. While it's not clear what his current asking price is, he can certainly be had for much less than the $15 million annual pay the Cubs offered Sanchez.
Additionally, Shaun Marcum is still available. The 31-year-old struggled to stay healthy in 2012, making only 21 starts. However, Marcum is 57-36 with a 3.76 ERA—nearly identical to Sanchez's ERA—and has proven to be an effective arm when healthy.
Jair Jurrjens is another free agent who could help the Cubs at a much cheaper price. Jurrjens made $5.5 million in 2012, but he made only 10 starts, going 3-4 with a 6.89 ERA.
Despite his struggles last year, the 26-year-old has a track record of success in the league, as he has gone 53-37 with a 3.62 ERA in six years. He is still young and in need of a fresh start. Chicago may be the perfect place for a guy who was an All-Star in 2011. Jurrjens also had a stellar 2.60 ERA in 34 starts with Atlanta in 2009.
There are other names on the market who could also be serviceable for the Cubs at a bargain.