This year’s hot stove season has gotten off to a rather tepid start. Our Milwaukee Brewers have yet to really be mentioned in a single rumor and have completed only one lesser transaction so far, signing lefty Angel Perdomo to a minor league deal. But that has finally changed this morning, with Jon Morosi of MLB.com linking the Cream City Nine to a free agent hurler who is coming off an outstanding performance in 2018.
Per Morosi, the Brewers are involved in the early free agent market for pitching and according to his sources, one of the hurlers that they have shown interest in is veteran right-hander Anibal Sanchez. He debuted way back in 2006 and in parts of 13 seasons since then, Sanchez has piled up 1,729.1 innings with a 3.99 ERA.
It looked liked Sanchez had hit a wall in his early 30s after pitching to a 5.67 ERA during his final three seasons in Detroit, and he was forced to sign a minor league deal with Atlanta last spring before his contract was selected in early April. He missed nearly six weeks of action with a hamstring injury during the season’s early going, but when he was on the mound for the Braves in 2018, Sanchez was one of the most effective starters in the National League.
Sanchez started tinkering with a cutter back in 2015 but boosted his usage of the pitch in a big way in 2018. He largely shelved his sinker in favor of the cut fastball, and slashed his slider usage while increasing the amount he threw his changeup. That helped Sanchez post his highest swinging-strike rate (10.5%) in five years and slash 10% off his hard contact rate, down to 27.7%. Among the 140 pitchers who threw at least 100 innings in 2018, that total was the 7th-lowest.
Sanchez’s 0.99 HR/9 last season was less than half the rate at which he allowed dingers in 2017 and aligns closely with his career average (1.00 HR/9). In 25 appearances (24 starts), the righty worked 136.2 innings with a sparkling 2.83 ERA and marks of 8.89 K/9 and 2.77 BB/9. His ERA was 31% better than league average, and Baseball Prospectus run-estimator Deserved Run Average thought he was even better than that, valuing him with an ace-like DRA- of 61 (39% better than league average) and 4.0 Wins Above Replacement Player.
The Brewers are no stranger to pitchers who have used a cutter to revitalize their career, given the season Wade Miley authored in the Menomonee Valley in 2018. Sanchez seems like a solid fit within Milwaukee’s run prevention system and unlike the guys like Corbin or Keuchel, he figures to comes at a reasonable price. The soon-to-be 35 year old’s age will serve to limit his market a bit, and MLB Trade Rumors predicts Sanchez will land a modest two-year, $22 mil deal.
Statistics courtesy of Fangraphs and Baseball Prospectus