The case for Anibal Sanchez

Al Bello

The Dodgers' first choice on the free agent market is Zack Greinke, but if he signs elsewhere how does Anibal Sanchez stack up in comparison?

After hearing for weeks that nobody would be able to outbid the Dodgers for Zack Greinke, one could forgive Dodgers fans for thinking the right-hander would be in blue beginning in 2013. But as a growing possibility emerges that Greinke could end up in Texas, it's time to look at the next best fallback option, Anibal Sanchez.

As someone who advocates signing Greinke over Sanchez, I will now attempt to talk myself into the latter.

Sanchez is younger than Greinke: Sure, it's only by four months, but who knows what untold damage was done to Greinke's right shoulder and elbow in those extra 139 days on this earth.

Sanchez will earn far less than Greinke: This might not seem to matter to the YOLO-Dodgers, but paying Sanchez $17 million (for example) instead of $24 million to Greinke should make it easier if the Dodgers wanted to take on even more salary via trade or another free agent signing.

Sanchez has been reasonably similar to Greinke in the last three years: Both pitchers have made 95 starts in the last three years, and Greinke has a slight advantage in innings (604 to 587). Sanchez has the edge in both ERA (3.70 to 3.83) and ERA+ (109 to 106), and subsequently Baseball-Reference Wins Above Replacement (9.0 to 7.9) as well. Sure, Greinke is peripherally an All-Star and rates better (again, I would prefer Greinke), but it's not a runaway. Greinke has the edge in FanGraphs WAR (14.2 to 12.0), FIP (3.16 to 3.40), and xFIP (3.17 to 3.63).

Shouldering the load: Sanchez was limited to just 32 starts and 167⅔ innings from 2007-2009 thanks to shoulder problems. He had surgery in 2007, and a pair of sprains in 2009. In spring training in 2012, Sanchez told a Venezuelan newspaper (per MLB Trade Rumors), "I've never pitched without pain. There's always a small problem with something. I have five scars inside my shoulder, and some nerve has to be touching those."

Wait, I thought I was trying to talk myself into signing Sanchez. Well, he did recover to pitch between 195 and 196⅓ innings in each of the last three years. Then again, Jason Schmidt pitched in 610⅓ innings in the three years immediately preceding signing with the Dodgers.

Complete the circle: On Nov. 24, 2005, the Red Sox traded Sanchez with Hanley Ramirez, Harvey Garcia, and Jesus Delgado to the Marlins for Josh Beckett, Guillermo Mota, and Mike Lowell. Mota has already been a Dodger, and the Dodgers acquired both Ramirez and Beckett in separate deals in 2012. Garcia pitched two years in the Dodgers minor league system. Getting Sanchez would move to the Dodgers one step closer to getting everyone involved in that trade in Los Angeles.

Not convinced? I don't blame you.

But in all seriousness, the Dodgers would need to decide if Sanchez is an upgrade over Chris Capuano, Ted Lilly, and Aaron Harang, which he very likely will be. But that doesn't make it exciting.

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