You may have noticed that the Twins need a starting pitcher. Because I’m such a helpful guy, I’ve been poring over Major League rosters to help my favorite team find it’s ideal starter. I’ve already discussed Ricky Nolasco and Wandy Rodriguez. Next up: Jonathan Sanchez.
As with any trade candidate, Sanchez comes with positives and negatives. Here’s an overview of the San Francisco Southpaw.
Sanchez will turn 29 this month. He’s been a regular starter in the Major Leagues for four years now, including 2010 when the Giants won the World Series. Aside from the World Series ring, the highlight of Sanchez’s career was probably the no-hitter he tossed against San Diego in 2009. He throws a 90-91 mph fastball, a slider that sits near 81, and a changeup in the low to mid 80s. Despite the lack of velocity, Sanchez has probably never heard the phrase “pitch to contact” in his life. He consistently racks up high strikeout totals as well as high walk totals. Last season was a disappointment for Sanchez, as he went 4-7 with a 4.26 ERA in 19 starts. In 101 innings, he struck out 102 and walked 66.
This is Sanchez’s final year of arbitration eligibility with the Giants. There has been speculation that the team might shop him instead of giving him a raise.
How Would He Help the Twins?
Sanchez can be unhittable, and not just against the Padres. Remember when I said he doesn’t pitch to contact? In 2010, he held opponents to the fewest hits per nine innings in the National League, with just 6.6. That year opponents hit just .204 against him. That would be a nice change of pace for a Twins team that gave up more hits (1,564) than any other MLB team except Baltimore. Sanchez gets his outs by way of the strikeout. He struck out 9.1 per nine last year, which is pretty consistent with his usual line. His ability to strike out hitters would compensate for some weak fielding if the Twins cannot upgrade their shortstop situation.
What are his Downsides?
As someone who has lived in Northern California for the past few years, I have witnessed firsthand the frustration that Giants fans feel when Sanchez is off his game. At times, he seems to get over-excited, much like fellow lefty strikeout artist Francisco Liriano. In 2010 Sanchez walked more batters (96) than any other NL pitcher. Granted, he overcame the walks and achieved a dazzling 3.07 ERA that year, but the potential for harm is there. Even if the walks don’t come around to score, the wildness will drive up his pitch counts. Sanchez has never worked more than 200 innings in his career, even though he made at least 29 starts per season from 2008 through 2010. The surplus of pitches forces Sanchez out of the game in the sixth or seventh inning on a regular basis. Finally, there’s a slight injury concern. He had a couple stints on the DL last year – a short one with tendinitis in June, and a season ending one with an ankle injury in August. The good news is that the injury that ended his season wasn’t an arm problem, but it’s never comforting to have pitchers with an injury history.
What Would he Cost?
Sanchez’s salary would be lower than Rodriguez or Nolasco. He should earn somewhere in the $6 million range once his arbitration hearing is over. That is definitely within the Twins’ price range. The real uncertainty lies in what the team would have to give up in exchange. Since San Francisco’s already has an elite pitching staff, they may want a talented hitter or two in return. Unfortunately, the Twins do not have any hitters that San Francisco would want, and it is not likely that they’ll be able to re-sign A.J. Pierzynski and swindle the Giants again. So if the Twins have any shot at Sanchez, they’ll either need to dangle an impressive prospect (perhaps Aaron Hicks?) or work out some type of multi-team deal that sends a big bat to the Bay and allows the Twins to trade minor leaguers to a third team.
The Twins should at least call San Francisco to ask about Sanchez, because his positives outweigh his negatives. On any pitching staff that doesn’t include Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain, Sanchez would be a legitimate #2 starter, a relatively young guy who can mow down hitters when he’s at his best. I would not give up a plethora of prospects for him, especially since he’s under team control for just one more year, but it makes sense to see what the Giants want and consider making an offer. Sanchez would make the Twins better.