Nationals Rumors: Team continues to discuss Anibal Sanchez
By Blake Finney
The Washington Nationals are still on the lookout for more starting pitching. The latest Nationals rumors have them connected to Anibal Sanchez.
Washington Nationals fans are still waiting for the corresponding move after the Tanner Roark trade. There have been a few Nationals rumors about the subject floating around, including a few about Anibal Sanchez.
Sanchez is coming off a bounce-back season with the Atlanta Braves where he was able to go 7-6 with a solid 2.83 ERA. Now he hopes to count on that to earn yet another shot at the major leagues this offseason, with the Nats being one of the teams interested.
Jesse Dougherty of the Washington Post reported that the Nationals continue to have discussions with the right-hander about a deal. This follows on from MLB.com’s Jon Morosi report a few days ago of the Nats displaying interest in Sanchez.
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The concern for the Nats will be whether Sanchez’s season was a fluke, or whether he was able to find a second win in his career after a few down seasons. In the three seasons before 2018, he combined for an ugly 5.67 ERA in 68 starts and 20 relief appearances with the Detroit Tigers.
However, Sanchez did finish fourth in the AL Cy Young voting back in 2014, so it’s not unheard of for him to be this good. In 2018, he was able to lower his home run rate from 1.8 HR/9 in those three poor seasons to a manageable 1.0 HR/9 last season.
He did so with a sharp increase to his soft contact rate, jumping from 16.8 percent in 2017 to 26.3 in 2018, meaning if he can keep that consistent, success may be on the cards in 2019. It seems as though this stems from not putting the ball in the strike zone as much, as shown by a Zone% drop from 46.6 to 41.2, inducing poor swings from the hitter. That stands to reason as his stuff diminishes, he’s learning to be more of a crafty pitcher.
In Jon Heyman’s contract predictions, he predicted a one-year $5 million deal for Sanchez, while his expert had $7 million. Obviously, that offers a significant saving on Roark, however, there seems to be more risk involved, with possible regression likely for the former Brave unless he can keep inducing weak contact.
He would be better suited a low-price flier in the fifth starter role, which could then allow the team to limit Joe Ross’ innings early in the minor leagues and have him ready for a playoff push. The Nats will seemingly be exploring a lot of other options in the rotation before they make a final decision, but it seems like Sanchez is high on their list.
While Anibal Sanchez does make some sense for the Washington Nationals, you have to feel there are better options out there if they are looking for a Roark replacement. We’ll see if more Nationals rumors emerge about other options in the near future.