Monday, February 4, 2013

Pirates Close To Adding Jonathan Sanchez

The Pirates are close to acquiring left-handed starting pitcher Jonathan Sanchez according to Jon Heyman. While it’s unclear whether Sanchez fits in with the Bucs at this point, as well as whether he’s been signed to a major or minor league deal, it is certain that the Pirates will be buying low on a player that the Royals traded Melky Cabrera for last winter.

Heyman reports that the 30-year-old Sanchez is healthy and has spent the winter working on his mechanics after a dreadful 2012. Sanchez typically uses a high-80s/low 90s fastball that can reach the mid-90s; mixing it with a changeup and curveball. He has a career 4.58 ERA (4.32 FIP) over 189 games and 772.2 innings and has a history of striking out a lot of hitters at a rate of more than one per inning (9.10 K/9) but coupling his high K rate with a lot of walks (5.00 BB/9). 

While it’s likely that Sanchez has been added to act as rotation competition/depth, Sanchez could also be used as the second left-hander out of the bullpen. Unsurprisingly Sanchez has been much better when facing a hitter for the first time in a game with opposing batters hitting .219/.332/.360 against him first time up, which rises to .239/.337/.406 and .274/.364/.452 in the second and third plate appearances against him respectively. The shorter outing nature of relieving could help him improve on his numbers - he'd be able to pitch without worrying about fatigue - likely adding heat to his fastball in the process. Furthermore, pitching out of the pen would not only help mask his problems with the free passes but would also limit his exposure to right handed hitters. Righties have hit him for a .337 wOBA-against (4.50 FIP) over the course of his career while lefties have a wOBA of .299 when facing Sanchez (3.77 FIP). He also has 2.64 strikeouts for every walk when facing a left-hander over his career and 1.64 strikeouts per walk against righties. 

Sanchez is a nice buy low addition. He will likely enter Spring Training attempting to win a spot in the rotation; however I think that he’s more likely to have a shot at rebuilding his value out of the bullpen or acting as rotation depth in Indianapolis – especially if the Francisco Liriano deal is eventually completed.

Update: The Pirates did sign Jonathan Sanchez to a minor league deal.