A lot of the recent struggles from the Detroit Tigers have started with pitching, namely some inconsistencies and inefficiencies from the rotation. Prior to Thursday's series finale against the San Francisco Giants, Tigers pitchers have logged a 5.47 ERA spanning 15 games.
The team went 5-10 in that stretch, including an 8-game losing skid.
Somewhat amazingly, one of the more consistent pitchers for Detroit during that time has been veteran Anibal Sanchez. The 33-year-old was recalled from the minor leagues after accepting an assignment to Toledo back in May, hoping to revitalize himself into a starter once more. Making such a humbling move had earned him a ton of support from the Detroit faithful.
And since returning from Triple-A, Sanchez has been strong and given the Tigers chances to win games.
Sanchez was recalled On June 19 to make a start in Seattle against the Mariners, a start that puzzled many to say the least. He turned in three high-quality outings entering his fourth start of the season on Thursday, in which he picked up his first win of the season.
Since that June 19 start, Sanchez has logged a 3.09 ERA, showing glimpses of his career year in 2013 when he was the American League ERA champion.
Because of his recent stretch, he's chopped down his season ERA from 9.00 to 5.89 where it currently sits right now. A big difference for Sanchez has been limiting the power from opposing bats, particularly the home run ball.
Anibal Sanchez hasn't allowed a HR in last 19 1/3 innings. He began the season by giving up 9 HRs in 18 2/3 innings.
— Evan Woodbery (@evanwoodbery) July 6, 2017
In addition to that one home run allowed over his last four times out, he's also only yielded just four extra-base hits. In his first 21 innings of work this season — all in relief prior to being optioned — he allowed 16 total XBHs, nine of which left the yard, as Woodbery points out.
It's been a welcome sight for the Tigers and their fans as of late, given the team's overall recent struggles. Excluding All-Star Michael Fulmer, Sanchez has been the team's best starter since he returned to the rotation. And he was given the opportunity due to some struggles and questions elsewhere on the staff.
It starts to raise a question with Sanchez: Should this trend continue, does he become another movable trade chip for the Tigers?
Granted, it is only four starts so we have to take his recent success with a grain of a salt. But as this continues, that salt becomes heavier and the substance carries more weight.
In other words, the longer his success goes on, the less of a fluke it is.
Sanchez is pitching like the starter we've grown accustomed to seeing since he arrived in 2012, and it's clear that his comfort level is starting games as opposed to entering games late in relief. It's also ironic that he finds himself back in this situation.
One can flash back to the end of spring training when Sanchez was fighting with others just to preserve a spot on the Opening Day roster. It didn't end up working out and he shocked many when he agreed to the option to be optioned.
Now he's pitching like he wants to stay in the rotation, and it gives the Tigers something to think about heading into the All-Star break.
If Sanchez continues to turn in strong, above-average starts post-break, the Tigers have to consider trading him to a team that needs a veteran starter. Now like the rest of us here who are seeing it first-hand, any team in need of pitching is going to want to see a larger sample size, and rightfully so.
But if Detroit knows that Sanchez has value to other clubs and teams are willing to negotiate, general manager Al Avila has to listen, even if it after the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline.
There are always deals that happen beyond July 31. Teams will place players of value on the waiver wire to see if opposing clubs will bite.
Should that be the case, Detroit could work out a deal with a team in need of a starter — because let's be honest, Sanchez would pitch for his proposed new team as a starter — if they were to place the veteran on waivers after July 31.
Both the Tigers and any potential suitor would have to consider the contract situation of Sanchez. He is making $16M this season and has a club option for that same value in 2018. So any club interested in his services could be getting him for more than just a late-season rental, if the two team were to negotiate on that level.
Over the last few weeks, there have been a handful of Tigers that have been the subject of rumors and potential trading chips. Outfielder J.D. Martinez and catcher Alex Avila appear to be the most coveted on the open market in the eyes of many, as well as closer Justin Wilson. It was reported earlier this month that a couple of teams have inquired the Tigers about their veteran backstop.
Starting pitcher Justin Verlander has had his name float around as well. Multiple teams had scouts — Cubs and Dodgers, specifically — in attendance for Verlander's recent outing this past Sunday against the Cleveland Indians.
Right now, Sanchez is pitching better than the majority of the Tigers' rotation. He's also a cheaper option with the… well, option, of another season. It'll be interesting to see if Sanchez can keep it up in the second half and how quickly, if at all, his name hits the trade market.