REPORT: Former Tigers’ pitcher Anibal Sanchez lands job with division rival Twins

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Sep 14, 2016; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Tigers starting pitcher Anibal Sanchez (19) pitches in the first inning against the Minnesota Twins at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

For the first time in his major league career, Aníbal Sánchez entered this offseason as a free agent, after the Tigers opted to not pick up his option for the 2018 season. The 33-year-old, like countless free agents this winter, struggled to find a job for the upcoming campaign.

Sánchez, however, has found a home. Reports are that the 12-year veteran has agreed to a deal with the Tigers’ division rival Minnesota Twins.

Sánchez had spent the previous 5+ seasons with the Tigers, after coming over from the Miami Marlins in a deadline deal back in 2012, along with Omar Infante.

His time in Detroit was a tale of two stints. From 2012-14, he was not only one of the better pitchers for the Tigers, but also in the American League, as evident by his league-leading 2.54 ERA and fourth-place finish in the Cy Young voting. Unfortunately, things went south very quickly for Sánchez, who was among the worst pitchers in the AL, statistically speaking, from 2015-17.

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Just how drastic of a difference was he through the years? The numbers speak for themselves.

2012-14* 2015-17
GAMES (STARTS) 82 (81) 88 (68)
ERA 3.29 5.67
ERA+ 124 75
BB/9 2.4 2.8
HR/9 0.6 1.8

*Includes 19 starts with MIA prior to trade to DET

The noticeable changes in the numbers for Sánchez are the in the ERA and HR/9 departments. His ERA+, which “accounts for external factors like ballparks and opponents,” took essentially a 50 percent dip following the 2014 season. And he started giving up gopher balls left and right, tripling that rate from his first three seasons over these more recent three years.

It’s hard to pinpoint what exactly could have happened to Sánchez between the end of 2014 and the beginning of 2015. One viable suggestion is the pectoral strain injury that sidelined him for nearly two months down the stretch in the ’14 season with the Tigers were fighting to make the postseason. He returned late that year to make one appearance out of the bullpen, after the team acquired David Price at the trade deadline, then made another relief outing in the playoffs.

Sánchez now joins a young, upstart Twins club that has been among the bigger contenders for starting pitching on the market this offseason; they still are reportedly eyeing one of the “bigger” names available.

Reports are that Sánchez is not guaranteed a spot on the 25-man roster. It is effectively a minor league deal with an invite to spring camp, where he is promised no worse than a spot on the 40-man roster for Minnesota. He will earn the $2.5M base salary if he makes the big league club, and can make an additional $2.5M in incentives. Sánchez is also already going to make $5M from the Tigers this season after the team bought out his club option and made him a free agent.

The deal has yet to become official from the club, pending a physical.