According to Jon Heyman, the Pittsburgh Pirates are close to a deal with left-hander Jonathan Sanchez.
Jonathan Sanchez is close to a deal with the #pirates. word is, he's healthy and worked all winter on mechanics.
— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) February 4, 2013
Sanchez missed time last year with a biceps injury. He only made 15 starts, putting up a pretty alarming 8.07 ERA in 64.2 innings. His xFIP was better at 6.46, but not good.
The lefty looked better in previous years, and always reminded me of Oliver Perez. His biggest issue has been a total lack of control, with a career 5.0 BB/9 ratio. However, he’s got dominant stuff, with a career 9.1 K/9 ratio. Last year was clearly a horrible season, but the 2009-2011 numbers were much better. Sanchez had a 3.07 ERA in 193.1 innings in 2010, and an ERA around 4.25 in 2009 and 2011. His xFIP in those years was in the range of 3.94-4.36.
It’s unclear where Sanchez fits in with the Pirates, or whether this would be a big league deal. Considering the 2012 injury, I’d guess this would be a minor league deal. Sanchez is a lefty, and the Pirates don’t have a lot of left-handed depth, so he could be a strong competitor for the second lefty spot in the bullpen. He profiles better as a starter if he can bounce back from his 2012 numbers. The Pirates have a lot of starting options, with Kyle McPherson, Jeff Locke, and Jeff Karstens as candidates to fill the final two positions. Francisco Liriano would fill one of those spots if his deal becomes official.
It’s also unclear what this says about Liriano. Sanchez and Liriano have similar profiles. They’re both left-handers who are coming off horrible seasons, both having control issues, both relatively young (Sanchez is 30). They also both have strong arms, dominant strikeout numbers, and are each a few years removed from outstanding numbers.
For now nothing is official on either front. We’ll have to see how this plays out.
UPDATE 9:52 PM: Rob Biertempfel says it’s a minor league deal.
Confirmed: #Pirates close to minor league contract with FA lhp Jonathan Sanchez.
— RobBiertempfel (@RobBiertempfel) February 5, 2013