Instant Post-Mortem on Anibal Sanchez and the Chicago Cubs
The frustration remains too fresh to offer much beyond some bulleted thoughts on the last 24 hours, but I wanted to give you something immediately, and in the moment …
- It’s great that the Cubs were targeting someone like Anibal Sanchez with a solid offer, but I’m not much for moral victories right now. I like the message it sends about the Cubs’ 2014 intentions, but that doesn’t make me any less bummed about losing out on the guy that was probably the single best free agent available for the Cubs’ needs and direction. I figured they were going to be fielding a competitive team in 2014 anyway, so this doesn’t prove much to me that I didn’t already believe about this front office. They’ve got a plan, and it doesn’t involve being terrible for another three years.
- It’s important to point out the most logical chain of events here: Sanchez always wanted to stay with the Tigers, and the Tigers weren’t willing to go up to five years. So his agent shopped Sanchez to teams in an effort to get that five year offer, which he did, from the Cubs, for about $75 million. He took that offer back to the Tigers, applied some pressure via the media to get the Tigers to add that fifth year. He let the Cubs try and top it, which maybe they did with a five-year, $77.5 million offer. The agent went back to the Tigers, who upped it to $80 million, and the deal was done.
- If that’s how things happened – and it is the most logical narrative – the Cubs probably never had a meaningful shot at Sanchez. It’s unfortunate that it was erroneously reported that they were getting him, but it sounds like they might never have gotten him. Certainly we can’t say that the Cubs would have gotten him if they’d upped their offer to 5/$80 million, because Sanchez had a clear preference for the Tigers.
- That said, I’m still frustrated as hell. At $16 million per year, Sanchez needs to average only 3 WAR per year during his age 29, 30, 31, 32, and 33 seasons to earn his contract – and that’s being a bit unfair, because it assumes that the value of a win will hold steady at $5.5 million over the next five years, when it’s actually probably going to increase dramatically (making his contract even easier to “earn”). Given that he was worth 4.4 WAR in 2011 and 3.8 WAR in 2012, I’d say he’s a very fair bet to earn his money, if he stays healthy. Sanchez isn’t an ace, but he could have been a very important piece going forward. Let’s not play the jilted girlfriend here, claiming we didn’t really want him anyway (“He’s not even a number one!”).
- Get ready to hear about the Cubs’ failing to close another deal that leaked to the media, with references to the Atlanta/Dempster trade and the Marmol/Haren swap. You can ignore those comparisons, however, because you know that the Atlanta/Dempster deal was leaked by Atlanta, and the Marmol/Haren trade was leaked by Marmol. The former fell through because Dempster never really wanted to go to Atlanta, and the latter fell through because the Cubs pulled out after seeing Haren’s medicals. It’s an unfortunate coincidence, but those stories have absolutely nothing to do with this one.
- And, with that, I’m back to the third bullet. I guess I can’t blame the Cubs for not landing Sanchez – a guy is gonna go where a guy wants to go. The Cubs tried, made a solid offer (higher than any other team but Detroit – the Cubs are developing something of a second place curse), but came up short. Would I have offered to top that 5/$80 million offer? You know what, I probably would have. I probably would have gone to 6/$90 million, because I think it’s pretty easy to see how thin the free agent market is getting down the road, and I can see the direction salaries are going. But I also know that I don’t have half the information that the Cubs’ front office does, and there could be any number of reasons they were unwilling to add that sixth year (very few teams will ever considering going beyond five years for a pitcher, and I can understand that). Even if the Cubs had gone to six years, we’ll never know if it would have made any difference.
- Where do the Cubs go from here? Well, Dave Kaplan said they had a back-up plan in place, and said separately that they were pursuing Carlos Villanueva. Maybe that back-up plan is Edwin Jackson, and maybe they get both him and Villanueva. Does that salve your wounds? Sure. But that’s exceedingly unlikely to happen. The Cubs haven’t been connected to Jackson yet in any plausible rumors, so we’ll just have to wait and see – they hadn’t been connected to Sanchez until yesterday, either. Odds remain strong that we’ll see the Cubs pick up another mid-tier Villanueva type, and that’ll be that for the rotation. Dreams of what might have been with Sanchez in the rotation will linger throughout 2013, unless, of course, he gets hurt.
- On the media piece of this … whatever. I strongly suspect Bob Nightengale got played by Sanchez’s agent (either directly, or indirectly by way of a Cubs official), and he probably went further in his report than he should have. This is why we don’t get excited by the first whiff of a “done deal” anymore. We learn about it, we consider it, we discuss it, and we wait for something a bit more official. Some folks will continue to blame The Twitter, in ignorance of the fact that there are people behind those Twitters making decisions about what to tweet.
- Phil Rogers and George Ofman say Theo Epstein and some Ricketts family representatives went to Miami yesterday to try and convince Sanchez to sign. Once again, you can’t argue there wasn’t a serious effort here. But I just can’t bring myself to pass out the participation trophy today. Maybe tomorrow.
- I’m not mad at the front office. I’m sure no one is more disappointed today than they are. I’m not mad at Sanchez, either. He wanted to get paid, and he wanted to stay in Detroit – given their current level of competitiveness, I can’t totally blame him. It’s a good team he’s going back to, and for a lot of money.
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