Although you should probably expect some quiet on the transaction front once this weekend – and the subsequent holidays – hit, we’re not quite at that point yet. And as the Washington Nationals just showed, teams can still use this in-between time to keep pumping up the roster:
— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) December 20, 2018
Earlier this offseason, the Nationals gave Patrick Corbin 6 years and $140 million to be the third pitcher in their rotation behind Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg, but, after sending Tanner Roark to the Reds, the Nats hinted that they weren’t done changing the look of their rotation just yet.
Enter Anibal Sanchez.
Sanchez, 34, hadn’t been the guy you might remember for a long time, but he bounced back in a big way with the Braves last season. Indeed, over 24 starts and a relief appearance, he posted a 2.83 ERA and a 3.62 FIP, primarily on the strength of his strikeout rate, which reached levels it hadn’t seen since 2013. On top of that – and perhaps more importantly – Sanchez became a contact management expert last season. His groundball rate improved and he posted elite soft and hard-hit rates. His velocity remains down from the height of his career, but if he’s reimagined himself as a fundamentally different pitcher, one that manages contact this successfully – there’s a chance he can continue to be good for the next couple seasons. Even at two years and $19M, I like it for the Nats.
Just look at the front four of this projected rotation:
- Max Scherzer: 5.8 WAR
- Stephen Strasburg: 5.8 WAR
- Patrick Corbin: 3.5 WAR (I’ll take the over)
- Anibal Sanchez: 1.6 WAR
And the Nationals can work out the fifth spot between 25-year-olds Joe Ross (0.9 WAR projected) and Erick Fedde (1.6 WAR projected). That’s one hell of a rotation and a big signal that the Nationals continue to believe that 2019 will be a very competitive season for them.
It also signals, in my view, an increasing likelihood that Bryce Harper will NOT be returning to the team. The Nationals are a big market club with plenty of money to throw around, but they’ve added almost $160M to their already extremely expensive rotation this winter alone. Meanwhile, you have to wonder if and when the Phillies are going to be pushed into responding and finally spending those “stupid” dollars they promised everyone they’d be handing out this winter. They did meet with Manny Machado earlier today, after all.
It’s not like Sanchez can put any team over the top, but it’s just another piece that indicates the NL East gonna be tough next year.