Starting pitching depth can never be valued enough. Last season, we saw the Rays forced to dig into their depth due to various injuries to their opening day starting five. All-in-all, 10 pitchers started at least one game for the Rays in 2013. Because the Rays value depth so much, they were able to make up for injuries to their original five. Just like every year, the Rays will want as much pitching depth as possible going into the 2014 season. According to MLB Daily Dish’s Chris Cotillo, Jonathan Sanchez has narrowed his list of teams down to 2-3 teams after 7-8 teams showed interest in him. Could one of these teams be the Rays?
Sanchez has showed the ability to be a quality major league pitcher in the past. He even posted a 3.07 ERA in 193.1 innings in 2010 with the San Francisco Giants, although that was well off his career ERA of 4.70. For his career, Sanchez has shown the ability to strike out plenty of batters; posting a 9.1 K/9 in parts of 8 big league seasons. Sanchez throws a fastball that sits in the 91-94 MPH range, and paired with two strong secondary pitches in his splitter and curveball, he has no trouble striking out batters. What has held Sanchez back in the majors is a lack of command. Sanchez has walked 5 batters per nine innings since reaching the big leagues.
After his stellar 2010 season, Sanchez has fallen of the map. From 2011-2013, he made just 39 starts, posting a horrendous 6.21 ERA and a 6.4 BB/9 along the way. He was not much better in Triple-A in 2013, as he threw to just a 5.13 ERA and walked 5.7 batters per nine innings. That being said, Sanchez still has the ability to strike out hitters (his K/9 was 10.7 in Triple-A in 2013 even as he struggled). Thus there remains hope that he can improve his command just enough to become a major league option once again.
At 31 years old, Sanchez will only receive minor league offers this year. He will be given a shot to win a rotation spot with whichever team he signs with, but in all likelihood he will simply provide depth at Triple-A. Sanchez could very well get another shot in the majors if he can improve the horrendous command he showed from 2011-2013, but that probably won’t be at the start of 2014. Even though he might not be a rotation option for teams to start 2014, he is a solid depth option, which is something that is always valued. Some teams could also value Sanchez as a reliever, especially as a LOOGY. For his career, Sanchez has been much better against lefties than righties in his major league career, holding them to a .676 OPS compared to .772 with his strikeout to walk ratio jumping from 1.64-to-1 to 2.66-to-1. Overall, Sanchez could be a good option as starting depth or a lefty reliever for many teams.
Jonathan Sanchez would fit in well with the Rays. Andrew Friedman always looks for ways to provide minor league depth, especially with starting pitching. Sanchez certainly would not be a part of the Rays rotation to begin 2014, but if signed he would be one of the first couple of options that would be called upon in the event of injury to a major league starter. The Rays would not need to use Sanchez in the bullpen given their already extraordinary left-handed bullpen depth, but it couldn’t hurt to have additional depth there as well.While Sanchez has struggled mightily with command in the past, if there is any team who can help him improve it is the Rays. With starting pitching always placed at a premium, the Rays will do everything they can to ensure they have quality depth going into 2014. Signing Jonathan Sanchez would be a great way to accomplish that goal.