The Tigers have optioned veteran righty Anibal Sanchez to Triple-A, manager Brad Ausmus told reporters including Anthony Fenech of the Detroit Free Press (Twitter links). Sanchez, who would’ve had the right to reject any minor-league assignment, will return to working as a starter at Toledo.
The move was driven by Sanchez himself, per Ausmus. He would like to return to working from the rotation after opening the year in the bullpen. Through 21 innings over 11 outings, Sanchez had allowed 21 earned runs on 34 hits while compiling 22 strikeouts against nine walks.
That was the first time Sanchez had functioned as a reliever for such a dedicated stretch. The vast balk of his dozen-year MLB career has come from the rotation, where Sanchez once thrived. But the results just haven’t been there over the past two seasons — he owns a 5.65 ERA since the start of 2015 — and Detroit wasn’t willing to give him a starting role this year.
It seems optimistic to hope that Sanchez can turn things around by returning to a starting role, though stranger things have happened. It’s worth noting that he’s registering a 10.1% swinging-strike rate in the early going, his best since 2013, and could perhaps boost that yet further if he can get batters to chase outside the zone at a rate closer to his career average. Sanchez’s batted-ball results — .379 BABIP; 3.86 HR/9; 55.9% strand rate — may fall at his feet to large extent, but there’s probably some poor fortune mixed in as well.
Regardless of how things go, Sanchez will earn $16MM this season — the final guaranteed year of the contract he signed before the 2013 campaign. He’ll also earn a $5MM buyout over the winter, unless the Tigers make the surprising decision to pick up his $16MM option.