Details surrounding Aaron Sanchez’s shoulder surgery last week remain unusually sparse, but Astros manager A.J. Hinch indicated to reporters today that Sanchez’s rehab process could carry into the 2020 season (Twitter link via Brian McTaggart of MLB.com).
The uncertainty surrounding Sanchez’s readiness for the 2020 season only further muddies the Astros’ decision on whether to tender him a contract this winter. The 27-year-old Sanchez was a paid a relatively modest $3.9MM salary in 2019 and struggled when healthy enough to take the ball, so his forthcoming arbitration raise will be anything but exorbitant. But, if the Astros are concerned that the right-hander will miss a substantial portion of the 2020 campaign, then it’s possible they could simply move on. Doing so just months after trading Derek Fisher to acquire Sanchez and Joe Biagini from the Blue Jays certainly wouldn’t be an ideal outcome, but spending on a player whose health outlook is cloudy enough could potentially prove more detrimental yet.
There’s reason for the Astros to roll the dice on Sanchez, of course. Although he’s been consistently plagued by fingernail and blister issues in recent seasons, he was excellent in Toronto as recently as 2016, when he pitched 192 innings of 3.00 ERA ball with 7.6 K/9, 3.0 BB/9 and an outstanding 54.4 percent ground-ball rate. Add in that Sanchez can be retained at a relatively low rate and that the ’Stros could lose Gerrit Cole, Wade Miley and Collin McHugh to free agency this winter, and a low-cost flier on Sanchez has its appeal.
Then again, the Astros were able to wait out the starting pitching market and sign Miley for a $4.5MM guarantee last winter. They could seek a similarly low-cost match with a free-agent starter this winter rather than promise a comparable sum to Sanchez in arbitration. Justin Verlander and Zack Greinke will return to front next year’s rotation, and the Astros will also likely have Lance McCullers Jr. back from Tommy John surgery. Houston does already have more than $156MM committed to the 2020 payroll — not including arbitration raises for Carlos Correa, Brad Peacock, Roberto Osuna, Jake Marisnick, Biagini and a likely repeat of McCullers’ $4.1MM salary — so the team may not be keen on further spending on a player with this level of uncertainty.