PLAYER REVIEW: ANÍBAL SÁNCHEZ
Age on opening day 2023: 39
How acquired: Signed as minor league free agent, March 2022
MLB service time: 15 years, 83 days
2022 salary: $2 million
Contract status: Free agent
2022 stats: 4-6, 4.28 ERA, 14 G, 14 GS, 0 CG, 69 1/3 IP, 55 H, 34 R, 33 ER, 13 HR, 33 BB, 48 SO, 4 HBP, 1.269 WHIP, 91 ERA+, 5.77 FIP, -0.2 fWAR, 0.8 bWAR
Quotable: “I would like to keep pitching. Let’s see which team is going to give me the opportunity for next year.” – Aníbal Sánchez
2022 analysis: When Aníbal Sánchez arrived in West Palm Beach on a minor league deal as spring training was beginning, he looked like the longest of longshots. After struggling in 2020 and then sitting out the 2021 season, there was little reason to believe he had anything left in the tank. But by the end of camp, the Nationals felt Sánchez merited one of the five spots in their opening day rotation, so they purchased his contract and added him to the active roster.
Except Sánchez never actually pitched in a big league game until July 14, the result of a neck injury suffered prior to opening day that simply wouldn’t heal. He finally reached the point where he was healthy again, but the early results were not good. Over his first six starts, he went 0-5 with a 7.20 ERA, 1.600 WHIP and a whopping 10 homers surrendered in only 30 innings. Every outing felt like it could be his last one in the major leagues.
Then, just as he did way back in 2019, Sánchez righted the ship in dramatic fashion. Over his final eight starts, he went 4-1 with a 2.06 ERA, 1.017 WHIP and only three homers allowed in 39 1/3 innings. By season’s end, the 38-year-old inexplicably had become the most consistently effective member of the Nats rotation, not to mention a vital part of a pitching staff that had been ravaged by injuries.
2023 outlook: The notion of Sánchez returning for his age-39 season sounds farcical at first glance. But stop and consider the situation and it’s not outrageous to think the Nationals might give him yet another shot on a non-guaranteed deal, given all the uncertainty surrounding their rotation.
With no more additions, the Nationals would likely open the 2023 season with a rotation including Patrick Corbin, Josiah Gray, MacKenzie Gore (if healthy), Cade Cavalli (if healthy), Stephen Strasburg (if healthy) and/or Erick Fedde (if tendered a contract). That’s a lot of ifs to consider, and the organizational depth behind those guys isn’t great.
Sánchez could serve as a fallback option, a veteran to keep around all spring in case of emergency. If late-March arrives and the Nationals still need a fifth starter, he could slide right into that role. If they’re in good shape by the end of camp, they could simply thank him for his service and move on without him.
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