Our offseason player review series continues today with Aníbal Sánchez, who labored through a difficult season on the mound.
PLAYER REVIEW: ANÍBAL SÁNCHEZ
Age on opening day 2021: 37
How acquired: Signed as free agent, December 2018
MLB service time: 14 years, 83 days
2020 salary: $9,555,556 (prorated $3,148,149)
Contract status: Club holds $12 million option or $2 million buyout for 2021
2020 stats: 4-5, 6.62 ERA, 11 GS, 0 CG, 53 IP, 70 H, 40 R, 39 ER, 11 HR, 18 BB, 43 SO, 3 HBP, 1.660 WHIP, 69 ERA+, 5.46 FIP, 0.2 fWAR, 0.2 bWAR
Quotable: “You saw how he pitched the last couple outings. I think he still has stuff left in the tank.” - Manager Davey Martinez on Sanchez
2020 analysis: Sánchez may have finished strong - back-to-back wins over the Phillies and Mets - but it certainly wasn’t enough to make up for his substandard work that came before it. There was no silver lining to the veteran’s season. It simply was not good.
Sánchez completed six innings only once in 11 starts. He was charged with the most earned runs in the league. His WHIP was the highest it’s been since 2007 when he made six starts for the Florida - yes, Florida - Marlins.
Sánchez makes his living inducing weak contact. He excelled at it in 2018 with the Braves and again in 2019 with the Nationals. He didn’t induce nearly enough of it this season, his hard-hit rate skyrocketing from 28.3 to 37.6 percent. Opponents hit .441 with an .864 slugging percentage off his four-seam fastball. They hit .538 with a 1.000 slugging percentage off his sinker. They even connected off his famed butterfly changeup at a healthy .333 clip.
On top of all that, Sánchez was abysmal at holding runners on base once they reached against him. His slow delivery to the plate and inability to mix up his timing allowed opponents to go a perfect 25-for-25 on stolen base attempts over two seasons until he and Kurt Suzuki finally teamed up to catch two runners in his penultimate start this year.
2021 outlook: A vital component of the Nationals’ championship run in 2019, Sánchez couldn’t come anywhere close to duplicating the performance this season. And as he prepares to enter his age-37 season, there’s a real question about what - if anything - he’s still got left in the tank.
Sánchez insists he still has the desire to pitch in the big leagues. And Martinez cited his final two starts as evidence of his ability to still be successful at this level. But it’s a huge question mark, and there are no guarantees he’s still got one more good year in him.
Given all that, it seems unlikely the Nats will pick up Sanchez’s $12 million option for 2021. Perhaps another club will take a shot at him. Or perhaps the Nationals might work out some kind of deal for less guaranteed money and more performance-based incentives.
In all likelihood, though, Sánchez’s time in D.C. has come to an end. He’ll always hold a special place in the Nats’ hearts and minds for his performance on the mound and personality off it. Now you just wonder if someone will give him one more shot to pitch.