These are acquisitions that arrive without fanfare. For instance: The Braves announced they've signed right-hander Anibal Sanchez to a Minor League contract …That's pretty much it. Atlanta did it because some of its scouts remembered how good Sanchez once was and believed that at 34, he was still capable of
These are acquisitions that arrive without fanfare. For instance: The Braves announced they've signed right-hander Anibal Sanchez to a Minor League contract …
That's pretty much it. Atlanta did it because some of its scouts remembered how good Sanchez once was and believed that at 34, he was still capable of pitching quality innings.
Beyond that, the Braves had heard the stories of how relentlessly Sanchez had worked to get his career back on track. If nothing else, he was worth a chance, and even if he didn't make it back to the Major Leagues, he's the type player who is a great influence on younger players.
The signing happened on March 16, after Sanchez had been released by the Twins in the wake of the Lance Lynn arrival. Was this the move that would get Atlanta back in the mix in the National League East?
Of course not. As good as Braves general manager Alex Anthopoulos is at his job -- and there aren't many better -- he was hoping for quality depth for his young rotation.
Six months later, Sanchez has proven to be one of the smartest signings of the year. In three previous seasons, all with the Tigers, Sanchez had a 5.67 ERA.
This season, armed with a new cutter, Sanchez has a 3.01 ERA and a dazzling 1.098 WHIP. His 6-6 record doesn't begin to reflect his value to a team on the verge of winning the division for the first time since 2013.
As Atlanta works through its options for a postseason rotation, Sanchez seems certain to be in the mix. On a team of feel-good stories, none is sweeter than Sanchez's career rebirth.
Every team scours the market for under-the-radar acquisitions, and in this final sprint for postseason berths, they're scattered up and down rosters.
Let's check out nine small moves that have paid big dividends:
1. Anibal Sanchez, RHP, Braves (6-6, 3.01 ERA, 22 starts)
Sanchez has made perhaps the toughest transition a pitcher can make, going from a power thrower to one who succeeds on location and movement. But he has done it beautifully.
"I've said it before, he's a magician with the ball," Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman told reporters in July. "What he can do with it is pretty remarkable. I mean, he can go from 68 to 93 [mph]. It's pretty special what he's doing."
2. Player Page for Max Muncy, 1B/2B/3B/OF, Dodgers (33 HR, .960 OPS)
Muncy faced a crossroads of sorts when he was released by the A's 18 months ago and spent an entire season on the Dodgers Triple-A team. He used that time to remake his swing mechanics and mental approach. Muncy homered in his second game after being summoned from the Minor Leagues in mid-April, and he has been extremely invaluable with his power and ability to play any position.
3. Wade Miley, LHP, Brewers (5-2, 2.08 ERA, 14 starts)
Miley was signed early in Spring Training as rotation insurance. Smart move. Like Sanchez, he has ridden a new cutter to his best season. Since returning from the disabled list in July, Miley has allowed more than two earned runs just once in 12 starts and helped get Milwaukee to the cusp of its first postseason appearance in seven years.
4. Edwin Jackson, RHP, Athletics (5-3, 3.17 ERA, 15 starts)
We could have made an entire list of players who've jump-started their careers with the A's this season, from Brett Anderson and Trevor Cahill to Blake Treinen. But Jackson is our favorite, signing with Oakland in June after opting out of his Minor League deal with the Nationals. The A's are 12-3 in his 15 starts, and Jackson's ERA has made him a key part of Oakland's magical ride.
5. Ji-Man Choi, DH/1B/LF, Rays (.866 OPS, 10 HR)
Choi's walk-off home run against the Indians last week may end up being the most dramatic moment in a season with plenty of them. He was acquired for infielder Brad Miller from the Brewers in mid-June and has been invaluable in an assortment of roles for manager Kevin Cash.
6. Bud Norris, RHP, Cardinals (62 games, 28 saves, 3.49 ERA)
Never mind that Norris transitioned from the closer's role after a couple of tough appearances earlier this month. After being signed for $3 million on the first day of Spring Training, he helped keep the back of the Cardinals' bullpen intact in the first five months of the season.
7. Randy Rosario, LHP, Cubs (39 appearances, 3.18 ERA)
The 24-year-old lefty arrived via waiver claim from the Twins in the offseason and could be a significant postseason factor on a team searching for late-inning options. Rosario has a solid power fastball/slider combination and picked up his first career save last week.
8. Melky Cabrera, RF, Indians (.756 OPS, 14 2B, 6 HR, 214 AB)
Cabrera joined the Indians on a Minor League deal in late April and was summoned to the Major Leagues in late May when injuries hit the outfield. He has a .956 OPS against left-handed pitching.
9. Carlos Gonzalez, RF, Rockies (.785 OPS, 28 2B, 15 HR)
Would Gonzalez look right in any other uniform? The Rockies re-signed one of their franchise mainstays in March when he was still on the market, and at 32, he has proven that he's still got all kinds of game left.
Richard Justice has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2011. Read his columns, listen to his podcast and follow him on Twitter at @RichardJustice.