WASHINGTON -- One week after the Nationals traded Tanner Roark to the Reds, they found their answer for his replacement in the rotation. The Nats agreed to a two-year deal with free agent right-hander Anibal Sanchez, a source told MLB.com on Thursday.The club has not confirmed the deal, which is
WASHINGTON -- One week after the Nationals traded Tanner Roark to the Reds, they found their answer for his replacement in the rotation. The Nats agreed to a two-year deal with free agent right-hander Anibal Sanchez, a source told MLB.com on Thursday.
The club has not confirmed the deal, which is pending a physical and was first reported by the Detroit Free Press. The contract will pay Sanchez $19 million and includes a club option for 2021.
Sanchez, who will turn 35 in February, is coming off a strong bounce-back season in 2018, when he posted a 2.83 ERA in 25 games (24 starts) while helping the Braves to the National League East title. He joins a revamped Nats rotation behind Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg and recently acquired left-hander Patrick Corbin.
Washington traded Roark to Cincinnati for reliever Tanner Rainey before the end of the Winter Meetings because the club believed it could find an upgrade for Roark for cheaper than what he was set to earn in 2019. Roark had posted an ERA higher than 4.00 in three of the past four seasons and was set to earn a substantial raise in arbitration next season.
After missing out on right-hander Lance Lynn -- who signed with the Rangers for three years and $30 million -- the Nationals turned their attention to the free-agent market and eventually settled on Sanchez, who is coming off one of his best seasons in years.
Sanchez struggled for a three-year stretch from 2015-17, when he posted a 5.67 ERA with the Tigers, but he bounced back last season after making some adjustments to his pitch mix. And he made some real changes to his arsenal. Sanchez upped the usage on his cutter to 22.5 percent in 2018, by far the highest in his career (his previous high was 8.7 percent in '17). Washington saw first-hand how good Sanchez was last season when he mostly shut down Nationals hitters. In four appearances (three starts) against the Nats, he posted a 1.50 ERA and held them to a .576 OPS.
His pitch combination of fastball, changeup and cutter along with good command were enough for the Nats to buy into him being able to replicate his season going forward. And after battling injuries during the past few seasons, Sanchez is expected to be fully healthy heading into next season. Although, durability is perhaps the biggest difference between Roark, who has made at least 30 starts the past three seasons, and Sanchez, who has averaged 22 during the same span.
So, the Nationals are taking a chance that last season was not an outlier for Sanchez, despite his age, and he will serve as an improvement in the rotation next season. It's the latest move in what has been an active offseason for the Nationals, who cross another item off their offseason checklist, as they continue to revamp the roster heading into 2019.
Jamal Collier has covered the Nationals for MLB.com since 2016. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier.