Recapping the Return of Anibal Sanchez

Detroit fans have been spoiled rotten by Mike Ilitch‘s generosity with the Red Wings for 30 years and the Tigers for the past 20. But I thought even he’d reached his limit with the addition of Torii Hunter last month. And I’m so glad to be wrong.

The re-signing of Anibal Sanchez – to a contact equal to Justin Verlander’s 2009 extension – is not only another indication of an owner’s urgent desire to win, it’s a reminder of how the Tigers have become a destination of choice for big-name players.

For a long time, the Tigers had to overpay any free agent with even a hint of interest in playing home games at Comerica Park:

Then the winning came and with it a reputation for being a great place to play. Victor Martinez, Prince Fielder and Hunter further proved that. And now with the re-signing of Sanchez, the Tigers must be considered a threat to add big names for big dollars every year. But back to Sanchez. He was the highest-profile Tigers free agent since, perhaps, Jack Morris in 1990. But unlike Sanchez, few expected Morris to bolt for his hometown Twins. (Juan Gonzalez doesn’t count; no one expected him to re-sign with the Tigers after the 2000 season. And thankfully he didn’t.)

With Sanchez sticking around to permanently replace Rick Porcello as the Tigers’ fourth starter, his impact on the rotation could be just as big as Hunter’s in the everyday lineup.


What Others Are Saying

If anything, this deal highlights the differences between operating a franchise that will spend money and one that either won’t or is limited by its market size. The Royals had to trade a premium prospect to acquire two years of Shields. The Tigers can just dip into owner Mike Ilitch’s wallet and sign a free agent — this offseason, Torii Hunter and now Sanchez. The Royals might think of themselves as playoff contenders,but this signing makes it a little less likely that will be the case. – Dave Schoenfield, “Sanchez signing makes Tigers clear favorite”.

Did the Tigers overpay for Sanchez? Something like that is somewhat relative. In a vacuum, yes, the Tigers are paying $16 million to a pitcher who, while productive, isn’t exactly great like his impressive paychecks will say he is. Was he the best available left on the market, though, and a pitcher who can help Detroit achieve their goal of winning a World Series before the Tigers as we know them scatter to the winds? That’s why they acquired Sanchez at last year’s deadline to begin with. Re-signing him is simply giving that plan another go, and it’s hard to blame them considering how close they were to getting it done on the first attempt. – Marc Normandin, SB Nation “Anibal Sanchez might be overpaid, but fits Tigers

When the reclining Tigers finally sat up and took enough notice to get off their original four-year, $48 million offer, the Cubs almost got him. The Cubs still might have had him if they had been willing to enter a bidding war that would have saddled them with a potentially bad contract. – Gordon Wittenmyer, Chicago Sun TimesTigers outbid Cubs for Anibal Sanchez — but it was close

Some viewed the Tigers as an underachieving bunch, but that did not sway Tigers owner Mike Ilitch’s commitment to winning a World Series. Like he did last year with Prince Fielder, Ilitch swooped in at the last minute to re-sign Sanchez, which preserved one of the strongest pitching staffs in the league. – Jim Bowden, “The AL Central’s strong offseason

[T]he Sanchez signing was essential to preserve the Tigers’ clearest advantage over their divisional foes — and potential October opponents. Detroit’s postseason rotation – Justin Verlander, Doug Fister, Sanchez and Max Scherzer — posted a 5-1 record and 1.02 ERA against Oakland and New York in the AL playoffs. And now no member of that group will be eligible for free agency until Verlander and Scherzer after the 2014 season. – Jon Paul Morosi, “Sanchez signing gives Tigers an edge

What do you think about the Sanchez contract?

Sheff Checks Out

SheffieldHeadSo Gary Sheffield is calling it quits.

Had he not played for the Tigers, I wouldn’t give this much thought, but he did, so I do.

That’s because there’s been no other Tigers player in my lifetime that has left me wanting more than Sheff.

Sure it would’ve been nice to see something, anything from the likes of Edgar Renteria, Juan Gonzalez or Fernando Vina, but Gary Sheffield was a superstar at just about every stop in his career — and he was bringing his act to Detroit. This was a once-in-a-generation opportunity.

But a collision with Placido Polanco in July 2007 essentially ended what was shaping up to be a Sheff-like season: .265, 25 home runs and 75 RBI over 133 games. His OPS that season was a hefty (Shefty?) .819.

Alas, we were robbed of what could’ve been three of the most quote-rich years in club history.

In ’08, he appeared in 114 games and hit just .225 but still smacked 19 homers.

Sheffield finishes his career with 509 home runs, 1,676 RBIs and a .292 career batting average. He is 24th on the all-time home run list and 25th on the career RBIs list.


Sheffield will be eligible to be elected to the Hall of Fame after the 2014 season.

“I am sure it will be mentioned and debated but from my standpoint I know who is in the Hall of Fame,” Sheffield told the newspaper. “A lot of them don’t belong in the Hall of Fame. If someone wants to debate me, check the stats.”

If Sheff had three full, healthy seasons in Detroit, the stats would’ve been more impressive than they already are.

As it was, this quote from him after the ’07 injury pretty much sums up his Tigers career:

“I can’t be myself,” Sheffield said. “Guys throwing 88 miles per hour, and I can’t do nothing with it.”

Even though he was always one perceived slight from becoming a team’s bad seed, he
was an exceptional player — even though we only saw glimpses in Detroit.

I think Gary Sheffield’s a Hall of Famer. Do you?

Randy Smith’s Losing Bet

Nine years ago today the Tigers swung a blockbuster trade for the ages — one Tigers fans are trying to forget.
On Nov. 2, 1999, the Rangers sent outfielder Juan Gonzalez, pitcher Danny Patterson and catcher Gregg Zaun to the Tigers for pitchers Justin Thompson, Alan Webb and Francisco Cordero, outfielder Gabe Kapler, catcher Bill Haselman, and infielder Frank Catalanotto.

Sound like a ripoff? That’s not the half of it.

Let’s take a trip down memory lane and see how that worked out for both teams since the day of the trade:



  • 2000 (Detroit): 115 G, .289, 22 HR, 67 RBI
  • 2001-05 (CLE, TEX, KC): .302, 72 HR, 262 RBI


He never played in Detroit. On March 7, 2000, the Tigers sent him to the Royals as part of a conditional deal. Think the Tigers could’ve used him behind the plate during those pre-Pudge seasons? Me too.

  • 2000-2008 (KC, HOU, COL, TOR): .254, 62 HR, 336 RBI


  • 2000-04 (Detroit): 10-11, 6.17 ERA*, 5 saves (*Bloated by a 15.00 ERA in just three innings pitched in 2002. Without it, his Detroit ERA would be 3.97.)



Poor J.T. He never could rebound from shoulder injuries that began to plague him in Detroit. He didn’t pitch in Texas until 2005 when he appeared in two games, surrendered four earned runs and two homers. He signed with the Brewers after that season and retired on June 20, 2006.

  • Career line: Five seasons, 36-43, 4.02 ERA, 428 K


According to, Webb never appeared in the majors.


  • 2000-08 (TEX, MIL, CIN): 31-31, 211 saves, 4.00 ERA


  • 2000-06, ’08 (TEX, COL, BOS, MIL) .279, 54 HR, 291 RBI


By the time of this trade, Haselman was nearing the end of his 13-year career. He broke in with the Rangers in 1990, played three seasons (’92-’94) with the Mariners, three with Boston, a return engagement with the Rangers, one year in Detroit, back to Texas, and then his final season in 2003 with the Red Sox.

  • 2000-03 (TEX, BOS): .265, 12 HR, 69 RBI


  • 2000-08 (TEX, TOR): .295, 66 HR, 384 RBI

From the moment I saw this trade announced on ESPN’s crawl I knew it was not going to work out well. How could it?

First, the Tigers were giving up far too much youth for essentially one player: Gonzalez who, on his best day, was a moody enigma. Second, as Ian reminded me, then-GM Randy Smith was allegedly shaping the Comerica Park Tigers to be a pitching-defense-and-speed club. Acquiring a plodding slugger doesn’t fit into that scheme — particularly when CoPa was dubbed Comerica National Park for its expansive dimensions. And third, everything in the universe had to align with unrealistic precision for Gonzalez to even half-consider signing with the Tigers after the 2000 season.

It’s painful to see how the kids Detroit traded away blossomed in the Texas heat. Personally, the one player that hurt the most was Catalanatto. If ever a hitter were designed for Comerica Park, it was Cat.

Kapler could’ve been a good role player throughout this decade, Cordero could’ve been they type of closer the Tigers now seek via trade or free agency.

Coulda, shoulda, woulda. Perhaps those are the three words that best sum up this trade.

What do you think?