Starting pitcher Aaron Sanchez found himself in the heat of trade rumors this past week. The former top prospect went from being a member of a top rotation with the Toronto Blue Jays to sporting new colors on July 31st.
The 27-year-old was a Cy Young Award top-seven vote getter in 2016, but fast forward to 2019, Sanchez was a potential designated-for-assignment candidate. Now with the Houston Astros, Aaron Sanchez is looking to turn his career around with the best analytics department in Major League Baseball, like they did with Collin McHugh in 2014.
You could look at his stats from 2014 to 2016 and see season earned run averages that range from 1.09 to 3.22. Entering tonight, Sanchez owns a 6.07 ERA, while allowing 15 home runs and 4.7 walks-per-nine-innings.
When the former first rounder earned the call up to the big leagues in 2014, he was used as a reliever. Same deal in 2015 before he became a full-time starter later in the season. But, if he impressed in his sole all-star season of 2016, then why would he be struggling from 2017 to today?
It's due to his over usage of his four-seam fastball that is the issue - the pitch that Sanchez is throwing 29% of the time. Batters are getting on-base 41% of the time in 2019 when his fastball is thrown. The spin rate of Sanchez fastball is 2,297 rpm and falls in the 54th percentile among qualified major league pitchers this season, This suggests that his fastball is quite mediocre and is pretty hittable.
During his two-year stint as a reliever, Sanchez rarely used his fastball. Instead, he often relied on his sinker to bail him out of trouble, and it worked. Batters hit .146 against it in 2014, when he used 77% of the time. As his career progressed, Sanchez began throwing the sinker much less, which would suggest that this is the reason why Sanchez has become less effective. His sinker is considered to be above average and when used, batters tend to launch the ball at a five-degree angle or less, which means that hitters typically ground out when hit.
Sanchez's sinker happen to be the one of the most impressive around baseball when he was reliever - possibly better than New York Mets' pitcher Noah Syndergaard. He was throwing it by hitters at 98 mph, rather than 93 mph in 2019.
However, to be successful in 2019, a reliever needs to develop two great pitches. Sanchez has an excellent curveball, and when I say excellent, I mean it. It's one of the nastiest pitches in Major League Baseball. Sanchez's curveball spin rate ranks in the 94th percentile at 2,875 rpm. When thrown, the curveball drops 60 inches - that is five inches more than the league average. Sanchez tends to strike batters out when he throws the curveball below the strike zone closer to the right batter's box to all hitters.
Aaron Sanchez will continue to struggle in the majors if he does not eliminate his fastball, especially at Minute Maid park, which ranks in the top-ten most home run friendly ballparks. Seven of the 15 home runs allowed in 2019 by Sanchez were by fastballs and he pitched at the Rogers' Centre - one of the most pitcher friendly ballparks in baseball!
Overall, the Astros NEED to make Aaron Sanchez a two-pitch pitcher - sinkers and curveballs only. This strategy, if implemented, would not be the first time Houston has conducted this methodology with one of their starters-turned-relievers. Lance McCullers Jr. predominately used his curveball in the 2017 postseason and look where that took him that season and his team.
The Astros may have viewed Sanchez as a fifth starter entering August, but I can promise you that Sanchez will dominant in the postseason, if and when he comes out of the bullpen.
The Chicago Cubs and RHP Yu Darvish have agreed to a six-year deal, worth $126 million, per Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic. The contract includes incentives with the ability to make the deal worth $150 million. The deal is pending a physical.
In what is the quietest and slowest offseason in Major League Baseball history, Darvish signing with the Cubs could be the first of many dominos to fall. With the Cubs signing Darvish, it appears that free agent pitcher Jake Arrieta will not return to the Windy City.
Darvish will join a rotation filled with all-stars, including Jon Lester, Jose Quintana, and Kyle Hendricks. It is unclear who will be the ace in the Cubs' rotation, but it is likely Darvish will be considered the front-runner.
With General Manager Theo Epstein and company signing Darvish, it gives the Cubs a boost over the Milwaukee Brewers and St. Louis Cardinals, who both have become even stronger with several acquisitions this offseason. The Cubs will open the season as National League Central favorites.
Darvish, 31, split time between the National League champion Los Angeles Dodgers and Texas Rangers last season. Darvish started the season quite shaky with the Rangers, then after he was dealt to LA during the trade deadline, Darvish finished the season with a 3.86 ERA in 31 games started. Darvish was tough to get a hit off of in the second half of the season, and finished the season with 7.7 H/9 and 10.1 K/9.
Since signing with the Rangers out of Japan in 2012, Darvish has a career ERA of 3.42. Darvish owns a career record of 56-42 and a total of 1021 strikeouts in five major league seasons. Darvish sat out the 2015 season and half of the 2016 season due to Tommy John Surgery.
The New York Mets and veteran infielder Todd Frazier have agreed to a two-year deal worth $17 million, according to Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic. The deal is pending a physical.
The Mets were in the hunt for a starting third baseman the entire offseason. With the team signing Frazier, it is clear that they have found what they were looking for. The Mets wanted another veteran presence in the clubhouse and Frazier is the perfect player for rookies Amed Rosario and Dom Smith to look up to.
Not only will Frazier be a key factor in the Mets' clubhouse, he looks to be the permanent starting third baseman entering the season, with David Wright's health concerns holding him back from returning to the playing field. Frazier also has the durability to play the first base position when Dom Smith needs a day of rest.
If the Mets find themselves a mile away from a playoff spot come the July 31st trade deadline, they could look to deal the two-time all-star to a contender for some mid-level prospects.
Frazier, who will be 32 years old next week, spent the 2017 season with the Chicago White Sox and New York Yankees. In 147 games, the righty hit .213 with 27 home runs and 76 RBIs. The Mets can look for Frazier hitting 30 plus home runs and hit below .240 for them this upcoming season.
In his seven year career, the New Jersey resident has spent time with the Cincinnati Reds, White Sox, and Yankees. Frazier could possibly hit his 200th career home run later this season, as he currently has 175 long balls in his major league career.
The San Fransisco Giants have acquired veteran outfielder Andrew McCutchen from the Pittsburgh Pirates. The Giants will send reliever Kyle Crick and prospects to the Pirates in return.
The Giants have spent their whole offseason looking for an all-star outfielder. The organization had a deal with the Miami Marlins for Giancarlo Stanton, but the deal was vetoed by Stanton, who had a no-trade clause. The acquisition of McCutchen will allow the Giants to be competitive next season after one of the team's worst seasons on record.
McCutchen, 31, has spent his whole career with the Pirates. The former first round pick will hit free agency after this season.
Last season, McCutchen hit .279, with 28 home runs and 88 RBIs. The 2013 NL MVP and five time all-star is also very good on the defensive side of things. He will play very well in the very spacious outfield at AT&T Park.
Robert Murray and Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports were first to report the deal was the close and Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic was first to report the deal was done.
The Washington Nationals have resigned versatile infielder and outfielder Howie Kendrick to a two-year, $7 million deal, per Bob Nightendale of ESPN.
Kendrick, 34, impressed Nationals' executives after he had a strong second half of the season. He was acquired at the trade deadline from the Philadelphia Phillies. In the hopes of playing long into the postseason, the Nationals relied on Kendrick to be a boost for the team, which he certainly was.
After Bryce Harper spent a few weeks on the disabled list, Kendrick found himself playing a lot of nights in the outfield. For the next two seasons, the Nationals plan on using Kendrick as someone who can play in the outfield and on the diamond.
Also, the Nationals could look to use Kendrick as a trade chip in the future. If he has another standout season in his mid-30's, then he could be a valuable player at the trade deadline.
Kendrick, put together all-star numbers last season. He owned a slash line of .315/.368/.475 with the Phillies and Nationals. He also collected 9 home runs and drove in 41 runs in 305 at-bats.
Kendrick calling home on the east coast is a new thing for him, as he has played most of his career in California with the Los Angeles Angels and Los Angeles Dodgers prior to joining the Phillies' organization before the 2017 season.
There has been a common dilemma for team's front offices who are looking to add a star player to their organization through free agency. They hope to sign their next face of the franchise and it blows up in their faces. Front office executives need to realize that long-term deals are not good for their team, fanbase, or the sport.
This current offseason, there are multiple top-tier players available on the open market. All of these "top-tier" free agents want long-term deals, exceeding $20 million a year in annual value. Teams tend to get very competitive to fill a hole on their depth chart, but wind up over spending on a player. Teams have the same issue with their own players who demand a large contract extension or they will leave the organization when they hit free agency.
Front offices need to avoid signing players in their 30's to long-term deals, because of one frequent problem ...... REGRESSION. If and when a player hits their regression period, a team is unlikely able to trade that player because their contract can not be moved, which forces the organization to release or designate the player for assignment and eat the rest of their contract.
Let's take a look at several examples of players in their age 30 plus season being signed to a long-term deal, that was not beneficial for their team: Albert Pujols, Alex Rodriguez, and Jacoby Ellsbury.
Alex Rodriguez, for example, signed a 10-year, $275 million deal with the New York Yankees during the 2007-2008 offseason, when he was entering his age 32 season. Rodriguez had just come off of another MVP season with the Yankees when he signed the deal.
Three years into the deal, Rodriguez would ultimately regress in his age 35 season due to injuries he had played with that season. Nearly three years after he hit .302 with 35 home runs and 103 RBIs, Rodriguez would struggle and hit .270 with 16 home runs and 62 RBIs. Then in his age 36 and 37 seasons, he would only play in a total of 164 games and hit .259 with only 25 home runs.
Seven years into his deal, Rodriguez was suspended the whole entire 2014 season because of his third PED suspension. When he returned in 2015, Rodriguez was able to regain his power but he could not longer hit for average. At the plate, Rodriguez became heavily impatient, causing his plate discipline to be similar to a rookies' and his defense was a liability forcing him to become a designated hitter full-time. He was such a big liability during the 2016 season, that the Yankees were forced to release him and had to eat at least $4o million in dead money.
As you can see, signing an older veteran to a long-term deal worth millions of dollars is a huge risk that does not end well for both sides. This offseason, there are multiple top-tier free agents in their early 30s who could possibly not be very good two years from now. Front offices need to avoid signing long-term deals, when two to three year deals can be more beneficial for the player and their organization.
The Houston Astros have acquired starter Gerrit Cole from the Pittsburgh Pirates, per Tim Brown of Yahoo Sports. The Pirates will receive outfield prospect Jason Martin, infield prospect Colin Moran, and pitchers Joe Musgrove and Michael Feliz.
The reigning World Series champions have arguably now the strongest rotation in baseball, which features Justin Verlander, Dallas Keuchel, and Lance McCullers. Not to mention, top pitching prospect Forrest Whitley will likely be joining the rotation some time this season. The Houston Astros just finished their best season in team history, and they needed Cole because of potential postseason runs by the Seattle Mariners and Los Angeles Angels.
Cole, 27, has two years of control left before he hits free agency after the 2019 season. Last year, Cole went 12-12 with a 4.26 ERA in 33 starts. Cole will give the Astros 200+ innings this upcoming season. This is why Cole is very durable for the Astros' organization.
The Toronto Blue Jays have acquired infielder Yangervis Solarte from the San Diego Padres. The deal was first reported by Yahoo!'s Jeff Passan.
This deal is quite surprising and interesting because the Blue Jays have a lot of infield depth. All of their starting positions are filled and they have some supreme backups for around the diamond. This deal could be a precursor for a potential Josh Donaldson deal. At the moment, it appears that Solarte will be used as a utility player because he can play all four infield positions.
Solarte, 30, has two years of control left before he is set to hit free agency following the 2019 season. In his fourth season in the big leagues, Solarte hit .255 with 18 home runs and 64 RBIs. Solarte is very disciplined at the plate, as he struck out only 64 times in 466 at-bats.
The Colorado Rockies and relief pitcher Wade Davis have agreed to a deal, per Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports. The deal is for three seasons and worth a total of $52 million.
Davis, 32, put together another remarkable season last year for the Chicago Cubs. Before a disastrous second half of the season, Davis had a 1.46 ERA in 27 innings before the all-star break. In his third consecutive all-star season, Davis collected 32 saves in his first and only season in a Cubs' uniform.
Davis will join an already deep bullpen in Colorado that features top relievers Bryan Shaw and Jake McGee. Not only does the Rockies' bullpen include some of the best relievers in the game, the organization has over $106 million committed to relievers.
Davis will likely be the closer next season for the Rockies but there is a chance there may be some competition in spring training. Even though the Rockies made the playoffs as a wild-card team last season, they suddenly have become stronger and look to compete with the World Series runner-up Los Angeles Dodgers in the National League West Division.
The New York Yankees and veteran LHP CC Sabathia have agreed to a one-year deal, worth $10 million, per Mark Feinsand of MLB.com. The deal is pending a physical.
Sabathia, 37, will return to the Bronx for his 10th season with the Yankees, and his 18th season in the big leagues. Sabathia will return the Yankees' dominant pitching rotation, that features Sonny Gray and Masahiro Tanaka. The southpaw adds great depth to the Yankees' rotation, and even though Sabathia will be returning to the rotation, the Yankees will still look to add another top-tier pitcher.
Sabathia put together a nice 2017 campaign with the Yankees. In 27 starts, Sabathia went 14-5 with a 3.69 ERA. In 148.2 innings pitched, the veteran winner struck out 120 batters. Sabathia will look to build off of his dominant season in 2018.
In his 18 year career, Sabathia has been selected to play in six all-star games. Sabathia has also finished in the top-5 for the CY Young award five times, including when he won the prestigious award in 2006 with the Cleveland Indians.
Sabathia will likely look to continue his hall-of-fame worthy career after the 2018 season.