Report: Anibal Sanchez Agrees to Deal with Washington Nationals

LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 05: Anibal Sanchez #19 of the Atlanta Braves delivers the pitch during the first inning against the Los Angeles Dodgers during Game Two of the National League Division Series at Dodger Stadium on October 5, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

Anibal Sanchez reportedly agreed to terms with the Washington Nationals Thursday for a guaranteed two years and $19 million dollars. His contract also includes a $12 million option and potentially another $4 million in incentives. He will earn $6 million in 2019, $7 million in 2020, and have the final $6 million of guaranteed money deferred until 2021. Sanchez’s contract aligns with similar deals given to Matt Harvey (one year and $11 million) and Trevor Cahill (one year and $9.5 million), in what has turned into a very competitive free agent market for pitchers.

Reporter Anthony Fenech shared the report:

Report: Anibal Sanchez Agrees to Deal with Washington Nationals

Sanchez had an excellent bounce-back season with the Atlanta Braves last season following three miserable seasons with the Detroit Tigers. He totaled a mere 2.2 fWAR across the 2015-17 campaigns, then rebounded to a solid 2.4 fWAR last year. For comparison’s sake, Matt Harvey (1.5 fWAR) and Trevor Cahill (2.0 fWAR) will both take home similar annual salaries on their one-year deals.

Statistically, Sanchez was a bit of a mixed bag in 2018, though there were definite signs of sustainable improvement. To start with the negative, Sanchez had a .209 batting average against (.250 career) and a .255 BABIP (.308 career).  Both of those numbers are unsustainable and help to explain the difference between his 2.83 ERA and his 3.81 xFIP. He also experienced atypical success in stranding men on base with a career-high 79.4% strand rate, well above his career average of 71.7%.

Other than some expected regression in batted ball and strand luck, there is much to suggest that Sanchez’s 2018 turnaround was real. His ground-ball percentage jumped from 35.6% in 2017 to 45% in 2018. His home runs per nine fell from 2.22 to 0.9. His xFIP dropped from a two-year average of 4.50 to 3.81 as his hard contact decreased from 37.4% to 27.7% and his soft contact increased from 16.8% to 26.3%.

On the whole, Sanchez represents a nice value addition for the Nationals, something which seemed unthinkable when he settled for a minor league contract with Atlanta last off-season. However, after a marked turnaround in 2018, the Nationals clearly believe Sanchez can step into the shoes of the departed Tanner Roark and help lead them back to the top of the NL East.

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