Right-hander Aníbal Sánchez was a free agent last year after the Nationals declined his option for the 2021 season. He held multiple showcases for interested clubs, even into late April. However, he never found a deal to his liking and ended up deciding to sit out the season. But that doesn’t mean he’s retired, as Alex Speier of the Boston Globe reports that Sanchez is considering a return in 2022.
A return to form for Sánchez would be quite a feat for the hurler who turns 38 in February, though he’s been counted out before. Signed by the Tigers to a five-year deal prior to the 2013 campaign, Sánchez was excellent in the first year of the deal, throwing 182 innings with an ERA of 2.57. However, his ERA continued to grow in each year of the contract, with marks of 3.43, 4.99, 5.87 and 6.41 over 2014-2017.
After that drop in effectiveness, he had to settle for a minor league deal with Atlanta prior to the 2018 season. That proved to be a tremendous bounceback campaign for Sánchez, who was 34 years old at the time. He ended up throwing 136 2/3 innings for Atlanta with an ERA of 2.83, and parlayed that into a two-year, $19MM deal with the Nationals. He had another good year in 2019, throwing 166 innings with an ERA of 3.85, as well as 18 postseason innings with an ERA of 2.50, helping the Nats win the World Series that year.
Unfortunately for Sánchez, 2020 was a step back, as his ERA shot up to 6.62 over 53 innings in the shortened season. But after not pitching in 2021, Speier reports that Sánchez “felt rejuvenated after the time off, throwing with what appears to be more velocity than in recent years.” The next step for Sanchez is to “throw in front of a scout with a radar gun to decide whether to attempt another shot at the big leagues.”
Despite the downtime and the poor season in 2020, Sánchez could garner interest around the league due to the nature of the starting pitching market. There are a couple of top-tier free agents remaining in Carlos Rodon and Clayton Kershaw, but a big drop-off after that, as recently explored by MLBTR’s Anthony Franco. With many teams still looking to add starting pitching for 2022, it’s certainly possible that one of them is willing to roll the dice on a veteran with such a long track record of success in the majors. Sánchez has thrown 1,948 1/3 innings over 15 seasons so far, with an ERA of 4.05, strikeout rate of 20.8% and walk rate of 7.9%.