Jonathan Sanchez signed a minor league contract with the Cincinnati Reds over the weekend. The deal also includes an invitation to spring training.
The left handed pitcher has not pitched in the big leagues since 2013. His ERA in 2013 was 11.85, granted it was just five games and 13.2 innings. But he also allowed seven home runs, 25 hits, eight walks and he hit two other batters. In 2012 he posted an 8.07 ERA in 15 games, spanning 64.2 innings with 11 home runs allowed, 82 hits and more walks (53) than strikeouts (45).
It’s been a very long time since he had what was his only above-average season. In 2010 he posted a 3.07 ERA in 193.1 innings for the San Francisco Giants. It was the only season of his career where he posted an ERA under 4.24.
So, why would the Reds sign up a guy who has historically walked a million batters, hasn’t pitched in the big leagues since April of 2013 and was last pitching well in the big leagues nearly six years ago?
The left hander is currently pitching in the Puerto Rican Winter League for Indios de Mayaguez, who are managed by Reds minor league manager Pat Kelly. Sanchez had a 2.72 ERA in 36.1 innings and he allowed just one home run in the regular season. That did come along with his usual walk problems, giving away 20 free passes with 32 strikeouts. He also pitched in the playoffs and posted a 1.46 ERA in 24.2 innings without giving up a home run. The walks were a concern there as well as he had 13 of them with 26 strikeouts.
Here are his total stats from the league:
The ERA is shiny and fantastic looking, and he’s kept the home run rate down after having issues there in his big league career. The walk rate is still a big concern as he walked 33 batters in 51.0 innings (that’s 5.8 walks per 9 innings pitched), especially since he’s pitched mostly against minor leaguers in this league and still had serious control issues.
Manager Bryan Price has said that the team is going to give him an opportunity to start, and if that doesn’t work they could look at him for the bullpen. My main question is why? He’s had one season in his entire life where he was a quality starting pitcher, he’s now 33-years-old and even in that season he led the league in walks. Put him in the bullpen and see if you can try to somehow limit the walks and get a lefty bullpen arm.
Overall, the odds are strongly stacked against this working out. He’s never had any sort of control, hasn’t pitched in the big leagues in several years and while he’s posted a nice looking ERA in winter ball, the control problems are still very glaring.