This past weekend, Bob Dutton wrote an article that appears to be all but leaked by the Royals front office (h/t to thelaundry), establishing who the Royals would like to target this winter to upgrade their pitching rotation. Dutton calculates the Royals will have $20-$23 million to spend this winter, with owner David Glass indicating that number could go up if that is what it takes to land the player they are targeting.
Anibal Sanchez will be 29 by Opening Day, and is a right-hander from Venezuela who came up in the Red Sox organization before being dealt to Florida in the Josh Beckett/Hanley Ramirez deal. As a minor leaguer, Sanchez missed the entire 2003 season after having surgery to move a ligament in his elbow. He would rebound and in 2006 would have a terrific rookie year at age 22, winning ten games, posting a 2.83 ERA and throwing a no-hitter in just his thirteenth career start.
Sanchez had shoulder surgery in 2007 and made just six starts before ending his season with a torn labrum. He did not return to action til July of 2008, making just ten starts that year with a 5.57 ERA. He spent four months on the DL in 2009 as well, again with shoulder problems.
In 2010, Sanchez was finally healthy, winning thirteen games with a 3.55 ERA and 7.2 strikeouts per nine. Sanchez would enjoy a healthy 2011 as well, striking out over a batter per innings for a career high total of 202, while posting a 3.67 ERA. In 2012, the strikeouts would regress for Sanchez, but his control also improved, to 2.2 walks per nine innings, as Sanchez enjoyed a 3.86 ERA for the year. In July, the Marlins dealt him to Detroit for pitching prospect Jacob Turner and two other minor leaguers. Because of this trade, Sanchez will not require free agent draft compensation.
Sanchez experienced some shoulder soreness last spring training and it will likely linger for the rest of his career. His injury-filled career with spurts of upside should remind you a lot of the Royals last big free agent pitching acquisition - Gil Meche. Sanchez does a pretty good job avoiding home runs and transitioned well to the American League, putting up essentially the same numbers. He relies on a low-to-mid-90s fastball with a change-up as his out pitch, mixing in a curveball and slider as well.
Sanchez is probably more of a mid-rotation guy than a true ace, and there are health concerns, but he is likely to be one of the most coveted starting pitchers this winter. Sanchez should expect a 3-5 year contract with a base salary of around $12 million per year.
You may remember Kyle Lohse from his days as a middling Twins starter back in the early 2000s. Lohse bounced around since leaving Minnesota, landing in the best spot a mediocre pitcher can land - St. Louis. Lohse was mediocre his first year, disastrous his second, but then the Cardinals worked their magic, and got Lohse to rely on his defense more and throw an improved sinker, and voila! Kyle Lohse is a 16-game winner with a 2.83 ERA. Amazing.
Lohse is 34 and set career bests this past year in wins (16), ERA (2.83), strikeouts (143) and innings pitched (211). Lohse has seriously outperformed his SIERA in the past two seasons and has improved his command dramatically, walking just 1.6 per nine innings in 2012. While Lohse is trying to "pitch to contact", he is actually inducing more swings and misses than before.
Lohse has an extensive repertoire, throwing a four-seam fastball, changeup, slider, curveball, and relying heavily on his sinker. He credits some of his success this year to mixing the slider in more often. Lohse also does a good job avoiding home runs, although earlier in his career in the American League, he gave up as many as 28 home runs twice.
Lohse profiles as a solid innings-eater, who might be able to provide ace-type results of his 2012 performance is not a fluke. His age and his shaky career past however may reduce his cost somewhat. Lohse can probably expect a 3-4 year deal with a base salary of around $10-12 million.
Dutton also mentions Hiroki Kuroda, Ryan Dempster, Shaun Marcum, Carlos Villanueva, and Carlos Zambrano as secondary free-agent targets. The Royals also plan to monitor option situations for Dan Haren, Ervin Santana, James Shields, Jake Peavy, and Tim Hudson to determine whether any of those players might become available.
In any case, its pretty clear Dayton understand his job hinges on improving the starting pitching.
"We’re like 29 other clubs right now," Moore said. "We’re going to bust our tail this offseason to get good starting pitching."