Nationals

Tigers invest $80 million in RHP Anibal Sanchez

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Tigers invest $80 million in RHP Anibal Sanchez

DETROIT (AP) Anibal Sanchez hadn't gone anywhere, really, and yet here he was getting a big ``welcome back'' from Detroit Tigers president and general manager Dave Dombrowski.

``It's nice to have you back in that jersey again,'' Dombrowski said Monday to his right-hander.

It wasn't cheap.

Detroit's deal with Sanchez is worth $80 million over five years, a person familiar with it told The Associated Press last week on condition of anonymity because terms weren't announced. The team said it has an option for a sixth season.

That's the price of doing business in the free agent market for pitchers.

The Los Angeles Dodgers recently gave Zack Greinke a $147 million, six-year deal - the biggest for a right-hander in baseball history - and Detroit is satisfied with what it had to spend on Sanchez, perhaps the second-best pitcher on the market.

``He's in the prime of his career,'' Dombrowski said.

The 28-year-old Sanchez helped Detroit reach the World Series this year. He had a 1.77 ERA in 20 1-3 innings over three postseason starts, but was 1-2 because the Tigers were shut out in each of his losses.

``We almost get the ring,'' he said. ``Now, I know we got a pretty good team.''

Detroit has been good enough to get into the playoffs the last two years. The Tigers hope to improve enough to take the next step and win their first World Series since 1984 thanks to a couple major moves and a standout player's comeback.

They attempted to fill a void in the field and the lineup, just in front of sluggers Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder, by signing outfielder Torii Hunter to a $26 million, two-year contract. They are expecting designated hitter Victor Martinez to be healthy at spring training in a couple months after missing all of last season with a knee injury.

And, Detroit kept its four-man rotation together by signing Sanchez.

As much as the Tigers are paying him, Sanchez had at least one team - other than the Chicago Cubs, the runner-up to signing him - offer him more at the winter meetings than he eventually got to stay in the Motor City.

``At the end, what do you do with a lot of money if it's not where you want to be?'' Sanchez asked.

Detroit acquired Sanchez in July from Miami along with second baseman Omar Infante for right-hander Jacob Turner and two minor leaguers. After a slow start with the Tigers, he pitched well in key games to help them win division titles in consecutive years for the first time since the 1935 and 1934 seasons with a 2.15 ERA over his last eight starts.

``Once he settled in and got a chance to get settled, he was one of the best pitchers in the league,'' Dombrowski said.

Sanchez is 48-51 with a 3.75 ERA since making his major league debut with the Marlins in 2006. He was 9-13 last year and 8-9 the previous year following a career-best, 13-win season in 2010.

While those numbers aren't impressive, the digits on his contract are because he's on the right side of supply-and-demand economics in baseball.

The Tigers didn't really want to offer Sanchez as long of a contract as he signed, but had to do so in order to keep him around.

``Pitching is a risky business,'' Dombrowski said. ``It's unfortunate, but that's just the way it is.''

What's also a reality is righty Rick Porcello might get traded any day because he could be deemed expendable with lefty Drew Smyly seemingly situated well to be the team's fifth starter.

Dombrowski said he's in trade talks with ``numerous'' clubs because they know the Tigers have six starters and are willing to deal one of them for the right price, perhaps a right-handed hitter to platoon with left-handed hitting outfielder Andy Dirks.

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Follow Larry Lage on Twitter:http://twitter.com/larrylage

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Is Juan Soto a lock for National League Rookie of the Year?

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Is Juan Soto a lock for National League Rookie of the Year?

In April, it would have been unfathomable. In May, it would have been laughable. In June, it would have been improbable. In July, it started to look possible. In August, it might even have been likely. Now, it’s a complete toss-up.

Juan Soto is the worthiest National League Rookie of the Year. So is Ronald Acuna.

It’s one of the most exciting rookie races in recent memory, not simply for the otherworldly numbers each freshman sensation is putting up, but for just how good they are at such young ages. Juan Soto is a jaw-dropping 19. Acuna, by comparison, is the wizened veteran at the old age of.. 20. 

The two are preternaturally talented, and their mature-beyond-their-years games have translated perfectly well to the big leagues. The question now is: which one will actually take home the hardware?

(Before we continue, I’ll note that Jack Flaherty, Brian Anderson, and Walker Buehler are all very talented young players who would at least be in the conversation in normal years).

The first step is to look at the numbers.

On the season Acuna is slashing .287/.347/.571, and his wRC+ is 144. He’s got 19 home runs and 8 stolen bases in just 68 games and his fWAR is 2.3. bWAR has him at 2.8

Soto’s slash line is currently .293/.420/.534, to go along with 15 home runs. His wRC+ is 153, and his fWAR is 2.7. His bWAR sits at 2.2.

Obviously, the numbers are terrific for both. Acuna has been up longer, but thanks to injury Soto has actually played 8 more games. Acuna has the edge in power, both in home runs and slugging percentage, plus he’s clearly the speedier player and better defender. If you’re looking for all-around game, he’s probably your man. Plus, for those who care about such things when voting on awards, the Braves are several games ahead of the Nats in the standings.

However, Soto’s performance has a couple things going for it. First of all, as impressive as it is that Acuna is taking the league by storm as a 20-year old, Soto is nearly a full year younger. It cannot be overemphasized how wild it is what Soto is doing as a teenager. He may very well be the greatest teenage batter in baseball history.

Secondly, Soto has been incredibly consistent. He’s basically been an All-Star level hitter since the day he was called up in May, whereas Acuna’s numbers, while very legitimate, are buoyed by his recent hot streak. He’s hit 8 home runs in 8 games, and of every hitter with at least 100 plate appearances since the All-Star Game, he has the highest wRC+ in that span. He’s had plenty of valleys to his peaks, though, and Soto has been a model of consistency. Of all hitters with at 200 at-bats this entire season, Soto ranks 7th over the entire season, That’s astounding.

Another point in Soto’s favor is just how historic his numbers are. Voters love a narrative, and as mentioned above, Soto is having literally the best offensive season a teenager has ever had. The highest wRC+ by a 19-year old in baseball history in Mel Ott with a 140 exactly 90 seasons ago. Soto is beating that by 13 so far.

The true separator, though, is Soto’s on-base percentage. His .420 mark is a comfortable 4th of all players with at least 300 plate appearances, behind elite batting eyes Mike Trout, Mookie Betts, and Joey Votto. And, once again, we’re talking about something historic.

Soto’s .420 on-base percentage, if it holds, will be the only OBP over .400 for a teenager with 200 plate appearances in Major League history. In fact, outside of Ott’s .397 in 1928, no other teenager has ever reached base at a .360 clip, let alone Soto’s astronomical .420.

Ultimately, I believe more in Acuna’s future, but I think Soto’s been the better player this season. Acuna is more well-rounded, but Soto’s elite batting eye has made him a top 10 hitter in baseball already. If Soto had been up on Opening Day and played at this level, he’d be on pace for a 5.5 WAR, which would top even Bryce Harper’s 2012 season.

As mentioned, voters love a narrative though, and if Acuna comes back from his injury and stays as hot as he’s been all August, it’ll be tough to ignore his performance during the Braves’ stretch run. This award is not over, but for now, Soto should be considered the favorite.

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Need to Know: Redskins stock up, stock down after Jets game

Need to Know: Redskins stock up, stock down after Jets game

Here is what you need to know on Friday, August 16, seven days before the Washington Redskins host the Broncos in their third preseason game. 

Talking points

Here are some players who saw their stock go up during Thursday's preseason game against the Jets and others who experienced a stock drop

Up—Rookie nose tackle Tim Settle had himself another big game. The difference this time was that most of his snaps came against the Jets starting offensive line as opposed to the Patriots’ backups he saw last week. He mauled ex-Redskins center Spencer Long a few times and he moved over to tackle in a four-man front to generate some pass pressure. He is still learning. 

Down—Backup center Tony Bergstrom was physically manhandled a couple of times, making things difficult for Colt McCoy, some running backs, and Kevin Hogan. He also committed a flagrant holding penalty that negated a good Hogan run for the first down. His roster spot does not appear to be in any danger, but he has to do better.

Up—Cornerback Danny Johnson had some pressure dropped on him when the team cut Orlando Scandrick, moving Johnson from roster long shot to a player who may have to be counted on. He played well, making a key play in the second quarter. On third down, he made a good tackle to stop a third-down play short of the sticks. He knocked the ball out of the runner’s hands, but a quick whistle negated the turnover. 

Up/Down—Wide receiver Cam Sims had some wild swings. In the second quarter, he was open in the red zone and McCoy put a perfect pass into his arms. But the ball popped out and was intercepted. Turnovers will get rookie free agents cut. Sims made up for it later in the game with a key third-down catch later in the second quarter. Later, in the last seconds of the game, he pulled in a 20-yard pass to set up Dustin Hopkins’ game-winning field goal. In between, he grabbed a touchdown pass between two defenders, but that play was negated by an illegal formation penalty. 

Down—You hate to see a player’s stock go down due in part to an injury, but that’s what happened with Byron Marshall. Even though he is OK, he left the game early, opening the door for Kapri Bibbs, his main competition for the fourth roster spot at running back, to have a good night. Bibbs caught seven passes for 47 yards. Before he left the game, Marshall put the ball on the ground on a kickoff return. Although replay showed that he was down by contact before fumbling it was close enough to cause concern. The competition for the fourth running back spot is tighter now than it was before the game. 

Up—Rookie safety Troy Apke had three tackles and he picked off a fourth-down Sam Darnold pass. Deshazor Everett gets an assist on the pick as he batted the pass up in the air. Apke is still has a lot to learn before he makes the transition from being a fast guy to being a good NFL player. 

Down—Linebacker Shaun Dion Hamilton had a chance to make a key third-down sack off Teddy Bridgewater that would have killed a fourth-quarter drive. But he went to the ground and missed the sack and Bridgewater made the completion to keep the drive alive. Hamilton gets credit for getting into the backfield, but he didn’t seal the deal. 

Bureau of statistics

Here are two preseason stats with the caveat that they are preseason stats. 1). In the first halves of their two preseason games with both sides playing mostly their first- and second-team players, the Redskins have outscored the opposition 26-6. 2). The Redskins have 216 rushing yards through two games. Last year they rushed for 103 yards in their first two preseason games. 

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The agenda

Today: Off day

Upcoming: Preseason Broncos @ Redskins (Aug. 24) 7 days; Final cut (Sept. 1) 15 days; Season opener @ Cardinals (Sept. 9) 23 days

In case you missed it

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page,Facebook.com/TandlerNBCS and follow him on Twitter  @TandlerNBCS and on Instagram @RichTandler