The hot news over twitter was CBS' Jon Heyman's tweet that LHP Jonathan Sanchez was near a deal with the Bucs. We're really not sure how to take that flash.
He was a hot mess last year, posting an 8.07 ERA with 45 K and 53 walks in 64-2/3 IP, making 15 starts between the Royals and Rockies. His last start was on August 3rd, after which he went on the DL with left biceps tendinitis, putting a merciful end to his campaign.
Despite last season, Sanchez does have some selling points. In his career, he averages 9.1 K/nine, though his 5 walks/nine kinda negate that. He's said to be healthy now and spent the off season working on mechanics. Between 2009 and 2011 he was a decent #4, winning a dozen games with a 4.25 ERA for the G-Men. And in 2010, he was all that when he went 13-9 with a 3.07 ERA, the only time in his seven year MLB stay that it's been under 4.24.
But he has been fairly consistent in the past few seasons, excluding 2012. His FIP has been between 3.85-4.30 from 2008-2011, and his ERA 5.01-4.26 -3.07-4.24. Oddly, his highest ERA year, 5.01 in 2008, was his best FIP year at 3.85. Go figure. His stuff is still above average in nastiness; he does have a swing-and-miss repertoire, even if it generally avoids the plate. But it's good enough that his career hits per nine is at 8.0, again offset by his wildness.
So a minor league deal is a no lose situation, especially if his 2012 results were injury-driven, and he has shown past ability to handle the back end of the rotation with the potential to be a #3. Sanchez could also be a spot starter while working from the bullpen; he began his career as a reliever, although he's started all but one game in the past three seasons. But coming off an arm injury, the pen could be his ticket until his arm is stretched, though it's likelier the FO would send him to Indy to eat some innings.
Does this mean that talks with Francisco Liriano are done? Maybe, maybe not - remember, everyone wrote off Jeff Karstens' return when Liriano was a presumed Bucco. It may just be a way of providing some extra leverage on the Cisco Kid to sign a team-friendly deal. And a team never has enough pitching.
It is a tough read; the FO works in mysterious ways, as we all know by now. Liriano offers more upside, Sanchez more consistency. On the other side of the pillow, Liriano has a broken wing and Sanchez can go today. So roll the dice and place yer bets...
One thing it does show is that the brass are a little uneasy about giving Jeff Locke a guaranteed spot on the staff. Liriano and Sanchez aren't necessarily blockers, especially if the Pirates have JK return to his multiple bullpen role. But they're gonna make young Mr. Locke earn a spot. And another lefty starter gives Kyle McPherson a more level playing field to compete on in the spring.
Camp is getting a little more interesting...