Possible anchor to Royals' rotation
Sanchez visits Kansas City
Originally published November 10, 2011 at 11:35 p.m., updated November 11, 2011 at 12:23 a.m.
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Jonathan Sanchez walked through Kauffman Stadium on a blustery fall morning, bundled up in a black coat with a black stocking cap pulled onto his head.
He's certainly not in San Francisco anymore.
Sanchez was traded from the Giants to Kansas City this week in a deal that gave the Royals the kind of front-line starter they lacked last season. They had to give up outfielder Melky Cabrera, but also got a minor league pitcher.
The subject of trade speculation for years, Sanchez was the Giants' best pitcher during the latter part of 2010, when they beat the Texas Rangers to win the World Series. He was 4-1 with a 1.03 ERA over his last seven outings, and finished the year with a 13-9 record and a 3.07 ERA.
Now, he's heading to a franchise that hasn't made the playoffs since 1985.
"It's exciting, you know?" Sanchez said Thursday. "It's exciting to make the playoffs, and that's what we want, to be a young team that makes the playoffs."
Sanchez struggled most of last season, partly due to a case of biceps tendinitis, going 4-7 with a 4.26 ERA before missing the final month with a left ankle sprain. But he said his arm feels good and his ankle is "nearly 100 percent," which is good news for a Royals club that struggled to get its starting pitchers deep into games last season.
Kansas City's starters logged the third-fewest innings of any staff in the American League.
Sanchez certainly has electric stuff, with an overpowering fastball that racked up 205 strikeouts in 193 1-3 innings two years ago. But he's also had trouble controlling it, walking a league-high 96 batters the same season.
"That's the way I pitch," he said. "So long as they don't score, I'm fine with that."
The Royals will be, too.
General manager Dayton Moore thought highly enough of Sanchez to deal away Cabrera, who put together a career year in center field, to land the 28-year-old left-hander.
Moore said he hopes that Sanchez can develop into a dependable anchor for a young starting rotation. Luke Hochevar is just 28 years old, and rookie Danny Duffy is 22, with several other prospects expected to contend for spots on the major league roster in spring training.
"His hit rates are very low, his strikeout rates are very high, his walks aren't something we're overly excited about, but at the same time he's very young," Moore said. "He's somebody our scouts feel is a breakout candidate moving forward into 2012."
The Royals aren't necessarily done adding to their pitching staff this offseason, though Moore said no announcements are imminent.
Sanchez, Hochevar, Duffy and Felipe Paulino are considered locks for four of the starting jobs, leaving a cadre of players trying for the fifth spot. Relievers Luis Mendoza, Aaron Crow and Everett Teaford could move into the rotation, and left-handed prospect Mike Montgomery will get a long look in spring training after spending last season at Triple-A Omaha.
The Royals also could sign Bruce Chen, who led them in wins the past two seasons and is currently a free agent. Both sides have expressed interest in a deal.
For now, the Royals are happy to have Sanchez in the fold. And after spending the last few years hearing his name mentioned in trade rumors, Sanchez seems happy to be in Kansas City.
"I mean, I saw it coming," he said. "It's been since I got to the big leagues that they wanted to trade me, but nothing came out. I mean, every year I was staying there. I thought I was staying there this year, too. ... It never happened until now."